Bridging the Gap 5: Academics and community engagement

by Annelies Kusters, Jordan Fenlon and Jemina Napier

 

In the weekend of 25-26 November 2017, the fifth Bridging the Gap (BtG) conference was hosted at Heriot-Watt University. The aim of this conference series is to work towards bridging two gaps: first, the gap between academics (involved in Deaf Studies and sign language research) and deaf community members; and second, the gap between deaf and hearing academics within these fields. While the second gap triggered the organisation of the first BtG conference in 2014, the fifth iteration of the conference mostly focused on the gap between community members and academics. It was the first time that BtG lasted two days rather than one, and it attracted 120 participants: community members and academics hailing from all over the UK, the largest audience so far. The conference was heavily discussed on social media, particularly on Twitter (see #BTG5). The core organising committee consisted of Jemina Napier, Jordan Fenlon and Annelies Kusters, and others who have worked with us to plan the conference included Steve Emery, Dai O’Brien, Heather Mole and Emmy Kauling, and a number of student volunteers.

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Annelies, Jemina and Jordan.

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The conference started off with an introduction by Nicola Nunn, who organised the first BtG conference in Preston. She introduced the BtG series, emphasising that she was very happy to see that the conference was not an one-off and is now an established one in the British deaf conference landscape.

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After Nicola, Jemina Napier took the stage to give the audience an impression of the kind of research and community work we are doing here at Heriot-Watt, where the BSL section has recently exponentially grown.

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After opening the conference in this way, Hillary Third (Equality Unit, Scottish Government) and Frankie McLean (Deaf Action) gave a keynote presentation focusing on the implementation of the BSL (Scotland) Act. Hillary and Frankie explained that the aim of the Act is to make “Scotland the best place in the world for BSL users to live, work and visit”. The BSL National Plan for 2017-2023 contains 10 long-term goals and 70 actions in the next 3 years (covering early years and education training and work; health; culture and the arts; transport; justice and democracy) and a further set of actions will be published in 2020.

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The Plan was constituted after extensive consultation: the National Advisory Group (NAG) has been successful in engaging large numbers of Scottish deaf people in the BSL Act. Not only was the NAG a great input for the Scottish Government, it also served as an instrument of empowerment. Several feeder NAGs such as a parent and youth NAG had input into the general NAG. An inspiring video was shown of 2 deaf teenagers who were involved in the youth NAG, talking about the valuable experience of being involved, since they “are the future”. The Act is a great example of working with and for a deaf community in order to create better life conditions for deaf people. This opening session was livestreamed (https://www.facebook.com/HWUBSL/).

When we were planning BtG5, we already knew during our first meeting that we didn’t want to organise a “typical” conference consisting of presentations to disseminate research findings. Indeed we thought that if we really wanted to work towards bridging a gap, we would need an interactive format, designed in order for people to be able to express a range of thoughts on the “gap” under discussion. So the three sessions that followed the keynote presentation were interactive.

The first interactive session was based on the TV programme Dragon’s Den, where entrepreneurs could pitch an idea for a panel of venture capitalists who would decide if they would fund the particular project or not. Jordan Fenlon facilitated this session at BTG5, asking: “what would you do if you had £2 million for a research project?”

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The aim of this panel was for academics to learn about what kind of research deaf people find important and for the audience to get insight in the kind of thinking that’s involved in crafting a research proposal. Panelists for example pointed out the need to use buzzwords such as Thomas Lichy’s use of the word “hate crime”. They also pointed out that sometimes similar or related research has already happened (the dementia proposal); or that an idea (the deprivation project) had been previously pitched but not in a successful way. They said that a project such as the BSL corpus project would preserve old signs and regional variations, but a funder would require it to contribute to new academic theory, which is often a big challenge in applied projects. The idea that won the audience vote was Audrey Cameron’s: she suggested to work with Science Centres to give science teaching tessions to deaf children in BSL, and study how we think about science in sign language: a wonderful combination of doing exciting research in combination with direct benefits for deaf children.

