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I decided to get a tutor in order to add a new C language. She is not familiar with conference interpreting, but she is willing to help and adapt her lessons to my specific needs. Could you please tell me what a proper language lesson for interpreters should include?

Feel free to answer in EN/FR/IT/ES/PT.

Thanks in advance!

asked 26 Jan '13, 20:09

David's gravatar image


edited 26 Jan '13, 20:10

"... to add a new C language." Please be more specific. Are you implying that you are starting from scratch? If not, what level do you think you are at now? And of course, what language is it? Should we assume your A-language is Spanish?

(27 Jan '13, 08:56) Luigi

Hi, Luigi! Thank you for your interest! I felt the topic was interesting and decided to make the question as general and simple as possible so answers can be useful for everyone in this situation. Yes, I am Spanish A, but the girl who asked me to post this question is French A and is trying to add Polish C. She is already able to understand written Polish, but her listening comprehension is still not good. She wants to focus on that. Thank you in advance for your tips! ;)

(27 Jan '13, 09:43) David

Many years ago - when there were not too many continuing education classes offered for interpreters - I myself found it difficult to explain to language tutors what kind of help I needed and that it was different from the kind of tutoring other language students might want. So I think I know why you are asking this question. Let me try to break down my answer a bit.

First of all, no matter whether you need a tutor for a B-language or a C-language you should explain to him or her what A-, B- and C-languages are and how interpreters use them:

Then you should inform your tutor about the kind of conferences you usually interpret. This may vary greatly, depending on whether you work for institutions or as a freelance interpreter. Also, there are countries like Germany where we tend to have a high percentage of very technical conferences rather than political, social, philosophical or other topics, at least on the freelance market. This, of course, influences the way in which a language is spoken. A good tutor will take the topics and the style of language into consideration when planning the lessons.

The next step would be some kind of assessment test from which the tutor can judge to what extent you already master the language in question.

If the language you are studying is to become a C-language - as in your case - a lot of attention must me placed on

  • listening comprehension
  • different accents
  • differences in vocabulary and style if the language is spoken in several countries, albeit differently (e.g. American, British and Australian English plus different accents in Asia, Africa etc, differences in Spanish as it is spoken in Spain or South America, differences in German as it is spoken in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland etc)
  • idioms, proverbs and sayings
  • new words that have made their way into the language
  • famous quotations that might come up during a conference
  • understanding jargon (e.g. headlines of newspapers)

If the language you are studying is to become a B-language, all of the above of course applies, but on top of that you need to explain to the tutor as clearly as you possibly can that you wish to eliminate all your mistakes when speaking the language. My problem was that tutors did not correct the mistakes I made. But when I was uncertain as to whether the way I had phrased my sentence was correct, I often heard that it wasn't. When I then asked why she didn't correct me in the first place, the answer quite often was "But I understood perfectly well what you wanted to say" ...

So be very clear about this point and also ask your native-speaker friends to whom you might speak the language in question not to hesitate and to correct you.

For a B-language special attention must be placed on

  • grammar
  • the use of the tenses
  • pronunciation
  • etiquette (e.g.forms of address)
  • outdated vocabulary and sayings you should no longer use
  • political correctness

I also found it useful to keep a list of words and phrases or topics I did not quite understand when reading the papers or listening to the news and discuss these pojnts with the tutor when we met for the next lesson. My questions also helped her get a better idea of what kind of tutoring I needed.

Well, I am sorry this turned out to be a somewhat "longish" answer. I wish you all the best when working with your tutor. At a later point, it might be helpful to attend one of the language classes or courses offered by interpreters or to find a tandem partner to work with (another interpreter who wishes to study your native language and whose native language is the language you wish to study.) For more information about tandem work, please refer to my answer to this question:

permanent link

answered 26 Jan '13, 22:30

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 27 Jan '13, 04:08

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question asked: 26 Jan '13, 20:09

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