At the end of last year, I began a two-year part-time vocational training course that would qualify me to take the state examination to become a court-sworn interpreter and a certified translator. Why? Because I want a bureaucratic stamp!
That’s what it’s all about in this country, after all – you know you’ve made it when you have your own official bureaucratic stamp. Bonus points if it has a Berlin bear on it.
In all seriousness, vocational training courses in Germany are not for the faint-hearted. This course is designed to accompany a full-time job – 12 contact hours a week plus plenty of private study. Fittingly, I’ll be specialising in Rechts und Behörde (law and public authorities). The course covers the following topics:
- C2 level English and German
- technical translation
- translation theory
- notation techniques
- bilateral, unilateral, consecutive and simultaneous interpreting
- regional and cultural studies of Germany, Britain and the USA
- marketing, and
Here are some things that I have learnt and taken to heart:
- Interpreting is the third most stressful career in the world, ranking just after astronaut and air traffic controller. And here I was thinking nothing could be more stressful than being an opera singer.
- Interpreters are not walking dictionaries that can just wing it on the day (OK, I knew that already).
- In the interpreter’s booth, the concentration required is so intense that you can only interpret simultaneously for around 20 minutes before your brain explodes, which is when you swap out with a colleague (hopefully just before your brain explodes).
- Notation is an entirely new language in itself, a combination of symbols and abbreviations structured in a unique way.
- Terminology in German civil law is completely different to terminology in German criminal and/or public law.
- Listening and reproducing orally with a half second delay while writing down the answers to mathematic equations with one hand and soothing a grumpy baby with the other simultaneously is near impossible.
Here are some of us in action in the lab – that’s me in the back row.
Getting the stamp and certification I so dearly desire is going to be a long journey. My vocational training (Ausbildung) finishes in September 2019. The entire course is designed to pass the state examination. You get two chances in a lifetime to pass the state examination. I’ll be taking the written part in March 2020, followed by the oral component in October of the same year. Then, I apply to be court-sworn. Assuming I pass the exam with flying colours, I should get my coveted stamp by mid 2021. Wish me luck!