Barry Doran, Conference interpreter, Freelance

22 Jun 2023, 13:18

Graduates in caps and gowns at a commencement ceremony with text "Graduate profiles"

Employer Freelance Conference Interpreter
Degree BA French and Maths (NUI Galway); Master Interpretation de Conference, ESIT (2006-2010); Conference Interpreting (NUI Galway).
Languages French and Irish

I started my Arts degree in NUI Galway in 1999. I wish I could say that back then I had already begun planning for a career
in languages, but that was not the case. I simply had no idea what I wanted to study, so I chose a degree that would allow
me to continue the two subjects I enjoyed most in secondary school: French and Maths. I began my degree studying
French, Maths, an ab initio German and Spanish, and went on to graduate with a BA in Spanish and Maths.


When choosing my degree, one major motivation for studying a language was that it would give me the chance of spending a year abroad on Erasmus. I ended up doing my Erasmus year in Salamanca – and it was a great experience!
After graduation, I went to France to teach English. A friend told me about an interpreting school in Paris, called ESIT. Interpreting sounded like my dream job – working with foreign languages, helping people to communicate with one
another and having the opportunity to learn other new languages. I went on to complete my interpreter training in ESIT, where I learned to interpret with English, French and Spanish. I then completed an interpreting course in NUI Galway, which allowed me to add Irish to my working language combination.

Current role

My current role as a freelance interpreter involves interpreting at meetings for the European Commission, European Parliament or the Council of the European Union. I work mainly in Brussels, but frequently travel to Strasbourg and Luxembourg for work. My job consists of listening to several different languages (French, Spanish, German and Irish), understanding them fully, and orally transmitting the message in perfect English. I don’t need to be able to speak
my working languages flawlessly, just English.
Because of the variety of meetings I interpret at, my use of my mother tongue needs to be flexible enough to deal with very technical meetings (knowing legal and economic vocabulary, for example), political meetings where politicians can sometimes get carried away with themselves, or meetings that require an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the EU.
Incidentally, working as an interpreter in Brussels, knowledge of EU languages is far more important than knowledge of non-EU languages, whereas in organisations such as the UN, there is a demand for interpreters with non- EU languages, such as Russian.


For anyone considering a career in translation or interpreting, it’s important to ensure that your language skills are up to scratch before starting a translation or interpreting course. The workload is very high on such courses, meaning that you won’t have time to both improve a weak language and learn the techniques necessary for professional translation or interpreting.
I would say that if the idea of constantly learning appeals to you (whether learning a new language, perfecting an existing language or improving your general knowledge), then a career in interpreting or translation could be the right choice.

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