Conference interpreters are at the forefront of multilingualism, working to ensure that language is no barrier to participating in or following meetings. Interpreters understand what is being said in one language and render the speaker’s message almost instantly in another, ensuring that the citizens of Europe can be represented in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg by their elected representatives and best experts. By enabling communication and facilitating dialogue, interpreters act as a bridge between cultures and are at the very heart of decision-making processes. The interpreting services of the European Union are the world’s largest employers of conference interpreters.
What conference interpreters do
Conference interpreters work with the spoken word. They help participants in multilingual international meetings, conferences and legal proceedings to communicate with each other, not by translating word for word, but by conveying the speaker’s ideas. They maintain complete confidentiality and neutrality concerning what they hear and see.
Conference interpreters bring the policy of multilingualism to life: they therefore play an essential role in guaranteeing the accessibility and transparency of the EU.
Their most important working tool is their native language. A solid command of that language coupled with a thorough knowledge of their other working languages, an analytical mind, good communication skills, resilience and curiosity about the world are the hallmarks of a professional interpreter.
How they work
Day to day, they mainly work in the 24 official languages of the EU, but occasionally they provide interpretation in other languages as well. Most conference interpreters work from foreign languages into their native language. Although a thorough understanding of their working languages is a prerequisite, conference interpreters do not need to be bilingual.
At the EU institutions, conference interpreters work in various modes of interpreting:
Interpreting after the speaker has finished, with the help of a special form of note-taking.
Interpreting in real time while the speaker is speaking, using conference interpretation equipment (i.e. soundproof booths, earphones and a microphone). This mode is the most widely used.
Whispered or Chuchotage
The interpreter is seated or standing next to the client and interprets simultaneously directly into his/her ear.
Portable Interpretation Equipment (PIE)
The interpreter interprets simultaneously without being in a booth, with the help of a handheld microphone and headphones.
Working with us
The European Parliament, the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union each have an interpretation service. However, the institutions jointly select freelance interpreters, and the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) organises competitions to become a permanent official.
To work for the European institutions
as a freelance conference interpreter: apply for an inter-institutional accreditation test. Those who succeed in the test will be added to the joint EU database of accredited freelance interpreters.
as a permanent official: competitions for conference interpreters are organised by EPSO.
For full details of the different job types available, see the links for each institution below.
DG Interpretation provides interpretation in meetings organised by the Commission and the other institutions it serves, and is also a conference organiser for Commission services.
Meetings at the Council of the European Union, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank and the agencies and offices in the Member States are all serviced by interpreters from DG Interpretation.
Traineeships – not specifically for interpretation
The Directorate-General for Logistics and Interpretation for Conferences (DG LINC) supplies interpreters for all meetings of the European Parliament, as well as for the Court of Auditors, the Committee of the Regions, the European Ombudsman, the European Data Protection Officer, the European Commission in Luxembourg and the Translation Centre.
European Parliament interpreters provide interpretation for all EP meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg as well as accompanying delegations to overseas conferences, visits or election observation missions.
The Court of Justice of the EU, based in Luxembourg, ensures the uniform application and interpretation of European Union law.
Its Interpretation Directorate, part of the Directorate-General for Multilingualism, provides simultaneous interpretation during hearings before the Court of Justice and the General Court.