Interpreting Needs Troublemakers

Author: Jonathan Downie

I was in London on Saturday for a meeting and I got chatting to some fellow interpreters about the ways that research is challenging how we think about and practise interpreting. Here in LINCS, for example, Robyn Dean is arguing for us to fundamentally shift how we think about ethics, Penny Karanasiou is asking tough questions about the role(s) of interpreters in business negotiations and I am beginning to think that experienced clients might have more helpful views of our work than we do!

All this spells trouble. Doing research like this means threatening some of the most cherished ideas of our profession. Who doesn’t like to coddle the comforting thought that we know better than our clients about, well, everything? If you start talking too openly about problems with mainstream interpreting ethics, you remove one of the few firm foundations in our profession. And as for discussing whether interpreters can do more than “just interpret”, it’s probably safer to just leave that well alone!

But the thing is, all the good researchers I know are very bad are just leaving things alone. Safe is not a word we tend to like. In fact, I was accused of enjoying stirring things up on Saturday. Me? As if!

All joking aside, I do really think that challenging preconceived ideas is exactly what our profession needs. If we discover flaws in our practice or training or in the way we sell our work then of course, it must be confronted. This is where research is at its best. When researchers get their hands dirty and ask difficult questions, sparks begin to fly.

Take Robyn’s work in interpreter training. Rather than just sit back and criticise, she actively trains interpreters to apply the case conferencing techniques used by doctors. I know of many other researchers who do groundbreaking research and then take the brave step of presenting it to professionals so they can apply it.

If interpreting is to thrive in today’s high-tech, always-on world, we need to be able to adjust. This doesn’t just mean adopting some new technology or learning to be fashionable. It means asking the though questions about what we need to change in our practice to meet our clients’ real needs and growing expectations.

Is it scary? Yes! Is it necessary? You bet. But that’s why I do research: to do work that can benefit the wider world. Maybe it’s time we all did the same.

LifeinLINCS up for Three International Awards

Authors: Bernadette O’Rourke, Jemina Napier, Graham Turner, Jonathan Downie

It is great to see that, despite a recent hiatus, readers of LifeinLINCS really appreciate the blog. In fact, it seems like you appreciate the blog so much, you think it should receive awards. Thank you so much for nominating LifeinLINCS for three Community Choice awards.


Both the nominations and votes for these awards come from members of, the world’s largest community of professional translators and interpreters. While the site is not without its controversies, it still brings together over 700,000 translators and interpreters from across the globe.


It is therefore an incredible honour for LifeinLINCS to be nominated for the award for best blog in the “Interpretation-Related” section. This puts us up against such staples as The Interpreter Diaries, Unprofessional Translation and blogs from big associations like AIIC and NAJIT.


Two LifeinLINCS posts are also up for awards. Why Language Learning Will Not Reduce Interpreting Costs is up for best Interpretation-Related article and Inventions for Freelancers part 2 is up for Best Interpretation-Related blog post. In both cases, there is real competition from professionals and academics, which goes to show that high quality content on interpreting is never far away.


As if that wasn’t enough, Jemina Napier, one of the editors of LifeinLINCS is up for Best interpreting Conference Speaker and Jonathan Downie, one of our regular contributors, has received a nomination for Best Translation-related Training Course for his Webinar: Getting the Most out of Research in Translation and Interpreting.


We would like to thank everyone that nominated us and remind our readers that details of voting can be found on the relevant page on Voting closes September 22nd.

Inventions for Freelancers part 2

Author: Jonathan Downie

Part 2: Interpreters

Last week, we offered a list of 4 inventions that every translator needs. This week, it is the time of interpreters to benefit from the march of technology. True, some of these would be more useful to the friends and families of interpreters than the interpreters themselves but nevertheless, all of them would bring a positive benefit to the world.

1)    Auto-mute

Hang around an interpreter for a while and you will realise that there is a reason they are paid to talk – they are very good at it! This is all well and good but their constant need to show that the can talk and listen at the same time can mean that they wear down those nearest to them. With auto-mute, this problem would be alleviated. All friends or family members would need to do is select the level of conversation they require ranging from “fewer words than a translator at a party” to “louder than a hyper-active toddler”. Anything over the level selected would be automatically screened out and/or stored for later.

