Interpreting only into native language?
Thread poster: Hannah Burrow

Hannah Burrow  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:05
French to English
+ ...
May 3

I have an MSc in Translating and Interpreting from 2011. Since then, I have almost exclusively been doing translation work. I now want to do more interpreting. For the degree, we only interpreted into our native language, and my question is: how realistic/desirable is it to interpret only into one's native language? I do see that for DPSI etc. you need to be able to interpret into your B language too.
Thanks for any help


Jan Rausch  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:05
Member (2010)
German to English
+ ...
Bidirectional required May 3

Hi Hannah,

On the private market, you definitely have to be able to interpret in both directions between your A and B. (Otherwise it would be a C language.)

It is only at the institutions that interpreters work into one language only.

I hope this helps.




Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:05
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with Jan May 3

The notion of interpreting in one direction only is impractical in the real world.

Hannah: I would say that you were ill-served by your program of study and that, if you now want to offer interpreting services, you will need to develop your skills from English into your non-native language(s) in order to receive serious consideration from potential clients.


Hannah Burrow  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:05
French to English
+ ...
Thanks May 3

Thanks for your help, much appreciated


Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:05
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
I agree with my colleagues May 3

I have never been asked to interpret into Russian only, it is always both ways. Hannah, perhaps, you should try contacting a few agencies. Interpreting at schools (parent-teacher meetings), community events would be a good start. Avoid medical interpreting, at least in the beginning because it will require profound knowledge of medical terminology which is always harder in your L2 especially when you do not live in the country of your non-native language.


Aymeric de Poyen
Local time: 08:05
Arabic to French
Unless you work for the EU/UN May 4

The EU and UN usually require their interpreters to work from several passive languages into their mother tongue. So it depends on the market you are aiming for.


Frank Vandenberghe
Local time: 08:05
Member (Apr 2018)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Relay interpreting May 13

Most conference assignments on the European market involve working into your mother tongue AND working into a relay language when your language is spoken on the conference. This way, you will typically have one language on the conference for which there is no dedicated booth, i.e. when a conference is using, say, five languages, only four will have a dedicated booth. Typical relay languages are English and French. The reason of this is cost savings. You eliminate a booth.

In other words: you absolutely need your B languages to survive on the European market.

I have done a couple of thousands of interpreting assignments since 1994, and I would say that 95 % of the work involves working in both directions. In the EU institutions, you only work into you mother tongue, on the free market, you also work into your B languages.

If your training didn't involve interpreting into your B languages, that's a problem. All university interpreting curricula should have simultaneous, liaison and consecutive interpreting between your A and B languages, in both directions. Also, if you graduated in 2011, your B languages have most probably become passive (i.e. C). You'll need to reactivate them by spending time abroad.

Kind regards,


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