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As an interpreter work can come from many sources, some time at short notice.

In these cases, or in general, should I work without a written contract or should I always work with a contract and terms and conditions? Does anyone have a "standard" contract they could share?

asked 19 Nov '11, 11:25

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

edited 24 Jan '12, 19:12

Delete's gravatar image

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Here's an updated version of Chris de Fortis' article (in French), with a model interpreting contract on pp. 20-24:

Chris de Fortis is a senior staff interpreter at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. He teaches interpreting and examines at several Belgian and British interpreting schools. He is also the Director of the renowned Cambridge Conference Interpreting Course (CCIC) for experienced practising conference interpreters.

In the file at the end of this link he offers essential, practical and extensive advice (not only) to young interpreters starting out in the profession, including, in the 2011 update (of the French version), a model contract.

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answered 21 Nov '11, 04:59

Angela's gravatar image


edited 21 Nov '11, 06:01

I consider an email explaining working conditions and remuneration to have the value of a contract. However, I do try to get a "real" contract signed as often as possible, as well. There was one case where a client was dragging his heels paying, and I was worried he might deny ever having had hired me - thank goodness I had his signature on a contract! It really saved me.

A contract will also act as proof of the number of days you've worked, which is something you might find you need to do so for future clients (for tenders etc.), the European institutions (where, if I'm not mistaken, you get placed in a higher category if you can prove prior experience), or AIIC (when applying for membership).

Also, getting a written contract can also ensure that points get addressed that you and the client may not have thought of otherwise: say, recording of interpreters for commercial use, overtime conditions, etc.

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answered 23 Nov '11, 10:57

Michelle's gravatar image


Thank you very much for your question, it brings to the fore an oft misunderstood fact: most contracts are not required by law to be in writing to be both binding and enforceable :-)... and ours do not show up amongst the exceptions; this being said, it is of course easier to prove the terms of a written contract than of an oral one and contract terms and conditions serve more than one purpose, ie also to forewarn and to chances are an oral contract will not have covered all the details and minutiae a written one does, all the more so if based on a template/form devised to cover all cases, requiring only filling in.

It's quite common for interpreters to accept an oral contract and hop on the plane, possibly dealing with a written version for signature during or even after a conference, it all depends on the level of trust existing between interpreter and recruiter or, perhaps a tad riskier, organiser, in cases of a direct contract, particularly if with a free market client, namely a new one. Other than aiic contracts, you'll be able to find several instances of just such forms on several sites: don't look for "interpretation contract" though, that'll give you sites devoted to the interpretation OF contracts :-) look for translation... and adapt, if need be: whatever the template, once you sign it it'll be your contract, so make sure you agree with its terms :-).

Over the last few years, particularly ever since aiic relaxed its rules to allow recruiters to sign in lieu of organisers, formal contracts have become less common: I do however always make sure that I email/add "terms and conditions" to my estimates or acceptance of offers, as well as quoting set paragraphs on options-confirmations/cancellation/payment in the body of my email, which I copy from a file I've built over the years with just such stock paragraphs.

Bonne chance! :-)

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answered 20 Nov '11, 14:34

msr's gravatar image


edited 20 Nov '11, 14:47

(Somewhere in a courthouse near you...)

PLAINTIFF: We had an oral agreement! He said he would pay me 1500 CHF and not 500 CHF.

JUDGE: Did you say you would pay him 1500 CHF?


The moral of the story? Get written contracts.

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answered 21 Feb '12, 13:45

Jonathan's gravatar image


edited 21 Feb '12, 13:45

It depends:

  1. If it is just me and I know the client I might agree to work without a contract (albeit grudgingly) should it not come through in time for some reason or other (absenteeism etc.). But usually I will bend over backwards to get a contract.
  2. If it is for other colleague(s): NO WAY. I'd be personally liable.
  3. If it is a job offer from other colleagues: If they don't send a contract I'll take their word for it and just keep my fingers crossed in the hope that they took care of the paperwork. Up to now I have had no bad surprises.
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answered 22 Feb '12, 15:45

Tanja's gravatar image


edited 22 Feb '12, 16:58

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

sorry, no private - aiic or otherwise - links on Edited them out

(22 Feb '12, 16:59) Vincent Buck

No problem, my apologies I was not aware of that policy. Anyway: I guess without links the rest of the answer is: Contract forms in English and French are available "somewhere" on the Extranet (go to "Practical Stuff" (top right corner) and then: "Featured Content" (lower right corner))

(23 Feb '12, 01:50) Tanja

A contract exists the moment there is an offer and an acceptance of the offer between two parties. That can be done orally, by signs (auctions, pits in a stock exchange) or just by acting as if you have accepted the offer. A contract in a written form is just easier to prove, if necessary. I usually sign a contract only to satisfy the internal procedures of the client. If a client doesn't look like a reliable payer, no amount of paperwork is going to make him pay. There are thousands of ways to wear you down by endlessly delaying payment. Better take some rest if the client looks that way. So far I was lucky that only one client needed serious prodding before paying. And yes, a written contract was signed.

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answered 24 Jan '12, 17:22

Amato's gravatar image


PLAINTIFF: We had an oral agreement. He said he would interpret for a meeting I had with potential clients.

JUDGE: Did you say you would interpret for his meeting?


The moral of the story: A contract is also for the party "contracting" interpreters.

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answered 21 Feb '12, 13:57

Luigi's gravatar image


Contracts are also helpful when it come to making clients aware of what our working conditions must be. Many clients are quite conscientious when reading contracts and will ask us why for example we need to recruit another colleague in case the conference should take longer than originally envisaged.

I also make sure the contract states whether or not the interpreter's fees include copyright fees. It is therefore also advisable to include a copy of the contract in our conference documents when travelling to the conference - this way we can easily point out to the client's representative what has been agreed and what hasn't.

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answered 30 Apr '12, 17:34

AlmuteL's gravatar image


It depends on the markets: some markets do not resort to the use of contracts and so the electronic exchanges will serve in lieu of. Make sure that you keep an orderly file of your correspondence, if anything, it will come in handy when you have to apply for membership!

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answered 20 Jan '12, 13:16

Vicky%20Massa's gravatar image

Vicky Massa

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question asked: 19 Nov '11, 11:25

question was seen: 6,880 times

last updated: 30 Apr '12, 17:34 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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