What’s your B? Are you A-A ? Or A-C-C ?


combinaisons linguistiques combinações linguisticas language pairs A delegate passing by a group of interpreters before a multilingual meeting and hearing this kind of discussion may wonder what is going on…

No, they are not studying the alphabet before the session starts, but probably getting to know each other and finding out about each others’ language pairs.

Indeed, languages interpreters speak or understand are not all equal. Let’s have a look at the case of a Portuguese interpreter that has a sound knowledge of the French language, thanks to a pretty long time spent in a French speaking country and that also understands very well English, Spanish and German.

A Portuguese interpreter’s mother tongue is usually Portuguese and it will therefore be it’s A language. This means he is able to work from all his languages into Portuguese. Apart from a few exceptions, interpreters only have one A language.

By living for a long time in a French speaking country, this interpreter is fluent enough to work from Portuguese into French and can therefore consider French his B language. It’s important to know that even if he considers French his B language, he usually only works into it from Portuguese because Portuguese is his mother tongue and it requires very little mental resources to understand, allowing him to keep much more mental resources to create a quality output in his B language.

Our interpreter also understands German, Spanish and English but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to work into these languages. These will be his C languages.

This interpreter will therefore be a A-B-C-C-C, being Portuguese his A language, French his B language and Spanish, German and English his C languages.

His languages pairs are therefore: French-Portuguese, Portuguese-French, German-Portuguese, English-Portuguese and Spanish-Portuguese.