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Hi there,

I've done my best to read similar posts before I post, so I hope I won't bore you with any too blatantly stupid questions. I know some just come up again and again as each young doubtful student wants confirmation - thank you for still helping us.

I'm currently doing a BA in Transcultural Communication (German-English-French) in Vienna and I'd like to go on with a Master's at either Geneva or Strasbourg. Is there any way of knowing whether I'm good enough to pass the admission tests? I always have top marks and I've received scholarships thanks to this, but since my university doesn't have a very good reputation when it comes to interpretation, translation and transcultural communication I'm not sure whether that's a good indicator for my abilities. Apart from coursework, I spend a lot of time reading up on various topics in my working languages, spend time with English-speaking friends (my boyfriend is American) and will spend the next semester in Paris at ISIT (Erasmus exchange semester) to further improve my French. After the exchange semester - which only lasts 3 months - I am planning to spend about three more months doing an internship somewhere in France in order to use the time between semesters efficiently. In August / September, I am going to spend a few weeks in San Francisco doing the CELTA, which should allow me to later work abroad in the summer holidays and earn some money all while having time left to practise my B and C languages. I would then like to go on to do the final year of my degree and apply to both Geneva and Strasbourg.

Here's a couple questions I was hoping you might be able to help me with:

  • Wherever I look, it says that the tuition fees at the University of Geneva only amount to 500CHF/semester. Is this also valid for the MA Interprétation de conférence ? I found no information saying otherwise, but seeing as how all other MAs seem to be a lot more expensive, I would like to verify that.
  • Is there any way of gaining some sort of confidence that I can pass the entry exam? As I said, my grades are good, I've spent a month doing an intensive interpretation course at the Universität Germersheim in Germany (so I've tried it and I know I'm not totally useless at interpreting - feedback was positive), and I've passed the CPE with an A and plan on taking a C2 exam in French this summer, but Geneva seems to be extremely selective.
  • Out of curiosity: At some point, I saw an admission list for Geneva that contained 12 (!) names and when I was reading through posts here in the forum, somebody said that out of 300 applicants, only 15 were accepted. How does the university fill their programme? Are there special schools that they recruit from without entry exams (or their own BA)?
  • Is it indispensable to take some time off between the BA and the MA? I know it's frequently being advised that students take their time, but my family background being complicated, I don't have any savings and essentially study thanks to diverse scholarships that I might lose if I don't study continuously and automatically end once I turn 24 resp. 26.
  • How strong is my language combination (DE-EN-FR as A, B, and C)? I know it's an ok combination for the EU, but is it good? And would I stand any chances on the freelance market?
  • Is it impossible to add Italian as a C2 language later? I'm aware you usually advise against it. However, my Italian is currently at a B2 level, so I don't think I could improve it enough in time for the entry exam. Would it be possible to finish my MA first, continuously work on my Italian while doing my MA, and take classes to add it a few years later? How important is it with my lg combination to have a C2 language?

I'd be very grateful for any help and advice :-)

asked 10 Jan, 04:12

ibex's gravatar image

ibex
51149

edited 10 Jan, 07:30


Wherever I look, it says that the tuition fees at the University of Geneva only amount to 500CHF/semester. Is this also valid for the MA Interprétation de conférence ? I found no information saying otherwise, but seeing as how all other MAs seem to be a lot more expensive, I would like to verify that.

It's a public course in a public university. If in doubt, ask the university.

Courses cost 10,000€ or more only in countries (UK, US,...) or in private schools where all MAs cost that much.

Is there any way of gaining some sort of confidence that I can pass the entry exam?

Other than reading and understanding the requirements sought for by a given training course and trying to self-assess whether you do correspond to the profile, not really. You can have a bad day. There might be better applicants taking up all the spots.

How does the university fill their programme? Are there special schools that they recruit from without entry exams (or their own BA)?

Reputable courses all have a mandatory entry exam. A cohort of 15 students is a very large group. Courses admitting people without an entrance exam are... earm, yes, special. Just like the current POTUS is special. :-)

Is it indispensable to take some time off between the BA and the MA? I know it's frequently being advised that students take their time, but (...)

Some people make it without it. Some people never make it even with jumping through all loops. It increases your chances of success, but nothing guarantees it.

How strong is my language combination (D-E-F as A, B, and C)? I know it's an ok combination for the EU, but is it good? And would I stand any chances on the freelance market?

