Becoming an interpreter specialized in Science
Thread poster: Lyandra

Lyandra
United States
Local time: 01:53
French to English
+ ...
Aug 27, 2011

Hi,

I've been looking at this site for about a year now, trying to figure out the best way to make a career out of my love of languages and travel. I currently work as a political/historical tour guide for a large international organization, giving tours in Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. I really enjoy working as a tour guide because I get to practice all my languages every day, and I hope what I teach people will lead them to make better decisions in their lives. The only other job I've loved similarly was when I used to work as a hospital interpreter eleven years ago.

I'd thought to use this job to save money to go to an interpretation school like ESIT or ISIT in Paris, but the idea of constantly scouring the newspapers to follow the latest developments in the political and financial world doesn't really appeal to me. I'd prefer to focus on health and environmental issues. As a result, I've recently found myself looking at programs in Latin America to get a Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Environmental Science. I thought maybe I could go to interpretation school afterwards...

Has anyone else done something similar? Or do you know of someone that has? Is it possible to specialize in science as a conference interpreter, or is that something only translators do?

Thanks in advance for your help!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:53
Chinese to English
Never say never... Aug 28, 2011

I haven't seen specialised conference interpreting, but that's not to say it doesn't happen. I guess it depends on your links with organisation with demand for the services you want to offer. I think most freelancers are open to taking lots of different types of work when they start. That way you maximise the size of your potential market, and also get practice in a broad range of fields. Later on in your career you might get the opportunity to select your clients and specialise...
I don't mean to be negative. I'm certain that there is a need for specialist science interpreters. But when you're just starting out, I'd be worried about limiting your potential range of customers.
Good luck!


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Lyandra
United States
Local time: 01:53
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your reply. Aug 28, 2011

I guess I'm not really too worried about limiting my clientele. I've been a generalist my whole life: ESL teacher, hospital interpreter, medical biller,reading teacher, paralegal, legal transcriptionist, office assistant, music teacher, dance teacher, door-to-door salesperson, kindergarten teacher, independent beauty consultant (Mary Kay), and, now, tour guide. I have a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from a prestigious university, but you can do very little in the U.S. without a Master's degree nowadays. I'd like to specialize in something.

If it's not possible to specialize as a conference interpreter, would it then be better for me to just do a certificate program like the ones offered by Hunter College and NYU instead of trying to get into ESIT? And, if so, would it be best for me to get the certificate before or after I've completed the Master's degree program in my specialty field?

On a side note, my preference is to work in-house for an agency or an organization like the one I'm with now.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:53
Flemish to English
+ ...
It depends Aug 28, 2011

As far as I know there is no specialised basic interpreting course. The reason is that the trainers are mostly generalists/interpreters themselves with a linguistic background.
Some people, who go to the aforementioned schools and other interpreter school come from other directions than languages. Some have a language degree. The main thing is to pass their épreuve de préadmissibilite and épreuve d'admission.



[Edited at 2011-08-28 20:20 GMT]


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MDI-IDM
United States
Local time: 06:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
You've already worked as a hospital interpreter... Aug 30, 2011

and from the looks of it, that's the kind of training they offer at Hunter College; the only place in New York that offers simultaneous interpretation training is NYU and it's only one of your language pairs. Still, it's one way of learning the skills you need for conference interpretation - and less of a loss if you decide that it's not for you.

The thing is, whatever interpretation school you decide to go to (there are many alternatives to ESIT and ISIT, some in the UK, and I have several colleagues who are Monterey graduates) you'll find that they all tell you to read the papers to keep abreast of current events - simply because so many speakers preface their remarks with the so-called "fleurs et couronnes" or refer to recent or ongoing events, or even make jokes about who won the latest sports championship game! And to become a specialized conference interpreter, you'll have to get a degree in interpretation first - then start to work and gravitate towards the specialized agencies or organizations that interest you - if these are international organizations, they tend to hire in-house interpreters either on the basis of their previous experience or through an examination process.

I have worked at medical and scientific conferences with colleagues who had specialized training in medical interpretation, and colleagues who were scientists first and then turned to interpretation. It does help to have a background in a specific field, if that's the subject of the conference where you're working. But if it isn't, and this is the case most of the time for most interpreters, you make up for it through preparation - reading through the conference documents in the languages you'll use and making a word list or a full-scale multilingual glossary, if need be.

You mention that you'd like to work "for an agency or an organization like the one I'm with now" - do they have in-house interpreters? If so, why don't you reach out to them and find out what kind of training they have?

