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Is C1 level enough for a source language?
Thread poster: Robin Joensuu

Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
Member
English to Swedish
Jun 2, 2015

So I have plans to move back to Germany, more for personal than professional reasons. I learnt some German the last time I lived there, but I thought I would seriously learn the language this time. And, with my (our) line of work in mind, why not learn the language well enough to be able to translate from it?

I realize that I have to learn a lot of specific terminology related to my areas of specialization, but for the language in general – what level of knowledge should be sufficient?

C1 according to the European Framework for Languages, i.e. advanced German?


[Edited at 2015-06-02 08:34 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-06-02 08:34 GMT]


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xxxvonflauschig
Germany
Local time: 15:32
English to German
+ ...
Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom Jun 2, 2015

C2 (GDS - Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom, Goethe Institut) certifies that you can use the language at the native level. This will definitely give you the possibility to communicate like a native. However, such a course (I take you will attend one?) does not prepare you to translate from the language. You will need to learn a lot of specific terminology, but bear in mind that a lot of terms from your field are also present in German.

Living in Germany you will learn the practical language and you can use it to your advantage. Good luck!

Btw, where are you moving to?


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Yulia Tsybysheva BA MSc MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:32
Member (2011)
English to Russian
+ ...
Same question Jun 2, 2015

Hi Robin,

I don't have an answer, I'm afraid, but I've been asking myself the same question.

Having studied English and French at school, and then English and German at university I've been working on my French for a good few years now to get it to a decent level and I'm sitting a DALF C1 exam in under 4 weeks (I passed DELF B2 a couple of years ago).

While I'd love to do a degree in French and study it in a more consistent fashion I don't think I can afford another Master's degree, especially here in the UK, and there aren't many distance-learning degrees in French available.

So I'm asking myself whether - if I pass the C1 exam - it's going to impress potential employers as much as, say, an MA in French. I'm inclined to think that it won't, but maybe I'm being too pessimistic.

That said, I've found that if an agency values you and your work in one language pair, they are generally prepared to give you assignments in another language pair that you might have added only recently.

It would be interesting to know what others think.


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:32
German to English
+ ...
Levels are a little irrelevant Jun 2, 2015

Like most paper qualifications, the EFL levels are only a very basic guideline as to a person's abilities.

You seem to suggest you have a specialisation. I would suggest you take a few texts in German from your specialisation and see how well you understand them and how well you can translate them (into good text - remember thazt knowing both labguages well is no guarantee of being a good translator). This will tell you more than any exam-based determination of your language skills.


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Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
Member
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
Academic studies is not the only way Jun 2, 2015

I would suggest you take a few texts in German from your specialisation and see how well you understand them and how well you can translate them.


That is very good advice. I didn't think about that!

While I'd love to do a degree in French and study it in a more consistent fashion I don't think I can afford another Master's degree, especially here in the UK, and there aren't many distance-learning degrees in French available.


But do you have to do this the "usual" way? I am currently studying German on my own, with a tandem partner, and I know a lot of other people who have done it themselves (and keep doing it for several languages). It is all about motivation! And in terms of academic studies, you learn a lot about a language, but are also required to learn a lot that might be both uninteresting and irrelevant for being a translator. Focault, Witgenstein and gender studies are all interesting things but hardly necessary in this line of work.


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Richard Lackey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:32
Member (2014)
Spanish to English
+ ...
The C1 exam should be fairly easy Jun 2, 2015

Hi Robin,

I agree with David that you will have a better idea of your ability to work on German texts simply by translating a suitable document in your speciality. You could then send your translation to a colleague and have them review it.

Language exams contain an oral section and a written section, both of which will not be as relevant to you as a translator. Furthermore, I think clients do not place a high priority on these exams, but the certification may be useful if applying to a professional body (e.g. the CIOL considers accepts the DELE C1 level (Spanish) as an alternative to degree-level qualification in the non-native language).

That being said, I think it could be an interesting way to test your language level and it wouldn't hurt your CV. I took the DELE C1 level last year and passed comfortably despite only minimal preparation. I actually took it to be able to apply for a master’s in Spain but I’m glad that it would also count towards CIOL membership.