A few academics and community activists/representatives came forward to pitch an idea that they had prepared in advance – the range of ideas covered:

BSL deprivation of deaf children (Tom Lichy)

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A Scottish BSL corpus project (Gary Quinn)

The Deaflympics 55 dB cut-off (Philip Gerrard)

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Sign language use in deaf people with dementia (Avril Hepner)

Mouthing in BSL (Adam Schembri)

The impact of isolation on mental health (Herbert Klein)

And science learning in BSL (Audrey Cameron)

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The panel consisted of academics and community representatives: Bencie Woll, Terry Riley, Graham Turner, Gordon Hay and Emma Ferguson-Coleman.

The second interactive session was called “Heriot Watt goes to Hollywood”, facilitated by Annelies Kusters and Gary Quinn, in which 6 short films were showed that were created by Heriot-Watt BSL section staff, PhD students, postdocs, BSL students and community members. The issues included: deaf people not learning about research findings after a project is concluded; having to sign epic consent forms in English; working with interpreters during research projects; the fact that participants often don’t want to admit when they need more clarificaton from academics; deaf people not knowing about Deaf Studies concepts but hearing interpreter students do, which can intimidate deaf people; deaf academics “leaving the community behind” to give presentations at international conferences and publish books. With the films, we tried to tackle issues in a humorous albeit serious way.

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The Hollywood session led to lively discussions, and during the next session on the next day, a manifesto workshop was facilitated by Dai O’Brien, Jordan Fenlon and Annelies Kusters, in order to address the same issues with the aim of taking action in the shape of a manifesto. Everyone got involved, the discussions were recorded, and Dai, Jordan and Annelies will take this forward. They will summarise the videos and use the summary to create a first rough draft of the manifesto which will then be presented and further discussed during the next BtG conference.

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Some issues that were discussed during the Hollywood and manifesto sessions included: how are research findings made accessible and attractive for community members? In the case of participants who directly contributed to a research project, it is important to ask how they want access to the findings, eg. some might want a summary in BSL and others might want the full article in English. In case of the broader community there are a number of options. Who wants to watch a two hour signed report on academic topics? Other options include short signed summaries, documentary films, interactive websites and texts in plain English. It is important to make research meaningful and interesting, and that also often means that reports should be kept short. When giving live presentations, it’s important to consider where the event is hosted: a relaxing/safe space such as a trusted deaf club with a pint in the hand, or pizza in a chilled out place, fosters a very different kind of atmosphere than an university auditorium. An issue that surfaced multiple times during the conference is that researchers are increasingly proactive in trying to make their research accessible in BSL but members of the deaf community might not know the BSL report exists (such as the earlier mentioned dementia project). So, how can people learn what research is happening and where, and where can they find it? The clever use of hashtags and Facebook groups is one means but it was also suggested that a centralised website with a “research map” would be helpful.

It is not clear yet where the 2018 iteration of BtG will be organised. We hope that during the next BtG conference, we can discuss actual examples of “good practice” in research and community involvement and impact, and how these might inform the BtG Manifesto.

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IPCITI returns to Heriot-Watt after 4 years!

by Paola Ruffo

The Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt hosted the 13th International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting (IPCITI), 9-10 November 2017

IPCITI is an annual postgraduate conference organised by students for students and it marks the consolidation of the collaboration between Dublin City University, Manchester University, the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. Its main aims are to promote greater participation in Translation and Interpreting research and foster a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment where research and academia can be accessible in real terms.

This year, the IPCITI 2017 Organising Committee (Jafar Ahmad, Nga-Ki Mavis Ho, Lorraine MacDonald, Michael Richardson and Paola Ruffo) has worked hard to welcome delegates from all over the world to Heriot-Watt and create a diverse and enriching programme, which included meaningful contributions across all areas of Translation and Interpreting Studies.

The conference started with a workshop by Mr Ramon Inglada (CTISS, Heriot-Watt University) on ’CAT Tools: welcome to the cloud-based (r)evolution’ followed by Dr Ana-Frankenberg Garcia’s (University of Surrey)  keynote on ‘The use of corpora in translation research’. Day two saw Interpreting research and practice join forces to discuss ‘Interpreting theory and practice in dialogue’ with a panel formed by Prof Graham Turner (CTISS, Heriot-Watt University), Prof Claudia Angelelli (CTISS, Heriot-Watt University), Mr Martin Gallagher (Police Scotland) and Ms Delphine Jaouen (NHS Scotland).

