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Est-ce vrai que l'ambiance à l'ESIT est excessivement compétitive ? La fille d'un ami y a passé un semestre et son récit m'a découragé un peu. Non certaine si j'arriverais à me payer l'isit, une école publique serait mieux pour moi, mais elle a parlé de l'arrogance des profs (qui se moquaient des élèves) et d'une ambiance presque hostile. Cependant, je sais qu'elle a été très bonne élève. Pendant que je résiste bien au stress professionnel, les hostilités personnelles me fâchent et me découragent. Autant pour dire que ce serait potentiellement une raison d'éliminer l'ESIT de ma liste des options si ça s'avère vrai.

Je serais très reconnaissante pour tout avis :)

Merci !

asked 09 May '18, 05:11

ibex's gravatar image


This is not an answer but perhaps an explanation for you why you haven't had an answer to a good question. (It would be a good question about any interpreting school btw). Students who failed to graduate from an interpreting school are less likely to be using this forum as they will have moved on to something else. Students who did graduate will be acutely aware of how very small the world of interpreting is (because they are working with their former teachers already) and are perhaps reluctant to say anything negative in public. It's very easy to identify people in the world of conference interpreting - often a city and a language combination is enough).

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answered 13 May '18, 03:48

Andy's gravatar image


Thanks for your reply. I can see your point.

However, I cannot stress enough how frustrating it is that even today, many people like to excuse bullying behaviour from teachers arguing that anyone with too thin a skin isn't made for the market anyway.

Stamina, the will to overcome obstacles and developing self-confidence are prerequisite to succeeding in an interpreting career and don't need to be overstretched out of pure arrogance. There's an acute difference between the coursework challenging somebody's will to persevere and a teacher actively undermining it with harmful comments. The selection made by applying excessive psychological pressure will never simply sort out the weak students in favour of the stronger ones, but likely spit out as many good as less performant students, simply based on how big an influence hostile atttitudes have on their psyche and academic performance. Also, overall, students who are afraid are less likely to bring good results than those who are encouraged and prepared to take sensible risks. No-one is a worse learner than a scared one.

As many, I've met a few specimens (in other areas of life and especially in education) who still believe in the credo that being mean means being "tough" (hence "healthy"), so I just wanted to put it out there once more even if might seem self-evident to most.

(13 May '18, 07:48) ibex

Without commenting on any individual school I can say that I am 100% with you. I trained as a TEFL teacher before becoming an interpreter and the sort of unconstructive feedback (in all its forms, be it just unhelpful all the way to actually insulting and abusive) that one hears about regularly in CI training - in many different schools - would never be tolerated in the TEFL world. I think things are changing but slowly. In the 70's and 80's what we now call abusive was clearly the norm. Ask anyone of that generation. There is also film evidence of this here at 4min55 and I read a recent autobiography of an interpreter who studied at ESIT under Seleskovitch who likened her feedback (deliberately not describing her directly) to another teacher's he knew and called it "vache mais juste"!

(13 May '18, 08:23) Andy

Thank you for your answer and for recommending that video, which I found utterly compelling. I always appreciate seeing how things used to be done some time ago. I find it particularly intriguing how prosody has changed over the last 50 years. I've found that to be true in German years ago and, interestingly, the pattern of change seems to be similar in English and French, at least as far as I can tell from old records. It seems to me that a few decades ago, people made more effort to put a certain gravity and meliodiousness into their voices whereas today people often talk comparatively flatly. Is any of this due to or exaggerated by technical limitations / specifications of the microphones / recording tech at the time or because of how the records aged before they were digitalised or was there really such a development?

Also, the sim interpreter in the booth peacefully drawing a breath from his cigarette at 13:25 cracked me up. Today that would be unimaginable, wouldn't it?

(14 May '18, 13:28) ibex

As to the video example, it's certainly an example of sensible criticism that was delivered somewhat harshly and while I can imagine that to be discouraging, I think it's "survivable" as long as it's not the everyday teaching norm.

What I tend to find worse is when comments are generalised, mean, and clearly more aimed at devaluing the student (potentially by displaying the teacher's own superiority) than anything else.

I had, for example, a French teacher who once handed me back a copy of homework of which she'd only corrected 1/4, commenting that she had thought that I was "already up to the task", but that "clearly you aren't", so she didn't even bother to finish her correction and never mentioned it again. (I'd worked for hours writing and improving that very essay and had actually been rather proud of the outcome.) She was very visibly "desperate" about my language level ("What should I do with you?"), spent minutes detailing how much better her previous students were and finally strongly advised me not to take the exam I was going for. I took it nonetheless, and passed with flying colours (A+). Clearly, there was some sort of memory distortion going on, an idealization of former students, and unhappiness with her own life, but as the young learner that I was, I found the time with her to be a rather scarring experience. She also tried to talk me out of my aim to become an interpreter and called the opinions I held on some of the discussion topics "stupid" (criticizing a student's political or other opinions is not the point in teaching a language). I think part of what makes situations like these so frustrating is that we tend to have inherent trust in the judgement of teachers, and that harsh criticism or mockery thus almost automatically affects our confidence in our own skills. Clearly, that becomes easier as we grow older, and we learn to consult other experts too to get a balanced opinion, but it remains nonetheless discouraging.

(14 May '18, 13:45) ibex

Many of the failings you describe can be addressed by simple teacher training. Unfortunately very few interpreter trainers have had any training. There are lots of reasons for that... training is hard to come by; training in rarely a trainer's main job and it's paid much worse than interpreting so it's hard to motivate yourself to spend more time and money on something that doesn't earn you any money etc etc.

(15 May '18, 06:23) Andy

I fully agree that training is important; but I also think that the mere fact that any interpreting teacher has been an interpreting student once should give the individual in question a certain basic level of empathy. As far as I've seen, many, if not all of the "cruel" kind of teachers - albeit often knowledgeable and skillful in what they do - seem to lack the confidence that their proficiency is acknowledged and valued and feel that they thus have to showcase their superiority by humiliating students.

Either way, I think I've talked enough (thank you for your patient answers) and I'll let it rest trusting that the vast majority of interpreting teachers actually care more about helping their students progress than merely trying to demonstrate their own superiority. I have met many amazing, inspiring, and positive people in the field and I certainly don't want to taint their work by overly focusing on a few "bad apples".

(16 May '18, 15:42) ibex
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

I didn't go to ESIT- I was scared off by the same stories you've heard, went to a different French school, and after talking to graduates of both ESIT and other programs- it turned out to be the same pretty much anywhere.

They are all hyper-competitive, the profs all have high expectations, you will not have a life for the duration of your studies anywhere you go, and you will be constantly expected to show grace under all this pressure, no matter where you go.

There is a very good reason for all this- to thicken your skin. "Tes collegues vont pas te faire des cadeaux," they told us, and they were right. Often competition is stiff, once you get your diploma you get to begin preparing for exams, asking for AIIC signatures, etc., etc., etc. Think of it as the same thing as Olympian swimmers wearing extra clothes to increase the drag during training. The same mean profs will often be incredibly nice after you graduate and give you your first contract.

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answered 05 Jun '18, 19:31

InesdC's gravatar image


edited 05 Jun '18, 19:32

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question asked: 09 May '18, 05:11

question was seen: 2,576 times

last updated: 05 Jun '18, 19:32

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