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I'll write in English. I'm also thinking of applying to ETI. However, I'm a little worried about their entrance exams. I know that few people pass the written part. I've read that the best way to prepare is to read everyday in all your languages, and compare writing styles in different languages (basically what Coralie wrote above). Still, I think the tests are subjective. I've heard from many people who said that translation is often subjective. So, aren't there several ways to evaluate applicants? I might be wrong, of course, but I don't think that one written exam is enough. So, basically if I don't pass it, that means that I don't have the ability to be an interpreter?

asked 11 Oct '15, 19:57

Myra45's gravatar image


edited 12 Oct '15, 03:33

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

Gáspár ♦

Tout test n'est qu'une procédure normalisée pour déterminer l'aptitude d'un candidat à faire quelque chose, ou à classer ces mêmes candidats.

L'étalon qu'on va appliquer à un test d'entrée va être celui d'un examen d'aptitude. Comme si on analysait le diamant brut et prédire s'il a du potentiel à être soumis au processus de polissage ; à l'inverse d'un examen final, où on vérifiera ce qui a été acquis, en le comparant à ce qu'exige la profession d'un collègue débutant, sans autre forme de pronostic.

Et bien qu'il y ait donc une part d'incertitude à ce genre d'exercice, si sur 300 candidats il ne faut en retenir que 15, il sera assez aisé d'identifier ceux qui sont moins bons que le peloton de tête.

Aussi, il ne sera pas question de faire le corrigé stylistique d'une traduction littéraire, mais simplement de s'assurer que le candidat a les prérequis... et qu'il est meilleur que tous les autres.

Dans la partie écrite d'un examen d'entrée, je suppose qu'on cherchera à analyser trois points clés, qui peuvent aisément se traduire dans une grille d'évaluation un semblant objective :

  • compréhension de la langue source et culture générale
  • expression et niveau de maîtrise de la langue cible
  • erreurs et ommissions

A lire également :

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answered 12 Oct '15, 04:01

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

Gáspár ♦

I just read the blog. Of course I know that "speaking Greek to your mother at home is not the same as interpreting during a high-level meeting". Obviously one needs training and practice before being allowed to do such work. I mean you can't just say: "I'm highly fluent in a foreign language so let me interpret during the medical conference tomorrow". I'm sure that aspiring interpreters know that they won't be interpreting everyday conversations in a restaurant.

Still, I don't understand how they evaluate applicants. I know that many people fail because they're told that their A language is inadequate. Again, it is subjective. So, let's say that I wrote two best-selling novels in my A language and won awards for them. Then a film studio bought the rights to one of the books and asked me write a screenplay. And I won numerous awards for it as well. Next year, I decide to apply to interpreting school (I'm highly fluent in two foreign languages). So, despite my accomplishments in my A language, the admissions can still decide that my A language is inadequate?

(13 Oct '15, 14:38) Myra45

So, despite my accomplishments in my A language, the admissions can still decide that my A language is inadequate?

Travailler avec une langue c'est comme travailler avec ses mains. Un bon pianiste ne fera pas forcément un bon sculpteur. Ecrire ses propres pensées n'est pas la même chose que de devoir comprendre, analyser et transposer dans une autre langue la pensée d'un tiers sur un sujet et dans un registre qu'on n'a pas choisi soi-même, avec une contrainte de temps et en situation d'examen qui de plus est. Et la réciproque est vraie également. Malgré notre degré de maîtrise de la langue, je ne pense pas que notre profession compte dans ses rangs des écrivains reconnus.

Et oui, ça peut sembler aussi aléatoire et subjectif qu'une audition pour une pièce de théâtre ou la lecture d'un ouvrage par un éditeur qui doit décider s'il mérite ou non d'être publié. Et la méthode est répliquée durant toute la carrière, puisqu'on est évalué par ses pairs et recruté par ces mêmes, en fonction de l'avis, en partie subjectif, qu'ils se feront de notre performance. Mais c'est loin d'être la seule situation dans la vie courante où on est mis à l'épreuve de la sorte.

(13 Oct '15, 17:20) Gáspár ♦

I understand that writing fiction and faithfully translating someone else's thoughts is not the same. So maybe a talented writer will not produce a good translation. However, how can they be told that their A language isn't up to par?

