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This is not so much a question, as a conversation starter.

As a lowly precandidate, access to AIIC's extranet and communications has been... enlightening. As an interpreting student in France, AIIC was presented to me as a professional gold standard and a goal every young interpreter should have. The first thing I did when I began working was create a spreadsheet to make sure I could apply for membership the second I had my 150 days.

I now find myself on the "wrong" side of the pond, where attitudes among interpreters in my generation are quite different from those of my teachers. With very few exceptions, no one is interested in joining what they perceive to be an elitist behemoth and waste of money. The most common response when I ask my young colleagues if they are planning on joining is an eye-roll and something to the effect of, "I'm putting that off as long as I can." Those with slightly more experience and knowledge of how things work react with a "You know no one cares about AIIC, right?"

It has been a culture shock to say the least, and a disappointing one at that. AIIC is the only international organization of conference interpreters, and it negotiates on everyone's behalf- even nonmembers. Everyone should want to join AIIC and have a voice in protecting their own professional conditions and future. AIIC should want everyone who is qualified to join, to retain its legitimacy and relevance in the coming decades and ensure everyone plays by the rules we have set up for ourselves.

And yet, AIIC often seems to do everything in its power to deter young people from joining. From seasoned members blocking or threatening to block qualified applicants from joining over petty reasons and jealousies, to not-so-subtle threats that the relève sit down, shut up, and not step on any toes, to the utter disregard for challenges and realities that new interpreters face, it's not hard to see why plenty of my peers have simply given up even trying or never wanted to in the first place.

Those of us who still believe in AIIC and join are privy to an onslaught of internal squabbles, accusations of corruption, factions, grandstanding, and generalized nastiness all around. Who should want to sign up for that kind of thing? How can young colleagues be convinced that joining this kind of organization is in their professional best interest, when it is swiftly losing its cachet, anyway? Is AIIC even aware of its tarnished image, and if so, why is it seemingly incapable of pulling itself up and moving forward?

My fear is that in 20 years, the handful of us still clinging on out of principle will find ourselves out of work, humming the tune to The cheese stands alone.

asked 02 May '15, 13:09

InesdC's gravatar image

InesdC
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edited 03 May '15, 10:51

Nacho's gravatar image

Nacho ♦
73381532


Is AIIC still relevant? As you say yourself, it is the sole professional association recognized in that field, with the capacity to negotiate our working conditions with the world's biggest employers - EU, UN, NATO and a few more.

And yet, AIIC often seems to do everything in its power to deter young people from joining. From seasoned members blocking or threatening to block qualified applicants from joining over petty reasons and jealousies, to not-so-subtle threats that the relève sit down, shut up, and not step on any toes, to the utter disregard for challenges and realities that new interpreters face, it's not hard to see why plenty of my peers have simply given up even trying or never wanted to in the first place.

This isn't AIIC. AIIC is the sum of individuals. You might have met the rather sad kind, and I'm truly sorry for that. As a young colleague myself, I'm merely witnessing that this club is like any other: With different groups, different views, different professional experiences. Struggles for power sometimes. I guess that simply is given in any form of structure that tries to represent many individuals. All these individuals don't want things done the same way, or not for the same reasons. Hence, sometimes there are disagreements that arise. But we also have a set of rules that do govern the functioning of the club and which ensure that things get going no matter what happens. Just like in a company.

As to people who don't see the relevance of the association or don't find it effective / inclusive / cheap enough to join, yet benefit from it's negotiating results... well, that's just like trade unions. As French people say: la critique est aisée, mais l'art difficile.

---edit---

I forgot to add that so far I've met more people who are truly passionate about their job, some of them also having strong views as to how to run AIIC, than the other kind you describe. As a newcomer, I can only enjoy being surrounded by more experienced peers, willing to share their knowledge as well as their 'war stories'.

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answered 02 May '15, 15:16

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦
6.4k141829

edited 02 May '15, 15:24

2

Blockquote Is AIIC still relevant? As you say yourself, it is the sole professional association recognized in that field, with the capacity to negotiate our working conditions with the world's biggest employers - EU, UN, NATO and a few more Blockquote

This is true, but when no one wants to join an organization and more people roll their eyes at it than not, it ceases to be relevant.

Of course any group will have disagreements and debate- like any healthy democracy. But if you take just a gander at some of the conversations on the AIIC extranet, that is not productive democratic discourse, not by a long shot. All the while members continue to embroil themselves in chest-thumping ego trips, AIIC standards are being flouted every day by organizations, clients, and interpreters themselves, and no one is doing a thing about it. They prefer to beat dead horses and grandstand rather than find a constructive way to move forward for the good of the association.

I want to continue to be part of AIIC because I want to contribute to the profession and changing the organization for the better. But I can't blame colleagues for their apathy, given what I've seen so far.

And the end result of that is going to be that no one belongs to AIIC or anything of the sort, and so no one will abide by the standards and conditions. Let's face it, sometimes when you're starting out, "professional standards" starts to feel awfully lofty and idealistic when someone's waving $500 in front of your face and the rent is due. Without any body providing guidelines or incentive to say no, the new standards will set themselves. It's up to AIIC and its members to realize that.

(02 May '15, 16:41) InesdC

All the while members continue to embroil themselves in chest-thumping ego trips, AIIC standards are being flouted every day by organizations, clients, and interpreters themselves, and no one is doing a thing about it. They prefer to beat dead horses and grandstand rather than find a constructive way to move forward for the good of the association.

I'm not sure a dozen or maybe even a few dozen of people venting their frustration on the internet is representative of an association that has over 3 (or is it 4?)000 members.

Yes, recent changes have caused some concern, you could even call it an internal crisis.

