Can one interpret from their C language into their B?
Thread poster: Audra deFalco

Audra deFalco
United States
Local time: 07:57
Italian to English
+ ...
Dec 11, 2013

Just curious--can a professional interpreter interpret from their C language into their B? I know there is retour from A-B and B-A.

In my case, it would be: English A, Italian B, French C. I also speak Spanish, but won't probably get the opportunity to study that formally seeing as an English A needs French or German C above all in school. I hope to also add Dutch to the mix.

Thanks!


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Can or should? Dec 11, 2013

That is the question.
I think some translators might be able to do so, depending on their level of competence in C and B. I suggest a quasi-bilingual level in B and Proficiency-level knowledge of C, as up-to-date as possible, as minimum requirements. And a qualified native target language speaker to check the draft translation.


 

EvaVer  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:57
Member (2012)
Czech to English
+ ...
Yes, of course Dec 11, 2013

This is often done in Eastern Europe, both for translation and interpreting.

 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:57
Russian to English
+ ...
I am not sure what your question is exactly. Dec 11, 2013

Most professional interpreters interpret in both directions Italian to English to Italian, let's say. It would be considered very unprofessional, or even weird, if they said that they interpret in one direction only. However, at many conferences and seminars the booth interpreters interpret into one language only, which does not mean that full fluency in speaking the source language is not required because they have to use their source language as a target language in many other circumstances.

A person can theoretically interpret in any language pair, provided they know both languages close to a "native" fluency level.

Very few interpreters interpret in two language pairs -- most interpret in one: Spanish-English-Spanish, let's say. There are some who interpret in two pairs, but I have really met only one person who interpreted in three language pairs -- two African languages and French, in a combination with English.

[Edited at 2013-12-11 13:37 GMT]


 

Audra deFalco
United States
Local time: 07:57
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your responses Dec 11, 2013

Thanks for your responses. I'll try to make myself clearer.

Let's say I work for an organization like the EU and my A language is English, B language is Italian, and I have C as French, Spanish and Dutch.

I know that there aren't many Dutch to Italian interpreters so, in theory, could I then test to be certified as able to interpret on staff from one C language (say, Dutch) to my B language (Italian)? I'm not talking about the private market and yes, I know it's unprofessional to interpret in one direction (usually!).

Thanks again.


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:57
Russian to English
+ ...
Songntrice, Dec 11, 2013

First of all -- where do you want to work? In New York? The official languages of the UN are: Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese and Arabic. They usually hire interpreters of those languages only for the General Assembly. They need other languages sometimes as well, for various seminars and to work with certain commissions or UN affiliated organizations.

They have special requirements for their interpreters in the official language pairs -- you have to pass an exam. It might be really enough to interpret in one language pair for them, well -- quality really counts not the number of languages.

You could definitely use your Spanish and French working for the UN. It has to be really almost perfect, though. In the case of very rare languages, the requirements may be slightly lower, but many interpreters speak Spanish, English and French well.

There may be some other organizations that need Italian. Good luck. I think it might be more advisable to work on the quality of the languages you already know rather than learning new ones for the purpose of interpreting. You can just learn them for fun, of course.

If you ally loved Dutch, and learned it really well, including living in Holland for some time, I think you could (at least theoretically) interpret from Dutch to English or Italian as a conference interpreter. I might be harder in court where you have to interpret both ways most of the time, but it might be possible.

[Edited at 2013-12-11 15:28 GMT]


 

Audra deFalco
United States
Local time: 07:57
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Goal is EU Dec 11, 2013

I want to work for the EU but am not discounting the private market. Really, I'm okay with living anywhere in Europe as an interpreter (be it Spain, Italy, France, wherever) but the end goal is to work for the EU.

Since I am a dual U.S./Italian citizen and was born and raised in NYC, should I ever want to come back to the U.S., the UN would be the best bet for me. It's a long shot because I'm sure millions apply, but I'm going to try!


