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For Latin-language speakers, adding another Latin language to their combo is not extremely difficult, but when it comes to languages such as Arabic, Chinese or Russian, the amount of effort and time required are obviously different. Time and effort (together with usefulness in market terms) are factors to take into account when planning to add a new C.

Thus, I wonder if working hard on getting an Arabic C is worth the effort, given that nowadays most Arabophones are fluent in English or French and most Arabic A's have a B language themselves and can be a pivot for the rest of their colleagues during a conference (UN model).

Are there any market sectors in which a Spanish A & Arabic C combo could be successful?

Thanks in advance for your help and advice.

asked 14 Jun '12, 17:58

David's gravatar image


retagged 17 Jun '12, 14:53

msr's gravatar image


Hello the Booth In...,

My advice is based on my experience on the european private interpreting market. Beeing Spanish A myself, I've hardly been at a conference with Arabic - all together: maybe 10 conferences with Arabic during the last 10 years. The Arabic booth working into FR or EN the very few times that Arabic was actually spoken. Of course, if you are planning to live in an Arabic speaking country, then Arabic B or C would come in handy. I think that with Arabic, Chinese or Japanese you actually need a B working language level and you must be prepared to work in a kind of a niche market: fewer conferences and only A<>B all the time, a lot of community interpreting and translations. If you have passion for that particular language it can be very rewarding though.

As for the UN market, I dont't know how interesting a Spanish/French/English A with Arabic C could be. Hopefully some of the colleagues in the forum know it or maybe they correct me in my guessing.

My advice: polish the working languages that you already have. Your A language too!. Try to get one of your C languages to a B level if possible. That would increase your opportunities more than having an exotic C language that you would hardly use and therefore would be very hard to mantain at full interpreting level.

That doesn't mean that you cannot learn Arabic, maybe as a hobby first and take it from there. Good luck!


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answered 16 Jun '12, 11:27

Conrado's gravatar image


UN experts please correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand the interpreting set-up at the UN Arabic is not used as a C language. According to UN practice Arabic is only interpreted by Arabic A interpreters into their B languages, for example, usually English and French, and other interpreters do not work from Arabic C. The same applies for Chinese.

As such Arabic (or Chinese) are not useful C languages for interpreters wishing to work at the UN.

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answered 18 Jun '12, 02:27

Andy's gravatar image


I came across this study Research Study Says: Arabic Makes Your Brain Work More I really do not know how reliable it is. But it is certainly interesting if you want to learn Arabic for other reasons other than adding it as a C language.

I agree with Conrado. I made an attempt at Chinese some years ago, to no avail. I decided it would take me far too many years. And, you know, ten, fifteen years to barely manage to communicate in information conversations is too risky an investmente in an age and a world that moves with such a harrowing speed.

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answered 20 Jun '12, 22:36

Vero's gravatar image


A very interesting study, Vero! Thanks for sharing it! ;)

(08 Aug '12, 08:17) David

As others have said, if you feel like learning Arabic (or Chinese/Russian/Japanese etc.) for other reasons, it is always an exciting challenge and a wonderful endeavor to open up to a radically different world. However, if you are primarily looking for return on investment it might be better to turn to another Latin language, or even German or Polish, as these languages are presumably easier to master and in greater demand in the EU.

Out of the main “exotic” languages, Russian is the only one to be integrated in a normal language regime, at least in the UN family. Namely, it is worth having a C as you will be able to interpret from your Russian C into your Spanish A. We do have an AIIC colleague in Madrid who offers this combination (besides having German, English and French as C languages) but I do not think she does more than 15 days/year out of Arabic. Check her out in the AIIC yearbook if you want more details.

As far as other Asian languages, such as Chinese or Japanese, are concerned, you need to be able to do a bilingual booth to be really employable, and even if there is a dire scarcity of good Chinese-Spanish or Japanese-Spanish interpreters, I’d say it would take you at least 10 years (and half of those in China or Japan) to be really proficient. I have a M.A. in Chinese and lived in Taiwan for a year. I could have offered, back in the 80’s, a C in Chinese (besides my “natural” combination of English and Spanish into French). I enquired with the UN about any openings at the time and the answer was that a C in Chinese would not be considered a plus, as the Chinese booth provided a “retour” (i.e. interpreted back into French or English). Unfortunately, the situation has not changed in 25 years ;-( So, how about Italian??

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answered 08 Aug '12, 06:04

Danielle's gravatar image


Thank you for your answer, Danielle! I am currently studying conference interpreting at ISIT (Paris) and my language combination is ES (A), FR (C), IT (C) and EN (C). I also have PT (C) but my performance at the entrance exam was not as good as demanded and I'll probably add it to the combo officially when I get my diplôme. I know well that my languages are too common, even with an eventual FR (B) at the end of my studies in Paris, but I really hope AR (C), a language I adore, can help me somehow, at least in the world of written translation. ;)

(08 Aug '12, 08:15) David

Then work on your Portuguese while at ESIT and take Arabic as a hobby;-) Alternatively, if you intend to work on the Spanish market as a conference interpreter, try and get a B in English, as this is what the local market requires. Good luck!

(08 Aug '12, 09:27) Danielle
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question asked: 14 Jun '12, 17:58

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