A variety of topics has been discussed by our international presenters over the course of these two days, covering diverse areas of T&I Studies such as translation and interpreting technologies, literary translation, interpreters’ training, British Sign Language interpreting, risk in translation, and news translation in relation to ideology and human rights.

To quote our Head of School, Prof Robert MacIntosh, who opened the conference: “We have a long heritage of Translation and Interpreting of which we are very proud” – this year’s successful and high-quality IPCITI drove that point home again.

You can follow The International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting on twitter (@ipciti) and on the dedicated website www.ipciti.org.uk.

See you in Manchester for IPCITI 2018!

 

MacFarlane Prize 2017 for Dr Emma Hill !

LINCS and IRC graduate Dr Emma Hill has won the prestigious 2017 MacFarlane Prize for the most outstanding contribution to the research of the University.

Emma (pictured here with her supervisors, Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith and Dr Katerina Strani), is the first ever recipient of the prize from any department in the School of Social Sciences.

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She was presented with the award at Heriot-Watt University’s graduation ceremony on 15 November 2017. Professor Garry Pender, Deputy Principal for Research and Innovation, reading her citation, said:

Dr Emma Hill’s thesis “Somali voices in Glasgow: Who speaks? Who listens?” makes an outstanding contribution to knowledge in the ethnographic study of refugees in society. It focuses on the concept of ‘voice’ and researches the multiple ‘voices’ of Somali communities in Glasgow. Her work makes a range of original contributions – from the social scientific fieldwork descriptions of a community during a period of political upheaval in Scotland to the care in presenting, questioning and decolonising the concept of ‘voice’.

Throughout her time in Heriot-Watt, Emma has been an active member of the Intercultural Research Centre. She worked as a research assistant on the EU-funded RADAR (Regulating Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Racism) Project led by Dr Katerina Strani. She has presented her work at conferences in Athens, Montreal and Copenhagen. Emma is also an alumna of the Transformations Network, a doctoral network affiliated to Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich. Her published work has been ranked externally as world-class.

Throughout her PhD, Emma complemented her academic focus with participatory research. She volunteered at community events, provided careers advice and guidance to young Somali adults. As an intern with the Scottish Government during her PhD studies, she worked to develop links between government and Somali groups. Emma’s research has had public impact, achieved through an exhibition of its findings at a Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities event. This has since gained interest from Glasgow Life.

Emma was co-supervised by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith and Dr Katerina Strani, both members of the recently-established cultural studies section in LINCS. Emma has already taken up a research position at the University of Edinburgh. She is highly deserving of this award for an exceptional piece of work that presents the voice of one of the most marginalized groups in Scotland today.

The MacFarlane Prize commemorates the contribution to the University made by Professor A G J MacFarlane during his tenure as Principal and Vice-Chancellor. The Prize of £250 is presented annually to the PhD graduate who, in the opinion of the Awards Panel, has made the most outstanding contribution to the research of the University.

Congratulations Dr Emma Hill !!!!

LINCS interpreters at the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

by Josemari Conde and Ramon Inglada

As the curtain falls on the 2017 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival (ESFF), it is time to look back at 10 days of great films, fine Spanish food and interesting Q&A sessions with actors, directors and producers.

It is also a good time to celebrate yet another successful collaboration between the ESFF and LINCS. Our interpreters have participated in several festival screenings and have played an important role in enabling communication among everyone attending the festival, regardless of their language skills.

At LINCS we are extremely proud of this cooperation and we hope to be part of the festival again in 2018!

