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In the fifty years since the American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS) was created, its members have accumulated ample experience in providing interpretation and translation services to a wide range of governmental institutions and private organizations. Members and their employers have worked hard to make each multilingual event a success, and these efforts have enabled us to identify the following elements as useful in planning multilingual conferences and meetings. The following recommendations are not prescriptive but are designed to guide and orient interpreters and translators in their relations with conference organizers and with one another (see NOTE below).


  • In the interest of ensuring professional standards of quality, TAALS recommends that its members always endeavor to ensure that physical conditions not hinder them in the performance of their tasks. They must be able to see and hear properly. Simultaneous interpretation without a booth may lead to deterioration in sound quality and to such a level of ambient noise as to disturb both participants and interpreters.
  • Interpreting teams should be organized so as to avoid the systematic use of relay.
  • All engagements should be covered by a written contract which stipulates the fee, the duration of the appointment, the working languages, the hours of work, the name of the coordinating interpreter, briefing sessions and/or study days. Travel time and travel arrangements, accommodations, per diem, etc., as appropriate.
  • Contracts may also include provisions for compensating the interpreter when the proceedings are recorded (see RECORDING below).
  • Since a contract creates a firm and binding commitment and prevents an interpreter from accepting any other offer for the same period of time, a cancellation clause should be considered by the parties.
  • There may be provision for a coordinating interpreter, to serve as liaison between the conference organizer and the interpreters. If the coordinating interpreter cannot be present throughout the conference, he or she should designate another interpreter as team leader and acquaint that person with all necessary information.
  • Whispered interpretation is not generally recommended but may be used to work from one or two languages into a single language and for a small number of listeners.


  • Since the interpreter must be well prepared, background material should be provided sufficiently in advance. In the case of technical and scientific conferences, interpreters may request a briefing session at the conference or an equivalent period of independent study.


  • Under some circumstances the work produced by interpreters may become their intellectual property thus protected by the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (ParisText,1971). Whenever this may have economic or commercial significance, the rights of the interpreter and of the employer to the work product should be specified in the contract of employment.
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  • The facilities and physical working area provided for translators should be adequate to permit the production of translations of proper quality either dictation equipment or a computer/word processor should be provided for each translator. If translations are to be dictated, an experienced conference typist with proper knowledge of the target language should also be available. The working area should be adequately illuminated and ventilated, and reasonable quiet and privacy should be ensured. Translators should not be required to share their working area with any distracting activities.
  • Translators should be allowed sufficient time to complete their work, having regard to the nature and length of the text.
  • They should have ready access to the dictionaries they need, and whenever possible, to documents and information (including marked-up copies) required for proper understanding of the text to be translated and for the production of a good translation.
  • In addition to the reference material mentioned earlier, any specific background documentation for the conference (special glossaries, reports of previous meetings, documents under consideration, etc.) should be made available for ready reference.
  • Under some circumstances the work produced by translators may become their intellectual property, thus protected by the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Text,1971). Whenever this may have economic or commercial significance, the rights of the translator and of the employer to the work product should be specified in the contract of employment.

NOTE: The Federal Trade Commission Decision and Consent Order, issued August 31, 1994, specifies in Paragraph IV: " ... nothing contained in Paragraph IV of this Order shall prohibit respondent [TAALS] from providing information or its non-binding and non-coercive views concerning interpretation equipment, the hours of work or preparation, or the number of language specialists used for types of jobs."

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