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Knowledge Centre on Interpretation

Interpreting Europe Conference 2023

A look back at the 27th edition

international sign scic conference

The twenty-seventh edition of SCIC's flagship event, previously known as 'SCIC-Universities Conference', took place from 30 November to 1 December 2023 under a new name: Interpreting Europe Conference.

Scic universities conference 2023

This new name reflects the will to broaden the scope of the conference, reaching out to interpreters' associations, employers of interpreters and other stakeholders alongside SCIC’s traditional university partners.  

In line with the Commission's greening and digitalisation objectives, SCIC decided to alternate between an on-site and online format from one year to another. This year, the conference was fully virtual and only Brussels-based speakers participated from a meeting room in the Berlaymont building, transformed into a TV studio for the occasion. Although the networking opportunities offered by on-site events were missed, the format allowed for a broader and more varied audience in an inclusive event open to all. The conference welcomed more than 1 000 attendees from as far away as New Zealand, Côte d'Ivoire and Chile. SCIC interpreters provided interpretation into English, German, French, and International Sign, and participants had the possibility to also speak in Spanish and Italian.

Under the theme 'Attracting Talent for an Upskilled Profession', the conference addressed the pressing issue of a structural shortage of interpreters faced by the EU's interpretation services. With succession planning an increasing priority, it looked at the 'perfect storm' facing the profession: a lack of students pursuing interpretation studies and new technologies, including AI, creating the perception of a profession without a future.

Echoing the European Year of the Skills 2023, Commissioner Hahn's (European Commissioner for Budget and Administration) opening address emphasised the importance of developing skills amidst rapid change: 'We need people to have, develop, and maintain the right skills for quality jobs, and this in a context of profound change for many professions… this conference is an excellent opportunity to discuss the skills needed for linguists in the digital era'.

Set against this backdrop, the conference was structured around three key elements, each addressed in a panel discussion: 

  1. 'Understanding the Talent Shortage' offered insights into the complex factors contributing to the talent gap, including financial concerns, AI's impact, and changing perceptions of the profession.
  2. 'Attracting Talent' emphasised the collective effort needed from the European Institutions, Member States, universities and other institutions to effectively communicate and attract younger talent. 
  3. 'Finding Talent' provided perspectives from a pupil at the European School Ixelles, a current student of interpretation, and a young staff interpreter that has recently joined the profession.

Online breakout sessions brought together those most impacted by this year's theme: university representatives and students. Together, they explored why interpretation is sometimes viewed as a profession without a future and strategies to attract new interpreters.

SCIC conference 2023

One of the conference's highlights was the Young Interpreters Award, a traditional segment that gives a platform to the next generation. Participants were invited to write speeches reflecting on the conference's theme to show an innovative and modern approach to interpretation in a changing context. The high quality of entries underscored the talent and promise within young interpreters. You can read the award winners’ speeches and see photos of the award ceremony on the event website.

The main takeaway from the conference was optimistic: the interpreting profession has a future, set to evolve with new technologies. This was reiterated by SCIC’s Director-General Genoveva Ruiz Calavera in her closing remarks: 'As long as our Union will be there to help and protect its citizens, the need to communicate and find compromises will be there. And thus, the need for professionals that facilitate this understanding within the Union - the interpreters and the translators - will remain as well'.

Preparations for the 2024 in-person edition of the conference are already underway; in the meantime, take a look at the after-movie.

You can re-watch the entire conference using the following links:


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