Interpreting at the Scottish Parliament

Students from our MSc Translation and Conference Interpreting programme recently had the opportunity to hone their translating and interpreting skills in the professional booths at the Scottish Parliament.  

The students tested their skills using real live parliamentary discussions, similar to those professional interpreters tackle on a daily basis in any multilingual organisation. Students worked together in the professional interpreting booth, practicing various techniques: simultaneous interpreting into French, Spanish, German, Arabic and Chinese, from the live speeches happening below in the debating chamber, and also chuchotage (whispered interpreting, for the benefit of one or two listeners sitting beside the interpreter) into English.  The microphones remained switched off, as is usual practice for dummy booth sessions, and the students' performance was monitored by members of staff who accompanied them in the booths  

These practice sessions at the Scottish Parliament are part of a number of initiatives designed to boost students' employability by allowing them to practice their trade in a real life setting and thus preparing them for the challenges of the professional world.  The students commented: "It was a great hands-on experience! It was really interesting to discover a real professional setting and working-space, and also to see how the parliamentary debates work".  

It was a great hands-on experience!

As well as experience of translating and interpreting in a professional setting, the sessions helped students identify gaps in their learning, and as one student commented "it allowed us to figure out in detail where our strengths and weaknesses lie and we’ll all be working hard in the coming weeks on areas where we need to improve".  

The Department is grateful to both the Scottish Parliament and also to Roberta Bianchini, Office Manager to Colin Keir MSP and graduate of our MA (Hons) Languages (Interpreting & Translating) programme, for their co-operation in organising the sessions.  

Other events  

Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter

As part of Heriot-Watt's strategy to enhance student employability the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies ran an event in February for final year students:  Starting Work As a Translator or Interpreter" (SWATI).  The event saw contributions from EU interpreters, translation and interpreting agencies, in-house and freelance translators, conference interpreters and interpreters working in the public service.  

Multilingual Debate 2012

The annual Multilingual Debate takes place on 22nd March and is a chance for our final year undergraduate students and our MSc Translating & Conference Interpreting students to practice simultaneous interpreting at a live event.  With all microphones on the 450 strong audience, made of school pupils and university students, will be relying on our student interpreters to help them follow the debate in a variety of languages. On top of key languages like Chinese, French, Arabic, German and Spanish, the debate will also be interpreted into British Sign Language, a language that from this September students will be able to study on our new undergraduate British Sign Language (BSL) degree, or as one of their languages on our MA (Hons) Languages (Interpreting and Translating) programme.  The Multilingual Debate also helps highlight to the ways in which languages open doors, and can lead to successful careers in the UK and abroad, and that such language skills can be key at a time when British businesses lose £21 million a year due to lack of language skills (Costing Babel,Cardiff University, 2007)