Some terms that will help you interpret our world…


─── Agreement


AIIC has Agreements governing terms and conditions with international and regional organisations.

─── A Language

A Language

The 'A' language is the interpreter's mother tongue (or its strict equivalent) into which they work from all their other working languages in both consecutive and simultaneous interpretation.

─── B Language

B Language

A 'B' language is a language in which the interpreter is perfectly fluent, but which is not a mother tongue. An interpreter can work into this language from one or several of their other working languages. It is also considered an active language for the interpreter.

─── Bidule


Bidule refers to a mobile interpretation kit of just microphone and earpieces, so interpretation can take place without the usual equipment. The interpreter has a microphone and the participants headphones. This system is limited by its lack of sound insulation and is only useful for small and short meetings where it would be impractical to install interpreting equipment, such as a factory visit.

─── Booth


Interpreters provide simultaneous interpretation from a booth. Since they remain in the booth for many hours each day and have to perform at their best, the booths must meet certain standards (ISO 2603 for built-in booths and ISO 4043 for mobile booths) regarding location, size, visibility, light, sound, equipment, air quality and accessibility.

‘Booth’ is also interpreter jargon for the interpreters who work into a given language, for example “she works in the French booth”. 

─── C Language

C Language

A 'C' language is one which the interpreter understands perfectly but into which they do not work. They will interpret from this (these) language(s) into their active languages. It is therefore a passive language for the interpreter.

Chief Interpreter

In an organisation, the Chief Interpreter is the head of the Interpretation Service. They manage the day-to-day operations of the Interpreting Service, hire staff, and plan the long-term needs of the organisation.

Code of Professional Ethics

The Code of Professional Ethics is one of AIIC's basic texts. It sets out, inter alia, the three fundamental principles of professional secrecy, professionalism and collegiality.

─── Confidentiality


Confidentiality is one of the fundamental principles adhered to by AIIC interpreters. They are bound by an unbreakable rule of confidentiality in order to safeguard any information they learn at work from unauthorised disclosure to third parties.

Consecutive Interpreting

The interpreter is in the same room as the speaker and follows their speech while taking notes, rendering the speech in its entirety once the speaker has finished. In a longer speech the speaker makes pauses to allow the interpreter to render what was said into the target language.

This kind of interpretation is suitable for scientific and technical presentations given by a single speaker, or in meetings where only a small number of languages are spoken, since it makes the meeting longer.

Consultant Interpreter

Consultant interpreters (in addition to interpreting) act as consultants for conference organisers or potential clients and provide teams of interpreters to them. They also advise clients on how to obtain the best possible match between the conference organiser's needs and the interpreting requirements.

─── Contract


AIIC recommends that a written contract be concluded, establishing the working conditions and fees on the private market. A contract should contain the following clauses:

──      Name of organiser and interpreter

──      Title, duration, place and date of the meeting

──      Languages for which the interpreter is recruited

──      Technical specifications (mobile or fixed booth, equipment supplier)

──      Fees and, if appropriate, travel allowance, subsistence and travel expenses, etc.

──      Cancellation policy

─── Copyright


Interpretation may not be recorded without the express consent of the interpreters. In the private market sector, depending on the purpose of the recording (i.e. whether for commercial or purely administrative reasons), additional payment may be due in line with international copyright conventions.

Distance Interpreting

In distance interpreting (aka remote interpreting), the interpreter works normally but is not in the same location as the conference. The interpreter follows the meeting via a screen and console. The recommended practice is to work in an actual booth, known as a remote interpreting hub, that meets ISO/IEC standards for sound insulation, dimensions, air quality and accessibility as well as for the appropriate equipment (headphones, microphones).

─── Equipment


In consecutive, the interpreter mainly needs a good memory, a pad of paper and one or more pens that work. In simultaneous, the quality of the interpretation depends to a great extent on the quality of the equipment he or she works with: layout of the booth, access, ability to see, headphones, microphones, sound quality, availability and skills of the technician, etc.

─── Fee


Fee refers to the amount the interpreter is paid for his or her interpretation services during the conference. In international organisations the fee is established in the relevant Agreement. In the private market sector, the fees are negotiated between the interpreter and the client.

Interpreter Console

The equipment the interpreter uses in the booth to regulate the sound in his or her headset and select the incoming (the source language) and outgoing channels (the language spoken by the interpreter).

ISO & IEC Standards

With contributions from AIIC, both ISO (International Standardisation Organisation) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) have established standards related to interpretation. ISO 2603 sets standards for fixed booths and ISO 4043 sets standards for mobile booths. IEC 60914 sets standards for electrical and audio systems.

Language Combination

An interpreter's language combination comprises his or her native or A languages, retour or B languages and passive or C languages.

─── Note-taking


Note-taking is an essential element of consecutive interpreting. It consists of noting on paper the logic and structure of a speech in the form of symbols, simple words and abbreviations in order to help the interpreter remember the contents of the speech. Every interpreter develops their own system.

─── Relay


If the interpreters working into, say, English do not understand the language used by a delegate, say Dutch, they will work from their colleagues’ rendition of Dutch into French or German. This is known as working on relay, and the relay language can change. For some languages such as Arabic and Chinese the interpreters who work into those languages also work back into another language, most frequently English or French, thus providing relay to the whole team.

─── Retour


This describes an interpreter working from his or her A language into his or her B language.

─── Sign Language

Sign Language

Sign language interpreters interpret between a spoken and a signed language or between two signed languages. Signed languages are natural languages just like spoken languages, and each country has its own, or several. Signed language interpreters frequently work with spoken language interpreters in mixed teams at conferences or at international institutions, such as the European Commission or the United Nations.

Simultaneous Interpreting

In standard simultaneous mode, the interpreter sits in a booth with a clear view of the meeting room and the speaker. He or she listens to and simultaneously interprets the speech into a target language. Standard simultaneous interpreting requires a booth (fixed or mobile) that meets ISO/IEC standards for sound insulation, dimensions, air quality and accessibility as well as for the appropriate equipment (headphones, microphones).

Travel Allowance

Money paid to interpreters as compensation for travel time from the professional address to the conference venue. In the agreement sector, these allowances are governed by the relevant contract. In the private market sector, they are negotiated between the interpreter and the client.


The term video-conference refers to any conference whose participants are located at several different venues and who communicate using the appropriate technology. AIIC has produced detailed specifications (in particular for video monitors and sound quality) so that the interpreters can maintain a high standard of work despite the technical constraints.

─── Webcasting


Live or recorded broadcasting on the Internet of audio-visual content may offer the option to listen to interpretation into one or several languages.

─── Whispering


Whispering is an interpreting mode whereby the interpreter is seated next to one or two meeting participants and whispers the interpretation of the speech. This mode is used mainly when only very few people need interpretation. This interpreting mode is also commonly known by its classic French name, chuchotage.