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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
answered 02 May '15, 16:26
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.
answered 10 Jun '15, 00:37