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 13:57
English to Hungarian
+ ...
A/B/C Dec 11, 2013

In EU interpreter parlance, a B is a 'retour' language that you only work into from your A.
As an example, I have a Hungarian A, an English B and a Spanish C. I do:
En->Hu
Hu->En
Es->Hu

If I were to work from Spanish into English, that would mean that my English is "upgraded" to an A. That's never going to happen for me as English is clearly my second language. I have a noticeable accent etc. However, there are some people with two A's, that is, two languages that they can pass off as their mother tongue, into which they work from all or most of their other languages. That also means working for two booths, which has its perks (more work as a freelancer).
If you are Italian-English bilingual and your Italian is really solid, then you could possibly do this in the EU institutions. There's certainly nothing to stop you from trying to do it on the private market. It really depends on what your Italian is like. If it's a B (very fluent but not fully native level) then you are better off not trying to work into Italian from your C languages.

Note: If you have an English A, an Italian B is not very useful at the EU institutions. They already have a bunch of people in the Italian booth who can do competent En->It so they may not even bother to test English natives in that combination. So if you want to work for the EU, you should either try English A, Italian C, German C, French C (or whatever languages you have) or English and Italian double A, the rest C. It's probably better to go for the English A first and then try adding the Italian A later if you feel you're up to it. The private market is different, of course.


 

Jekaterina Kotelnikova  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:57
English to Russian
+ ...
Hi! Dec 11, 2013

I am bilingual (Russian and Latvian) and I have experience translating Russian-Latvian-English-Latvian-Russian (that was a tough nighticon_smile.gif )

So if there is a will there is a way. But then again, do you really need it? As far as I know anyone, be it EU, UN or any other employer, usually they tend to go for the quality not the quantity (and the preference goes to mother tongues).

Anyway, good luck with your endeavor!icon_smile.gif


 

Audra deFalco
United States
Local time: 07:57
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Really great answer Dec 11, 2013

FarkasAndras wrote:

However, there are some people with two A's, that is, two languages that they can pass off as their mother tongue, into which they work from all or most of their other languages. That also means working for two booths, which has its perks (more work as a freelancer).
If you are Italian-English bilingual and your Italian is really solid, then you could possibly do this in the EU institutions. There's certainly nothing to stop you from trying to do it on the private market. It really depends on what your Italian is like. If it's a B (very fluent but not fully native level) then you are better off not trying to work into Italian from your C languages.

Note: If you have an English A, an Italian B is not very useful at the EU institutions. They already have a bunch of people in the Italian booth who can do competent En->It so they may not even bother to test English natives in that combination. So if you want to work for the EU, you should either try English A, Italian C, German C, French C (or whatever languages you have) or English and Italian double A, the rest C. It's probably better to go for the English A first and then try adding the Italian A later if you feel you're up to it. The private market is different, of course.


Really, really great answer. I knew about retour, but I wasn't sure if in a pinch a C language could be intepreted into an A language. What percentage of people would you say profess to have an A1 and an A2 but actually really do?

And one more question: why would having an Italian B not be useful? Couldn't a person with a B language, in theory, have it a B language in title only but decide to work from it only passively as a C? I can't see how that would be a detriment, especially with a French C and a Spanish C and (later) a Dutch C as well. I'm still learning about conference interpreting so this is all kind of new to me. Court interpreting I'm familiar with... this, no.

Thanks so much!


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 13:57
English to Hungarian
+ ...
State of affairs Dec 11, 2013

sognatrice wrote:
What percentage of people would you say profess to have an A1 and an A2 but actually really do?


At he EU institutions, very few. Low single digits if you want a percentage. Out of the close to 100 people who work or used to work in the Hungarian booth, I know of 2 who have another A language besides Hungarian. One of them doesn't really sound native in Hungarian either. I don't know about other booths but it's certainly not common. You have to be a fairly evenly balanced bilingual to have a chance of pulling this off (in addition to being a good interpreter of course). As I said, it's probably best to apply with an English A first and try to add the Italian A later when you are already working for the institutions (assuming you pass the accreditation test).
Also, some people are fairly evenly balanced bilinguals but only ever used one of their languages with family & friends. In that language, they might not know political/economic/scientific/legal terms that well, or they may not know about the political situation, institutions etc. of the country as much as a native does. That can be a problem if they try to interpret into the language.


sognatrice wrote:
And one more question: why would having an Italian B not be useful? Couldn't a person with a B language, in theory, have it a B language in title only but decide to work from it only passively as a C? I can't see how that would be a detriment, especially with a French C and a Spanish C and (later) a Dutch C as well. I'm still learning about conference interpreting so this is all kind of new to me. Court interpreting I'm familiar with... this, no.


