“A complete and total game-changer 

ExCo reflects on 2020

by Martin Field with the AIIC Executive Committee — October 2020

Early in 2020 the world was struck by the unprecedented Covid-19 global crisis, and the professional conference interpreter community was hit hard from the start. With travel drastically restricted, and the majority of meetings and events cancelled, postponed or brought online, most interpreters have had to cope with little or no regular work. AIIC’s Executive Committee – known as ExCo – have had an especially busy year, working to provide guidance to interpreters in this unprecedented situation, and finding ways to protect the profession. The seven members of ExCo – Uroš Peterc (President), Emmanuel Ayuk, Lara Duarte, Jennifer Fearnside-Bitsios, Francisco (Paco) Garcia Hurtado, Youssef Mokhtar (Vice Presidents), and Maureen (Micky) Friedman (Treasurer) – discussed AIIC’s response to the crisis, and their own personal experiences during this extraordinary period of interpreter history. (The full interview can be read on the AIIC Blog.)

Remote interpreting

Paco: “Distance Interpreting has been around for quite some time. Some of our colleagues had already worked “in remote” and it was present, in some markets more than others. But many of us probably felt steamrolled when all of a sudden it became the only mode in which we were able to deliver our services, and this led to quite some uncertainty, anxiety even. Colleagues looked to AIIC for guidance and we have been working hard in order to help and give orientation.”

“The sudden widespread recourse to remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) has created a new wave of solidarity among colleagues, with a desire to share information and to help each other out.”

Istanbul Assembly

Jenny: “Having closely monitored the rapidly evolving situation over several months… we finally decided in June not to convene the Assembly in Istanbul in 2021. Several alternative arrangements were considered, including the holding of a virtual Assembly, but at the end of the day we felt that an in-person Assembly with its many add-ons and meeting opportunities still remains the best option.” 

“We now have our sights firmly set on January 2022, where we will be hoping for a strong turnout with Covid well and truly behind us. In the meantime... following legal advice, our governing bodies and the groups answering to them will remain in office unless they choose otherwise, and AIIC will operate for the intervening year under a provisional budget and dues.”

AIIC.org – our new IT platform and website

Lara: “We couldn’t have done it without the army of volunteers who helped us honour the R500 mandate given to us by Assembly. All the pages you see on AIIC.org had to be written from scratch, revised, edited and translated. The new modular platform represents huge savings for AIIC. It has an intuitive menu structure, we’ve cleaned up the content, archiving old material, and the ‘ My Portal’ is an extremely useful dashboard. “

“Can we improve further? Yes, of course! Watch this space!”

Remote meetings

Youssef: “We all had to adapt quickly. We recognise that there are some advantages, like being able to democratically go about business ‘as usual.’ But is it as effective? I think not.”

“Actually being able to mingle and speak to each other before and after work is extremely important.” 


Micky: “The crisis certainly has hit many interpreters very hard. Many have not worked at all since the Christmas holidays! This is why the unprecedented decision to halve the 2020 dues ... was taken. Of course, this has in turn halved the Association’s income.” 

“At the moment we are in mid-2020 and AIIC’s financial situation is not a cause for concern. Dues, in fact, are still trickling in, slowly but regularly.”

Support and solidarity

Jenny: “We were able to move very quickly to provide colleagues with guidance and support as RSI suddenly became the acronym on everyone’s lips, a potential avenue for employment. Several major organisations also turned to us for advice as they struggled to adapt to the new reality.”

“On the financial front, we immediately ensured that the Solidarity Fund was well equipped to cope with an expected increase in requests, establishing a three-person Management Committee and advertising the existence of the Fund for both beneficiaries and potential donors alike.”

Future of the profession

Emmanuel: “The interpreting landscape will change significantly. To lead this change and reposition itself strategically, AIIC will need to rethink its basic texts to reflect this new reality, continue to engage its members and partners, attract new members, demonstrate innovation and creativity, conduct research and develop evidence-based guidance to maintain its leadership role as well as provide the highest standards of interpreting services. This role will not depart from the core principles of quality, ethics and health and safety.

The year ahead for AIIC 

Uroš: “I remain optimistic. We interpreters pride ourselves on being, by virtue of the very essence of our profession, extremely adaptable, inventive, resourceful individuals with a pronounced ability to improvise.”

“It will take courage and hard work to overcome the situation we are in as a profession. As an association we need to free ourselves of the shackles of “that’s how things were always done” and start thinking way more out of the box.” 

“I am convinced that if we dare to be a little bit bolder than usual we can truly grow this association to a new AIIC that isn’t afraid of the future, an AIIC that doesn’t shy away from reality but actually defines it.”

Personal reflections on a world turned upside-down

Paco: “Covid-19 has been a wakeup call for me. It has taught me to value the small things in life. The most difficult thing has been not being able to see my family for such a long time.” 

Lara: “There’s this quote I love: ‘(An unmatched left parenthesis creates an unresolved tension that can stay with you all day.’ That’s how it has been. Months of tension. Unknowns…. I had to find that right parenthesis. I go for long walks in the forest around my house, letting it absorb the negative static that so often drowns out our own deepest thoughts, and reflect on what matters most.” 

Youssef: “For me, Covid-19 came as a reminder of how weak human beings are and how fragile are our systems. The lockdown was tough for my family and I lost relatives. I think it’s true to say that my life has changed drastically.”

Emmanuel: “Personally, Covid offered a fresh perspective of life as to what really matters. Working from home has entailed significant reorganization, flexibility and above all, ushered a deeper appreciation of work-life balance and heightened the need for empathy and compassion.” 

Micky: “I unfortunately caught Covid myself, so it affected me and my family directly. It changed the focus of our lives. I have not worked since December and being at home for eight months is a real big change for me and the family!”

Jenny: “The Covid crisis brought home to me the importance of never taking anything for granted. Our entire world can be turned upside-down in an instant. Literally…. It has been an opportunity to figure out the truly important things and people in my life. “

Francisco (Paco’) Garcia Hurtado 

  Jennifer Fearnside-Bitsios

  Lara Duarte

Youssef Mokhtar   

Maureen (Micky) Friedman

  Emmanuel Ayuk   

 Uroš Peterc   

Articles published in Communicate! reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.


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A virtual discussion about the post-Covid landscape of meetings and events

“A complete and total game-changer”   
ExCo reflects on 2020

Brokers and Heads of the Malabars  
The search for Interpreter Zero

What is the Dragoman Challenge?  
A multilingual journey of discovery
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India’s complex politics of multilingualism  
Review of “Le métier d’interprètes en Inde"

Simultaneous simplification   
A world first, to include people with intellectual disabilities

Photos courtesy of the AIIC Executive Committee