But only because some people are discontent with how things are run internally, it doesn't mean that other people, or even some of the same people don't continue to do their job defending the profession -negotiation delegations, professional delegations and other bodies haven't stopped working- and doesn't mean either that people think that AIIC shouldn't do what it does externally.

And as long a a standard is set within the big employer's circles, colleagues on other markets still will be able to refer to the best practices, explain to their clients why sound / image quality is important, why one can't work alone, etc.

Out of sight, out of mind. Maybe for that reason AIIC seems to be less relevant in your region, compared to what you might have heard in your school (Paris?).

(03 May '15, 03:29) Gáspár ♦
1

Out of sight out of mind is precisely the problem, Gaspar. AIIC is a very Euro-centric organization. That sentiment is echoed by colleagues in South America, Africa, North America, and what do they call them the "far off regions" or something. Almost a third of AIIC's members have its home base in France. This is natural, considering the organization was born in Europe. However, if AIIC wishes to appeal to the new generation of interpreters, we are going to have to convince them that it isn't a club a self-serving colleagues in Europe.

(03 May '15, 14:21) Anyuli Ináci...
1

I had noticed in the AIIC directory that there's only something like 30 AIIC members in China. I had been wondering, is the reason that people in the region are just not terribly interested in joining the AIIC?

(04 May '15, 16:41) Adrian Lee D...

Gaspar,

I think Ines's comment has a back story that is worth nothing. We are both based in DC, where AIIC does not have agreements with any of the international organizations (OAS, IDB, IMF, WB, PAHO, Department of State). Moreover, AIIC sponsored training opportunities, workshops, or even get-togethers are non-existent in the region.

I just joined AIIC, because I believe in its mission and its importance despite its [many] flaws. Nevertheless, I can see why many young colleagues in my region think AIIC is irrelevant, since it has no bearing on your work in DC.

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answered 02 May '15, 16:26

Anyuli%20In%C3%A1cio%20Da%20Silva's gravatar image

Anyuli Ináci...
350114

1

The AIIC activity in the region is definitely of relevance here. In my country, there aren't any AIIC sponsored training opportunities, workshops or get-togethers (and least nothing I would be aware of). Well, my country is not even a region, although there are hundreds of interpreters here. When I went to an AIIC meeting organized for young interpreters in another region, I saw a completely different (much more active and open) AIIC that what I had imagined.

(02 May '15, 17:32) Joanna
1

I can see why many young colleagues in my region think AIIC is irrelevant, since it has no bearing on your work in DC.

It's not any different in Brussels. Newly accredited freelancers don't join AIIC, maybe one third or one fourth of them considers doing it. Why bother when you'll be covered by the agreement anyway? In these circumstances, it's quite difficult to answer the question What's in it for me?. I was wondering the same a while ago and it took me some time to understand that the benefits wouldn't be necessarily concrete and immediate. Now, I see it as a label that says "I care about my job". And I'm lucky to meet a few like-minded people every so often.

(03 May '15, 04:04) Gáspár ♦

You're preaching to the choir here- I understand all of this. After all, I am a pre candidate and hope to be a member soon enough. I believe in everything AIIC stands for and think that if enough like-minded, good people join, it will continue to do good things in the future.

What scares me though is that, at least in my market, very few people of my age bracket feel the same way. I see plenty of very talented, highly trained people working for less than ideal conditions, and who see no incentive not to. (Of course there are plenty of incentives not to, they just don't see them in the moment. DC is an expensive city, and a difficult market to break into). Thus, new practices and standards get set on the market and remain that way.

My real question here is not whether AIIC is worth joining. It is whether AIIC is aware of its massive PR problem and plans on doing anything about it in order to continue existing.

(03 May '15, 08:26) InesdC
2

Anyuli, on behalf of AIIC Training & Professional Development, I can tell you that we will be organising training events in North America from now on. It's been slow, but we started expanding our training activities in Africa and South America, then Asia and we are just getting around to North and Central America. AIIC Training tends to focus most of its efforts on training interpreter training but there are also professional development courses. We ran one in Toronto in March for example. We'll be running a Training of Trainers in Washington in the autumn, so keep you eyes on aiic.net/events. Once you're a full member you can help to fill the void. We're all volunteers and there aren't enough of us. If you want to help out and organise courses in your region then drop me a line and I will tell you how it can be done with AIIC's help and for AIIC.

(04 May '15, 15:42) Andy

Hi Ines, I was in your position once. My teachers in Monterey sang AIIC's praises and I dreamed of joining from the day I graduated. With my language combination, I had to wait until I moved to Europe as there were absolutely no signatures to be found in the US for love or money in my languages. In fact, you couldn't get more "wild West" than my market. On the other hand, I talked up AIIC's ethics and working conditions, and often colleagues would ask me questions if they had problems in those areas. Now I am a member, and while I fully agree with much of what you say, I also agree with Gaspar.

Our organization is like any other, only as good as its members. If we want to change our PR we have to do so from within, and each of us has to actively participate. Of course, as we are all interpreters, we are more vocal than members of other professions - but as Gaspar says, it is only a small, very vocal, minority that you see online. Many of us in the semi-silent majority care very much about what is happening to our markets, conditions, etc., and while the "grandstanding" still goes on, some get together and try to come up with solutions.

One good example is the two-part series on the website on "How to Make a Living as a Conference Interpreter," link text written by the German profitability group. This excellent series of articles gives you some sales arguments you can use when next negotiating your rates with a potential client on the private market. The Private Market Sector group is also a very good forum for discussing concerns with like-minded people. So I look forward to seeing your name on the Extranet one day, taking part and helping us all find solutions to our most pressing problems and to our PR gap.

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answered 10 Jun '15, 00:37

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JuliaP
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question asked: 02 May '15, 13:09

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last updated: 10 Jun '15, 00:37

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