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I am student and my dream is to become an interpreter one day but I am wondering which language I should choose between Russian and Italian. My mother tongue is French and I am already studying English and German, I know these languages are a good combination for the EU, but I also know that an ACCC combination is very useful while an ACC is almost useless. I used to study Italian in high school but quit learning it 3 years ago, and I've been studying Russian for 3 years now. I've been told that German and Russian in the same combination are sort of useless since German is a language used in the EU and Russian at the UN so I don't know what to do now. I guess Italian as a third C language would be better if I want to work in Europe, what do you think? On the one hand, I love the Russian culture and language, I find them beautiful and interesting but it's really hard (+ I'm still pretty bad at it even after 3 years!), on the other hand, Italian is easier and it's also a beautiful language but I'm not as interested in the Italian culture as in the Russian culture and I may have forgotten everything, which makes it almost like a "new" language to me. Thank you a lot for your help!

asked 06 Apr '13, 13:31

spouque's gravatar image


A lot depends on where you live and, as you recognize, which market you plan to work on (private or institutional). Certainly if you live or plan to live in Brussels, a combination that opens doors to EU institutions makes sense. But on the other hand, there is no reason not to consider the UN institutions for which passive RU + EN in the FR booth is desirable. From what I've heard (and others can correct me if I am mistaken), it has become somewhat harder to find FR and EN booth interpreters with passive RU, and most UN system conferences I've worked in have wanted at least one interpreter with RU in both the EN and FR booths.

On a completely different level, I have always thought that following your heart is never a bad idea. When one is fascinated by a culture, one will be more motivated to learn the language. And one may indeed find greater joy in the endeavor!

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answered 06 Apr '13, 14:52

Luigi's gravatar image


If you don't know where you'll be living in the future, you should go for the language and culture you really like and enjoy, and not the one you think it's easier.

I don't think there's an easy language. To be able to work from a given language as an interpreter you need to master it. And let me break a myth: Italian is not an easy language to master although you might think the contrary, specially if you're not that interested in Italian culture. Besides, Italian as a working language will not get you very far...

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answered 06 Apr '13, 16:10

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

You're right, there's no easy language, I just meant Italian is, at least, easier to understand than Russian (which is normal). What do you mean by "Italian as a working language will not get you very far"? I'm very interested in what you think!

(06 Apr '13, 19:20) spouque

As a Brussels based interpreter with Italian as a C language, I can say that Italian, currently and in the foreseeable near future, doesn't generate many working days. Even at the EU institutions.

(27 Apr '13, 08:34) Marta Piera ...

Thank you for answering so quickly Luigi! I obviously don't know where I'll live in a few years, I guess in a big European city (London? Paris? Brussels? Berlin?...?). I'd love to work on the institutional market... like many (future) interpreters, but I'm not lying to myself, I know very few interpreters work for institutions. I know right Russian is very useful for the UN, unfortunately (?), I really want to keep German, besides I've been learning it for more than 10 years, it would be a pity giving it up! As I said, both languages have good and "bad" sides, I find the Russian culture more interesting but Italian is indeed easier, which could be an extra-motivation (I've forgotten a lot in Italian but I still can make simple conversation with Italians, which is not possible with Russian). I must also add I'll have to keep learning whichever language by myself. Knowing that I want to keep German and English and that I'm more likely to work in the EU, what do you think? Thank you again for your help, it means a lot!

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answered 06 Apr '13, 15:29

spouque's gravatar image


First, studying RU or IT doesn't mean giving up DE - you should be thinking in terms of adding languages. And I shouldn't have said "where you live" but "where you want to live." Next, you haven't mentioned your studies, whether you are about to enter university, in university or already have a degree. But whichever it is, you should also be thinking of where you would want to study interpreting. You should browse the AIIC directory of schools to see what languages are offered where - that may also help you decide. But to repeat - definitely think of adding languages, and remember that it is a long-term project. You could start with FR + EN/DE and add a one or more passives even after beginning a career. FR with EN/DE/IT would be better for the EU institutions, and could also be a good combination for freelance work on the private market in Europe. BTW: one UN body - the ILO - does use DE.

(06 Apr '13, 16:17) Luigi

I am a third-year Bachelor's student, I'm currently living in Germany thanks to the Erasmus programme and I'll try to stay there next year because I know I haven't reached the right German level yet. I've been thinking of the ESIT (Paris, but I believe they require at least an ACCC combination, that's why I have to study hard russian), the university of Germersheim in Germany, the university of Vienna and the University of Geneva for now. I am just afraid I might not find enough work when I start if I only have FR+EN/DE... I once read too many people have this combination and it's absolutely unavoidable to add another language to be able to live working just as an interpreter. I didn't know about the ILO, thank you!

(06 Apr '13, 19:28) spouque
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question asked: 06 Apr '13, 13:31

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