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My native language is Bulgarian, I have a C2 according to the CEFR in English and will attain a C1 in German later this year. I finished school last year and I have decided I want to become a CI. First of all is it at all possible considering my language situation? Can I by any chance have English as my A language? - I began to learn it ever since I started learning my own mother tongue, I believe I am as close to near-native as I can be. If not, do I have a future in the CI business with Bulgarian as my language A, English B and perhaps German and Russian or French (which I also plan to study) as C? What kind of job opportunities am I looking at? Can I even dream of a career in the UN or other EU related organisations?

asked 09 Feb '17, 09:34

vealex's gravatar image


In what context did you learn English? Did you have your general high school classes (maths, science, etc.) in that language? Where did you grow up? Who are the people you do speak English with? Are they natives?

Also, where are you living right now and what studies are you pursuing?

(09 Feb '17, 10:25) Gaspar ♦♦

@Gáspár ♦ When I was 2-6 years old my parents bought me books, movies, comics and basically everything you can read or watch in English. From the 1st to the 4th grade I studied it in school as a second language (the first being Bulgarian of course). In the 5th grade my parents enrolled me in a private language school from which I graduated last year. From the 8th to the 12th grade, each year, we had at least 2 subjects in english (e.g. history, biology, math etc.), which were taught by native English speakers. We also took the GCSEs' in English, Maths and Biology. I grew up in Bulgaria, currently living in Germany and recently I have not been in contact with native English speakers. I talk in English with my friends who are not Bulgarian or German, but not English as well.

My idea is to obtain a Bachelors Degree in something along the lines of Political sciences, Business, International Relations, Management, Modern Languages etc. either in German or English and after, a Masters in CI, all the while improving my languages.

(09 Feb '17, 10:57) vealex

You have to bear in mind that even people who will spend their entire life in a given country, might not master its language to the required level to be an A language.

I grew up in three languages, German wasn't ever used home, as neither of my parents speaks it. By the time I went back to Germany for my studies, I already had French as an A, having spent my teen years in a bilingual school system with a dominant French curriculum. German had lost in emotional importance and, rather than being the language I truly identified with, it had become a lingua franca limited to academic purposes. Today, people might not even notice I'm a foreigner, yet, I'm not on par with this requirement:

When speaking here about an ‘A’ language or mother tongue, I am assuming an outstanding level of linguistic ability and depth, as it is not enough simply to be a national of a particular country to lay claim to the conference interpreter’s mastery of that language. (...) [An A language] should itself be exceptionally rich and flexible, clearly surpassing the quality offered by an average, even university-educated, mother-tongue speaker. (Chris Guichot de Fortis, A few thoughts on B languages)

Similarly, my English is just a modest C, by conference interpreting standards, where the rest of the world would say that I'm undoubtedly nailing it. Which might be true in a daily life situation, but is far less accurate in the booth, given the expectations.

As a third culture kid, I'm quite blessed I managed to acquire and uphold just one strong A language.

But let's not go too much off-topic here, as these issues have been covered already in different threads:

(05 Dec '17, 01:48) Gaspar ♦♦

Yes (to the career, for example in the BU booth at the EU)! With some patience, passion, hard work and following Gaspar's advice above. Very hard to tell from here about the EN A.

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answered 15 Feb '17, 03:42

Andy's gravatar image


edited 30 Apr '18, 05:26

Hi vealex,

double As are a very rare breed. I've spent 14 years in Germany, was in the German school system from early age, later studied law there, yet my German isn't an A.

The good news is that with BG A, for now, if you manage to pass the EU test, EN and DE as mere C languages would allow you a career start. EN B would be the cherry on top. On the second page, you'll see the requirements:

Political sciences and International relations sound like a good start! German universities will also offer a few 'EU studies' programs, which might be worth considering as well.

Don't rush. If you manage to get not just a BA but also an MA in any of those subjects, it'll improve your chances. Starting the MA in conference interpreting at age 22-23 is very challenging. Two more years of previous studies will allow you to grow, expand your knowledge of the world, strengthen your languages, gain in self-confidence,... in short, prepare you better for the challenge ahead. Plus, student years are supposed to be the fun time of your life, so embrace the excuse to make them last!

Best of luck!

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answered 10 Feb '17, 05:23

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

Thank you very much! Best of luck to you as well!

(10 Feb '17, 07:26) vealex


Why isn't your German an A? You wrote that you attended school in Germany from an early age and also went to university there. Did you attend an international school in Germany where the main language of instruction was English or French? Did you grow up between two countries?

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answered 02 Dec '17, 00:59

Myra45's gravatar image


edited 02 Dec '17, 01:01

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question asked: 09 Feb '17, 09:34

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last updated: 30 Apr '18, 05:26

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