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  1. What is the conference interpreter's profile?

The following characteristics are essential:

  • An all-round culture is a basic requirement.
  • The mental agility to listen to one language while rendering it verbally into another.
  • The skill to keep the interpretation flowing and sound confident even if the going gets tough.
  • Responsibility, which includes recognizing the scope and limitations of one's knowledge and being willing to study to complement it.
  • A professional interpreter must be punctual, faithful to the source, and respect the confidentiality of anything heard behind closed doors.
  1. Is it very difficult?

The degree of difficulty or ease lies initially in the languages, in other words it depends on the command of the ones already known and the facility to learn others, and then on making it a habit to study. The desire to study and never tire of learning makes everything easier. The characteristics already mentioned −  an all-round general culture, mental agility, skill, confidence and responsibility − constitute the groundwork for acquiring the technique and improving the quality of the interpretation. It helps enormously to take courses in related areas such as speed reading, concentration techniques and elocution.

  1. ball What is the image of this profession today?

People tend to view the profession as exciting and well paid, and interpreters as cultured people who move in interesting circles among VIPs. In reality such expectations are generally not so commonplace.

  1. ball How many languages do I need to know?

A very in-depth knowledge of one's "mother tongue" or "native language" (classified as Language A) with a sound cultural level of understanding and expression and an ample vocabulary. A second "acquired" language (Language B) which the interpreter understands very well and is able to speak clearly and correctly. Another language or languages, which can be passive (Language C), that the interpreter can understand perfectly and interpret from correctly into Language A or Language B, but not into Language C.

  1. ballWhat language combinations are important?

In Venezuela, in order to work frequently at local meetings and events, it is essential to be able to interpret from English to Spanish and vice versa. The languages of the OAS are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The official languages of the UN are Arabic, English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. English, French and Spanish are the languages generally used at meetings in Venezuela. When interpretation is required in other languages the international agencies bring their own interpreters. German, Italian and Portuguese interpretation is required only very occasionally at international conferences in Venezuela, but more frequently at smaller events and business meetings.

  1. ballHow perfect must my accent be?

The accent in the mother tongue or native language (A) must be clear, pronounced well, and regional or local jargon should be avoided. A slight foreign accent is permitted in the B language, provided it does not affect the clarity of the interpretation.

  1. ballWhat is the work like?

Every meeting, course and conference is different, but the system of working is the same. Two interpreters sit in a booth equipped with headsets, microphones and a console that allows them to adjust the volume of the sound, etc. There is a sound technician in the room or auditorium, and before the meeting starts the interpreters test the equipment while the technician listens. On the first day of a conference, the interpreters must arrive at least half an hour before it is scheduled to start. Before beginning, the interpreters must have the agenda and any documents that have been prepared by the organization. They take turns at the microphone every half hour. Some clients respect the starting and finishing times, which is generally the case with courses. If the work runs beyond the agreed finishing time, the hiring interpreter or chief interpreter addresses the issue with the client.

  1. ballWhy are two interpreters needed?

AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland conducted scientific studies to determine the working hours. The conclusion was that optimum performance can be sustained for up to half an hour at a stretch, after which it declines, so it set the standard of two interpreters who alternate every half hour.

  1. ball Where can I study?

In Venezuela, the UCV (Universidad Central de Venezuela) runs a comprehensive degree program in translation and interpretation. UNIMET (Universidad Metropolitana) has a degree course but it is aimed at teaching or translation and does not cover interpreting. Some commercial institutes also train interpreters. There are various schools of interpreting abroad (United States, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, etc).

  1. ballHow many years do I have to study?

The degree course at the UCV lasts five years. The duration of the studies at the commercial institutes depends on the student's knowledge at entry. A young person who leaves high school "knowing" another language is in a very different position from someone with a higher education qualification and a "command" of another language or other languages, who uses them constantly and is able to switch easily from one to another. Life experience enriches an interpreter's knowledge, facilitating the ability to interpret.  However, despite an intense academic preparation lasting an average of five years, interpreters never stop studying because they must keep abreast of new topics and be able to handle them with confidence.

  1. ballHow can I become a professional interpreter?

By studying for a degree or diploma that will accredit you as an interpreter.

  1. ballHow do I start working? Do I go straight from being a student to a working interpreter?

Generally the institution where you studied will help graduates gain a foothold in the job market. The best way to find clients is by networking with colleagues. It is essential at all times to respect the rules governing the profession.

  1. ball How can I find assignments?

To make yourself known you just have to go out there and market yourself. There is no "job bank" for interpreters. You can approach professional societies and event organizers. It is a matter of being persistent. That's how we all started off.

  1. ballDo I have to specialize in a particular field or subject?