Quite the opposite, actually. As a rule of thumb, the EU, for Western European booths, would rather have beginners with 3C languages than a B. The German booth [doesn't even test B languages upon entry][1]. Your ABC would be downgraded to ACC, which in turn is a non-priority combination.

On the other hand, B languages are useful on the private market.

Is it impossible to add Italian as a C2 language later? I'm aware you usually advise against it. However, my Italian is currently at a B2 level, so I don't think I could improve it enough in time for the entry exam. Would it be possible to finish my MA first, continuously work on my Italian while doing my MA, and take classes to add it a few years later? How important is it with my lg combination to have a C2 language?

What we usually advise against is doing the MA with a weak combination, to then spend years to upgrade that combination to make it marketable. By doing that, by the time the languages are on par, the technique has been long forgotten. And since people need to pay rent, learning the language while having a day job also often turns out impossible or extremely long.

Similarly, it isn't all that easy to do a full time, very demanding, MA, and on top of that, learn a language on the side. It's like training for the Olympics while also improving your amateur tennis skills to qualify for Roland Garros by the end of the year. There's only so much time and energy you can devote to learning per day.

Why wouldn't you do an MA that will allow you to consolidate your language combination while respecting your bursary and scholarship requirements, then work for a year or two, save money, to then do the MA in conference interpreting in Geneva or Germersheim? (Strasbourg, not that much...).

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answered 10 Jan, 05:04

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦
7.2k141829

edited 10 Jan, 05:10

Hi, thank you very much for taking time to reply in so much detail. There's a lot of useful food for thought in there - I'll take my time to think about it.

As to the lg combination, I thought it was okay. My source was a paper issued by the EU http://europa.eu/interpretation/doc/lang_profiles_in_demand.pdf, which says that A/CC is ok for German as long as EN and FR are the C languages, and that a retour into either one of them would be appreciated. However, since you all strongly suggest taking time off between the BA and the MA, there's no way I can do that without further working on my languages, so I might just as well go to Italy and work on upgrading it to a working language. :-)

(10 Jan, 07:53) ibex

My bad, my brain apparently had left the building. ABC would indeed work to get accredited in the DE booth. In that case, you'd also be able to work on the private market and not put all your eggs in the same basket (and provide you with a backup plan, should you fail the EU test). This being said, even if accredited with ABC, your B won't be used often in Brussels. Therefore, Italian might be a good addition in the long run.

(10 Jan, 11:20) Gaspar ♦♦

Even if true that's hard to believe... the German booth is packed with great interpreters with 4 languages. It's only anecdotal but the only people I've seen in the DE booth with 3 Cs are those who have a rare language (usually Eastern European). And I genuinely believed the EN booth was the only EU 15 booth that took interpreters with 2 Cs. Never seen a German interpreter with "only" 2 Cs at the European Parliament.

(10 Jan, 12:06) Andy
2

ACC being admissible is a matter of current demographics. At least two young DE ACC colleagues were offered full-time contracts at SCIC in the past three years. They need the bodies in the booth, and when there aren't enough ACCC graduates, they'll settle for ACC, hire them (for small language regime meetings, hence the requirement of having both EN and FR) and urge them to learn a third C, stat. Which the two I'm thinking of have done in a rather short time.

As soon as staffing levels will be less modest, I'm sure the DE booth will be back to their usual habit of only letting in people with 3 Cs.

(11 Jan, 06:43) Gaspar ♦♦

Thank you for your help. After considering your advice, I'm thinking about doing a MA in Italy anyway, so the A/CCC should not be a problem. It might be a challenge to keep up my other languages during the studies (don't you think too much will get lost?), but I found a few programmes I'd be interested in. I thought it would be coolest to find a joint master with 1 year in France and 1 year in Italy, but they seem to be rather rare. As to English, I wouldn't know how to find a truly affordable degree in the UK or the US. I looked at Sciences Po for French, but learnt that all their MAs are in English. I'm not entirely convinced it makes sense for me to take an English degree in France though.

Apart from the International Relations programme I mentioned earlier, the following has also spiked my interest:

DIRITTI DELL’UOMO ED ETICA DELLA COOPERAZIONE INTERNAZIONALE in Bergamo. Small place, but there's a personal motivation for me in the location. The course is extremely interesting to me, and I do want to study for something I'm also interested in for the sake of itself, not just as a means for the MA CI. Here's a glimpse of the curriculum:
https://ls-dueci.unibg.it/sites/cl24/files/pds_17_18.pdf

Would that sound like a good compromise to you?

(11 Jan, 08:33) ibex

As to English, I wouldn't know how to find a truly affordable degree in the UK or the US.

