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I'm an American (grew up bilingual in Spanish and English), started studying Chinese in high school and am currently approaching fluency (238/300 on HSK 6) in Mandarin. I graduated from Oberlin College in the US (Chinese major, Spanish minor) and have been teaching English/studying Chinese at Beijing Normal University for the past year. I was accepted to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies' Translation and Interpretation BA program for Chinese and English.

I feel that in order to hone my Chinese skills, I need to keep immersed in standard mainland Chinese (I've been living in Beijing for the past three years, on and off), so I also applied to Beijing Foreign Language University's Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation's "Simultaneous Interpretation Between English and Chinese's" program. I'll attend a face-to-face interview in early June.

I know BFSU's program was originally set up by the UN to train interpreters, so it's definitely one of the strongest in mainland China. The student-teacher ratio is 1:10 and enrollment numbers have apparently been growing in recent years.

  • What are my chances of passing the oral interview (I already took/passed the initial written test), and how can I prepare?
  • Would MIIS give me more flexibility in terms of learning translation and interpretation? I am concerned that my Chinese is not up to scratch.

Any general advice from people in the field would be greatly appreciated!


asked 26 May '15, 03:35

Sue's gravatar image


edited 26 May '15, 04:52

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

You will encounter a much more rigorous approach at Monterey (Middlebury). The BFSU course was originally set up by the UN, but that was a long time ago, and it is no longer managed by the UN, nor are there UN people among the teaching staff.

If you're just worried about staying exposed to [mainland] Chinese, it's easier than you'd think to do this at Monterey - the world changes dramatically once you embark on a course like this, and most of your social circle consists of your fellow students. You can also keep up / build exposure by simply spending time in mainland China, including during holidays, and by making a habit of watching TV - online offerings from Youku and iQiyi may not always be (legally) accessible, but Phoenix TV is very easy to access worldwide.

See also Danielle Grée's remarks, and the colleague she quotes here:

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answered 27 Jun '15, 19:45

William%20White's gravatar image

William White

What about UIBE or SISU? I was under the impression that these are both very serious an well-regarded programs, staffed by competent and demanding teachers.

(27 Jun '15, 20:55) Adrian Lee D...

See my comments on both at . I've now left Beijing and am no longer involved with the UIBE course, but have moved to Berlin rather than New York.

(27 Jun '15, 21:02) William White

Thank you for linking your past comments! You do paint UIBE in a very positive light, but I didn't see if they teach according to the AIIC model (they're not in the directory) - does the school meet all of the AIIC standards? You mentioned that the SISU faculty has experienced change; the SISU website indicates that there are no English A's teaching at the program. Is that a point of concern?

Tangentially, I saw in some of the related threads comments that it's very hard to succeed on the CI market as an English A. Is that more a reflection of underprepared Chinese B's undergoing training, or are there more serious issues to be aware of?

(28 Jun '15, 13:19) Adrian Lee D...

If you're good enough, the market is identical whether you're a Chinese A or English A. Everyone does the same job. Respective strengths, such as they are, are generally complementary.

UIBE generally follows the AIIC model. It's a 2-year course and carries the imprimatur of SCIC (EU interpreting service). They ought to get more publicity than they do. That said, any course goes through purple patches and not-so-purple patches - there just aren't that many good instructors around (cough). Your best bet is to ask around as widely as possible, preferably among people active in the local markets and among recent graduates of the institutions in question.

I haven't visited SISU for a while. They have a good track record. While it's true that the only professional-standard English A, Chinese B interpreter I'm aware of in Shanghai no longer teaches there, they may have arrangements in place (EN A listeners helping out with some of the instruction) in place to compensate.

(14 Aug '15, 17:47) William White

Well, I've tried to post twice but both were deleted. In a nutshell, I was in the SISU program from 15-16 and at the time there was 1 English A professor, he was a very good interpreter in the market as well. His teaching style was a little less grueling than the Chinese counterpart, and I have learned a lot in a very short time. Despite the fact that I did not make to the second year, the stuff I have learned have already put me in a decent position in the U.S. market (I had to come back for family reasons).

Personally speaking, I feel regardless which school you are attending, the most important factor for any successful interpreter is practicing - language skill is the bare minimum requirement. Interpreting is very much like learning piano. It is a very performance-based trade. A piano teacher may teach you how to read notes and point out a few mishaps here and there, but in the end it is YOU who need to take out a few hours a day to practice. Those who are willing to sacrifice a few hours a day to practice will naturally succeed in interpretation as well.

As a foreign student, I was accepted into both BFSU and SISU, looking back I don't think it will make that much difference because if you are a hard worker you will probably succeed (though life has no guarantees). I have seen excellent interpreters coming out of both schools, and they are all super hardworkers at one point or another.

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answered 15 May '17, 20:55

JenZ's gravatar image


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question asked: 26 May '15, 03:35

question was seen: 10,290 times

last updated: 15 May '17, 20:55

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