AIIC – an inclusive and representative professional body
As professionals we tend to think that there are advantages to banding together and that membership in a world-wide association of staff and freelance interpreters merits serious consideration. We would like to share our vision with you.
AIIC - What it is
The International Association of Conference Interpreters – commonly known by its French acronym, AIIC – was founded in 1953 when conference interpreting was still a fledgling profession. Today it has over 2900 members in more than 100 countries with a full-time secretariat in Geneva. When applying for membership, candidates make a commitment to respect AIIC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Standards, which are at the heart of a collective effort to promote professionalism and quality.
Our profession is international by nature. Its practice knows no borders, and thus it makes sense for interpreters to be organised as a single international body rather than as a federation of national groups. Conference venues are not chosen according to where interpreters live. In that sense, supply goes after demand, and not the other way around. AIIC is present throughout the world. Its members are organised in regions by place of residence. But membership is portable: when you change country of residence, you take your membership with you.
AIIC is also organised on a functional basis by sectors. The Agreement Sector brings together interpreters working for the major international organisations with which AIIC has negotiated collective agreements for many years. The Private Market Sector serves as a forum for freelancers and consultant interpreters working for a variety of non-institutional clients. And AIIC's Staff Interpreters' Committee gathers all members who hold a full-time position in national or international bodies.
AIIC Principles and Standards
AIIC recognises that quality interpretation depends on more than an individual interpreter's knowledge and skills. Working conditions, a spirit of collegiality in a profession where one rarely works alone, and the quality of conference and simultaneous interpretation equipment in a field often dependent on technology are but a few of the factors that will affect the interpreter's performance. It is especially important to be able to sustain performance over the years. After all, interpreters like other professionals also look forward to a long and productive career.
As stated above, AIIC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Standards articulate a vision for a lifetime of productive, quality interpreting. The agreements negotiated with major international organisations, which apply to all interpreters and not only AIIC members, incorporate those same universal standards as well as other factors specific to each body.
AIIC groups and projects aim to advance the profession and to build on past achievements, through:
Many AIIC members are also consultant interpreters who organise teams for a variety of customers. Experience, common sense, people skills and business acumen are all required, as is a firm grasp of legal and technical issues. AIIC aims to help its members who undertake such work through information sharing.
Why AIIC membership is important
In the absence of any formal recognition of the profession, AIIC has become the main point of reference for the technical standards and working conditions required to guarantee quality, safeguard health, and train the future generations of colleagues. The goal is to assure the best possible service to clients and to create safeguards in practice that will contribute to professional interpreters having successful careers that span a lifetime.
Anyone who has been interpreting long enough will have encountered tricky situations. Although it is understandably difficult to turn down job offers, too many compromises on working conditions can be detrimental in the long run. Unless one is aware of the pitfalls – and thus avoids or prevents them - many things can go wrong, such as:
- Finding yourself alone in the booth with nobody to help you or take over;
- Being expected to work from/into languages that are not part of your language combination;
- Booth without any proper sound insulation – or even no interpreting booth at all;
- Booths facing a wall with a single TV monitor for all 5 booths
- Having no technician on site to monitor the SI equipment and sound quality.
Unfortunately, the list of problems can go on and on. The potential for problems is great if interpreters are caught unawares. Which brings us back to AIIC. Its purpose is to try and prevent such pitfalls by adopting appropriate standards and guidelines and by sharing information on best practice with all stakeholders in the conference industry.
How to join
Membership is indicative of a commitment to your chosen profession and joins you with a group that can act in solidarity. Wherever you live, there are AIIC interpreters near you. In many cases AIIC members have ongoing contacts with national associations and unions. Many of you will already know a few AIIC members.
AIIC membership is based on peer review through a sponsorship system. The requirements for membership and the application form can be found online. You may also want to refer to Applying to AIIC: a Primer for practical examples and advice.
Feel free to contact us. We look forward to your questions and comments.