Interpreters orally relay spoken texts into another language. In the Conference Interpreting master’s programme, you will acquire techniques for interpreting speeches and negotiations in various subject areas.
The Conference Interpreting master’s programme is an application-orientated consecutive programme building on a bachelor’s degree. The general prerequisite for admission to the programme is a career-qualifying bachelor’s degree. A degree in translation is an advantage but is not required. You can apply to the programme without a translation degree, if you are able to prove you meet the necessary language requirements.
The subject-specific admission requirements are:
- A passing grade in the entrance exam for the MA Conference Interpreting,
- Proof of language skills for the selected B language (main subject) and C language (interpreting elective) in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (German link) for level C1 or equivalent for English, French, or Spanish. Proof of competence for the selected B language (main subject) must be submitted with your registration for the entrance exam. For languages studied as electives (a second B language or a C language), proof is submitted at the beginning of the programme. The primary or A language in any language combination is always German.
- Proof of vocal suitability by means of a phoniatric assessment. The assessment is to be submitted to the student office at the University of Leipzig, at the latest with your acceptance of admission.
For the programme, you must be able to prove skills at level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages for the languages you wish to study within the MA Conference Interpreting. Proof of competence for the B language selected as main subject is submitted with your registration for the entrance exam (admission requirement). For a second B or a C language, proof is submitted at the beginning of the programme.
Any of the following can be used to prove your language skills:
- At least two years at a school or higher education institution in a country where the relevant language is spoken;
- Language instruction at secondary school from grade 7 to graduation with the language as a specialisation subject;
- A bachelor’s degree related to either translation or philology, e. g. English Studies, American Studies, Romance Studies with a focus on French or Spanish;
- Completing one of the following recognized language exams:
- English: Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE); Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) including all four competencies and the minimal scores Reading 455, Listening 490, Writing 200, Speaking 200; Cambridge BEC Higher; TOEFL iBT with a score of 95 points; IELTS with at least 7.0 points; UNICERT III
- French: DALF C1, Test de Français International (TFI) with a score over 785 points; UNICERT III
- Spanish: DELE (Nivel Superior), Diploma Superior de Español (D.S.E.), UNICERT III
In the programme, you can choose two working languages apart from German, which is always involved. You will select a B language – English, French, or Spanish – for your main subject and supplement this with either a second B language or a C language.
The B language, often considered the “stronger” language, is both source and target language for interpreting, i. e. you will interpret from and into this language. C language means that you will only interpret from this language into the A language (German). In classes, interpreting in both directions will be practised for both B and C languages, but the exams reflect your choice of either B or C language.
Upon request to the examination board of the Institute of Applied Linguistics and Translatology (IALT), you may begin or continue to study a working language that is not offered within the interpreting programme as part of your electives (up to 30 credit points). In addition to the languages offered at IALT (Catalan, Galician, and Basque), you can choose language modules offered by the University of Leipzig’s Language Centre (German link).
The master’s programme will prepare you for a professional career in interpreting through the systematic development of the competencies needed for interpreting. You will practise various interpreting modes such as simultaneous, consecutive, liaison (bilateral), chuchotage (whisper interpreting) as well as sight translation. In addition, there will be an introduction to legal interpreting in the third semester. You will also practise translation of conference texts and learn how to prepare for interpreting assignments using modern research techniques and electronic tools.
The goal of the programme is to acquire relevant methodological knowledge in the fields of interpreting studies, rhetoric, interpreting technology, specialized communication, and terminology and to learn various skills specific to interpreting. This will allow you to quickly and properly understand technical texts in the source language and to interpret them into the target language in a way that reproduces content and style and is appropriate in terms of language and rhetoric. These competencies are documented in the DIN 2347 norm on conference interpreting.
The technical infrastructure at IALT allows you to get to know various interpreting settings and practise in an authentic environment. You will use the booths at the Interpreting Training Facility (DTA) as well as portable interpreting equipment (for mobile interpreting), a studio to produce audio and video recordings of students’ performances and language labs. The university’s Audimax lecture hall is also equipped with interpreting booths. These can be used for your training as well.