Not enough conferences are held in Venezuela to justify an interpreter specializing in a particular area from the outset. If you have a good grounding to begin with, you will expand your knowledge and your vocabulary on the job. After a while you will have the opportunity to gain deeper and more specialized knowledge of a particular subject. The only place to find a constant source of work in the same field is with an international agency as a staff interpreter.

  1. ball How much can I expect to earn?

Conference interpreting is paid by the day. New and experienced interpreters are paid the same rate. Experienced interpreters earn more because they work more days than new interpreters. The current daily rate is based on parameters designed by the international agencies such as the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization of American States which have their own interpreting rates.  There are no paid vacations, social security or insurance cover, employee benefits or pension funds for freelancers so they must make their own arrangements. Most interpreters do written translation to boost their income.

  1. ballWill I travel?

The probability of traveling varies: a client who is satisfied with your work in a specialized topic may hire the same interpreters for an event abroad. The other possibility is to work with an international organization that has a need for your particular language combination. Overseas travel tends to be to countries in the Caribbean region.

  1. ballWill I get to meet VIPs?

You will hear and see lots of important people from the booth. However, whether you actually meet them is another matter. There may be an opportunity to exchange a few words during break times but that is usually all, unless your assignment involves a one-on-one interpretation for a VIP for an interview or press conference.

  1. ballWhat organization should I join?

If you already have the professional credentials and meet all the requisites, you can apply to join AVINC, the Venezuelan Association of Conference Interpreters, headquartered in Caracas. TAALS, The American Association of Language Specialists, headquartered in Washington DC. The international organization you can aspire to join after gaining experience and sponsors is AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters, in Geneva. All these associations are responsible for setting and maintaining interpreting quality and working conditions.

  1. ballWhere is the bulk of the work to be found?

In Venezuela, the city where there is the greatest demand for interpreters is Caracas, although many courses are held in the provinces and especially in the oil producing areas. Demand will fluctuate with the state of the economy.

  1. ballHow is a contract negotiated?

First of all, to calculate how many interpreters to hire each day, you must know how many different languages and rooms will be needed. Fees are reviewed periodically and adjusted either yearly or every six months. If the event is held outside the interpreter's city of residence, per diems and travel expenses must be paid. The interpreter includes these amounts in the quote which is sent to the client or negotiated in advance. Once an agreement has been reached, individual contracts are drawn up for each interpreter. The fee itself is non-negotiable, but if a large number of interpreters, rooms, etc. the interpreter can give the client advice and guidance.

  1. ballHow can I market my services?

AVINC has a website with a page for each interpreter who belongs to the organization. Some interpreters advertise in the yellow pages or have their own website. It is also useful to contact conference organizers and the companies that provide sound equipment. Making oneself known through work can take time but that is how we all began.

  1. ballWhat will be the tools of my trade? What data banks do I have access to?

All interpreters need to have a good bilingual dictionary in the working languages as well as monolingual dictionaries. It is also important for them to have access to specialized bilingual dictionaries in their subject areas (e.g. medical, petroleum, economics, legal). A good encyclopedia is also extremely useful when preparing for an assignment. Nowadays there are specialized glossaries on the Internet, some of which are bilingual, and sites where interpreters read up on the subject to be covered.

  1. ballWhat is the future of the profession?

Conference interpreting will be needed as long as languages divide us. Economic difficulties affect countries and international organizations alike and many of them have had to cut back on the number and duration of their meetings. However there will always be a need for professional, business, scientific and educational organizations to hold conferences or courses where they can listen to renowned experts in different fields to keep their knowledge up to date.

  1. ballWhat related professions are there?

Web interviews, conferences and webinars, as well as radio and television interpreting; though not related professions, they call for different interpreting modes.  There is an increasing demand now for telephone interpreting and videoconferencing.  Court interpreting is another interesting field of work. In Venezuela the law only allows certified public interpreters to interpret in a Venezuelan court. They must first sit and pass an official test before a jury of examiners accredited by the Ministry of Justice. Another option is to dub films, TV series and documentaries, which consists of replacing the voices of the actors with the local language. This can be fun for an interpreter who has histrionic skills. Consecutive interpreting is a different mode to simultaneous interpreting. The interpreter listens carefully as the person speaks, using symbols, not shorthand, to take notes. With the help of these notes the interpreter then gives a spoken rendering in the other language. This type of interpretation takes much longer than simultaneous and is used for face-to-face interviews, usually at the level of heads of State and ministers, or for after-dinner speeches at receptions. It is an opportunity to be present at interesting meetings. However, in a country the size of ours there is not much demand for it. One or two interpreters are hired for this type of work. It calls for very specialized training.

  1. ballHow can one apply to join the Association?

An application form, addressed to the Admissions and Linguistic Classification Committee must be filled in and sent to: comiteinternetavinc@gmail.com


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AVINC - Asociación Venezolana de Intérpretes de Conferencia
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