Conference interpreting is a particular form of orality. Placed at the core of communication between a speaker and his/her audience, the interpreter is, at the same time, text producer and receiver. In his/her function as linguistic and, above all, cultural mediator, the interpreter produces an interpreted speech on the basis of an original speech ; hence the subordinate nature of his/her role. The orality of the source text (original speech) and of the target text (interpreted speech) has been, to this day, the Cinderella of interpreting studies. In terms of both quantity and quality, results obtained so far do not yet enable us either to provide a comprehensive description of orality in interpreting, or to compare and contrast it with other forms of oral language.
The aim of the present article is to describe the profession of conference interpreting from its beginnings, its organization within an International Association 50 years ago, as well as its membership conditions. The article goes on to describe how the profession has developed over the years, from the beginnings of consecutive interpretation at the League of Nations to the introduction of simultaneous interpretation at the Nürnberg Trials at the end of the nineteen-forties. A second part concerns the teaching of conference interpreting, and the present conditions of practice of the profession. It concludes with a description of multilingualism in the European Institutions and the present and future role of the conference interpreter on the eve of the enlargement of the European Union to 10 new member countries.