2)    Joke Predictor

Ever struggled to interpret a speaker’s poor attempt at humour? Joke predictor would make this easier by spotting this horrible situation in advance and offering you a list of equally unfunny versions in your target language of choice. For a small extra fee, it could be adjusted to see in advance when the speaker is going to make an awful pun and then spend the entire speech dragging every last milligram of humour out of it.

3)    Silent Air-Con

Sweaty booth or loud deep freeze, which do you prefer? Silent Air-Con would make uncomfortable booths a thing of the past by actually keeping the temperature at a reasonable level. Say goodbye to unsightly sweat marks for ever!

4)     Rambler Swatter

No, this wouldn’t hit people who wander through the countryside. Instead, it would detect people whose talks are going to go on for ages without a point or worse, people who say they want to ask a question and proceed to start gibbering from a thick wad of tightly written notes without a question mark in sight. The answer: a swift whack.

It’s one invention that all interpreters, from the courtroom to the board room will love to use. Warning: using this invention may curtail your career.

5)    Accu-Brief

Are you tired of being told a meeting “won’t be technical” only to be confronted with a bunch of white-coated scientists discussing the finer points of bacteriology? What about suddenly realising that it wasn’t a good idea to wear a suit to that mud analysis job? With Accu-Brief, you can wave all of that goodbye. Now, you can be sure that the briefs you get for each job will tell you all the things you need to know and none of the things you don’t. Plus, for the first time, you will receive agendas that won’t change at the last minute!

Once again, over to you.

Not just about Languages

Author: Katerina Strani

The Intercultural Research Centre (IRC), established within LINCS, proves that we are not just about Languages. Led by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, the IRC makes original contributions to the study of interculturality with particular reference to dimensions of living culture in European societies. “Culture” is defined broadly in anthropological terms.

Among the numerous activities of the Centre, IRC members also participate in the International Doctoral Training Workshop “Transformations in European Societies” – a joint project of cultural studies and social anthropology departments at the universities of Basel, Heriot-Watt, Graz, Copenhagen, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Murcia and Tel Aviv.

The first working meeting was hosted by Heriot-Watt and took place in Edinburgh in October-November 2013. A 1-minute summary of the workshop can be found here.

The second working meeting took place on 20-22 March 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. PhD students from participating universities presented their work in progress on topics such as constructing national identity, multi-sited biographies, cultural protest and urban mythography. There were also workshops on fieldwork and how to write a conference panel proposal.

The workshop on Fieldwork was of particular interest to those not entirely familiar with ethnographic methods. During this workshop, Professors and PhD students worked together in teams, analysing field notes and discussing relevant theories before presenting findings to the entire group. We got the chance to see how anthropologists actually work with field notes, as well as the theoretical frameworks that may underpin seemingly unimportant field notes and remarks.

The workshop on How to Write a Conference Panel Proposal used panel proposals from workshop participants as examples and included “live” editing with the participation of the entire group.

A walking tour of Basel through the eyes of urban anthropologists as well as a tour of the new Ethnographic Museum of Cultures also contributed to the understanding of anthropology as a multi-faceted discipline.

The next meeting is in Tel Aviv in September 2014. For more information on the International Doctoral Programme, please visit:


Inventions For Freelancers pt. 1

Part 1: Translators

With CAT tools, terminology software and corpus-building, one could think that translators had all the productivity enhancements they needed. One would be wrong! In this post, we will sketch out some of the inventions that are most needed in the sector. We take no responsibility for the outcome of anyone actually manufacturing any of these!

1)    Dayjamas

Almost every translator has had the embarrassment of answering the door to the postman while still dressed in flannel or a cotton onesie. Dayjamas would be the solution to this. Made to look exactly like day clothes, Dayjamas would give people the impression that we aren’t the kind of people who shower only once the job is off to the PM. All we would have to do know is explain to the neighbours why there was still light coming from the living room at 3am last night.

2)    Desktop Tanning Lamp

While it is absolutely not true that translators melt in contact with sunlight, long hours in front of the computer can impart that pasty look. With desktop tanning lamps, fitted snugly on top of your monitor, you could get achieve a perfect tan while chipping away at that 10,000 word job on egg packing machinery. All we would need then would be one that can tan the rest of the body through clothes.

