Other forms of interpreting

‘Interpreting’ is a big word, encompassing much more than the world of conferences alone, with many professional conference interpreters also active in other areas of the profession.

AIIC’s core business is conference interpreting, as reflected in the very title of the Association. Take away the ‘conference’ qualifier, however, and the umbrella term ‘interpreting’ extends to a much broader range of occupations, all very different one from another:


Court interpreting

Increasing numbers of countries the world over are enshrining in their constitutions the right for citizens to follow and participate in proceedings in their own language. Court and legal interpreters work in civil, criminal and administrative courts to ensure just that.

At an international level, several courts (the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda amongst others) have established specialised language services that make use of conference interpreters in a legal setting.

Learn more about court interpreting.

Community interpreting

When interpreters are called upon to facilitate communication between citizens and the authorities or official bodies, this role is referred to as community interpreting.

It is used in a wide variety of settings, from the refugee needing to communicate with the administrative services or people in difficult situations with social workers, to patients talking to doctors or hospital services, to name but a few.

The interpreter’s social and cultural knowledge is often of particular importance in this type of scenario.

Liaison interpreting

Visitors to a country who do not speak the local language may require assistance in a relatively informal context. This is known as liaison interpreting and can be provided, for example, by a host(ess) at a trade fair, a guide in a department store or a member of staff in a large hotel.

As a less structured form of interpreting, liaison requires no special training or equipment, nor does it demand an elephantine memory since what is said tends to be interpreted sentence by sentence.


Even more informally, 'interpreter-guides', otherwise known as 'accompanying guides' and 'tourist guides', are sometimes employed in the tourist trade to accompany individuals or groups and provide them with cultural, historical and artistic information as well as to help them communicate with local people.

Interpreting in conflict zones

Military and civilian authorities involved in armed conflicts as well as journalists in the field sometimes depend on linguistic mediation with other parties to the conflict or with the civilian population.

The people recruited as interpreters tend to be locals who are not always appropriately trained or conscious of the risks involved, of what will be required of them or of the ethical standards to be respected.

AIIC has set up a specific project addressing the problems facing interpreters in conflict zones in order to raise awareness amongst the people concerned and governments alike.