The programme focuses on a linguistically appropriate rendering of the text in the target language, on the accurate communication of contents and on practising professional appearance and attitude. The teachers and the students themselves will evaluate practice sessions and provide individual feedback. Groups tend to be rather small, which fosters an ideal learning environment with lots of individual attention. Students are encouraged to cooperate, which also prepares them for their careers. Teamwork is essential in the interpreting booths and in preparation for interpreting exercises.
In the second semester, you will gain some insight into a professional interpreting environment through various interpreting-related projects. The projects differ depending on the language. Examples are interpreting for adult students at the International Coaching Course (ITK), simultaneous interpreting of a guided tour at a museum, or organizing a conference with external speakers for the purpose of practising interpreting. In recent years, various theatre projects involving simultaneous or consecutive interpreting were offered. These projects give students a chance of practicing interpreting modes that are not part of our programme. Within the same module, there is an introduction to remote interpreting, which is becoming more and more important in community interpreting and court interpreting.
We also offer a number of extra-curricular activities on a voluntary basis. Sometimes, there is the opportunity to interpret at a university event, which may also involve interpreting modes like media or remote interpreting for you to try out. If possible, we offer an acting workshop once a year and invite a speech therapist to help train your voice. There is a cooperation with the Directorate-General for Interpretation at the European Commission (SCIC). You can take part in a trip to Brussels and interpret in a silent booth. In virtual classes, the EU entrance exams are simulated in a video conference, and students’ performances are evaluated together. Another assignment option is offered by DOK Leipzig, where you can practise bilateral interpreting of short conversations.
Freelancing or permanent employment
The Conference Interpreting master’s programme will prepare you for a professional career as an interpreter in various capacities. Interpreters usually work as freelancers or for special agencies on a freelancing basis. In addition to the professional qualifications, they need a sufficient amount of resilience and mobility. Interpreters are required to mediate between thought, speech and negotiation patterns differing between cultures, and they need to have a broad cultural knowledge, open-mindedness, adaptability, a keen mind, and a steady demeanor. Permanent positions may be offered by institutions such as ministries, federal offices or other authorities in Germany, by the EU and other international organizations, or by companies. There are permanent positions in continuing education or correctional facilities as well.
In addition to their work at conferences, freelance interpreters are often active in the legal (court, police), social (information centers, authorities), medical (hospital/doctor’s visit) or cultural sector. Interpreters with German as their native language can also take advantage of interesting employment opportunities abroad. Many interpreters also work in related fields such as translation, language teaching or project management, especially when they are first starting out.
Many interpreters will specialize in one or several subject areas at some point. As assignments can cover a wide range of topics, however, the Conference Interpreting master’s programme seeks to mirror this reality. Classes generally cover a wide spectrum of topics, and in the advanced interpreting modules, you will get a glimpse into various domains of specialization, such as legal interpreting. Prospective interpreters can also benefit from the wide range of subjects offered at the University of Leipzig, which gives them a chance of learning more outside their own curriculum.
More often than not, the number of working languages and the interpreting direction will depend on your employer. Federal ministries and offices generally require a very strong B language, while EU institutions encourage the development of many C languages.
There are various professional associations for translators and interpreters, e. g. the Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer e.V. (BDÜ; German link), the Verband der Konferenzdolmetscher im BDÜ (VKD; German link), the Deutsche Verband der freien Übersetzer und Dolmetscher e. V. (DVÜD; German link), or the Internationale Verband der Konferenzdolmetscher (AIIC; German link). These associations are important interest groups, and they have special offers for students. One example is VKD’s trainee programme, where experienced mentors support graduates just starting their careers and work with them over a period of two years. At IALT, we place a high value on cooperating closely with these professional associations. This is why representatives of the associations are invited to our biennial practice day, where they present their work.
- Occupations for translators and interpreters
This brochure describes the classic professional fields of translation and interpreting as well as other potential occupations.
- Translators and interpreters. An international survey on the professional practice of translators and interpreter
This book presents the results of the first international survey of translators and interpreters having a translation-related degree from the best institutions.
- Lost in Translation
This article gives you some insight into the professional world of a simultaneous interpreter in the field of politics (https://www.zeit.de/2014/21/dolmetscher-politik-probleme).
- Alumni report
On this page, alumni describe the start into their career and their current occupation.