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Hi there,

I've been looking through the AIIC database for conference interpreters and I noticed that English As seem to be rather uncommon in the North American freelance market which was a bit worrying to me. Is it a serious disadvantage to have English be your A for this market? Is there a major competitive difference between a CI with A-French and B-English versus one with A-English and B-French? I am currently working on an English A French B combination, and possibly I will add a Spanish C if necessary. I would much prefer to work in NA than to work in Europe.

Thanks so much for your help. It's really hard to get good information for me since the center of CI seems to be in Europe rather than in NA and most search results lead to discussions centered around that market.

asked 13 Aug '14, 18:40

BradF's gravatar image


edited 13 Aug '14, 21:21

Hello, I fully agree with Danielle. Having worked for 14 years on the US market as a CI based in DC, I saw that very few of my colleagues were English As. In fact, on the US market, I am known as a Russian interpreter, even though English is my A and Russian is my B. This is because there is no English booth at all in the US unless you do a meeting hosted by the UN or organized by an AIIC member, which quite frankly, was a very small part of my market. Interpreters must have an A<>B combination to find work, unless their primary client is the UN. Moreover, most interpreters are native speakers of whatever the foreign language is, and not of English - quite natural in a country of immigrants! But this means that you will have to have a strong B language, as you will be competing against native speakers, and much of the work tends to be into the foreign language rather than into English.

The major disadvantage to being an English A on the US market is that most of your clients grew up in the US education system and flunked French (or Spanish) in sixth grade. They therefore cannot believe that another American is capable of learning a language to that high a level, and will prefer to hire a non-native, no matter how bad their English. [Yes, I have had a potential client decide to hire someone whose English was practically non-existent because his Russian was better than mine, disregarding the issue that he wouldn't necessarily understand the questions being asked, let alone be able to render the answers in cogent form.] You will have to have good arguments for why a client should hire you. After my initial surprise at this unexpected hurdle, I was able to overcome it, and had no problems finding work (ok, pre-9/11, but in a highly competitive market). And Danielle's suggestion of having a partner who is a native speaker of your B is excellent - it's one of the ways I overcame the prejudice.

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answered 25 Aug '14, 05:56

JuliaP's gravatar image


The EN booth as such tends to disappear in North-America, so you will need a very strong French to be able to work bothways (i.e. in a bilingual booth). Your advantage is that, when you do get to interpret into English, your will be providing a native -and much appreciated- interpretation to a large portion of the audience. Teaming up with a French A, in your case, would be ideal. You must be aware, though, that the EN-FR market in NA is much smaller than the EN-ES market for obvious reasons. In addition to Canada, the EN-FR market is useful in Washington D.C. where both the IMF and the World Bank (+ State Dpt) use it frequently.

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answered 25 Aug '14, 03:17

Danielle's gravatar image


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question asked: 13 Aug '14, 18:40

question was seen: 6,512 times

last updated: 25 Aug '14, 05:56 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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