I spent my first 20 years speaking English-only, with the exception of a few hours of Spanish, on and off over the years, in school. I never really got that far with Spanish, because of all the off years and can remember sitting in class in high school, having NO idea what the teacher was saying. I'm sure you can imagine how demotivating having to relearn everything every few years was, but I was interested in languages and would learn as many phrases as I could from foreign friends I made over the years (Russian, Korean, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, etc).. clearly not enough to be of any real use though. In college, I started learning German and that took priority. Over the summer, between my 1st and 2nd years, I spent a month in Panama. After 2 years of German (as well as some Spanish) and 1 year without, I spent 1/2 a year studying abroad in Germany, at which point I went from a A2 to B1. I also spent a week in Spain and 4 days in France (among many other places).
I went back home for 10 months to finish off my last 2 semesters then returned to Germany. 3 years later (without much formal class, because there didn't seem to be anything above C1 being offered) I got the Goethe Zertifikat C2. In that time I went alternately to French (currently beyond the beginning of A1 but never got as far as A2) or Spanish (last attended B1 and had forgotten some basics from A2, but could still remember some lessons from B2) class for a few months at a time and spent 2 weeks in Spain and 1 week in France, but German still always took priority.
The Germans in my Spanish/French classes were always very impressed with my Spanish/French (I guess at some point, in my very brief time abroad, something must have clicked, since this was quite the opposite of my experience in The States) as well as my German, but I know in the interpreting world that would be nothing. I recently was part of a theater group and have been to several doctors lately and I can tell you those are both still very stressful situations where I really have to pay attention and sometimes am forced to go as far as admitting I don't understand, because there aren't always enough context clues and my experience in those areas is still too limited for me to infer the meaning. I've also got to admit that after all this time abroad, I can sense my English slipping too.
Still, I'm planning to move to France and begin learning French now (at 26) so that I can, hopefully in just a couple years, begin studying interpreting. Given my limited experience with the language, my understanding is actually surprisingly good - I can gather the meaning from various things I've glimpsed over (cell phone/embassy websites, contract), but then again I do have English and Spanish to draw from, which works in my favour. All of that to ask, is that gonna cut it for the entrance exam? If I walk in there with 2 C2 certificates and my native language are they going to give me the training it takes to use them all actively or will they expect me to interpret on the spot with no idea what I'm doing? And even so, do my German/French even stand a chance?
I know many don't begin studying interpreting until later, but I'm assuming they've long passed the language-learning-from-scratch phase. I know, when immersed I go to class, do my homework, and make the effort to speak the language as much as possible because I'm motivated, which is why I'm moving. I know for a lay person, I'm really good. But I wanna know if I at least have the potential to be a great interpreter and, if not, what do you do with all that language knowledge when it doesn't work out? And another scary thought, how can I keep up my English and German while in France? I already talk to people as much as possible, listen to music, and alternate between English and German books, but I still feel I need something more and, to be honest, even though I listen to the radio at work and got the gist of what's going on in European politics, I'm not really that interested in the news, which I fear may also be problematic.
If you made it through all this, thanks for reading and I appreciate any and all feedback to come!
The MA doesn't teach you languages, but the interpreting technique.
C2 would be a good start to achieve an AIIC C language level, i.e.: Passive languages are those languages of which the interpreter has complete understanding and from which s/he interprets. These are what interpreters call their C languages, according to AIIC classification. More about the language AIIC classification: http://aiic.net/page/1403/how-we-work/lang/1
C languages aren't much used in the US or on what we call the private market. So assuming you'd get into an interpreting school and would graduate, your only prospective employer for conference interpreting would be the European Union - provided you pass their accreditation test.
The schools' entrance test isn't just testing your proficiency in foreign languages, but your general knowledge, including politics, finance, economy, etc. They will as well test your public speaking skills, how well you cope with stress, how good your memory is,...
Read, read more. You might also find writing / debating online (discussion boards) an efficient way to hone your mother tongue and use higher registers as well.
Most users of conference interpreting will be either talking about politics, economy, finance, law or corporate matters. While you're not expected to know everything, reading the news in all your languages during your training will be a prerequisite and won't be considered as being homework. You should be curious enough about the world and these subjects to do it day in, day out, just out of personal interest. If you perceive it as a burden, it's likely to take a lot of fun out of your training and later career.
answered 02 Aug '15, 09:39
Hello! You say you can feel that your native language, English, is slipping. This is very serious, as an interpreter's main tool is his or her native language. You must absolutely concentrate on that first as, without that, it will not matter how well you know your other languages.
answered 05 Aug '15, 18:14
Not familiar enough with the site to know if you'll get notified if I reply this way, bt hoping you do. Thank you both for your responses. Now wondering if studying translation while learning French would be good to keep up and improve my German and English, prepare me for interpreting school and increase my chances of success, and give me a qualification to fall back on if Plan A doesn't pan out. If so, then I'm assuming it'd be best to go for the full certification, bt I'm not sure it'd even be valid in France or if it'd be a bit too redundant to study translation for 2 years before studying interpreting for 2 years..
answered 11 Aug '15, 18:44