Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the program take?
The courses are offered in a prescribed sequence. The program is designed to take 12 to 18 months to complete.
What does the program cost?
The program can cost between $4700 to $5500 depending on whether the student wishes to earn one or all three certificates. There is no payment plan. Costs are spread out by paying for each class at the time of it being offered.
Are there any textbooks required for the Interpreter Program?

Most classes do not require textbooks. Other class materials will be distributed in the classroom.

Any textbook requirements will be posted on the textbook page, and books are available at the Barnes & Noble @ BU bookstore.

Is there placement available for graduates of the program?
We do not offer placement for graduates.
What is the difference between a certificate and certification?

Upon successful completion of the interpreting programs, students will receive a certificate from Boston University identifying that they have met the requirements established by Boston University showing competency in their area(s) of study.

Certification is granted through an outside agency. Boston University is not a certifying agency for any interpreter field. Students in our program may only indicate that they are certified interpreters if they have successfully completed the requirements of a recognized certifying authority, such as the Massachusetts court system.

How can I tell if I am ready for the Interpreter Program?

Students must be able to communicate orally as well as verbally both in English and in Chinese, Portuguese, or Spanish. We look at your writing competencies, both in terms of translation skills, but also grammar and sentence structure.

Stephen Sanford, Certified Interpreter, teaches Interpreting I and Legal Interpreting classes at the Center for Professional Education. He wrote an essay about some of the ways to help improve language skills. Although he wrote it from the perspective of an English/Portuguese speaker, the intent is relevant to any bilingual person who is interested in the field of interpreting. View the article here.

How can I prepare for the required language test?
Our tests allow you to demonstrate your natural ability with your languages, whether that comes from study, immersion, or having been brought up in a multilingual environment. There are no quick-study techniques to prepare for the tests. Skilled interpreters are always working on expanding their knowledge and their vocabulary through a variety of media, such as books, newspapers, radio, and television. Conversations with people from different backgrounds are another way to expand skills.
I am not ready to test for the program, and my English skills need work. What do you recommend?
Boston University’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP) offers courses that may meet your needs. Other options include taking English and literature classes at local community colleges.
Where is the language testing location?
The testing takes place on the Charles River Campus. The exact location is sent out to all students, shortly prior to testing, once all applications and registration fees are submitted.
Once I am accepted, how can I learn more about the program?
We provide a comprehensive orientation on the first day of class. New students are given an overview of the program, sequencing of courses, academic requirements, and other important information.
I am interested in translation. Will the Interpreter Program prepare me to be a translator?
Interpreters are facilitators to the spoken word. They work in a real-time environment, where they must rely on their own resources to accurately convey the message. Translators work with the written word. They are able to finesse the meaning and context of what is written to ensure that the message is not only correct, but conveyed in words that accurately capture the nuances of the original language.
What if you can speak more than two languages?
Students must choose one language track for the program. Through testing, one language usually comes out stronger than the other. If there is no difference between the languages, then you may choose which single track you wish to follow.
Are the classes taught with all the languages together or separate?
We offer each language in its own track. The classes are all bilingual. The Community Interpreting course is the only one in which students are brought together. In that course, the first part of each session focuses on a topic, and each language group separates in the latter part of the class to focus on vocabulary.
What dialects of the different languages are spoken?
All world languages can be subdivided into dialects and creole forms. The Boston University Interpreter Program focuses on the most common and widely understood dialectical form of each language. Interpreters must conform to standardized, international usage and be familiar with dialectical variations commonly encountered in the United States. Therefore, the Chinese section will focus on Mandarin Chinese, the Portuguese section will focus on Brazilian and Peninsular Portuguese, and the Spanish section will focus on Latin American usages. Those students who speak other dialects of these languages (e.g., Cantonese or Cape Verdean) should also be able to speak and understand the most common dialectical form of their language.
Can I skip classes if I've already done interpreting or taken classes elsewhere?
Waiving and skipping courses is not permitted in the Interpreter Program. The program is designed to build on content and skills learned in one class to be used in the next class.
I want to take this program, but I do not live in the United States. Can I get a visa to come to the U.S.?
As with all the programs offered by the Center for Professional Education, the Interpreter Program is non-credit. As such, we cannot sponsor students for our program. Students who need visas must find an alternate sponsor.
How can I learn more about this program?

We invite you to attend one of our Information Sessions, held throughout the year. Information Sessions are a great way to learn more about the program field (including career opportunities). Meet the program director and faculty, hear details about the academic curriculum and certificate requirements, and ask any specific questions you may have.

Can’t make an Information Session? Feel free to contact us.