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LINCS collaboration with the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

by José María Conde and Ramón Inglada

The 2017 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival (ESFF) starts on Thursday October 5th and will run in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling until October 31st. This is the 4th edition of the festival and LINCS is collaborating with the ESFF once more, this time as a ‘Major Sponsor’:

http://www.edinburghspanishfilmfestival.com/sponsors/

This is a contribution with the best we can offer from our school: interpreters. Three of our interpreting students will be volunteer interpreters in several presentations and Q&A sessions with Spanish speaking filmmakers. More details are available in the website below:

https://www.edinburghspanishfilmfestival.com/en/festival/2017/

Two staff members in LINCS, José María Conde and Ramón Inglada, are coordinating this collaboration, hoping that it will continue for many more future editions of the festival.

We encourage you to attend some of the screenings and enjoy the festival!

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Celebrate International Translation Day 2017 with us

International Translation Day is celebrated every year on the 30th of September, the day of the feast of St Jerome, who was a Bible translator and is considered today as the patron saint of translators. LINCS is celebrating this important day with an event focused on 21st century translators and translation research. There will be talks by Prof Graham Turner, Dr Marion Winters, Paola Ruffo, Ramon Inglada and David Miralles Perez.

The event will take place on Wednesday 4th October 17:30 – 20:00 and is open to the public. Join us in celebrating International Translation Day in LINCS! #ITD2017

Sign up here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/international-translation-day-event-tickets-37836589257 

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https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/international-translation-day-event-tickets-37836589257 

Congress of the International Federation of Translators & Interpreters, Brisbane, Australia, August 2017

by Jemina Napier

 <Click here to see the blog post in International Sign>

 Recently I went to Australia as I had been invited as a keynote speaker at the International Federation of Translators & Interpreters (FIT) world congress in Brisbane. This was a historic moment at the FIT congress, as it was the first time they had experienced a keynote presentation on the topic of sign language interpreting. The fact that I chose to deliver the keynote address in Auslan (Australian Sign Language) also made a greater impact on the audience as I discussed the importance of recognizing signed languages as real languages on a par with spoken languages. Through my presentation I dispelled various myths about signed languages and confirmed for many reasons why signed languages should be considered as equal to spoken languages.

The congress was attended by over 800 delegates from all over the world representing a vast array of spoken languages, and the delegation was made up of translator and interpreter practitioners, educators and researchers. There were also approximately 20-30 (deaf & hearing) Auslan/English interpreter members of the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA) present at the conference.

At the end of the congress, each of the keynote speakers was asked to summarise their experience of the conference and present any key highlights or themes we felt that were worthy of note. I noticed one theme that was embedded within, and pervaded all, the presentations that I saw throughout the conference. This was the theme of ‘power’. For example, in one presentation about the Australian Aboriginal Interpreting Service, the importance of family connections was discussed and how hard it can be to navigate interpreted interaction when your interpreter is a family member, and the potential disempowerment Aboriginal Australians may experience when family members also have to interpret for them. Power dynamics were explored in relation to medical interpreting, and how interpreters’ decision-making can impact on the rapport between doctors and patients. Similarly, interpreters are in a powerful position in police interpreting, when their interpreting decisions can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

As I have already mentioned, in my own keynote address I discussed various issues in relation to signed languages, and it occurred to me that the theme of power was also evident in my own presentation – in the fact that I chose to present in Auslan. I could make that choice. This is about power of language choice. Many of the (spoken and signed language) users that translators and interpreters work with do not have that choice, therefore they do not have that same level of power. As a hearing person, I am in an immensely privileged position to be able to make that language choice: to choose one day to present in Auslan, and the next day I could present in spoken English. My language choice can also be determined by who the interpreter might be that is interpreting for me from Auslan into English, and whether I feel comfortable with them ‘being my voice’ or whether I would rather speak for myself. Many of my deaf friends and colleagues don’t have that choice. They don’t have the power that I have.

This issue links with a previous research project I have been involved in – the Translating the Deaf Self project – which examined whether deaf people feel that they are ‘known’ by hearing people through translation, i.e., do they feel represented by interpreters. Many of the deaf participants in our study reported that they felt that they have little choice when it comes to working with interpreters, and face challenges and barriers to feeling like they are adequately represented. (A full copy of the research report is available if you would like more detail: email j.napier@hw.ac.uk).

