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I have been looking through these pages for an interpreter with English A and Russian C. I have a few questions on working with this combination.

I start my training in conference interpreting next autumn (English A French B Russian C) and wanted to get an idea of the reality of the job market for EN > RU. I am London-based, and will remain so after my studies. So primarily I'll be looking to work on the private market here. But I am interested in finding out more about how the UN freelance system works. I often hear/read that the EN > RU combination is in demand. Would it be realistic to stay in London and work freelance for UN institutions in Geneva? Either by having my professional base officially in London or Geneva (although actually living in London).

I'd really appreciate hearing from anyone with this language combination who could shed some light on how this would work. Do you get offered work fairly regularly (providing of course that you've passed the accreditation tests)?

Many thanks in advance.

PS) Thank you to those of you managing and providing responses on this forum. It's been a fantastic source of information.

asked 23 Jun '14, 12:15

HocusPocus's gravatar image


edited 26 Jun '14, 05:58

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Thank you all for your responses. Very much appreciated and definitely an eye-opener.

Julia, alas, as much as I would love to up sticks and move to Geneva, it won't be possible certainly for the next few years. So either I'll be fighting it out in London for a while, or see what happens if I move my official domicile to Geneva or Paris. Food for thought.

I am curious. As you don't live in your official domicile, does that severely affect how much work you're offered? Do you now work with FR solely as a C?

On the London market (gulp) would it make a difference offering French or Russian as a retour with EN A? Would one combination provide more of an advantage?

Thank you!

(24 Jun '14, 16:26) HocusPocus

Would it be realistic to stay in London and work freelance for UN institutions in Geneva? Either by having my professional base officially in London or Geneva (although actually living in London).

Je ne peux pas parler d'expérience personnelle, mais on m'a rapporté que même en étant basé à Paris, il était difficile d'être recruté par Genève. Et il y aurait également une tendance à recruter à la dernière minute, ce qui rend le choix d'un domicile professionnel fictif difficile.

Autre élément à prendre en compte: si tu choisis Genève comme domicile professionnel, tu ne peux pas travailler à Londres sans facturer le prix de l'aller/retour à Genève. De facto, tu ne pourrais pas être compétitif/compétitive comparé aux collègues basés à et vivant à Londres.

En ce qui concerne le marché privé londonien, l'annuaire AIIC comporte un peu moins de 20 collègues travaillant du russe vers l'anglais. Mais la majorité a soit 4 langues C, soit un retour vers le russe.

De manière générale, le retour sur le marché privé est toujours un plus, pour ne pas dire un prérequis. Et dans cette hypothèse, tu devrais élargir la question aux perspectives du marché avec français B.

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answered 23 Jun '14, 12:34

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Gaspar ♦♦

Hello! I am an English A, Russian B, French C, and found your question very interesting, because it mirrors my own position on the market, as I live in one city and am based in another.

Gaspar and Andy are both right. London is a difficult market to make a living, and you will need a true B in the booth.

So, working in London or the private market anywhere will require an A-B combination, with vanishingly few days working in a UN-style meeting with two passive languages. This will mean that your French will have to be excellent as your B - you will be competing with native French speakers living in the UK - and that you will hardly ever use your Russian. If you make Russian your B, then you will be competing with native speakers of Russian and you will hardly ever use your French. This is what happened to me for the first half of my career.

If you decide to move your domicile to Geneva (even if you don't move physically), with the combination you list, you will be able to work both for the UN with an A-C-C combination, and on the private market with an A<>B combination. This would be your best bet. Of course, this all presupposes that you pass all your exams, and you pass the UN exam, and you are good in your A-B combination - but if you are, the world is your oyster!

Also, if you don't have any personal reasons to stay in the UK, definitely move yourself to Geneva. If you pass all the exams, no matter how good you are, it is extremely rare to be hired from outside Geneva anymore. And the UN family tends to hire for shorter stints, or at the last minute, so it would be problematic getting yourself to Geneva economically, finding a cheap place to stay, and all for a single day of work tomorrow.

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answered 23 Jun '14, 16:52

JuliaP's gravatar image


The London market is shrinking and over-populated. With your languages I would move to Geneva where your combination is a good UN one, or Paris (where there is lots of work for good French B's).

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answered 23 Jun '14, 16:10

Andy's gravatar image


I live only a 90-minute train ride from the city I am based in. I don't feel that I am offered less work by the institutions that employ me because I am not right there. Of course, if they have an emergency, I won't be the one they call, but there aren't many of those. However, there are a couple of things I do find difficult about not living/spending significant time where I work:

  • it is difficult to market yourself to clients in a city where you don't live. Granted, much of your work will come from colleagues' recommendations, but if you aren't always there, reminding them you exist...
  • It is difficult to explain to private market clients (the institutions all understand) in my home city that they have to pay for a train ticket I did not take and/or a hotel I do not need, so I just don't accept work where I live.
  • It is difficult to get pick-up, last-minute jobs, which I used to get a lot when I lived where I worked.
  • When you first start out, you will need to have a bit of money to cover travel costs and hotels, as well as meals, etc. for the first couple of months, and your first few assignments may end up as a loss financially while you build up your client base and your bank account.

I have personal reasons for living not where I work, so for me it is worth it. You have to make that calculation for yourself. I know one colleague who did very well in this type of situation (though with a longer travel time), but she made a point of going to her professional address city even when there wasn't work to keep in touch with colleagues and employers, and ended up renting a small flat there, so the base ended up being a home base as well.

That being said, if you are planning on living in London, I would recommend making French your B and seeing if you could get work in Paris as a base. It will be harder for you if you do not go to a Paris school, as you will not have the same entry into the market as those who study there. But if you can find a niche, there will be more work than in London, and the trip on the Eurostar isn't a long one.

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answered 24 Jun '14, 17:30

JuliaP's gravatar image


Thank you Julia for all your advice.

(25 Jun '14, 16:19) HocusPocus
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question asked: 23 Jun '14, 12:15

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last updated: 25 Jun '14, 16:19

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