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The same question was asked on interpretersfreeforums a few years ago. I already looked at AIIC definition and some posts on here as well. However, I still have many questions. For example, your A language is the one you know best, the one you were schooled in (esp. high school and university), but it's not necessarily your native language. Let's say if you were born in France to French parents, but since age ten you've been living and studying in the U.S. and speaking French only at home, then English would be your A language?

Your B language is the other language you know really well and can work into, but it's not as strong as your A. In this case, can French be the B language? Now, C is your passive language. You understand it perfectly but you don't know it as well as A and B. Most schools require you to spend at least six months in the country of your C.

Let's say Spanish is my C and I spent eight months in Spain. I became familiar with Spanish culture and idioms. However, I wouldn't know the culture and slang of say Mexico or Argentina. Would it be required of me since speakers mostly use neutral language during conferences? Also, what do schools require you to do in the country of your C? Do they require you to study in a university? For example, if I worked as a bartender/manager in a restaurant on the beach, then I used only basic vocabulary everyday. Or, if I worked for a multinational company where most of communication - written and oral - was in English, then I wouldn't have had the chance to improve my Spanish had I been working a local company.

For example, whenever I read Spanish articles or watch TV I understand 97-100% of the words. The words that I sometimes don't understand are minor words that don't affect the meaning. And I read by an interpreter who said that if you get 80% of the meaning across, then you're doing a good job.

Corr.: I meant to write that the interpreter said that if you translate 80% of the words and 100% of the meaning then you're doing a good job.

So, if Spanish is my C and I learned it in Madrid, and I'm also able to understand various dialects, but I'm not familiar with idioms of other Spanish-speaking regions, then would it be an issue since most conference participants use neutral language? One poster wrote here that street slang wouldn't be required of me. For example, English is my A and I know American humor and culture. Also, I have no trouble understanding various accents: Jamaican, Scots, Australian, Texan, etc. However, I don't know Australian or British humor. I know some British expressions from watching movies and reading books. Would it be a problem for me as an English A?

Camille,

I understand street conversations in my C1 (French) and my potential C2(Spanish). Still, is there anyone who can evaluate my C?

asked 24 Nov '14, 12:48

Myra45's gravatar image

Myra45
2418811

edited 26 Nov '14, 03:22

G%C3%A1sp%C3%A1r's gravatar image

Gáspár ♦
6.7k141829

1

if you get 80% of the meaning across, then you're doing a good job

Really? A good interpreter gets 100% across, and a great interpreter does it consistently better rhetorically than the original speaker

(25 Nov '14, 08:11) Vincent Buck ♦♦

It depends, are you currently enrolled in an interpreting course? Your trainer should be able to evaluate your C languages. Or are you already working as an interpreter?

(26 Nov '14, 02:57) Camille Collard

I'm not currently enrolled in an interpreting course. I'm thinking of applying to interpreting school. I would like someone to evaluate my languages before I take the entrance exam.

(26 Nov '14, 15:45) Myra45
2

Hi Myra, that's probably worth asking as a question in its own right - something like "How can I evaluate my languages before I take the entrance exam? "

(27 Nov '14, 03:47) Andy

I meant to write that the interpreter said that if you translate 80% of the words and 100% of the meaning then you're doing a good job.

This is still wrong. You are not translating words, ever. You only and always translate meanings. I am sure you already know that but it reminds me of a question I have been asked recently : « If you have studied most of the words in a foreign language, how can you not pass your final exams ? » This is like implying that the best interpreters are the one knowing the dictionary by heart. But this is a different topic.

Sure, it would be very reassuring to hear that you can interpret from a language after you have spent x months in the country, studied x words per day. Unfortunately, I agree with the previous contributions: this is way more complex than that.

Firstly, this varies a lot from people to people. Even though I consider having spent some time in the country a prerequisite, I know people with an excellent C language who have never lived in a country it is spoken. On the other side, some people have lived in a foreign country for years and can't consider the native language a C.

Secondly, even though, as Andy pointed out, reading and listening to programs in a foreign language is an excellent way to learn it, what you hear in the newspapers and what you see on TV will never be comparable to what you will have to interpret. It is not necessarily more complex or technical, it is simply different. For me, the biggest challenge when I learn a new language is being able to understand a conversation between two strangers talking in the subway, when I don't know the context or the people. And let's be honest, this is actually more similar to what you would hear in a meeting when, even though you know the subject of the meeting, the name and function of the participants, and you have studied the glossaries, you don't actually understand what is going on. The reason why interpreters still manage to do their job in this context is because they are able to understand how native speakers think (and not only how they joke), how they articulate their ideas spontaneously. While the reason why you understand TV in a foreign language is usually because you know a lot of words and are accustomed to the accent.

