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Ornella Olenga Disashi

Conference Interpreting
School year ISIT 2013


What did you study prior to starting ISIT?

I focused on literature in high school. Attracted by the interdisciplinary nature of classes and the chance to study modern and ancient  languages, I decided to do two years of preparatory literature studies (“hypokhâgne, khâgne A/L”). Then I completed a three-year undergraduate degree in English at the Sorbonne, before taking on a double Master’s degree in English-German specialized translation as well as a Master’s in English.

During my studies, I had the opportunity to do several internships in international organizations: the first was an internship in translation with the European Parliament. I then completed an internship at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The theoretical and professional training I received at ISIT helped me to set myself up as a freelance translator, paticularly for the United Nations. Through ISIT, I was also able to live in different countries (the United States, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Luxembourg, etc.).

Why become an interpreter?

People often confuse translation with interpreting, but they are two distinct professions. In my opinion, interpreting is the path for the more curious. Translation requires specialization, while interpreting has us waltzing from one subject to the next. This job quenches my thirst for knowledge; it is the perfect excuse to deepen one’s general knowledge. Every moment serves as an opportunity to learn something new. We literally look at the world differently.

Interpreters are like tight rope walkers. They have to have incredible levels of  concentration as well as have highly developed powers of deduction and know how to keep their heads under pressure. Speed, fluidity, precision, language fluency in both native and foreign languages—every speaking occasion is a challenge. I like the demands of the job, but also the beauty.

To be an interpreter is to carry a message, to be at the service of the speaker and those listening. The human dimension takes on a whole new importance: we meet people from all different backgrounds, in the interpreter booth as well in the hallways and this adds to the richness of this profession. I’m still fascinated by the feat of interpreting!


ISIT’s reputation is well-established in France and abroad. The Conference Interpreting program provides thorough training, with theoretical and practical courses, voice training, conference simulations, as well as internships and volunteering opportunities, all of which add weight to a full year focused on preparing for the working world. ISIT really prepares us for the reality of the interpreter’s job.

After ISIT?

It has already been a year since I graduated last June! I work as an interpreter with French and English as active languages, for private and institutional clients. International relations, medicine, audiovisual—I’m thrilled with the diversity of subjects I’ve come across. The support of the ISIT network, both professors and former students, has been a big help. Graduates are not left to struggle on their own.

What advice would you give to future students?

Follow the news, stay curious, take the time to travel in order to improve your language skills. It is important to understand the cultures associated with the languages you speak. But do not forget about your native language! Do not be discouraged and stay patient: the path to becoming an interpreter is full of challenges, but,in the end, it is worth all the hard work.