This paper investigates the interplay between learner variables and perceptions of problems in a tertiary interpreter training programme in China. Seventy-seven students participated in the study. Both quantitative and qualitative approaches were applied. The study sketches out the basic profile of learners’ perceptions of problems and explores the different perceptions of problems in relation to individual learner variables. The findings of the study suggest that learner variables, including gender, major, family background, language self-evaluations, interest, confidence, etc., had an impact on students’ learning of interpreting. It could thus be concluded that special attention should be paid to learner variables and language needs in interpreting classrooms and further research on individual learner variables and specific learning problems is recommended.