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I'm 27 and I'm thinking about starting a master in interpreting next year. I have already a bachelor and master degree in language studies (italian, french and japanese), but I have no specific diploma in interpreting. After having worked with international development/translation for over 2 years, I feel that what I really want to do is being an interpreter (although this will involve much efforts)

Is there someone who started interpreting studies "later" than usual?

Thank you, Silvia

asked 21 Nov '14, 09:50

s_87's gravatar image


Thanks for your answers!

Yes, I know it is not that easy to know in advance whether it will pay off or not...I already spent 5 years studying foreign languages at university and I know how hard it can be to get a good job in this field. I will have a look at the market a bit more before taking the big step...

(22 Nov '14, 05:28) s_87

Hello - often it is a plus to have experience in other fields before coming to interpreting. It's an asset to have had a job, paid taxes, voted, followed politics, and even to have studied to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer... in fact, just about the hardest way of becoming a good interpreter is to only study languages at school, go directly into an interpreting degree, and not know anything else, as you will forever be playing catch-up to try and understand the political undercurrents, the legal principles, the physics of what you are interpreting.

If you just love languages, it would be best to go into something else, and keep your languages up on the side. You will have more security, an easier time, and you might find your perfect niche. If, on the other hand, you are passionate about helping people communicate, even when they try and make it difficult, then this is the job for you.

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answered 22 Nov '14, 10:40

JuliaP's gravatar image


A follow up here - at what age does one's ability to learn interpreting begin to decline? When it is too late?

(22 Oct '15, 22:03) Adrian Lee D...

That's harder to answer because it really depends on the person and the market they target. If the person is willing to put in the hours building the new neural pathways, the reflexes, etc., then I don't see why they couldn't learn well into their forties and maybe even fifties. But at that age, you would have to really put in a lot of hours of practice, as clients would expect a certain polish and fluidity. It might also be better to target the private market rather than international organizations, as most IOs have an age limit on whom they can hire, and it would be a pity to have to start all over again finding new clients at 62, 65 or whenever.

(23 Oct '15, 17:14) JuliaP

That is an interesting insight! I read elsewhere here comments saying that for Asian languages, it's better to keep learning the language and jump into interpreting school in your early 30s simply because the A/B combination takes so long to achieve (there was also an interpreting school who it's unrealistic to expect students to enter with B-level English). There were threads elsewhere from the same people recommending late 30s is too late. I'm still below those age levels, but am still learning a lot by working (consulting for a wide variety of industries and government), mainly vocabulary that would be known by an A-level speaker but not a B-level speaker, which I am guessing would be useful for interpreting.

Also you mention a lot of hours. Conference interpreting is hard; wouldn't students be working as hard as medical or law students at perfecting their skills? Would you say it's common among students to just put in 40 hours a week and call it at that?

(23 Oct '15, 19:21) Adrian Lee D...

I'd say that they should be practicing at least that much alongside their classes, but they don't always. I remember that I didn’t, though I would have been a better Interpreter sooner had I done so. And I would have been able to work sooner, as when I studied, we weren't taught into B in sim, only consec, so I had to bring myself up to scratch after I graduated, instead of spending extra time practicing while still in interpreting school.

As to too late, I know people who have studied interpreting later in life than their 30s. They can be better in class, as they have learned how to think, but it is true that it is harder to get to Conference interpreting levels without the hours of practice, something life can get in the way of if one is not extremely disciplined.

(24 Oct '15, 04:23) JuliaP

27 is not late by interpreting standards at all. And your extra experience will most likely be a real plus. For more encouragement see the answers to this similar question...

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answered 21 Nov '14, 14:28

Andy's gravatar image


edited 21 Nov '14, 14:28

Thank you!

My fear is to spend a lot of time and money and eventually end up doing something else because of the market difficulties. This would be a pity :)

(21 Nov '14, 15:59) s_87

As Andy said, it is not too late, but asking whether it will pay off is a whole different question :)

(21 Nov '14, 18:21) Camille Collard

Hi, Camille is right. Whether you succeed in interpreting is a different kettle of fish (and has nothing to do with your age)

(22 Nov '14, 03:56) Andy

Is there someone who started interpreting studies "later" than usual?

I started my training in conference interpreting when I was 25, after six years of studies in a different field. When I started working for the European Union at 27, I was the youngest person on a team of 150 people.

Being slightly older can turn out to be a big asset. You're likely to be more self confident than someone younger, know more about the world, etc.

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answered 22 Nov '14, 04:17

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

Hello, Silvia!

Yes, I was 27, when I entered ESIT. I would say, like other colleagues before, that this was rather advantageous for me, because I had had the time to acquire several other degrees beforehand, in philosophy and theology. I also managed to write a biography ( 100 pages) of MIkhail Glinka the "Father of Russian Music", for my DEA in Russian at the Sorbonne. And mind you my B.A. in philosophy saved my day at the final exam! Indeed , our teacher read a text about....German philosophy which I had to render simultaneously. Believe me, without my B.A. in philosophy, my task would have been maybe insurmountable, like it was for some fellow students...P.S. Philosophy is not the best degree to have for a future interpreter: Law, Economics , Political SCience and/or international relations constitute a better preparation for our job!

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answered 16 Oct '15, 18:29

MichelD's gravatar image


Why did they include a philosophy text in the final exam? Wouldn't it make more sense to interpret legal, economic, political or technical texts since most conferences and meetings deal with these topics? How often do professional interpreters have to interpret philosophy once they start working? I understand that it's important to cover all topics during your studies. It's just that it seems odd to have it on the final exam.

(17 Oct '15, 12:55) Myra45

In fact, the text read by Danica S. was not highly technical, but if you had some general knowledge about German philosophy and Kant, Hegel, Marx etc. the exam became much easier... Of course a legal or economic text would have been more appropriate, but as we all know, you have to be ready for anything in an international meeting. I guess Danica S. chose the text in order to test how the candidates coped with unexpected situations. I approve of this, becaus calm and serenity in such circumstances are essential for good interpretation

(18 Oct '15, 04:41) MichelD

I think sometimes teachers can forget that their general knowledge is of a different generation and therefore has a different focus than that of their students and of course it reflects their own lives. In the 50's, when Seleskovitch began her career it was probably expected of an educated young person that they know about the major theories of philosophy. Less so when MichelD studied and certainly not now. Also I can't help but recall that that Seleskovitch spent a lot of time with a certain Andronikoff, professor of philosophy and theology!!

(20 Oct '15, 04:07) Andy
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question asked: 21 Nov '14, 09:50

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