Interpreters enable people or groups of people who speak different languages to communicate clearly and accurately. Interpreters are, in the truest sense of the word, their spokespersons. They render, in the first person, the words of the speakers in a language that can be understood by the partners with whom they are dialoging.

What does an interpreter do?

  • Simultaneous interpretation: the interpreter, seated in a soundproof booth, listens to the speaker through headphones and immediately re-expresses his or her message in another language using a microphone. The technical installation transmits this interpretation to the headsets worn by the listeners. Today, interpreters are also called upon to interpret speakers remotely during hybrid or online meetings.
  • Consecutive interpreting: the interpreter is present in the room alongside the speaker, listens while taking notes of the speech that the speaker is giving and then renders it in another language at the end of the speech.
  • Whispered interpreting: Whispered interpreting is, so to speak, simultaneous interpreting without a booth. The interpreter sits close to the listeners (one or two at most) and interprets in a low voice in real time.
  • Preparation: before each assignment, the interpreter must learn about the content of the meeting or conference where he/she will be asked to speak, in order to familiarize him/herself with the subject, the speakers, and the issues at stake. Terminology preparation is also often necessary.
    What are his/her main skills?
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Mastery of several languages and interpretation techniques
  • Excellent general knowledge
  • Strong analytical and synthesis skills

What is his/her main know-how?

  • Empathy
    The interpreter must show empathy in order to put him/herself in the place of the speaker and to appropriate his/her message in all its nuances, which are conveyed not only through words, but also through the context of the conference, the tone or even the gestures of the speaker
  • Curiosity
    Interpreting requires a great deal of intellectual curiosity and an interest in national and international politics, culture and economics. The interpreter must be thoroughly informed about the subject of the lecture or discussion he/she will be interpreting.
  • Endurance
    Simultaneous interpreting requires a great deal of concentration, since the interpreter must receive the information, understand it, digest it and render it, while keeping up a rhythm of about 150 words per minute. This is why interpreters take turns every 30 minutes or more frequently when working at a distance.
  • Communication
    In interpreting, the act of communication is immediate and involves interaction between speakers, delegates and interpreters. Interpreting is therefore not just a language profession, but a communication profession.

Working environment and status

Freelance conference interpreters are hired for short-term contracts, for specific assignments and by successive clients. They are therefore required to interpret a variety of subjects and work with many different partners:

  • international organizations
  • ministries
  • public or private sector companies, including the media
  • associations
  • professional conference organizers…

Staff interpreters work for a single organization, usually international, for which they have usually been recruited after passing a competitive examination. They receive a regular income, but have less freedom to organize their work than freelance interpreters. Consultant interpreters recruit teams of interpreters for a particular client or event.


Early career salary range: an interpreter’s income varies according to his/her status and the intensity of his/her activity, which depends on the interpreter’s language combination, professional domicile and the quality of his/her work. In international organizations :

  • The daily remuneration net of deductions and taxes for a freelance interpreter starting out is approximately 330 euros.
  • The daily remuneration net of deductions and taxes for an experienced freelance interpreter is approximately 420 euros.

Career prospects

Over the course of their careers, interpreters expand their areas of expertise and the clients or recruiters they work for. They may also enrich their language combination by adding working languages.
They may also choose to become international civil servants after passing the competitive examinations organized by the language departments of international organizations (OECD, NATO, UN, European Union, etc.). They then have the opportunity to move into managerial positions.
Another option is to become a consultant interpreter and advise private companies or event agencies that wish to organize high-level multilingual events, by setting up teams of interpreters to meet their needs.

What training course to become a conference interpreter?

Every year, ISIT trains students to become interpreters through its Master’s degree in Conference Interpretation. The ISIT Master’s degree is a member of the EMCI network. It is recognized by the AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) and supported by European institutions and the UN, with which ISIT has signed Memoranda of Understanding.