Concerning humor, you don't have to find it funny but you definitely need to know it is supposed to be funny to be able to interpret it. But once again, interpreting humor is a whole different topic.

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answered 25 Nov '14, 16:28

Camille%20Collard's gravatar image

Camille Collard
9239

2

Camille, if I could give you more than 10 points for this answer, I would!

(25 Nov '14, 16:57) JuliaP
2

+1 You can definitely give more that 10 points, click on "award points"!

(27 Nov '14, 12:51) Nacho ♦

Let's get the off-topic stuff out of the way first....

And I read by an interpreter who said that if you get 80% of the meaning across, then you're doing a good job.

No! We are aiming, and generally manage, to get all of the meaning across. (Though this is of course dependent on your definition of "meaning". If language were entirely unambiguous and clear then there would be no literature studies departments in the universities of this world!)

born in France to French parents, but since age ten you've been living and studying in the U.S. and speaking French only at home, then English would be your A language?

Probably.

In this case, can French be the B language?

Probably.

I spent eight months in Spain.... However, I wouldn't know the culture and slang of say Mexico or Argentina. Would it be required of me?

Yes. That is one of the reasons 'big', world languages (EN ES FR RU PT) are so hard to do well. They are spoken very differently by big important populations around the world. When an Argentinian Delegation visits your client in Europe you can't suggest that their Spanish is not Spanish, so you can't understand it! (And that's to say nothing of the fact that if you learn your Spanish only in Madrid you might have trouble understanding the Galicians.) Having said that you can't know everything and, as you say, street slang is unlikely to appear in your meetings.

what do schools require you to do in the country of your C?

Anything that means you understand the language when you come back. So a job with human interaction obviously has advantages for someone learning the language over, say, being a lighthouse keeper;)

whenever I read Spanish articles or watch TV I understand 97-100% of the words.

OK. That's a good start. But do you also understand the point being made by those words? That is more important (though obviously the 2 go together). And then what are you watching (or listening - don't forget radio) to? Vary your input and try to watch a variety of material including some intelligent stuff. The same goes for reading material. The vocabulary of newspapers is actually very limited. Read some specialist magazines (aviation, cars, geography, anything) and the occasional novel.

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answered 25 Nov '14, 02:42

Andy's gravatar image

Andy
6.8k212839

edited 25 Nov '14, 04:06

I understand different Spanish accents and know the culture of different Spanish countries. However, would I have to know many idiomatic expressions as well? For example, are you saying that a native Spanish speaker from Galicia, say an economist appearing at next week's EU summit on Greece will be using Galician expressions when he gives his speech?

(19 Jun '15, 20:04) Myra45
1

say an economist will be using Galician expressions when he gives his speech?

Probably not.

But we also work with/for other types of speakers, for instance trade unionists or farmers. They are likely to be less conscious of the linguistic challenges we have to face, since they're less often attending multilingual meetings, and will often speak just as they would any place else.

And when you get the odd accent, plus the technical jargon, while you have to interpret a testimony about how difficult it is to make a living as a dairy producer, it's not unlikely that you'll also come across a regional expression that will leave you wondering.

(20 Jun '15, 12:58) Gáspár ♦

hello!

On C languages - you do have to know a lot more than you think. I graduated from MIIS with a Russian B and a French C, and then spent 14 years on the US market, which is essentially a biactive market. Once I moved and started working in international organizations, I ended up having to re-add French. So after having done French total immersion with language, society, history, in high school, and having spent a year in France at university, I still had to learn African accents, idioms, culture and history; street slang, poetry, other accents (Italians speaking French...), all of which have come in handy in my conference interpreting. And while I still speak French very poorly (I change genders 3 times in one sentence), I am expected to understand it very very well.

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answered 25 Nov '14, 15:58

JuliaP's gravatar image

JuliaP
2.9k249

...allow me to contribute:

  • IMHO, one's A language is NOT the one we "know best" but one's "mother tongue", and within it one's "mother culture" - which is indeed not necessarily the one we were born to, or the one our passport seems to indicate - you'll find plenty of references to what "mother tongue" covers;
  • the difference between B and C languages is not just a matter of "how well" one knows them but rather of practising one actively and the other passively, admittedly a "nuance" the non-CI world seems to find difficult to grasp but one which every professional interpreter understands;
  • finally, again IMHO it's not about words and the percentage one understands or fails to but about concepts expressed, in situ, by a given speaker... also in a non verbal manner, that's why one can convey full meaning across languages and cultures w/o necessarily grasping every last word.
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answered 25 Nov '14, 07:56

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msr
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question asked: 24 Nov '14, 12:48

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last updated: 20 Jun '15, 12:58

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