by Fanny Chouc
LINCS held a virtual class in cooperation with the Directorate General for Interpretation on Friday 17th November. This EU institution, familiarly known as SCIC, runs all the interpreting services of the EU Commission, and cooperates with universities which specialize in conference interpreting. LINCS managed to secure this prestigious type of cooperation for the 2nd year running, following a first virtual class held last June with the previous Honours and MSc cohorts.
Fernando Leitão, Head of the E-learning sector for SCIC, explained to the 19 UG and PG students present that the “main purpose [of a virtual class] is to supplement guidance you are getting from your teachers”.
This virtual class was also a first, as the Brussels-based SCIC team was joined by a team of interpreters from the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg. Thanks to the support of Heriot-Watt’s AV team, a three-way connection was set up via Polycom. As a result, students based in Edinburgh were able to attend a virtual class jointly run from two other European cities, and two different EU institutions, thus enjoying a truly international class.
Students were equally delighted and daunted to have an opportunity to try their consecutive interpreting skills on speeches delivered by EU interpreters. Topics were sent a couple of days in advance by the coordinator for this virtual class, Clara Baruffati (herself a graduated from our MSc in conference interpreting, currently doing a stage with SCIC), and students were able to research topics such as the butter crisis in France, the impact of technologies on paper-books, and how nuclear science can tackle disease-spreading insects. While our Honours year students started learning note-taking skills and practicing consecutive interpreting during their second year, MSc students only started to acquire this set of very specific skills a couple of months ago, so tackling speeches 5 to 8 minutes long presented a real test of their abilities.
But despite the pressure of working with such prestigious teachers, who are such inspirational role models for aspiring conference interpreters, students dealt with the tasks well, receiving comments such as “impressive performance” in some cases.
So what advice did they take on board from the experience?
Firstly, “you’ve got to be prepared to roll with everything”, according to Kevin McCarthy, EU interpreter and trainer from the English language unit.
Secondly, work on communication skills and confidence: “your credibility is everything”, so mastering signs of stress is crucial, as are communication skills.
Students were also encouraged to pay special attention to the coherence of the speech, and to ensure that they use the opportunity to ask a few questions to elicit every crucial piece of information from the speakers.
This very thorough session, during which students received not only specific feedback on their performances, but also valuable professional advice, left students rearing for more similar challenges, and determined to take all the advice on board to practise and progress further.
Eilidh MacLaghlan, one of the Honours students selected to deliver a Spanish consecutive, said: “The SCIC virtual class was an exciting and unique opportunity to receive feedback from professionals in the industry we wish to enter following our studies. The advice and pointers we were given from interpreters at the European Commission and the European Court of Justice will be hugely beneficial as we progress through our degree course, and into our professional life.”
This session was also welcomed by LINCS staff coordinators, Fanny Chouc and José Maria Conde: “students greatly benefit from getting feedback from such inspiring interpreters and trainers; it’s also good for them to hear the type of advice they get in class from EU experts, as it enables them to relate more clearly what they are doing in class with the professional world.”
Following this exciting experience, students are hoping to get further opportunities to receive guidance from EU interpreters, and they are also looking forward to the coming – award-winning- annual multilingual debate, which will take place on March 21st. On that occasion, they will be applying their simultaneous interpreting skills to facilitate debates between the members of a multilingual panel, an audience of over 400 in the James Watt Conference Centre, and a wider online audience, since the two debates of the day will be streaming live online.
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