First-time posters: please review the site's moderation policy

The question just came to my mind in a different context. However, I must admit, I have never seen any written data on this. Is it one of those apocryphal tales?

asked 08 Apr '12, 15:32

Tanja's gravatar image


edited 17 Aug '12, 09:46

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

I think your question is about stress levels. I've usually seen the comparison made to air traffic controllers rather than pilots, but both are mentioned in the literature.

In a study on the expectations of users of interpretation, conference participants were asked what other profession springs to mind when thinking of conference interpretation. Of those who named one, some 16% spontaneously replied 'pilot/air traffic controller'. That doesn't make it true, but it does show that people with experience in depending upon interpreters make the association.

Said study is mentioned in Ingrid Kurz's interesting paper on Physiological Stress During Simultaneous Interpreting: A Comparison of Experts and Novices.

In his article "Psychophysiological Stress Research" (published in Interpreting, Vol.2, 1997), Hans Zeier has sections dedicated to both air traffic controllers and interpreters. He reviews research on both groups that measured salivary cortisol and immunoglobulin (indicators of physiological stress), and though he doesn't directly compare the two, the numbers are interesting: levels before and after a working session are very similar for simultaneous interpreting and air traffic control.

permanent link

answered 08 Apr '12, 17:07

Luigi's gravatar image


I heard, about 25 years ago, that the German Auswaertiges Amt, Foreign Office, carried out physiological stress testing on all its employees, with a view to making sure their insurance and sickness cover were appropriate. Their few staff interpreters at the time were insured on the same basis as secretaries or general office staff. The results showed the interpreters, when working, had stress levels similar to air force pilots in the air, with the added remark that whereas pilots didn't usually take off and land repeatedly during the day, the interpreters did as they changed over at the mike, and that this was inherently more harmful.They upped the insurance for interpreters as a result.

permanent link

answered 18 Sep '13, 11:32

dunphail's gravatar image


Thank you, Luigi for bringing these documents to our attention.

What is also very interesting is to take a look at AIIC Workload Study, Executive Summary

The study commissed by AIIC investigated four sets of parameters: psychological, physiological, physical and performance as well as the interaction between them.

If you download the AIIC Workload Study-full report you can read literature reviews substantiating the claim that interpreters are in the category of high stress professionals.

The data placed simultaneous interpretation in the category of high stress professions which results in physiological costs being paid.

permanent link

answered 08 Apr '12, 23:17

Vero's gravatar image


edited 09 Apr '12, 02:12

Angela's gravatar image


Your answer
toggle preview

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 08 Apr '12, 15:32

question was seen: 10,568 times

last updated: 18 Sep '13, 11:32 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

about | faq | terms of use | privacy policy | content policy | disclaimer | contact us

This collaborative website is sponsored and hosted by AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters.