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How many stages in the EU freelance interpreting test?
Thread poster: Mark Leach

Mark Leach  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
French to English
+ ...
Nov 25, 2009

Hello,

In January I'm taking the test to be an English booth freelance interpreter at the EU. I'll be tested in FR-EN, DE-EN and EN-FR. Does anyone know whether I'll need to do consecutive and simultaneous in each language combination? This is what the invitation letter from the Commission says but surely that would be a very long exam (6 stages plus the final general knowledge session). If anyone can give me any advice on this that would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,

Mark


 

Emma Hradecka  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 20:41
English to Czech
+ ...
Yes, SIM and CON in all - if you pass Nov 25, 2009

Hi Mark,
good luck for your test in January! I just failed my first one in September but they were quite encouraging and even got me into an integrassion programme (which, by coincidence, will be taking place in Januaryicon_smile.gif)

Anyway, I'm not sure how much you know about the test but I will give you some general ideas:

- you can choose the modality (CON vs. SIM) and language you want to start with - I strongly advise to choose what you're best at - you will feel more comfortable and

- it's a "sudden death" scenario, so if they decide that you're not good enough for the combination they need most (I have no idea what it would be in your case) they can chuck you any time

- the impression I got is that they schedule the candidates so that they have a break after doing their CON+SIM in one language combination (and let them wait in the "candidate" waiting room

- the EU questions tend to be very general and my friend who passed in September was asked about the European Court of Justice and who had not ratified the Lisbon Treaty at that time.

I believe that they are quite desperate for English interpreters so I think you have a good chance!

Feel free to contact me at my email (see profile) if you feel I could be of any more help.

Kind regards,
Emma


 

Mark Leach  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Nov 25, 2009

Hi Emma,

Thanks for the information - although having to do consec+sim three for each language combination will be a bit of a marathon, so the break will be much needed! Good luck with your programme in January - I've heard that three quarters of candidates on this programme pass the test afterwards, so you have a really good chance.

Thanks again,

Mark


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 20:41
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Long exam Nov 25, 2009

Emma is right about pretty much everything. Yes, they test you in all permutations so it's not going to be over in 20 minutes (hopefully). Still, it's not that long. 6 speeches in your case, an hour or two when all is said and done. By the way, they usually have only 4 candidates a day, if I remember correctly. I believe you need to pass with either an AB or an ACC so candidates with a language profile like you can afford to, say, fail the retour and still pass with an ACC - which is what I did. If you were to fail Fr-En though, you'd be out the door and on the way home, of course.

By the way, the general knowledge part is strictly on general EU knowledge. They have random questions about world politics and such at the EPSO exams (the ones for staff positions) but not at the freelancer exams.

Of course all of this can vary with the circumstances and which booth you're heading to... If that particular booth needs people desperately at the given time, they might relax the conditions, and if it's fully staffed they might be stricter with the language combinations they demand etc.


 

Mark Leach  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Andras Nov 26, 2009

Hi Andras,

Thanks for the information. I'd heard that they were accepting people who pass with an AB combination but wasn't certain, so good to hear the same from you.

Mark


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
Flemish to English
+ ...
General knowledge?? Nov 26, 2009

To what extend does EU-general knowledge (how many female commissioners are there, which language has the most speakers, what is the function of the Court of Auditors) still plays a role in freelance tests and EU (EPSO-style exams)?
As a preselection tool for open competitions EU-knowledge will be abolished from 2010?


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 20:41
English to Hungarian
+ ...
System Nov 26, 2009

Again, the system changes over time and varies between the various booths.
I think the Italians only accept candidates with 3 C languages etc. So I'm not totally sure if the English booth allows people to pass with a B only. They need interpreters desperately, but not with B languages, obviously. (English is the most widely spoken language so there is usually no point in doing a retour from English to, say, French. The French booth is guaranteed to have an En-Fr interpreter or three, so that direction is already covered in pretty much all meetings.)
The long and short of it is that in principle people can pass with a B but not necessarily in the English booth right now.
I'm sure you can pass with an ACC though; again, they need people with Cs into English and that's a decent language profile anyway.

Williamson: I don't know if or how the system will change for 2010, and the EU knowledge questions at the freelance tests and EU+general ones at the EPSO tests are there as a last filter. Not many people fail them but you can if you try hard enough. The questions are usually easy at the freelance tests, a bit tougher at the A5 EPSO tests and get tougher as you go higher in the pecking order (A7, A9 or whatever the higher levels are for interpreters).


 

xxxmmihano4
Local time: 20:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
several tips Dec 7, 2009

hi

I've passed the SCIC exam three years ago and I can say that Emma is right about pretty much everything. The most important thing is to start with the strongest combination you have, leave interperting into b language in the end. if you pass two c languages but fail the test into b language you stand pretty good chances of passing the exam.
try to keep in mind that lot of these speeches they make for SCIC tests are intended to surprise the candidate and catch him/her unprepared. I remember I had a German speaker (for the simultaneous from German into my mother tongue) who started speaking of WTO and suddenly reverted the subject to Pascal Lamy (who at that time had just become the new head of WTO) and his personal career, quoting a number of French names and French institutions he worked for. When I first heard the WTO in the speech mentioned I thougt it would be about the WTo , but 90% of the speech turned out to be about the role of Pascal Lamy in the French economy and European affairs. The intention of the speaker was probably to get me off the track with all those French names (you don't expect a candidate taking a test German into Croatian to be familiar with French phonetics and French daily politics). Luckily I had learned French in school for 9 years (though I don't have it in my working combination and have no intention of adding it to my working pairs) so I had no problem with French names (pronounced with German accent) and interpreted it without any problems. I sometimes wonder if the German proofer would have given me a German speech with French names in it if she had known that I had solid basic knowledge of French. Any other candidate in this language comibination without any previous knowledge of French would surely have struggled.
If they ask you towards the end of the exam about your expectations from SCIC and interpreting at the EU institutions, say you think it would be a great opportunity for you to learn some of the languages of the new member countries and learn other cultures (bla bla bla). A young interpeter with English A willing to learn Lithuanian or Slovak is just what they ask for. Some candidates in my country who were a bit older (but experienced interpreters working with one b language, mostly English) said they didn't feel like adding other languages to their combinations, which looks very bad in the eyes of the Scic. So this tiny nuance might help you as well if they are not sure whether to let you pass or not.
I know a Spanish candidate who failed the test but said in the end that is eager to learn a Slavonic language and they helped him to get a scholarship and study in eastern Europe (I can't remember which country it was). They also told him to get in touch with them as soon as he feels ready to take the test in this new Slavonic C-language. (I somehow have the feeling he's going to pass the SCIC test in his new C-language soner than in other C-languages he has in his combination).
Good luck and let us know how it was.


 

Mark Leach  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the tips Dec 7, 2009

Hi there,

Many thanks for your reply. I've decided to start with my strongest combination (Fr-En) and guess they'll then want me to do DE-EN. Not sure when they'll want me to do EN-FR - if I get that far! Interesting what you say about the languages of the new member countries - I spent a year living in Hungary learning Hungarian and woud love to bring it up to C level.

Thanks again for your tips and I'll let you know how I get on.

Mark

mmihano4 wrote:

hi

I've passed the SCIC exam three years ago and I can say that Emma is right about pretty much everything. The most important thing is to start with the strongest combination you have, leave interperting into b language in the end. if you pass two c languages but fail the test into b language you stand pretty good chances of passing the exam.
try to keep in mind that lot of these speeches they make for SCIC tests are intended to surprise the candidate and catch him/her unprepared. I remember I had a German speaker (for the simultaneous from German into my mother tongue) who started speaking of WTO and suddenly reverted the subject to Pascal Lamy (who at that time had just become the new head of WTO) and his personal career, quoting a number of French names and French institutions he worked for. When I first heard the WTO in the speech mentioned I thougt it would be about the WTo , but 90% of the speech turned out to be about the role of Pascal Lamy in the French economy and European affairs. The intention of the speaker was probably to get me off the track with all those French names (you don't expect a candidate taking a test German into Croatian to be familiar with French phonetics and French daily politics). Luckily I had learned French in school for 9 years (though I don't have it in my working combination and have no intention of adding it to my working pairs) so I had no problem with French names (pronounced with German accent) and interpreted it without any problems. I sometimes wonder if the German proofer would have given me a German speech with French names in it if she had known that I had solid basic knowledge of French. Any other candidate in this language comibination without any previous knowledge of French would surely have struggled.
If they ask you towards the end of the exam about your expectations from SCIC and interpreting at the EU institutions, say you think it would be a great opportunity for you to learn some of the languages of the new member countries and learn other cultures (bla bla bla). A young interpeter with English A willing to learn Lithuanian or Slovak is just what they ask for. Some candidates in my country who were a bit older (but experienced interpreters working with one b language, mostly English) said they didn't feel like adding other languages to their combinations, which looks very bad in the eyes of the Scic. So this tiny nuance might help you as well if they are not sure whether to let you pass or not.
I know a Spanish candidate who failed the test but said in the end that is eager to learn a Slavonic language and they helped him to get a scholarship and study in eastern Europe (I can't remember which country it was). They also told him to get in touch with them as soon as he feels ready to take the test in this new Slavonic C-language. (I somehow have the feeling he's going to pass the SCIC test in his new C-language soner than in other C-languages he has in his combination).
Good luck and let us know how it was.


 

xxxmmihano4
Local time: 20:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
... Dec 7, 2009

that with Hungarian is great, mention that, but I guess they'll see it from your cv.
say also that you would like to bring it to c-level, cause that's what are they looking for. good old days when interpreters could only work with italian, spanish or french are long gone, (that goes not only for the old booths but also for the booths of the new members)


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 20:41
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Hungarian Dec 7, 2009

Mark Leach wrote:

I spent a year living in Hungary learning Hungarian and woud love to bring it up to C level.


Well, do make sure to tell them that! You can even shoehorn it into your introduction.
Sadly, you're late for the Hungarian presidency and there won't be another one for a while... If you had good enough Hungarian to try the test by next December, you'd be home and dry. Even so, they do love to hear about interest in new languages. Interpreters who cover several languages - especially if that includes some of the more obscure ones - are very useful.


BTW I don't think examiners are all that cruel. I think they are just bored with having to give speeches all day and make up speeches they find interesting. Funny stories, anecdotes, meandering story lines about chains of events or correlations they discovered, that sort of thing. It just happens to be what many people find difficult to interpret. But then you shouldn't be thrown off by a French name or two or a twist here and there if you want to work for the multilingual EU. If you think trade union leaders or MEPs are any more coherent and disciplined, think again...
I got a speech about studies on how the flu spreads... an experiment with little dripping tubes inserted into the subjects' noses that showed how people smear the stuff everywhere within the hour, and then a short summary of another experiment to see if it spreads with kissing - and they didn't just mean a peck on the cheek either, as the speaker explained.


 

Mark Leach  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Köszi szépen! Dec 7, 2009

Thanks Andras - I might try and weave the Hungarian into the intro. Can't do any harm. It was such a hard language to learn that I should make the most of it! Your flu speeches sound terrible - I guess the SCIC speeches are as good as EU speeches get - it all goes downhill from there...

FarkasAndras wrote:

Mark Leach wrote:

I spent a year living in Hungary learning Hungarian and woud love to bring it up to C level.


Well, do make sure to tell them that! You can even shoehorn it into your introduction.
Sadly, you're late for the Hungarian presidency and there won't be another one for a while... If you had good enough Hungarian to try the test by next December, you'd be home and dry. Even so, they do love to hear about interest in new languages. Interpreters who cover several languages - especially if that includes some of the more obscure ones - are very useful.


BTW I don't think examiners are all that cruel. I think they are just bored with having to give speeches all day and make up speeches they find interesting. Funny stories, anecdotes, meandering story lines about chains of events or correlations they discovered, that sort of thing. It just happens to be what many people find difficult to interpret. But then you shouldn't be thrown off by a French name or two or a twist here and there if you want to work for the multilingual EU. If you think trade union leaders or MEPs are any more coherent and disciplined, think again...
I got a speech about studies on how the flu spreads... an experiment with little dripping tubes inserted into the subjects' noses that showed how people smear the stuff everywhere within the hour, and then a short summary of another experiment to see if it spreads with kissing - and they didn't just mean a peck on the cheek either, as the speaker explained.


 

Aymeric de Poyen Bellisle  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 19:41
English to French
+ ...
One more remark Dec 11, 2009

Just to add one more detail to what's already been said, I think they let you work into B only after you've done B->A and C->A. When I took the test last year, I wanted to start with my retour but was told it's not possible.

 

Mark Leach  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:41
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Dec 11, 2009

Thanks Aymeric for the tip about working from A into B. I'm going to start with B into A and will hopefully get the chance to show them my B into A later on.

 

xxxmmihano4
Local time: 20:41
English to Croatian
+ ...
hi, how did it go Jan 19, 2010

hi, have you already taken the SCIC test? have you passed it and what was it like?
regards


 
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