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Hello! My name is Jeffrey and I am American (English first language), 21 years old, and will graduate from the University of Miami this May with a bachelor degree in Music Performance. Throughout my life foreign languages have been present and have always had a real positive impact on my life and I decided that I wish to change my path towards the field of conference interpreting. A year and a half ago I began studying Arabic and this language changed everything for me and I wish to pursue it to be an active B language, my specialty. I have never been to an Arab country before so I am planning on joining the Peace Corps to do volunteer work in country for two years to get that critical experience and development in language and culture. I recently began studying French as well because I think that it would complement the Arabic very well. It would be reasonable to work that up to a passive C language level at least.

I also speak Spanish and dominate this language very well. I have been involved with it since seventh grade and although I never stepped foot in a Spanish-speaking country before either, I have had extensive contact with native speakers for many years and even took classes in my undergraduate career in Spanish and Latin American history, civilization, and culture conducted entirely in Spanish. I navigate this language on a native level and use it daily (I go to school in Miami). Although I am choosing Arabic as the main language for specialization and would focus on it significantly in this next stage of my life, I believe that I could also focus enough to bring the Spanish to the same level and have it serve as another active B language. Therefore, I would be able to work from and into three languages: Arabic, English and Spanish, while having the French as a passive.

Now I would like to ask:

  1. Is it normal for aspiring interpreters to have or strive for two languages that are on the active B level?
  2. Do you think that is a realistic goal given the explanation of my background?
  3. Provided that I actually succeeded in getting the languages to these predicted levels, would I be very attractive to organizations that need interpreters?
  4. Also, perhaps someone would suggest another language that I could explore to make myself more of a greater force or to add another passive language based on market needs?

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing various responses and ideas!

asked 07 Feb '17, 20:49

jdstewart7195's gravatar image



I would take one thing at a time. Go to an Arabic-speaking country and see how good your Arabic gets. Remember that for conference interpreting you will have to speak classical Arabic but living in a country you will have to learn the local dialect of Arabic. To interpret you'll also need to understand the main differences between the various Arab dialects/languages. (AFAIK Iraqis don't understand Moroccans for example, but you will have to understand both languages AND the way both speak classical Arabic).

Unfortunately Arabic B is not used at the UN, but if you are good enough there is a good private market for Arabic. French or Spanish B are not more interesting to the UN or EU institutions than a FR or ES C. But there may be other institutions (OAS ?) where ES B is sought after.

In short...

  1. it's not usual, or advised or even useful

  2. not where you are now

  3. see above

  4. you have to choose a market first, then decide which language combination is best there eg. but not only... FR ES Russian for the UN, FR ES German for the EU. But... EN + ES B for private markets in the Americas.

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answered 08 Feb '17, 05:32

Andy's gravatar image


edited 14 Feb '17, 08:33

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question asked: 07 Feb '17, 20:49

question was seen: 1,834 times

last updated: 14 Feb '17, 08:33 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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