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I am a native English speaker from the United States. I am highly proficient in my B language (RU). The Arab world is strongly fascinating to me, but as someone who wants to learn a few languages to professional fluency, I know that I need to set my priorities. What are the prospects for a conference interpreter or translator with Arabic outside of the CIA and FBI?

I am already aware of the situation at the UN with Arabic and Chinese. I'm not talking about the UN, the State Department, or other places where I will likely not end up.

My question is simply if a conference interpreter or translator who is not of Arab descent would be able to find much work with an Arabic B or C.

asked 23 Oct '15, 22:21

ljc's gravatar image



My question is simply if a conference interpreter or translator who is not of Arab descent would be able to find much work with an Arabic B or C.

By "to find much work", do you mean "to make a living"?

If yes, I think it may be possible with an AR B (probably not with AR C), but it will all depend on several factors, such as:

  • The city/region where you decide to locate your professional domicile.
  • The command you have of your AR B, taking into account you will be in competition with AR As who are EN Bs.
  • Your command of Arabic dialects and knowledge of different Arabic countries' cultures.
  • Your networking abilities.

However, I do not know until what extent you will be able to live on conference interpreting stricto sensu. With that combination, you will likely work for private companies in the framework of bilateral negotiations and trade agreements (using liaison interpretation most of the times).

I'm not talking about the UN, the State Department, or other places where I will likely not end up.

Why do you rule out the possibility of working for the State Department, the CIA or the FBI? I think they could be potential employers of someone with your profile. Again, it wouldn't be conference interpreting, but you could earn a living.

Having said that, if conference interpreting is what interests you really, taking for granted that you have a strong RU (B/C) already, my humble personal advice is that you add French (C) to your combination, which would make you eligible for the English booth within the UN system.

I hope this helps!

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answered 26 Oct '15, 12:40

David's gravatar image


Thanks for your answer. I would say that the factors you listed all sum it up. As for the State Department, CIA, and UN, I didn't rule these options out. I am very interested in politics and I am sure that I would enjoy working for them. I just understand that the competition is much stronger for those sort of jobs than for others.

In any case, I will learn Arabic for my own enjoyment. I found a LinkedIn profile of a woman from the UK who is clearly non-Arab.That was encouraging because she claims to have done some very interesting work with Arabic as an interpreter and translator.

(27 Oct '15, 00:04) ljc

Career prospects for native speakers of English with passive or active Arabic are very good in North Africa and possibly other Arab countries as well. There seems to be a lack of English A's in French-speaking African countries.

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answered 11 Jan '16, 03:50

Richter's gravatar image


You might want to look at the salary survey:

The AIIC average compensation according to the report for Arab-country interpreters interpreters, who work 105 days a year on average, appears to be below what the entry-level compensation at some of the higher priority agencies would be for someone with high-level Arabic skills. On top of that they also throw in those famous government benefits, which I think are worth something like 20 or 30k a year. You wouldn't need to pay for an arduous 2-year degree, either, in fact -- they would pay for your degree's student loans. Based on all these considerations, I'd recommend you look at the government again.

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answered 24 Mar '16, 19:53

Adrian%20Lee%20Dunbar's gravatar image

Adrian Lee D...

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question asked: 23 Oct '15, 22:21

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last updated: 24 Mar '16, 19:53 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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