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Hello, all :)

After reading about language combinations, I started suspecting that I could actually be... yes, "alingual." Now, I know what a heavily charged term this is-- what I mean is that I may have no true A language at my immediate disposal. The reason for this is that I've lived and studied in the UK and the US since the age of 12, and graduated from a UK university. English has become the language in which I think, dream, work as a freelance copywriter, write poems and so on and so forth. This has been the case for well over 10 years. If I stub my toe, I say "ouch," not "ай." However, Russian is my mother tongue. I speak it without an accent, though I no longer think in it, and have difficulty mentally translating things into Russian- but not into English. Even though I do not speak English with an identifiable Russian accent, people can still tell that I sound foreign. It's definitely amusing hearing people try to place my accent, but this is a practical problem for my possible interpreting career.

I could either work on reactivating my Russian or on ironing out the vowels in my English. The latter wouldn't be a matter of correcting an absolutely outrageous accent, but the issue does exist and must be addressed.

The question is, which shall I do? For many reasons (comfort zone, market considerations, language combinations at ESIT and Leeds), I want to make English my A language. However, isn't naming one's mother tongue as one's B language just... odd? I do not believe that I can truly get two As (it seems, I'll be lucky to have one), and my C languages are French and Italian.

Thank you!

ETA: I'm fully aware of the fact that getting my Russian to B language standard will be a lot of work, too.

asked 05 Jun '14, 14:48

LillaMy's gravatar image

LillaMy
40115

edited 05 Jun '14, 14:56


Hi Lilla

First of all, you are not alingual. But you may not have a language that meets the high requirements of a conference interpreting A language. (For more on the abusive use of this word, which doesn't appear in the Oxford English Dictionary) see this post.

Secondly, there is nothing odd about having your "mother tongue" as a B language. Interpreting is full of just such cases. Often, like you, it's the language you do your schooling in which is stronger, regardless of what your parents speak/spoke to you at home. This is perfectly logical if you think about how much time you spent in school listening and reading as compared to the time you spent listening to your parents talk. Also, at home we use a very restricted vocabulary, whereas at school you will have covered all sorts of semi-technical subjects (chemistry, geography etc..).

So my advice would be to try to sort out your English A. You may be able to study with EN A & RU C (& FR C), meaning you wouldn't have upgrade your RU immediately. If you want to upgrade your Russian you should probably go and study or work their for a year. Your accent (and maybe grammar) may be good but your range of vocab and registers are probably very limited compared to a) your English and b) Russians of your age.

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answered 05 Jun '14, 15:54

Andy's gravatar image

Andy
7.3k222839

Hi, Andy!

Thank you very much for that; certainly reassuring to hear that interpreters make similar choices all the time. The option to go to Russia for a language upgrade just isn't available to me, so...

(05 Jun '14, 16:09) LillaMy
2

there is nothing odd about having your "mother tongue" as a B language. Interpreting is full of just such cases. Often, like you, it's the language you do your schooling in which is stronger, regardless of what your parents speak/spoke to you at home.

I can only second Andy's message as I'm one of these cases. My (literally) 'mother tongue' would be Hungarian, yet it's a C language as I only spoke it at home and only with my mum. Having lived in France a considerable part of my life and studied also in French, that's my A. Although I never had an accent issue. Official word (at the EU at least) is that accents such as the Jamaican or Indian accent in English aren't a problem if you remain comprehensible for listeners, including non-natives.

(05 Jun '14, 16:41) Gaspar ♦♦

Thanks, @Gaspar The accent issue, I think, is only a matter of my confidence in declaring English as my A language: knowing that I "sound foreign," however slightly, would detract from my own faith in such a claim-- but that's a remediable problem, actors do it all the time :)

(05 Jun '14, 17:02) LillaMy

I think then you could focus on one of 2 options (initially). EN A RU C FR C (a promising UN combination) or EN A IT C FR C (a less promising EU combination). Eventually of course you can do both, but might start with something more manageable.

(06 Jun '14, 01:39) Andy

My case is similar to yours and I'd say focus on polishing your EN. I studied CI and failed my finals (will get to that).

I'm an EN-A and my mother tongue is one of my C languages (it seems like RU would be a C for you, too). I have at least a bit of an accent in every language I speak - not a mother tongue accent either, it's just kinda random. My EN accent is American with a dash of Aussie and a sprinkle of British.

Now, about my failing. I didn't fail because I don't sound completely native or because my accent can't be placed, I failed because my EN wasn't up to par and because I was too stressed out (darn office burn out!).

When I visited the EU with my class, I listened to an EN interpreter who was clearly not a native speaker and whose accent was also undefinable but his language skills were excellent: he spoke clearly and without regionalisms, which is what interpreters are supposed to do.

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answered 18 Jun '14, 06:55

TheInterpretator's gravatar image

TheInterpret...
346111119

If OP is working as a copywriter and I'm assuming she's very good at her job, then her English is at a very high level. And especially since she's been living and studying in English-speaking countries since age 12. So, in such a scenario, why might somebody judge her English to be inadequate as an A language?

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answered 24 Sep '14, 20:47

Myra45's gravatar image

Myra45
2518913

2

LillaMy doubts her A herself, " Even though I do not speak English with an identifiable Russian accent, people can still tell that I sound foreign". If she has a identifiably foreign accent she may also have an identifiably foreign syntax or usage in her spoken English. She may not, of course. Checking written English (copyrighting) is not the same as speaking correct English under pressure. (Something that not all native-speakers can manage either btw)

(25 Sep '14, 03:22) Andy

If OP or someone else in a similar situation has an excellent knowledge of the language they did most of their schooling in, but they have a slight accent, would it be a problem? I mean if they're perfectly comprehensible and their accent is close to standard American or British pronunciation (or whatever their A language is).

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answered 29 Sep '14, 14:33

Myra45's gravatar image

Myra45
2518913

1

Official word (at the EU at least) is that accents such as the Jamaican or Indian accent in English aren't a problem if you remain comprehensible for listeners, including non-natives.

(05 Jun, 16:41)

(29 Sep '14, 14:40) Gaspar ♦♦

I've seen this post before. Jamaicans and Indians, however, are native English speakers. I wanted to know whether speaking with a slight accent would be an issue for a non-native English A.

(29 Sep '14, 19:06) Myra45
1

See my comment above... " If she has a identifiably foreign accent she may also have an identifiably foreign syntax or usage in her spoken English." The accent per se is not a problem, but it usually won't be travelling alone!

(30 Sep '14, 09:47) Andy

The accent per se is not a problem, but it usually won't be travelling alone!

I haven't encountered colleagues who have a foreign accent in their A language, which would tend to suggest that Andy is right.

When I was in interpreting school, another student who had spent 15 years away from home ended up with an accent of her host country (C language). Indeed, the accent wasn't the issue. She was using idioms that exist in her C language, translating them into her A language without noticing. Often, these idioms didn't exist in the target language, but she wouldn't notice it. While she had good vocabulary in both languages, she didn't seem to be able to dissociate both languages entirely. She knew the words but not how to sound like a native speaker anymore.

(30 Sep '14, 11:29) Gaspar ♦♦

You advised OP to keep English A. So, she would have an accent in her A language? Assuming she gets accepted into an interpreting school and has no language interference issues like the student you described, would her accent be an issue either during her studies or later on when she's working?

(30 Sep '14, 12:09) Myra45
1

No.

The accent per se is not a problem

(30 Sep '14, 12:13) Gaspar ♦♦
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question asked: 05 Jun '14, 14:48

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