An Italian B would not be useful in the sense that it wouldn't be better than having an Italian C*. I.e. if you work in the English booth, you won't be asked to do En->It, only It->En, so if you have a B, it will be unused. As such, having a potential B will probably not work in your favour when you apply for the job. It's no worse than having an Italian C of course.
An Italian A (you work into Italian from all of your languages) is more useful because it means you can work in the Italian booth as well as the English booth.
And remember that this is only the case in the EU institutions due to their specific language needs and interpreter availability. On the private market, the situation is likely different.

* I don't know this for certain. An Italian B may be useful in bilateral En-It meetings but I suspect it's not a priority for the unit. The EU institutions do publish their preferred/required interpreter language profiles so you can try and look it up.


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 13:57
English to Hungarian
+ ...
both Dec 11, 2013

Jekaterina Kotelnikova wrote:

I am bilingual (Russian and Latvian) and I have experience translating Russian-Latvian-English-Latvian-Russian (that was a tough nighticon_smile.gif )

So if there is a will there is a way. But then again, do you really need it? As far as I know anyone, be it EU, UN or any other employer, usually they tend to go for the quality not the quantity (and the preference goes to mother tongues).

Anyway, good luck with your endeavor!icon_smile.gif

The EU likes its interpreters versatile. There's a stringent quality requirement of course, but you need to have quantity as well. It depends on the native language of the interpreter, but as a general rule, you can't even apply with a single foreign language. In most cases, you need to have an ACCC (three passive languages) or ABC to be considered. In many booths, specific languages or combinations are required or prioritized.
This is because most meetings are heavily multilingual. As in, ten to fifteen languages may be spoken in the room over the course of an average day. The more languages the team of 3 intepreters can cover, the better (they need to use less relay).

Here's a recent notice: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2013:193A:FULL:EN:PDF

As you can see, all candidates with an English A must have either French or German, plus another C.
All candidates with a Romanian A must have either an ACCC which includes one of the big 3 languages (EN/FR/DE), or an ABC where the B is one of five languages listed.
Requirements for freelance tests might be different but you get the idea.

[Edited at 2013-12-11 22:48 GMT]


 

Audra deFalco
United States
Local time: 07:57
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all of the replies Dec 11, 2013

Thanks again for all of the replies. I'm just going to concentrate on ACCC for now (English-French-Italian-Spanish) with the possibility of bumping up my Italian to a B/C and adding Dutch as a C later on. If I can end up interpreting from Dutch into Italian, that would put me in a really small camp of interpreters, which I kinda like the idea of.

It seems the most logical for me.

One other thing you mentioned: one of the Hungarian interpreters didn't "sound" like a native. Isn't this a no-go for someone who professes to have a language as his/her A? I thought you couldn't even have an accent for a B!


 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 13:57
English to Hungarian
+ ...
As and Bs Dec 12, 2013

sognatrice wrote:

One other thing you mentioned: one of the Hungarian interpreters didn't "sound" like a native. Isn't this a no-go for someone who professes to have a language as his/her A? I thought you couldn't even have an accent for a B!

A mild accent is not a major issue for a B. As long as the content is there and the interpreter's speech is fluent, correct and clearly intelligible, a mild (not very thick, not bothersome) accent is fine. When testing candidates for a B, most examiners ask "Would I be happy to take this person on relay?". The simple fact that you can tell the interpreter is from X country (or not from England, anyway) from their faint accent doesn't mean you wouldn't want to take them on relay. Most people who have an English B in Brussels have a mild but clearly noticeable accent - I know, I work from their English regularly.

With an A, the bar is higher. You are expected to sound native in your A (or As, as the case may be). The interpreter with a double A I'm thinking of doesn't exactly have an accent but he is not as "at home" in Hungarian as a fully native person would be. You can sometimes tell this from word choices etc. It goes to show how difficult it is to pull this off convincingly.


 


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