So this experience has made me further reflect on my position: who I am; and how important it is to acknowledge one’s positionality as a researcher (see Young & Temple, 2014; Napier & Leeson, 2016; Kusters et al, 2017). I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the FIT Congress as a result of my international profile as a sign language interpreting researcher. But ultimately I was a hearing person talking about signed languages. I chose to present in sign language, and the fact that I did that did make an impact on the FIT congress audience, as it brought into evidence – ‘made real’ – many of the issues I was talking about. But we need to see more opportunities for deaf people to talk about their language and their experiences as deaf sign language users.

I thoroughly enjoyed the FIT Congress. It was a wonderful experience, and I felt very honoured to have been invited. It was an important event for FIT in having the first keynote about sign language and sign language interpreting, so I recognise and respect that. But at the same time, my attendance and presentation at that congress has made me think about my work; my language choices; my power. So I decided to write this blog to acknowledge more widely that I recognise this privilege; this power. It’s made me think about my future attendance at conferences; my language choices; who I want to have an impact on through my presentations; and whether deaf people are involved. This is something that I felt important to share through this blogpost.

 

Moving Languages Newsletter – Summer 2017

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by Katerina Strani

This newsletter is also available in Finnish, Italian and Swedish.

Moving Languages is an Erasmus+ international project with partners in 6 EU countries. In this project, we are developing a mobile application for refugees, migrants and other language learners who have just arrived in their new country in Europe and want to learn English, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, or Finnish. We understand that people coming to Europe speak different languages and have different backgrounds and cultures. That is why we are offering translations in over 20 languages in our mobile application, as well as dedicated, localised “Culture” categories. We hope that this application will help the users learn the new language and key cultural concepts in their host countries. Designed to cater to different levels of linguistic competence, the Moving Languages application will also be useful for people who have already been living and working in their new home country for some time.

The content of the mobile application covers topics that are important during the first steps of living in the host country, with over 6,000 study items and over 3,000 illustrations for easy concept recognition. The categories include basic words as well as more specialised vocabulary related to studies, employment, healthcare, legal and administration issues and others.

The Moving Languages application will be available for download for free from all major app stores from June 2018.

Our project reports

O1 Report on immigrants, native languages and needs analysis for the applications

The partners conducted desk research about immigration in their own country. Needs analysis was conducted to get more information from stakeholders on what they would find relevant in a new language app. Based on this research, we selected the languages into which the Moving Languages application would be translated.

O2 Report on the mobile language solutions

The partners researched the availability of language apps in their countries. The collective report is a summary of what is available, the content and the cost of the language applications for Android and iOS. Based on this research, we have selected the most relevant exercise types, language content and game flow for our mobile app.

Mobile application development

We are already prototyping the app for both Android and iOs phones. You can find the details of the mobile application development on our project website, in the news section.

Project meetings

We have already had 3 project meetings: in Helsinki, Palermo and Malmö. You can read
more about them on our website in the news section.

Next steps

The next important stage of the app development is working on the Audio materials. The audio will be recorded by native speakers of each language in the project partner countries.

If you are interested in the project and would like to receive updates about our mobile application, check out our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter

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This is an Erasmus+ international project

LINCS hosts mega-conference on Innovations in Deaf Studies

by Annelies Kusters

 

In late 2016, I got the idea to organise a small (!) book launch when I realised that I could gather at least five of the authors of “Innovations in Deaf Studies: The Role of Deaf Scholars” together at the same time and place. At that time, I could never have imagined that it would grow into an energising conference of this size, with 160 delegates from 26 countries, and 12 of the authors. The event even didn’t have a proper website, just a Facebook page, so I was amazed that it attracted so much attention! We moved the conference twice to a larger location. For me, this is a sign that people really need/enjoy these kinds of spaces.

The presenters presented the chapters they wrote for the book  “Innovations in Deaf Studies: The Role of Deaf Scholars“, all of whose editors and authors are both experts in the field and themselves deaf. I, Annelies Kusters am Assistant Professor in Sign Language and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Maartje de Meulder is postdoctoral fellow at the University of Namur in Belgium, and Dai O’Brien is Lecturer in BSL and Deaf Studies at York St John University.

