I want to know if it is feasible for someone to add a B language from scratch; i.e, no prior knowledge of the pursued language.
I'm pursuing a linguistics BA right now in hopes that a general knowledge of language will facilitate language acquisition in the future. I'm actively studying several languages, trying to sample multiple so that I can choose which one I want to pursue fluency in. Upon choosing a language I'll be moving to a native speaking country to work until I'm proficient enough to attend an interpreting/translation program in the language.
It appears that -by some standards- attaining a new B language is an incredible feat to attempt. I'm getting mixed signals, so assuming I choose a completely unfamiliar language (like Russian), begin studying independently now, and ambitiously strive to learn it well while I live abroad....can I continue with confidence knowing that it is doable?
-If it is doable: --What timeframe am I looking at, assuming I arrive in the country with simple conversational command of the language.
-Please feel free to answer in French, German, Spanish, or Japanese.
I can understand that you are getting mixed signals, as it is very rare to find someone who has chosen ahead of time to "make" an interpreting B, instead of having a language at a good level before even thinking of interpreting. You seem very organized and forward-thinking, and these are qualities you will definitely need.
It is certainly do-able, as I made my Russian B from scratch, only starting Russian at university level in the US. I wanted to be an interpreter since I was 12, but had no idea how to go about it, what languages would serve me best, or even what the job entailed. So when I chose Russian I wasn't being forward-thinking; I was just looking for the hardest language my university taught. I had started French in 6th grade at 12 years old and was in Advanced Placement in uni, so I wanted something new. After I graduated uni I went to Monterey for my interpreting degree where, at the time, they taught B only in consecutive interpreting (things have changed since). They recommended I choose Russian as my B even though I knew French better, and I listened.
So here is what I did, and maybe it will help you: once I decided to learn Russian in uni, I did everything possible at the time (Soviet Union, no Erasmus there for Americans, hard to get visas) to learn it well. I took classes in uni, including lit, history and culture; attended summer school at Middlebury College twice; went to Russia with M'bury for a semester. After I graduated I got my interpreting degree at Monterey and then went back to the Soviet Union with a traveling US cultural exhibition for 7 months, interacting with people from Russia, Georgia and Uzbekistan.
Once I got home, I took the US State Department exam and passed the simultaneous exam into English only, and the consecutive exam in both directions. This meant that I was available to work with individual visitors on official visits to the US in consec, or with larger groups doing the admin work and anything not involving simultaneous interpretation. As I was organized, State hired me for back-to-back assignments, so I was interacting in Russian all the time.
At the same time, I went back to Russia (no longer the Soviet Union) for a minimum of six weeks a year, sometimes spread over a few visits, sometimes all at once. I traveled, lived on the economy, stayed with friends as well as in hotels when I was working, immersing myself in the culture.
With all of this work, it still took me 4 years before I passed the sim exam into Russian, and could say I have a real B language. Since then I've worked at all levels, from NGOs to Presidential summits, in topics ranging from refugees to nuclear physics, all into and out of Russian.
So it is do-able to "make" a B rather than growing up with a second language. It takes dedication, organization, commitment, a lot of time, and a bit of luck. As a foreigner, I proved my credentials to my delegates through my knowledge of culture, including the latest popular culture, and to my colleagues I proved them each day in the booth.
Just keep in mind that you have to make an enormous effort to keep up a B that is "made" from scratch. It wasn't an effort when I lived in the US and worked all the time exclusively with Russian. Now that I live in Europe and work pretty much in an English booth for international organizations, it is much more of a commitment.
answered 09 Jun '15, 05:10
Of course it's possible. It's just a question of time. From scratch takes more than if you already have a head-start. And some languages take longer than others. But a rough set of figures might be... 3-4 years for Spanish or French B, with the last 2-3 years in the country. A bit longer for German or Polish. 6-7 years for Russian (3-4 years in Russia). 10 years for Chinese (5+ years in China). Of course these numbers will vary depending on lots of factors, including your talent. Some people never get to a B level in a foreign language.
See this answer for a description of how you might add a language from scratch...
This will depend largely on what you will be doing in the foreign country. If you're able to study at university for five years, it'll be a huge help. On the other hand, if you have to get a day job you'll find it difficult to find the time and energy to actively progress.
Some say it takes about 4 years of regular efforts to add a C. And about as much time to make a C become B material. But again, this depends on your situation, the difficulty of the language, etc.
answered 02 Jun '15, 08:36