Multilingual event celebrates Gaelic and interpreting studies

Gaelic, English and international language interpreting were on display this week to hundreds of school pupils from Scotland and North East England at an event to showcase language interpreting and translation studies.

Heriot-Watt University's annual multilingual debate gives pupils aged 14 to 18 a taste of language interpretation in action at a European Union style debate, which is translated live into nine different languages including Spanish, German, French, Arabic, Chinese, Gaelic and British Sign Language.

800 secondary school pupils

At the event over 800 secondary school pupils from the Highlands to Newcastle gathered to debate topical motions including how the Commonwealth Games legacy could solve obesity issues and how referendums could impact the future of the EU.

This year the University also celebrates the first students of a unique Gaelic-English Interpreting CPD course, funded by the Scottish Government and set up by Heriot-Watt University, to enable interpreting at European Institutions. They will be honoured by Dr Alasdair Allan MSP, Minister for Learning, Science & Scotland's Languages at a special awards ceremony.

Promoting language based career options

With recent reports revealing that take up of language courses is down but demand for translation skills in business is growing, this event was important in promoting language based career options. A CBI survey revealed the UK has the worst foreign language skills in Europe and it's reported that a lack of language translations is costing the UK economy around £48 billion a year.

Professor Isabelle Perez, coordinator of the event, explains, "The multilingual debate stimulates interest among young people in international politics, culture, social issues and modern languages.

"It's a lively event which has become very popular over the last few years, to the point we have waiting lists and are looking at how we can extend participation online. This is a promising sign of a growing interest in language studies among young people, who may hopefully become language experts in the future.

This is a promising sign of a growing interest in language studies among young people

Professor Isabelle Perez

"Demand for interpreters and translators with English as their native language is strong. Many of our graduates go straight into employment or further study and some have gained posts with the European Union, United Nations, Reuters and the International Olympic Committee."

First ever sign language interpreter accepted by AIIC

Just earlier in the week, Heriot-Watt Graduate, Maya de Wit-van Schagen, who regularly translates for the European Parliament and United Nations became the first ever sign language interpreter to be accepted as a member by the prestigious global International Conference Interpreters Association (AIIC).

School pupils were able to put questions to the speakers in the languages represented and voted on the motions using electronic voting so the audience could see clear changes in their opinions as the debate progresses.