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What is a Conference Interpreter?


The conference interpreter is a specialist in communication between people and cultures. The role of the interpreter is to convey the content of a spoken message from one language into another. Conference interpretation is used extensively across Canada by business and government, at conventions, sales meetings, training sessions, board and committee meetings, annual meetings, press conferences, etc.

The Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) is the only professional association in Ontario empowered by law to confer the title of "Certified Conference Interpreter". To obtain the title, a conference interpreter must pass a national examination or present equivalent credentials. (Court interpreters are a separate profession and receive a separate certification also conferred by ATIO.)

Conference interpreters are bound by the ATIO Code of Ethics (with provisions for impartiality and professional secrecy) and the Professional Practice Conditions for Conference Interpreters (which detail requirements for optimal service, such as preparation, team size and technical equipment). These safeguards are your guarantee of excellence and quality.

There are two forms of conference interpretation:
  • consecutive interpretation, used for small discussion groups and in negotiations (where the interpreter speaks after the speaker);
  • simultaneous interpretation, the most frequently used form (where the interpreter speaks at the same time as the speaker, usually through electronic equipment), offering immediate communication in as many languages as required.

Interpreters work in teams. The number of professionals depends on the workload: for example, three for a normal working day at a bilingual meeting. ATIO guidelines on team size, established over many years of professional practice, ensure optimal quality in a highly demanding work environment.

The technical equipment needed for simultaneous interpretation - a soundproof booth, headsets, microphones - must be of a quality to permit good interpretation and proper hearing conditions for the audience. Although interpreters and technical staff work in close cooperation, their requirements are very different and it is generally advisable that separate arrangements be made for each type of service.

Whether your meeting is national or international, bilingual or multilingual, using the services of an ATIO consultant interpreter and a team of Certified Conference Interpreters is your best assurance of successful communication. For further information, please contact the ATIO Secretariat.