Everyone networks and, in turn, is networked. Interpreters too. Of course. But how? And with whom? And what do they talk about?

Rebecca Albert is soon to graduate from the University of Ghent as an interpreter and will soon have to find her way round the interpreting industry. Some insight into how interpreters network might come in handy. It was this very aspect that she explored during her internship at The Language Sector: in fact, she refers to it as an adventure. She did not use an online questionnaire, but simply called a few dozen interpreters and asked them about their network. This resulted in a lot of background information, tips and insights into how interpreters really network. In this article, Rebecca reveals all.

Rebecca Albert, Ghent - Dear interpreter, are you an active networker? Or do you think networking is pure nonsense?

How do you get in contact with other interpreters? Where and when do you meet? What kind of information do you exchange? May I also ask if there are any interpreters you admire? Yes please, names would be great.

These are some of the questions that I have asked dozens of interpreters during the last few weeks. Live on the phone in Dutch, English and French I invited them all to share as much information on networking as possible. I interviewed thirty social interpreters, court interpreters and conference interpreters. This is what I discovered.


A psychological burden

‘Interpreting is a fairly lonely job.’ I heard this several times. Preparations and trips are so time consuming that many interpreters have little time left to network or so it would seem. You never stop learning. And there is always something that happens last minute, causing stress. ‘It is quite a psychological burden.’ So, is everything I heard just doom and gloom? No, not at all. ‘Whenever we get together at conferences, it is a real social event. We drink, eat and laugh.’

Whether we consider interpreting a lonely or a sociable job, it seems that networking is an important activity. Some interpreters have a fixed circle of interpreters they can rely on, for instance, to fill in for them. ‘If I need an interpreter to replace me, then he or she needs to be reliable and friendly. Someone who performs well and who is easygoing.’

How do you get in contact with other interpreters?

Of course, interpreting is not an office job. But as an interpreter without an office, how do you get in contact with colleagues? In most jobs you just run into your colleagues at work or at a client’s. This is no different for interpreters. Only the client might be different: the court, the police, the immigration department, hospitals, conferences, … ‘You actually end up in some kind of circle. You often see the same interpreters.’

Other ways to get in touch with colleagues? Interpreters also mention professional associations, such as AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters), TAALS (The American Association of Language Specialists), SFT (Société Française des Traducteurs), ITI (Institute of Translation & Interpreting), IAPTI (The International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters), NGTV (Nederlands Genootschap van Tolken en Vertalers), SVVT (De Stichting Vrouwennetwerk Vertalers en Tolken), BKVT (Belgische Kamer van Vertalers en Tolken), Lextra Lingua, BBVT (Beroepsvereniging Beëdigd Vertalers Tolken) and many other organizations.
‘I also get the chance to expand my network through professional associations, regular meetings with members and information sessions for important clients such as the European institutions.

Interpreters often meet their first colleagues during their education. ‘I met some of my current colleagues during my education.’ An alumni association and a small group of interpreters to practise with were also mentioned.

Another interesting fact: interpreters also get in contact with new colleagues thanks to continuous professional development.

Are interpreters really so boring that they never see any colleagues outside of work? Absolutely not. There are a lot of informal meetings as well. ‘I have some colleagues who once invited me to a party where I met other interpreters.’

Social Media

Interpreters not only network offline, but also online: on social media and on forums for interpreters and other language professionals.

Social media have proved to be handy for a lot of interpreters. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Viadeo and Xing all share business information. Internal forums within professional associations are popular places too, as well as internal forums and Facebook groups for translators, such as Vertalerskoffiehoek. Strangely enough, interpreters barely ever network with entrepreneurs outside of the interpreting and translation sector.

Yet, not everyone shares the same opinion. ‘Whenever I am too busy, I simply post a message in some Facebook groups to find someone to replace me.’ Unacceptable, some say. ‘The younger generation discusses all kinds of work-related matters on Facebook, but that is just not done.’ Others simply do not see its use or simply do not have time to be an active member.

Interpreters clearly support each other in times of need. And the network of their choice not only allows them to find a substitute whenever they want a day off. What else? ‘A lot of good advice and terminology. Sometimes I have an urgent assignment at the European Commission and all at once I have to translate a plethora of legal texts. This is when my colleagues pitch in and help.’

A paradox

I was often told that interpreting is fairly lonely and psychologically tough. Yet, at the same time I was just as often told that it really feels like you are amongst colleagues while interpreting.

‘Interpreting is quite a friendly job. Whenever you no longer feel like interpreting or you are too tired, no one will make any remarks. Everyone understands that you just need some rest and that you want to be alone for a while.’ Solidarity on all sides? Not exactly. ‘It is quite a paradox. Before you go into the booths, your colleagues are your friends. However, once the door shuts they become your competitors.’

Is interpreting really such a lonely job? Yes and no. For those who do not like being alone and who do not network, it seems tough. For those who like their own company, it seems OK. Whoever wants to network, can do so to his or her heart’s content. There are enough places to network where you can discuss work as well as private matters both online and offline.

Work and private life

What do networking interpreters talk about? ‘Work as well as private affairs.’ Working conditions, experiences with clients, ethics, invoicing, the market, prices, vocabulary, terminology, logistics such as transport, technology and headsets for simultaneous interpreting. These are the main topics that were mentioned. Interpreters also share their frustrations about poor speakers or the lack of work. ‘Sometimes we talk about problems that have occurred and we exchange tips.’

Who do you admire? 

‘Mostly the younger generation. They are so handy with IT and that is exactly why they are always so well prepared.’ At the same time, I also spoke to interpreters who admire colleagues with a lot of experience. ‘Interpreters working for the European institutions are very good as well.’

Nevertheless, not every interpreter has a role model. ‘It is quite difficult to judge whether an interpreter does a good job. You see, I never hear them interpreting myself because I am working at the same time.’ Of course, the language combination is also an important factor. ‘When I started, I believed there were a lot of inspiring interpreters. Their style appealed to me especially. Eventually you develop your own style.’

The thirty interpreters I called, mentioned a few dozen names. I felt that discretion is important for an interpreter. I was unable to glean who the so-called opinion makers, quality leaders or role models were from my research. There do not seem to be any interpreters at the top who everyone admires. On the contrary, it does seem that there are a lot of inspiring interpreters out there. ‘I admire some interpreters for their achievements in the booth, others for being organized and well prepared, and still others because they always stay calm.’ Pronunciation also seems to be an influencing factor. ‘I absolutely adore interpreters who really seem to have mastered a language.’

At the end of the day, their teachers still remain the most influential example for most interpreters. ‘They encouraged me to do this job.’


Would you like to comment on this article? Feel free to add your comments or send an email to Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken..



We respecteren je privacy.
Door op deze website te surfen aanvaard je functionele en analytische cookies, bedoeld om de site goed te laten werken. Hier geen trackingcookies.