3)    Online coffee

One of the rare reasons to leave a computer during a job is to fill up our three gallon coffee or tea mugs. This loses precious time that could easily be used in terminology work or shouting at your crashing CAT software. Online coffee would sort this out. Simply submit your favourite drink onto a website and configure your delivery as you wish. Even better, buy a cup with an integral sensor so that coffee miraculously appears at your door just as you are downing the last drop. Sure, all that might cause us to get the caffeine shakes but the extra work would be so worth it!

4)    360 degree networking headset

Going to networking events is wonderful. It does, however, mean going through the tedious process of picking clothes, ironing them, hunting down business cards and using public transport. With the 360 degree networking headset, we could go to events without leaving our rooms. Better yet, they would allow us to create avatars that look any way we wish. As far as anyone else knows, there is no reason why we don’t all look like like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. Why shatter the illusion?

So, what do you think of these? What do you think we need to invent?

IPCITI 2014 Call For Papers

Author: IPCITI Organising Team


10th Anniversary – International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting


Intersect, Innovate, Interact

New Directions in Translation and Interpreting Studies


29-31 October 2014


The IPCITI Conference is the result of a long-term collaboration between Dublin City University, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Manchester. IPCITI is designed to provide new researchers from all areas of translation and interpreting studies with the opportunity to share their research with peers in a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment. This year’s conference will engage with existing and new perspectives and interactions within and beyond Translation and Interpreting studies that are shaping the future of the discipline.Following the success of the 9th IPCITI conference held at Heriot-Watt University, the University of Manchester is pleased to host the 10th anniversary conference which will take place from 29-31 October 2014.




We particularly welcome abstracts which address (but need not be limited to) the following topics:




In line with Maria Tymoczko’s theorisation of translation as a ‘cluster concept’, it can be argued that Translation and Interpreting Studies is a discipline formed at the intersections, namely through its interplay with other subject areas. We are interested in the ever-evolving dialogical relationship between T&I Studies and:


  • Intercultural Studies
  • Sociology and Politics
  • Media and Visual Studies
  • Science and Technology
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies





With the explosion of social media since the inception of the IPCITI enterprise, it is vital to examine how new media and new technologies influence both how we interpret and translate on a practical level, and how we think about interpreting and translation on a conceptual level. We would like to consider how the discipline engages with:


  • New media and technologies
  • New theoretical frameworks
  • New methodological approaches
  • New challenges






Increasingly globalised, technology-driven societies are witnessing the emergence of new modes of translating and interpreting and, in parallel with this, an enlarged conception of who we consider as being translators and interpreters. Understanding the ways in which existing and emerging communities of translators and interpreters interact with one another (as well as with those who theorise on their activities) is crucial for the future of T&I studies. At the conference we would like to discuss the different modes of interaction between:




•Professional translators/ interpreters and volunteers (including activists, fansubbers, etc.)

•Academics and translators/interpreters

•The translator/interpreter and the ‘self’ (i.e. the growing acknowledgment of the role that the translator’s/interpreter’s own subjectivity plays in these forms of interlingual and intercultural mediation)






Keynote Speakers           Prof. Barbara Moser-Mercer (Université de Genève)


Dr. Sue-Ann Harding (Hamad Bin Khalifa University)



Workshop Leaders          Dr. Rebecca Tipton (University of Manchester)


Dr. Gabriela Saldanha (University of Birmingham)






IPCITI 2014 welcomes abstracts for paper and poster presentations:


  • Papers are allotted 20-minute slots to be followed by 10 minutes of discussion (total 30 minutes each presenter).
  • Poster presenters will be required to explain their research in a more informal setting to small groups during our dedicated poster session.



Both paper and poster abstracts should be submitted in English and should not exceed 300 words.


