Schools for Aspiring Interpreters or Translators: How to Choose

Fluency in at least two languages can be achieved through several years of study in a foreign language degree program at either the bachelor's or master's level. Read on for more information on choosing a foreign language program.

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Most colleges and universities offer foreign language programs, though larger urban schools offer more variety in languages offered. Other factors to investigate when selecting a foreign language program include opportunities for immersion and teaching.

10 Foreign Language Schools

Foreign language programs are offered at the institutions listed here.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
Middlebury College Middlebury, VT 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $47,828
University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $10,415; Out-of-state $29,665
University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $12,763; Out-of-state $37,471
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4 -year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $46,320
Yale University New Haven, CT 4 -year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $47,600
Indiana University - Bloomington Bloomington, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $10,388; Out-of-state $33,741
Washington State University Pullman, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's In-state $11,967; Out-of-state $25,567
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4 -year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $49,116
Valparaiso University Valparaiso, IN 4 -year, Private Bachelor's $36,160
Columbia University New York, NY 4 -year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate $53,000

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

School Selection Criteria

There are some key things to consider when selecting a foreign language program:

  • Seek out programs that offer courses specifically designed for students hoping to become interpreters or translators.
  • Studying abroad can provide some skills fundamental to obtaining a career in translation and interpretation.
  • When considering master's programs, students may want to look for programs that offer teaching assistant opportunities or even the chance to teach undergraduate classes by themselves.
  • Some schools have both undergraduate and graduate programs in the languages they offer, so it would be preferable to attend one of those instead of transferring schools to continue graduate studies.

Bachelor of Arts

Undergraduate degrees in foreign languages typically have very similar (if not the same) degree tracks from language to language. They are 4-year programs that consist of several years of preparatory courses in which the student learns to speak the language. Some schools require a senior project in order to complete the major, and most offer study abroad options to students.

Master of Arts

Graduate degrees in foreign languages are 2-year programs that are designed to provide a high level of proficiency in the language and increased immersion within the culture being studied. By the end of the program, students should be able to demonstrate significant competence in oral and written work in the language. Coursework typically covers advanced aspects of the language. Teaching assistantships are offered in most programs, and some require a final research project, a master's thesis or a comprehensive examination in order to graduate.

The first step in pursuing a career as a translator or interpreter is determining which language to study as well as which school to attend. Some schools offer extensive foreign language options and opportunities for immersion, while others are limited to a few common foreign languages, like Spanish.

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