This is the first such scholarly book to be edited and written entirely by deaf academics, most of whom have a PhD degree.

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The book authors (including Dr Paddy Ladd!)

And therefore, this conference is a major leap forward for the discipline. Not just the book authors stood in the spotlight: during six panels, experts from all over the world discussed topical themes. The contributions were offered in British Sign Language, International Sign and American Sign Language and a team of six interpreters provided excellent interpreting service.

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The conference addressed a range of issues relating to Deaf Studies, which includes the study of sign language, deaf people’s educational and employment pathways and the social life of deaf groups and individuals. Presentation themes ranged from a focus on the history, current state and future of the field of Deaf Studies, researcher positionalities, research methodologies, language ideologies as well as how current research practices relate to deaf research participants and communities.

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The conference was funded by the European Research Council, more specifically the MobileDeaf project grant. It was a challenge to organise a large conference so soon after moving to a new job and starting a major research project (http://mobiledeaf.org.uk #MobileDeaf). I couldn’t have done it without the help of my amazing colleagues at Heriot-Watt University, the volunteers, my co-editors, the enthusiastic panel organisers, and Emmy Kauling who took a lot of the practical organisation upon her.

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Times Higher Education have published an article on our conference. People came to tell me during and after the conference that they felt inspired and recharged. I think that it is so important that we invest time and energy in networking in/around the field of Deaf Studies. I also feel that Heriot-Watt University, as an increasingly important landmark in things related to sign language and Deaf Studies, was an ideal location for this conference.

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The conference organising team, with Dr Annelies Kusters in the centre (in the black dress)

I’m proud to be part of the team here, and I hope we will further grow in the years to come!

 

DGI SCIC virtual classes starting in LINCS !

by Fanny Chouc

scic getting ready

LINCS held its first virtual conference interpreting class in cooperation with SCIC today, with a select group of talented MA and MSc students. Thanks to the support of our AV team, we were able to set up the system used by SCIC to provide pedagogical assistance in interpreting training institutions across Europe.

So is this the start of a new era? Is distance-teaching going to be the way forward for interpreting training, and could it replace face-to-face teaching?

No quite yet: technology has its limits, and connections sometimes broke up, for brief periods. And even if there is a drive towards video-interpreting in some fields, a screen can’t give you the same feel as a live audience. Mastering nerves is a crucial part of interpreting training. It’s therefore very important for trainee interpreters to experience a real, live audience: the dynamics, logistics and overall communication change greatly, and being prepared for this is essential.

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But this experience was immensely useful. This is a great way to involve a range of talented trainers from Brussels for a few hours, without any plane, train or taxi journey required. The team of professional SCIC interpreters simply connected from one of their rooms in Brussels, and LINCS students worked in the familiar setting of our large conference interpreting lab. So this type of technology facilitated an excellent training session with experienced professionals without any travelling required on either part – a clear benefit for universities located far away from the epicentre of European life, and a great way for SCIC interpreters to interact with young talents who aren’t on their doorstep, but aren’t short of skills!

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This experience has also been a great way to bridge another invisible gap: the DGI can seem rather distant, and almost unattainable; possibly even more so from the distant shores of Bonnie Scotland. And yet after the session, our students gladly admitted that the speeches didn’t throw them: content, pace and level of difficulties mirrored fairly what they’d been doing in class during the year. Some even commented that the pace wasn’t quite as punishing as in classes they’d had at Heriot-Watt! The very positive feedback, focused on a number of aspects regularly discussed in class, also contributed to their confidence: they now realise that an EU interpreting career could be within their grasp, they have a better idea of what they need to work on, and most of them are now determined to apply for the accreditation tests.

So even if virtual interpreting classes aren’t about to replace live university programmes, they are certainly an amazing way to build bridge with international organisations such as the EU, and possibly to set up more cooperation across campuses and between interpreting training universities. We’re therefore looking forward to building on this success for further virtual classes with SCIC and hopefully with partner universities abroad!

Thank you Fanny Chouc and Jose Maria Conde for organising this 🙂