Abstracts should include:


  • The presenter’s name
  • The presenter’s affiliation
  • The presenter’s academic status and current year of study
  • Title for the paper/poster to be presented
  • Three keywords that best encapsulate the content of the paper/poster to be presented
  • An indication of the theoretical framework and/or research methodology employed or to be employed
  • A brief summary of outcomes or pursued outcomes



Please submit your abstract to:





Abstract submission deadline: Wednesday 30 April 2014


Notification of acceptance: Friday 4 July 2014


Registration deadline: Friday 26 September 2014


Information and Contact Details

Enquiries concerning the conference should be directed to:

Information on the University of Manchester:

General information on Manchester can be found at:

Further information concerning accommodation and directions to the conference venue will be available shortly at:


Why Language Learning Will Not Reduce Interpreting Costs

This morning, I read that Leeds council want to slash interpreting costs by using children to interpret. Aside from the huge problems with this proposal and the lack of contextualisation of the figures involved (£127,000 in six months might be small compared to other costs like council branding, consultant hire, dog mess cleanup or even website design), what stood out most were the comments.

In general, the logic went like this

If people would learn English, we wouldn’t need to supply interpreting.

It sounds so convincing. We need to provide interpreting because people don’t speak English (oh and because it is a European law) so if people did speak English, we wouldn’t need interpreting. Problem solved.

Such a pity that won’t work, at least not for a long time. The truth is that “speaking a language” can mean thousands of different things. At the moment, I can claim I “speak” German – within strict limits, but I can speak it. I have spent two years learning it and can have a conversation and even write a letter or an email but you bet I would need an interpreter for the doctor’s office or a court.

I also “speak” French. In fact, I have been “speaking French” since I was 8. I have interpreted at high-level conferences and can read and understand everything from contracts to research papers. I have a degree in the language and an MSc in French-English Conference Interpreting and Translation. In fact, you might even want to call me nearly bilingual.

Still, drop me in a court and you bet I would want an interpreter. My legal French is good but not good enough to risk my freedom or someone else’s freedom for. The stakes would be just too high. I have not studied and used enough legal French to be completely aware of what the lawyers were attempting to get at with their questions.

In other words, language ability is not a single skill, good for all areas of life. It is perfectly normal, for someone to have excellent conversational skills in a language and yet struggle to transact business or talk to someone about their government benefits. Even after years in a country, it is very likely that even people who have “learned the language” might need help in certain key places, coincidentally, the same places where interpreting is needed the most now.

Learning a language to any level takes time and during this time, interpreting is required. It is a massive oversimplification to think that language classes will mean interpreting is not necessary.

All this has assumed that we are dealing with new arrivals to a country. What about Deaf people? Their need for interpreting will be ongoing.

So what do we do to save money? Simple: get a good system, don’t waste time and pay professional interpreters a professional rate. Getting things right first time will always cost less than having to clear up after a mess.

Author: Jonathan Downie

Whose Job is it to make you a translator?

It’s a common complaint. A number of students graduate from translation and interpreting courses only to find, to their horror, that their courses have prepared them for the technical and linguistic aspects of translation and interpreting but have not assured their career success. Outside of the feathered nest of a university program, they find, to their horror that clients are not clamouring to work them and (shock!) they must find ways to get clients themselves.

It is very easy to blame the universities for this. It might seem perfectly reasonable for students to think that, if they are paying for a translation degree, that their degree will make them translators. It will not.

The truth is that, even in four year degrees, there simply isn’t time to give students all the skills they will need to establish their career in translation or interpreting. Besides language skills, research ability and flexibility, freelancers need to understand and use marketing, negotiation, pricing, accounting, networking, presentation skills, writing, and much more besides. Many of these will even be used differently in different sectors of the same industry.

It’s is unfair to expect students to emerge from any degree as a complete freelancer, ready to face the world. The reality is that they have much more learning to do, even after getting their first job or first project.

This, of course, does not entirely exonerate universities from any responsibilities. There are good reasons why students should expect that their degrees will at least introduce them to market realities and that their course will have some sort of connection to the world they will enter when they graduate.

Hence why Heriot-Watt University, like many in the UK, is pleased to hold (in partnership with ITI) Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter events every year for final year and masters students. At such events, students can get vital introductions to freelancing, and even staff work. Rather than filling in gaps that “should” be in the degree, such events show that it is possible for academia and the market to cooperate in making sure that students are ready for their next stage of learning.

