AIIC Professional Standards and Ethics for Interpreters

AIIC Professional Standards and Ethics for Interpreters

AIIC UK & Ireland representative Barbara Bethäusser-Conte talked to our interpreting students about freelancing, professional standards and joining AIIC.

On 21 May, Barbara Bethäusser-Conte, a representative of AIIC UK & Ireland, delivered a CTS Professionalisation Talk to our interpreting students and alumni. She shared her experiences as a professional conference interpreter and gave a detailed introduction to AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters

Barbara began by saying that studying interpreting and working as a professional interpreter is like moving from a laboratory environment to the real world. To bridge this gap, she gave us a comprehensive list of dos and don'tsfor novice interpreters. She recommended using the summer after final interpreting exams to continue practising, and to decide which career path to aim for. Working in-house provides an excellent foundation for future work, and she warned that working as a freelancer requires entrepreneurship, a willingness to travel and a need to be professional, which means, for example, preparing a CV, and designing an email signature and business card. Freelancing also means doing a significant amount of 'administrative work'. Barbara noted that an interpreter should make full use of their spare time to read in all their languages, both for general knowledge and to note unusual expressions. After all, an interpreter can never be overprepared. 

Then Barbara explained the professional standards and ethics for interpreters which are promoted by AIIC, referring to the Organisation’s Code of Professional Ethics. She focused in particular on how to communicate with clients, and explained the rules to follow when accepting an ‘option’ (provisional booking). It is important to show integrity and loyalty by honouring the first option that you are given for a particular date; reliability is also crucial. She reminded us that an interpreter is not only hired to talk but also to keep quiet, so confidentiality is another indispensable professional quality. Emphasising solidarity, Barbara noted that interpreters almost always work as part of a team. She also mentioned details often neglected by many, for example remembering to keep the booth tidy after each conference. Finally, she explained in great detail how to draw up a contract, since having a watertight contract is essential for protecting freelancers’ interests. Contracts also provide evidence of days worked when applying to join AIIC.

Barbara also explained how AIIC supports interpreters on a practical level. Founded in Paris in 1953, AIIC is a not-for-profit organisation which seeks to support member and non-member interpreters. It stands for high standards of quality and ethics in the profession, and to achieve that promotes professional standards and working conditions. AIIC has negotiated collective agreements on pay and working conditions with international organisations such as the UN, EU and NATO. Joining AIIC provides recognition, representation, networking opportunities, and the opportunity to influence globally acknowledged standards. The organisation runs tailored training courses and also provides services to interpreters and interpreter trainers. 

To round off her inspiring talk, Barbara explained how to join AIIC as a member or pre-candidate, and introduced the VEGA Network, a global AIIC network to support newcomers to the profession. The VEGA website offers a plethora of useful information, and all budding interpreters are welcome to sign up to the VEGA mailing list.

Many thanks to current MA Conference Interpreting student Tianyu Zhang for writing this report. To see some pictures of the event, please check out our Facebook page