Interpreting students go to Holyrood

Students at the Scottish Parliament

For the second year in a row, students from  Heriot-Watt's MSc Translation and Conference Interpreting programme have been given a chance to hone their translating and interpreting skills in the professional booths at the Scottish Parliament.

A professional interpreting assignment

While MSPs were debating a number of key current issues,  the students were listening to the discussions in the booths and practising simultaneous interpreting into French, German, Spanish, and Chinese. Students worked as a team, helping each other and also practising relay interpreting from these languages back into English, all under the careful supervisions of members of staff who also have professional experience of interpreting. As it was part of a training exercise, the microphones remained switched off, but that point aside, the setting and task were identical to a professional interpreting assignment.

Boosting employability

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. Students commented that it was a "great experience", and "felt very professional", and they appreciated being given "an insight on what will be expected of them in the near future". The sessions helped students identify gaps in their learning, and the follow-up has helped them identify a number of strategies to work on these points. Students felt very enthusiastic, and are keen to gain more professional experience, which will be the case in March at the University's annual multilingual debate.

This scheme has also drawn a lot of interest from Scottish politicians: a number of MSPs, including Gordon Macdonald (Heriot-Watt's constituency MSP), and the Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Mr Humza Yasouf, came to listen to students in the booths and discussed the experience and the programme with them.

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