The key to all this is partnership. In most countries, even the biggest professional associations have neither the time nor the expertise to create the infrastructure for providing full training for hundreds of students every year. Universities do. They also find it much easier to accept the inevitable fact that not all students trained as translators or interpreters will ever find their way into these professions.

On the other hand, universities, due to resource restrictions, are not able to provide the kind of career-long support to professionals that their associations are increasingly offering. In fact, such support is, quite correctly, normally not within their remit.

The point is that no one becomes a translator or interpreter simply by getting a degree. It takes time, perseverance and, crucially, a decision to take part in your local (or not so local) professional community. All of this takes places as students and new professionals learn to apply their university training to real-life realities and to make decisions on further training. We are trained in the classroom but become professionals at the wordface.

Around the World in several Films: “Round up the Unusual Suspects!”

Author: Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram

As the dust settles on the febrile buzz surrounding the Oscars, it becomes possible to take a step back, delink cinema from this veneer of glitz and glamour and reframe it through a broader global cinematic filter. The last couple of years, in particular, have conjured an eclectic and heady mix of films, from often unexpected places on the planet. As my PhD research straddles the realms of film studies, World cinema and film philosophy, I reckoned this may be a propitious moment to round up the ‘not so usual’ cinematic suspects. Let us cast a glance at films that provide us with vibrant, colourful, uplifting and occasionally disturbing glimpses of other nations, cultures and people.

Wadjda, is the first Saudi Arabian film made by a female director, and also the first filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia. This film is essential viewing, if only to afford the wider world a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Saudi citizens, particularly women and children. The title character – 10 year old Wadjda is a revelation and her honest, impish performance is at once charming and captivating.

Paulo Sorrentino’s tribute to Rome, The Great Beauty is a whimsical masterpiece, as evocative as anything Federico Fellini has created. France’s powerhouse credentials in art cinema were reinforced with Blue is the Warmest Colour and Stranger by The Lake. Both films shimmered and rippled in their representations of lesbian and gay relationships, whilst Apres Mai’s (Something in the Air) palpable rendition of the 1970s radical student movement was heightened by its impeccable aesthetic.

Director Anand Gandhi’s poetic and philosophical Indian masterpiece Ship of Theseus used the modes of hyperlink cinema along with bustling Mumbai cityscapes, to entwine three disparate narratives- a blind photographer, a rebellious monk with liver cirrhosis and an improbable good Samaritan on a quest to retrace a stolen human kidney.

Last year saw the release of two outstanding biopics. Legendary auteur Andrzej Wajda’s Walesa: Man of Hope about the Lech Wałęsa led solidarity movement in Poland, and Margarethe von Trotta’s film, Hannah Arendt about the eponymous German philosopher’s brush with the banality of evil.
Alternately labelled dormant or moribund, American independent cinema received a boost in the form of Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene; a brooding and disturbing immersion into America’s penchant for obscure cults.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling exposé on Indonesian death squad leaders in darkly disconcerting ‘The Act of Killing’ is an example of innovative narrative approaches to the theme of genocide.

British cinema had its own coruscating examples, with Ken Loach’s hysterically funny and quintessentially Scottish, The Angel’s Share, and the powerful, documentary retrospective, The Spirit of ‘45 – a paean to the post-1945 Labour welfare state. Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, was an inspired reworking of the Oscar Wilde tale and Philomena, a powerfully understated narrative continuation of Peter Mullan’s monumental The Magdalene Sisters.

Chilean film ‘No’ starring Gael Garcia Bernal of The Motorcycle Diaries fame, was a politically charged, irony-tinged exposition, about dictator Pinochet’s absolute power and a ‘Yes/No’ referendum poised to determine the birth of a new nation- themes that will no doubt find resonance in several other quarters of the world!

All in all, being a part of Heriot-Watt University’s department of Languages and Intercultural Studies, it is especially wonderful to witness this general glut of global films colouring the spectrum of transcultural cinematic exchanges and informing our perceptions of a constantly changing world.

The global village and the information superhighway have often been credited with enmeshing cultures and people and bringing the world closer together. In my view, cinema is doing the same job…and arguably in far more enjoyable fashion!