To PhD or not to PhD

For the majority of language professionals, the thought of giving three or more years of their life over to sitting in an office, reading papers, writing notes and preparing papers sounds like a punishment. Who in their right mind would leave behind (or at least reduce) their professional workload in favour of spending hours on theory and methods. We must be mad!

Believe it or not, research might actually be good for you. Besides helping improve the status of translators and interpreters, besides helping them understand what clients actually want, besides raising the profile of languages, research might actually help make you a better translator or interpreter.

How so? Well, if you have been a professional for any length of time, you will certainly have already used a bunch of the skills researchers use on an everyday basis. If you need to find the right term to use, you need to analyse and classify sources, sort and collate information, think critically, build an argument and follow it through to its logical conclusion. Now, admittedly, you might not write much of this process down but maybe you should.

How many times have you done research for one job and not been able to recall where you found all the information you needed when a similar job came along? Have you ever done a great job of doing the research for one translation only to struggle to follow the same process for the next?

All methodology really boils down to is the discussion of different ways of gathering and collating information. What do I lose or gain if I do my research this way? How do I know the information I am gathering is trustworthy? How do I define “trustworthy” anyway?

And theory? Well, as Prof Graham Turner says, there is no better theory than practical theory. Theory can mean two things in Translation and Interpreting Studies, both of which may well be handy for professionals. The first thing theory does is to divide up the world and place pretty labels on the bits. As soon as you start talking about the difference between translation, transcreation and adaptation, you are talking theory. Yet this difference might be really important, financially important above all!

The other kind of theory starts to predict stuff. If I translate this sentence like this, will it make the translation work better or worse? Do my agency clients want something different from my direct clients? What happens if I increase my lag when doing simultaneous interpreting? Will anything bad happen if I am 100% accurate here?

Research is not quite so alien after all. In fact, it might have some useful stuff to say to professionals and professionals might actually have something to say to research too. It might even be the case that professionals could do worse than to get involved in it.

Now, not everyone is going to go as far as to go get a PhD. But there are several good reasons why professionals might want to keep their finger on the pulse of Translation and Interpreting research. If nothing else, keeping an eye on practical research might give us some useful ideas to try out, ideas that should have already been tried and tested.

Author: Jonathan Downie

Scotland's Living Heritage

Next week, Prof Máiréad Nic Craith will give her inaugural lecture on world heritage in Scotland. She will look at the importance of historic and listed buildings in Britain and will point to Scotland’ s success in getting world heritage status for five designated sites. Máiréad will focus on the idea of “dúchas” which places great emphasis on people and connects living heritage to particular places. She will also look at examples of living heritage in Scotland. Máiréad will argue that it is time for the UK to ratify UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003).

The lecture takes place  in the Postgraduate Centre – Cairn Lecture Theatre at Heriot-Watt University on Wednesday 29th May at 5pm. If you would like to join us for this event, you are welcome to sign up.


Author: Máiréad Nic Craith

Equality for Deaf People

The next EdSign lecture will take place at Heriot-Watt University on 22nd May:

‘Equality for Deaf People’ by Colin Allen, President of the World Federation of the Deaf

Wednesday 22nd May

7pm – 8.30pm

Where: (PLEASE NOTE THE ROOM CHANGE, THE EVENT WILL NOW BE IN) Mary Burton Building, Room MBG20, at Heriot-Watt University

Directions can be found at

Bus numbers 25, X25, 34 and 45 run from Edinburgh city centre.

Equality for Deaf People celebrates the linguistic, artistic, social, political and cultural contributions and accomplishments of deaf people, focussing on recognition of sign languages and the rights of deaf people around the world. The presentation offers insights into the World Federation of the Deaf’s critical work towards achieving equality for deaf people based on the international treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Colin Allen is a world leader in Deaf Community development, human rights and advocacy. He was elected President of the World Federation of the Deaf in July 2011. Among his other responsibilities, he regularly represents the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) at the United Nations Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Panel of Experts under the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability.

The lecture will be presented in International Sign, and will be interpreted into British Sign Language and English.

Please note the slightly later starting time of 7pm!

Free event! All welcome!

Author: Dr Svenja Wurm

IPCITI 2013: Speaker Lineup, part I

A few weeks ago, we announced that IPCITI 2013, the International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting would take place here, at Heriot-Watt in November. Now, we are pleased to announce the speakers, starting this week.

IPCITI has a tradition of offering workshops as part of the conference program. This year, Professor Jemina Napier, who has recently joined Heriot-Watt will be taking one of them.

Jemina is an interpreter researcher, educator and practitioner and has practised as a signed language interpreter since 1988. She grew up in the British Deaf community, and works between English and British Sign Language (BSL), Australian Sign Language (Auslan) or International Sign. After completing an MA in BSL/ English Interpreting at Durham University, Jemina moved to Australia to undertake her PhD studies in 1998. She established the first university industry-accredited training program as a Postgraduate Diploma in Auslan/ English Interpreting in the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University in Sydney in 2002, held a postdoctoral fellowship at the same university from 2004-2006, and was Head of Translation and Interpreting from 2007-2012. Jemina is a past President, and now an Honorary Life Member, of the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA). She was an inaugural board member of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), and now serves as Co-Leader of the joint WASLI-World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Task Force on International Sign interpreter training and recruitment. She was one of the founding members of the Australian Interpreter Trainers’ Network, and instigated the annual Interpreter Trainers’ Workshops (now known as the Interpreter Trainers’ Network Symposium). She has delivered interpreter training and assessment to interpreters worldwide, including in Brazil, China, Fiji, Ireland, Kosovo, New Zealand and the United States. Jemina was a member of the Australian industry body – the National Accreditation Authority of Translators & Interpreters (NAATI) – Qualifications and Assessment Advisory Committee and a member (previously co-chair) of the NAATI Auslan Interpreter Examiner Panel.

Jemina returned to the UK in February 2013 to take up the new position of Professor and Chair of Intercultural Communication in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies.

IPCITI Organising Committee