Language interpreting or interpretation is the intellectual activity of facilitating oral and sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between two or more users of different languages. Functionally, interpreting and interpretation are the descriptive words for the activity. In professional practice interpreting denotes the act of facilitating communication from one language form into its equivalent, or approximate equivalent, in another language form. Interpretation denotes the actual product of this work, that is, the message as thus rendered into speech, sign language, writing, non-manual signals, or other language form. This important distinction is observed to avoid confusion.
Functionally, an interpreter is a person who converts a source language to a target language. The interpreter’s function is conveying every semantic element (tone and register) and every intention and feeling of the message that the source-language speaker is directing to the target-language listeners.
Where interpreters work
The majority of professional full-time conference interpreters work for international organisations like the United Nations, the European Union, or the African Union. See the Career opportunities with DG Interpretation in European Union’s institutions.
The world’s largest employer of interpreters is currently the European Commission, which employs hundreds of staff and freelance interpreters working into the official languages of the European Union. The European Union’s other institutions (the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice) have smaller interpreting services.
The United Nations employs interpreters at almost all its sites throughout the world. Because it has only six official languages, however, it is a smaller employer than the European Union.
Interpreters may also work as freelance operators in their local, regional and national communities, or may take on contract work under an interpreting business or service. They would typically take on work as described above.
The U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan employ hundreds of interpreters to assist with its communications with the local population.
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