(14 Oct '15, 13:10) Myra45

No one would tell anyone that their languages are not up to par for life, writing, communicating in most situations. The examiners are looking for someone who can follow and express complex ideas precisely. So while you may understand the reasoning perfectly, you may not be able to express that line of thought clearly. In that case, a language level will be insufficient for the purposes of Conference interpreting. This is a skill one acquires, and the examining jury is there to see if the applicant seems to have the beginnings of that ability.

(02 Nov '15, 05:54) JuliaP

Hi Myra,

You probably already have a good idea of what the schools want now - someone who is able to understand their declared source languages, someone who can express themselves with precision in their target language(s)/mother tongue, and someone who can think - who can follow the argument, see which way it's going, and understand its implications.

I am sure that you have been reading in all your languages, thinking about how to move an idea from one language/culture to another - I think it's time to get out there and take a test! Sooner or later, you need to jump into the pool, and you can always ask - professionally - for feedback on why you didn't make it, or what you did right to make it in afterwards.

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answered 13 Oct '15, 18:30

JuliaP's gravatar image


Actually I'm still not sure what the schools want. Like I wrote above, I think these tests are highly subjective. I'm currently reading and watching news programs in all my languages. I have the Oxford English Dictionary on my nightstand (my A is English). I've practiced the vocabulary for SAT and GRE. I'm also thinking of signing up for voice lessons to improve my diction. I'm doing practice translations from the UN website. Whenever I read in English these days, I examine every sentence. I don't just read to gather information.

(14 Oct '15, 13:15) Myra45

There is such a thing as overthinking.

In life, any test you go through, unless it is a multiple choice exam administered by computers, is going to be subjective. Much will depend not only on your abilities, but also on how you come across to the jury - are you professional or do you have a chip on your shoulder? Are you ready to put in the work or do you blame everyone and everything else for any of the information you missed? Are you ready to learn or do you have preconceived ideas?

Your main job now is not to ask yourself what the schools want - none of them are going to kick you out forever on the basis of a bad test. Even if after all this preparation, you were not to pass in the school of your choice, you could attend another, or go back the next year and retake the exam with a better and more realistic understanding, instead of creating monsters under the bed for yourself without knowing anything at all of the process yourself.

Your main job is now to choose a school, as a function of your language combination and future wishes as to the market you want to work in. Stop dilly dallying, stop worrying, and just jump in.

(14 Oct '15, 13:24) JuliaP

Yes of course translation and interpreting tests are a little subjective. But interpreters and interpreter trainers do have a good feel for what is required - at least in final exams.

Aptitude tests are notoriously hit and miss in my experience. (If they weren't the average pass rate in the final exams would be more than the 30% you'll find across most schools). If you fail, try another school and another test. You might get in. And you might pass the course and become an interpreter. Or you might not!

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answered 12 Oct '15, 11:22

Andy's gravatar image


That's what I thought too. I'm sure that out of about 300 who take the written test there are more than 10% who have excellent knowledge of all of their languages. And these are people who already have university degrees, and who've spent time studying or working in countries of their C languages. For example, if I've never translated professionally before taking the exams, and only did practice translations at home, and I don't get something right when I take the aptitude test, that doesn't mean that I don't have the ability. It probably means that I need more practice. I'm not sure if the following is a valid comparison. Let's say I'm applying to cooking school to train to be a pastry chef, and I'm asked to bake a chocolate cake, and I don't bake it right. Again, it doesn't mean that I can't be a pastry chef. I just need training and practice.

(12 Oct '15, 12:02) Myra45

I'm asked to bake a chocolate cake, and I don't bake it right. Again, it doesn't mean that I can't be a pastry chef.

No, but that isn't the purpose of an entrance exam either. They want to retain the best raw material for a limited number of available spots. Not making it into the top 15 doesn't meant you're not good enough, it simply means you're not as good as your competitors at the task you were given.

(13 Oct '15, 03:43) Gáspár ♦

I think they will be looking for the first 2 or of the 3 points Gaspar mentions above rather than mistakes

(13 Oct '15, 04:45) Andy
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question asked: 11 Oct '15, 19:57

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