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In some major events, like in the 2012 London Olympics, organizers will recruit non paid interpreters.

Do you think a professional interpreter should volunteer for this type of event?

Should professional interpreters have guidelines - with respect to profit making status, sector, country - regarding volunteer work?

asked 19 Jan '12, 13:30

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

edited 26 Jan '12, 16:56

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Please read also the answers to the following question in

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answered 19 Jan '12, 18:45

Angela's gravatar image


+1 for pointing to the other question

(20 Jan '12, 12:14) Delete ♦

First of all I think that volunteer interpreting should be done with caution. It is very easy to set a bad example e.g. going into a market you don't know to volunteer and thereby killing the market for you local colleagues.

But secondly, the thing about the London Olympics seem to be a spoof or a misunderstanding. At least if I read the quote below correctly. The government answers that they have no plans NOW for recruiting interpreters for government business during the Olympics, but that they will evaluate that regularly and furthermore that they WILL recruit 850 specialized interpreters for the games. There may be something I don't know here, but from what the link referred to in the tweets discussing this they certainly SEEM to planning to pay for their interpreters. Please enlighten me if I miss something.

Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2012

Question Asked by Baroness Coussins

To ask Her Majesty's Government what arrangements they have to recruit professional interpreters and translators for the 2012 Olympic Games.[HL13880]

13 Dec 2011 : Column WA250

Baroness Garden of Frognal: Her Majesty's Government currently has no plans for the recruitment of professional interpreters and translators for Government business during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The requirement will be kept under review as business and dignitary programmes develop. For the Games themselves, the London 2012 Organising Committee will be recruiting 850 specialist professional interpreters, as well as around 3,000 Games Maker volunteers who will have some level of skill in a foreign language.

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answered 19 Jan '12, 15:33

tulkur's gravatar image


edited 19 Jan '12, 15:44

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

+1 for doing the actual research work and stopping a rumour dead in its tracks

(19 Jan '12, 15:45) Vincent Buck

+1 for the same reason

(19 Jan '12, 17:32) Delete ♦

Odd on the Olympic Games in London that they have not recruited yet as Sochi was recruiting almost 2 years ago.

(20 Jan '12, 04:26) svetlichok84

If they haven't that's really odd. Late recruitment seems to happen more and more though, unfortunately.

(20 Jan '12, 05:39) tulkur

The London Olympics was just an example. I'm interested in your answers to my two questions.

(20 Jan '12, 08:23) Marta Piera ...

I only do volunteer work for organizations whose aims I fully support and that are recognized as not-for-profit organizations. These organizations can officially issue a tax-deductible certificate of the donation (in Germany). I also check who the other donors or sponsors are - it is sometimes surprising to see that an organization claims to have no funds available for professional interpreters but counts several blue-chip companies among its sponsors.

As Angela already pointed out: In order to avoid unpleasant surprises, the contract and payment transactions of a volunteer job must meet specific requirements. My tax consultant proposes the following procedure which has worked for me so far - in Germany, there might be completely different rules in other countries: You conclude a regular contract with the organization and send them an invoice for the entire amount, including VAT. After receipt of payment you transfer the net amount back to the account of the organization, i.e. you keep the VAT and pay it to the tax office. The organization then issues a donation certificate for the net amount of your fee which you can deduct from your annual income tax.

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answered 16 Apr '12, 18:32

Angie's gravatar image


+1 Thanks for your very clear answer.

(16 Apr '12, 20:19) Delete ♦

Dear all, please read my answer here: if you do the tax transaction in Germany as described by Angie above, it is a zero-sum game and saves you no extra tax, but it is certainly the correct and official procedure.

(13 Nov '14, 03:34) Julia

I started off with Amnesty international which was both an excellent training ground and a meaningful contribution to society, as I see it. I’ve continued working for them from time to time, although I am not always free when they ask me to help with a conference.

Whenever an interpreter works pro bono, s/he should try and draft a normal contract, and then make a donation to the organization. This is the best way for them to understand that we are not just “making background noise” in the booth; we are actually providing a professional service which has a price and we are giving up this remuneration for a worthwhile cause with limited financial resources.

The limits? I think the type of organization and its financial situation are paramount, as well as past history in terms of pro bono interpretation. Amnesty’s general conferences have always been covered by professional conference interpreters who volunteered for the job. The Olympics have always recruited and paid between 60 and 150 conference interpreters for each edition. They need professionals who are proficient in sports, multilingual and highly versatile; they also have the budget to pay for these resources. Why would you volunteer then? Do the architects who build the Olympic venues work for free?

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answered 14 Apr '12, 12:16

Danielle's gravatar image


Please check with your fiscal consultant whether it's a good idea to invoice a service and donate the income afterwards. In Germany, the interpreter will have to pay VAT on the amount invoiced (and may end up paying it out of his own pocket).

(16 Apr '12, 04:12) Angela

I did not make myself clear, sorry. I usually draft a contract and then state in the contract that I make a donation to the organisation for that same amount. So, I do not invoice anything but still provide a service which has a price attached to it.

(16 Apr '12, 07:36) Danielle

I fully agree with Danielle: Pro bono is fine if you feel you personally want to support the organization with a service of the corresponding value. And if you do it the way Angie described above this is exactly what happens: there is no tax advantage at all, the only thing is you spend a day or several days working for the NGO on which you could do other things and/or earn money and that is fine if you feel this is what you'd like to do to support the aims of that NGO. Pro bono for organizations such as the Olympics seems like a farce to me.

(13 Nov '14, 03:43) Julia

Volunteer interpreting is something that we all regularly do. At our local Association we have decided that we should inform them of our activity with dates and recipients of our volunteer work. Sometimes there are organizations which try to resort to volunteer work but could readily pay for our fees. At the same time, volunteer work is a fantastic opportunity for young interpreters to get into the fray.

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answered 19 Jan '12, 17:54

Vicky%20Massa's gravatar image

Vicky Massa

Just an interesting addition, rather than a full answer. A colleague told me today that... Germany volunteers can ask for a 'donation certificate' (Spendenbescheinigung) from clients they volunteer for. This is a sort of receipt saying that by working pro bono the interpreter has effectively donated, for example, 600 euro. This is useful for a number of reasons...

  1. it makes the client aware of what interpreting is really worth.
  2. this may then have a positive effect on working conditions (which may be improved to be commensurate with the amount 'donated')
  3. also the interpreter can then write off the amount of the donation off against tax (at least has been the case in Germany in the past, tho is apparently no longer so).

It's well worth looking into whether this is possible in your country (and with your client)

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answered 12 Nov '14, 08:08

Andy's gravatar image


edited 13 Nov '14, 09:32


Please read my answer to

Please do not make identical comments in different strings.

(13 Nov '14, 03:44) Julia
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question asked: 19 Jan '12, 13:30

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