Hope that helps,
Anna


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Lyandra
United States
Local time: 01:53
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Where and what to study Aug 30, 2011

Hi Anna,

Thanks for your long response. The reason I was thinking about doing a short course at NYU or Hunter was really to refresh my medical vocabulary after such a long absence, and to get a taste for study of interpretation at a school--while continuing to work full-time and save money at my current job. When I worked as a hospital interpreter before, I was a self-taught college student. I'd like to have a more formal education now, and, maybe, the certificate would help me to get a second income to pay for graduate school. I want to study in France because French is the weaker, yet, more important of my languages. Also, ESIT is SOOOOO MUCH CHEAPER than either Monterey or Westminster!

I am talking to some of the in-house interpreters here, but I wanted to get as much input, from as diverse a group of people, as possible.

Thank you to everyone that's contributed so far!


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xxxsonjaswenson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
généralistes Aug 30, 2011

any good conference interpreting course will deal with broad topics. Of course they focus on the political stuff, especially at the beginning when you are just learning the skills necessary for consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, and this is probably even more the case in Europe, as most European schools are aiming for either the EU or UN CI markets, and so are most of the students.

As you get into things though in training, you will do speeches with different topics. We spent the second year of our training doing units- for a month we did nothing but climate change and global warming (both scientific and political speeches on it), we spent time doing the stock market and economics, IT and R and D, military, etc. A conference interpreter, even one who is working for the UN, needs to be able to handle any of these things because technical stuff does come up quite a bit. Some units were harder for us than others and obviously that depended on the individual student and his or her own background and interests.

Once you finish training, you can work wherever you choose. If you really are interested in science and medicine, then the private market is ideal, as there are a fair amount of medical conferences in major cities where they need interpreters. In the US working between English and Spanish there is quite a bit of opportunity for that kind of work and if you get a client or agency that specializes in it, then they will keep calling you (as long as they like your work). Technical or engineering training conferences are also a possibility, if you are able to take the time to learn the vocabulary and concepts. There is also work in the legal field when they need to interview expert witnesses.

Interpreting admissions committees love applicants with a background and interests in something other than "language and cultures". They like to see life experience and professional experience, as they also know that having a good scientific (or anything) background can be an excellent niche.

Hope that helps!

PS Westminster no longer exists, and there are a few more schools in France, Switzerland, and Belgium in addition to ESIT. Lisbon also has a good program. They are all much cheaper than Monterey. In the US there aren't too many options other than that, though Florida Intl University has a certificate in interpreting that seems to cover a lot. ESIT is one of the best schools there are, but it is also much harder to actually get into than most people are aware of, so it is good to have options.


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Lyandra
United States
Local time: 01:53
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Maybe I shouldn't focus on CI Aug 31, 2011

If specialized intepreting in the medical and scientific fields is expected to grow in the in next few years, then maybe I don't really need to set my sights on such a prestigious interpreting school like ESIT. Any school that will give me the basics of interpreting (sight, consecutive, simultaneous) should be fine; it will be the depth of my specialized subject knowledge that will set me apart from the other candidates for the job!

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:53
Flemish to English
+ ...
Belgian situation. Sep 1, 2011

In Belgium: You have the Haute Ecole Leonard DaVinci (College).
This college has a two years programma at a cost of 780 euros per annum.
It takes two years.
It has a postgraduate CI-training.
This costs about 5000 euros.
You also have ISTI, State College for Translators and Interpreters.
Cost 380 euros the first year
if you are a citizen of the European Economic Area

For those with ABCC ACCC the disadvantage is that in Belgium you only can take two foreign languages.

The advantage is that in Brussels, the international institutions like the E.U. are in front of your school (if you get into Marie Haps) and Nato is 30 minutes by bus.

The cost of renting an appartment in Brussels is about 400 -550 euros. For about 650 -700 you can get a nice flat. Flat-sharing is common.
From Brussels Central station, you can easily get to surburban cities and other major cities.
Your costs of living are about 880 euros per month.

The costs of rent and living in Paris are higher.






[Edited at 2011-09-01 19:13 GMT]


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Lyandra
United States
Local time: 01:53
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What a coincidence! Sep 2, 2011

Someone at work was just talking to me today about how cheap it is to live in Belgium! I will have to seriously look into this now...

Do you know what the cost is for the schools is for non-Europeans?

THANKS!


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Lyandra
United States
Local time: 01:53
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Forget the last question Sep 3, 2011

Never mind. I found it!

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