There gazillions of hours of MOOCs, conferences, etc. online in the English language. Pop-culture, the world wide web, TV shows, movies,... are available in English too. No need to go do a formal degree to acquire the requisite level for an English C. Spend a few weeks in the UK, IRL or the US here and there. For the rest, reading or listening to the language from the comfort of your couch will do the trick! :-)

(13 Jan, 11:09) Gaspar ♦♦

When it comes to reading or listening to English extensively, I'm already doing that on a daily basis. What I miss is the linguistic revision that comes with discussing what you've more or less passively consumed - I enjoy communication and discussion to the point where my brain seems to need the emotions that come with it to practise & effectively store all the words & phrases I've observed. That's actually one of the reasons why I still want to do the CELTA - to have a back-up plan, but also because it allows me to spend 4-6 weeks in an immersive environment with lots of language exposure, a small group consisting mostly of native speakers and discussing a topic I'm passionate about (I've been a lg assistant for years and have multiple friends who are ELF teachers). Talking/discussing with my boyfriend helps me to better understand US culture (I used to be a lot more focused on the UK)as well as random other topics, something for which his extensive general knowledge comes in very handy. I realise the level on formality in my language has been decreasing ever since I spend a lot of time talking to natives (especially from the US), who generally tend to be rather informal. That's natural I guess, although I feel that my writing style has been suffering somewhat as a result. I'm reading the Guardian every day, as well as a number of other papers slightly more infrequently; and I watch diverse videos on a wide range of topics on a daily basis as well.

Sorry for the random order of items in this list (it's Sunday and I'm decaffeinated as of yet); but all that is to say that I do indeed spend a lot of time immersing myself in English as you suggested. However, I can't help the wish to do more with English than just use it as a C language (Geneva offers ABCC, though I guess that'd require a superhuman amount of effort) and I just miss literally living in it.

(14 Jan, 08:01) ibex
showing 5 of 7 show 2 more comments

This is very much in line with what Gaspar says but so you have a second opinion I would say...

... you should concentrate on DE-EN A/B or DE- EN FR IT A/CCC (because of the market opportunities Gaspar correctly describes). That would most likely mean either at least year in an English speaking country for the A/B or France and Italy for the A/CCC. (A year is not too much in a C language country, it's too little for a B.) That could be the year(s) after graduation and before the post-grad MA in CI

Don't be afraid of taking time out between uni and post-grad. Over and above taking the time to really know your languages and their cultures over a number of years life experience is very useful in interpreting.

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answered 10 Jan, 06:22

Andy's gravatar image

Andy
7.2k212839

1

Hi, thank you for replying to my question. I'm stupidly excited about this - we had to study one of your books for class. I'm grateful experienced interpreters like yourself still take the time to answer questions of aspiring students.

Apart from the financial part, I guess part of the impulse to do it soon is... well, impatience :-D Plus, my family always used to ask me why I was still studying and if, by now, I "didn't know English and French well enough". However, I do see your point.

Do you think it's necessary to complete another MA before or could I just travel and work? Part of my motivation to sign up for the CELTA was that it would allow me to work abroad - possibly part-time - and thus both have a job that would earn my living as well as time to improve my B/C languages.

I'm naturally curious and aware of the fact that aspiring interpreters, as well as graduated CIs, have to be permanently learning new things. That being said, is this natural curiosity & permanent research enough? I'm particularly worried about a weak grasp of economy and law - subjects I know to be very prominent esp. when working for organisations like the EU. I'd like to improve my understanding of these subjects, but I wouldn't be willing to dedicate two entire years doing an MA in eg. economy. Is that problematic?

Thank you :-)

(10 Jan, 08:05) ibex

Hi, I'm happy to help out... scarred as I am by my own time as a beginner once upon a time ;)

You might need an initial MA (if BA isn't enough everywhere) but don't "need" two MAs to get into interpreting. But as Gaspar says, things like law and economics are useful subjects so you might be able to combine the two - an MA in the US or (more difficult given your language level) in Italy. I think I agree with you that 2 years would be going over the top, but maybe a 1 year program in something useful would be an option. If you don't know about this sort of stuff you can learn it online or from books to... MOOCs, Khan Academy, How it works.com etc etc.

I would beware of CELTA... If you use it to teach in the States or UK etc then at least you're in an EN speaking country but you won't be speaking great EN all day with intelligent native speakers, which would be a better thing to aim at if you wanted to interpret into EN as a B. And similarly, going to Italy to teach EN seems counterproductive.