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Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
Member
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
C1 is enough for a master? Jun 2, 2015

Thank you for the reply. So from what you write I take it C1 is enough to apply for a master in a language?

[Edited at 2015-06-02 10:26 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:32
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I'd say so Jun 2, 2015

I would think that if you're a comfortable C1 level AND you're living the language, so learning more every day, plus you've already got proven translation skills, you should be fine. Of course there will be research to do but that's a part of every translator's job.

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Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:32
French to German
+ ...
Yes Jun 2, 2015

It definitely is. I have been teaching foreign languages for more than 20 years and besides native speakers only very few people do have a comfortable C2 level. Concerning very specific vocabulary native speakers do not have it neither (except if they did study the subject at university), you just have to learn it.

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Paul Skidmore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
German to English
What is relevant depends on your specialisation Jun 2, 2015

Robin Joensuu wrote:

And in terms of academic studies, you learn a lot about a language, but are also required to learn a lot that might be both uninteresting and irrelevant for being a translator. Focault, Witgenstein and gender studies are all interesting things but hardly necessary in this line of work.


If your clients want you to translate their sociology or philosophy article, then a knowledge of Foucault, Wittgenstein or gender studies is often essential.

There is no area of knowledge which is not useful for a translator as long as you have clients with texts in that field.


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Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
Member
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
Uou are right Jun 2, 2015

No, you are right of course. I merely meant that there are faster ways to learn a language than to go through universities.

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xxxbrg
Netherlands
It is, for a C or D language Jun 2, 2015

Andrea Halbritter wrote:

It definitely is. I have been teaching foreign languages for more than 20 years and besides native speakers only very few people do have a comfortable C2 level. Concerning very specific vocabulary native speakers do not have it neither (except if they did study the subject at university), you just have to learn it.


B language must be of a high level.

For lots of us, those who do not translate out or into English, English is the C or D language. Some level is necessary, but we'll never translate into it.

Remember that on an academic level:
- translation from and into A and B languages
- translation from C or D into A and B
are required.

Vocabulary will come along with translation and experiene. If you can translate in a certain field from B to A, then translation from C to A will hardly be more difficult.

A special problem is that your TMs will be of no use. I suggest you strongly to make vocabulary lists in an accessible form (Excel or Word). Then adopting another language direction will be quite easy.


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Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
Member
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
Self studies Jun 2, 2015

vonflauschig wrote:

C2 (GDS - Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom, Goethe Institut) certifies that you can use the language at the native level. This will definitely give you the possibility to communicate like a native. However, such a course (I take you will attend one?) does not prepare you to translate from the language. You will need to learn a lot of specific terminology, but bear in mind that a lot of terms from your field are also present in German.

Living in Germany you will learn the practical language and you can use it to your advantage. Good luck!

Btw, where are you moving to?


I did not see your message until now. Odd. I am moving to Berlin.

In terms of a language course - no, I do not attend one at the moment. I thought I would try to do it as much as possible on my own. I will probably have to do it later on, however.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 20:02
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Native-level in both source and target Jun 3, 2015

I am a bit old-fashioned in this matter, and firmly believe that to be a really good translator you need to have native-level proficiency (note that I don't mean native speaker) in both source and target language.

Without such proficiency, you would be able to tackle some translation situations, but not all. Eventually you will get foxed by a turn of phrase in the source and will end up mistranslating it. The only way to avoid this is to have perfect proficiency in both directions.

This also means that you need to be exposed to both languages at an early stage of your life, which further means that not everyone can become a good translator. You also need to be backed by the personal circumstances of your life.


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Robin Joensuu  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
Member
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
Too rigorous? Jun 3, 2015

native-level proficiency (note that I don't mean native speaker) in both source and target language.


I see your point, but that would exclude roughly 90 % of the people working as translators (and interpreters), wouldn't it? I think you are right that you need a very high knowledge of both languages to become very good at this job, but all of us have to start somewhere. And we learn by doing.


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