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I will be a freshman in college and I want to know what the best degree is to major in, if my goal is to become an interpreter?

asked 16 Feb '13, 15:13

Mia's gravatar image


edited 17 Feb '13, 03:36

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Hi Mia

First of all, I am a only CI student myself so I can merely repeat to you what my interpreting trainers and former students have told me:

You can and should study something unrelated to interpreting, ranging from economics to sciences, literature to modern languages, politics etc. What a lot of interpreting students lack later on is a general understanding of business, international politics, law and the like.

So studying in a field that enables you to have an excellent general knowledge, maybe even on an "expert" level in one particular field, surely appears to be an advantage when and if you decide to specialise in conference interpreting.

Last piece of humble advice: Major in something that you like and that is likely to provide you with a professional career that is not necessarily interpreting. You don't know what you will be wanting a few years from now, getting into interpreting schools is sometimes hard and market chances are sometimes very scarce.

It's good to have a long term goal but don't become too set about it just now.

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answered 18 Feb '13, 04:55

KaPe's gravatar image


Hi Mia

From your profile I see that you will be entering university next fall, and since you identify your native language as American English I'm assuming it will be in the US. Karolin has given you good advice; I would like to apply it to studies in the US.

In most American universities there is a lot of flexibility and one's major takes up a relatively small amount of one's total course work. Moreover, it is possible to have a double major or, more commonly, a major and a minor. For you it would be a good idea to take advantage of this by choosing a field that enthuses you (history, international relations, economics, liberal studies, etc.) and one of your languages in a major/minor combination. Since you identify your level in French, Korean and Japanese as "elementary" you will want to advance in one of them at university, as either a major or a minor.

I would advise against trying to study all 3 languages at the same time - choose the one that you like most and concentrate on it to begin with. And it would be good to choose a university with a range of study abroad options so that you can spend at least a semester in a country where that language is spoken. Another thing you might think of (money and opportunities permitting) is to take an intensive summer course in your chosen foreign language in the summer before starting college to get you jump-started (I once took an excellent intensive course in a public community college in California).

Another thing to remember - knowledge of the culture underlying one's native language in very important to an interpreter. So I would suggest using course options in your major or among the elective courses available to you to target that (for example, literature and history of the US and UK, etc.). And while your at it, read all you can!

I think keeping these things in mind will help you to get a solid general education and be prepared for training as an interpreter if you decide that is what you really want.

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answered 18 Feb '13, 18:28

Luigi's gravatar image


edited 18 Feb '13, 18:47

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question asked: 16 Feb '13, 15:13

question was seen: 2,077 times

last updated: 18 Feb '13, 18:47 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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