So my advice would be to try to find a job that involves interaction with native-speakers in either the US or Italy (and perhaps also France) for a year (or more) and then apply to a post-grad CI course.

(10 Jan, 10:59) Andy
1

Thank you for your suggestions. I've been looking through available programmes and an idea I can warm up to is doing an MA in Relazioni Internazionali in Milan, branch Diplomazia e organizzazioni internazionali or Cooperazione internazionale e processi sociali trans-nazionali. Would that make sense? It takes two years, is available in public universities - hence affordable, would allow me to keep my federal aid & scholarship benefits and my BA seems to match the requirements, so admission wouldn't be a problem.

What I miss a little is combining it with a social aspect, something like Human Rights maybe, but I haven't found anything suitable so far.

(10 Jan, 17:20) ibex
1

Sounds good. I'm sure you could volunteer with an organisation in Milan and do some HR or social work! Good luck!

(12 Jan, 07:23) Andy

Hi Ibex…. ! :)

I don’t think there are any way to check whether you are indeed good enough or not… You’ll just have to try and see for yourself!

I tried ESIT (Paris) last year and didn’t get in… And my profile was somewhat similar to yours: I have always been a top student, top grades, spent years (7 years actually- and I was only 25) in countries where my B and C languages are spoken, studying and working, I lived with a spanish-speaking boyfriend (my B), I spent many months preparing for the exam (with past papers, recorded speeches, did skype language exchanges, long library sesh etc)…. And I still did not get in (it was such a letdown at the time… hey but of course it doesn’t mean that this what will happen to you though! That’s just my story :) ). And yes only like 10 or 15 people did get in (out of maybe 150 applicants aprox I reckon). So unfortunately there are no way to “make sure” to you are good enough / will get in … You have to just go for it and give you best shot :) Bonne chance!!

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answered 10 Jan, 05:36

Buochig-Doue's gravatar image

Buochig-Doue
81227

Thank you for sharing your experience :-)

(10 Jan, 08:07) ibex

Yes, Geneva is very selective at the outset (so are many others). Last I knew, the idea at Geneva is that way they don't need an elimination exam halfway through, as they've already selected their cohort. 13-15 is a pretty good size for a group, as it is. Most people fail entrance exams because they overestimate their language abilities or sometimes they clearly crack under the pressure.

I would recommend taking a year or two off at least to work, spend time in your countries, get to know yourself and your languages/the world stage. I think it's better to get a job rather than stay in school until your MACI. The people who had work experience and were slightly older were more successful in our group.

Since your Italian is already halfway there, there's no reason not to add it as a C language either before an MA or later on, after (depending on demand with the EU/private market, like others said above you don't want to waste time in an MA that's going to lead to your not working for years while you sit around adding Italian C).

Geneva is of course a very good school, I hear good things about Gemersheim (which is of course geared toward German As). I'm not sure why the "not so much" comment above about Strasbourg. I went there and for someone with French and German it is a great place with a lot of opportunities. Those of us who passed with decent combinations are all working as interpreters now.

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answered 12 Jan, 04:35

InesdC's gravatar image

InesdC
430117

Thank you for your feedback and detailed explanations! :-) I think you guys convinced me; I will do something in between.

(12 Jan, 08:56) ibex

I'm not sure why the "not so much" comment above about Strasbourg.

Because Geneva or Germersheim have more to offer, and that the market is a tad too competitive for one to afford not to go for the best possible options.

Strasbourg isn't a course recognized by the EU, their students don't benefit from visiting lecturers sent in the framework of pedagogical assistance from the European Commission staff interpreters pool, they don't get to do the Brussels study visit, and most likely, there isn't an external jury member from the EC sent to their final exams either. This prevents students both from understanding what the expectations of that recruiter are, and to be headhunted when talented, while students from Geneva and Germersheim do benefit from all those offers.

In a similar vein, if the private market should be the market of choice, it would make more sense to be trained in a school renowned for its level of training for German As, and which has many trainers who are also working on the private market. The networking value will be much higher.

Geneva and Germersheim come cheaper, have a longer and a seemingly better track record for German As.

(13 Jan, 11:04) Gaspar ♦♦

Yes, we did have members from the EC at final exams (and elsewhere) and were aware of the expectations of that recruiter, in fact. Given the geography, there were many German A (and B) trainers who worked on the private market.

(13 Jan, 11:08) InesdC
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question asked: 10 Jan, 04:12

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last updated: 14 Jan, 08:01

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