Languages and Intercultural Studies


Languages for a purpose.

Founded in 1970, the Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies specialises in the fields of translation and interpreting studies, as well as intercultural studies such as living cultural heritage, language policy and intercultural communication.


We have a long history of providing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes that focus on the applied nature and professional use of language and communication skills, with a particular focus on interpreting and translating.  Across both our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes the portfolio of languages include British Sign Language (BSL), Chinese (Mandarin), English for Academic Purposes, French, German, and Spanish. The Department also now offers courses and programmes in Cultural Studies which is a growing area of the Department's work. 


We have made significant investment in our language learning and translation and interpreting facilities - modelled on those used in the European Parliament - so that our students benefit from learning in a state-of-the-art environment. Our facilities include:

  • four fully-equipped interpreting teaching labs
  • two language laboratories
  • self-study laboratory
  • computer labs
  • audio-visual teaching equipment
  • facilities for closed-circuit television
  • satellite broadcasting reception
  • recording studio
  • A special collection of monolingual and multilingual dictionaries, covering a wide range of specialised subjects, is located in the Dictionaries Room in the University Library.

Collaboration with SCIC

The department works closely with SCIC, the Directorate-General for Interpretation of the European Commission, through a cooperation agreement. This cooperation translates into virtual classes, pedagogical assistance missions and training for trainers delivered by SCIC trainers, as well as study visits to Brussels.

Professional Recognition

The Department is one of only four UK university departments that have been granted membership of CIUTI, an international body which brings together universities which specialise in translating and interpreter training.The Department is also a Higher Education Language Partner with the UK Chartered Institute of Linguists, which is the leading UK-based membership body for language professionals. 

Heriot-Watt is a member of the EMT network, the European Master’s in Translation network. European Master's in Translation is a quality label for MA university programmes in translation. The DG Translation awards it to higher education programmes that meet agreed professional standards and market demands.


Research in the department falls under the auspices of two research centres that reflect our specialisms: the Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) and the Intercultural Research Centre. They focus on our established and distinctive strengths of translation and interpretation, as well as building the emerging areas of living cultural heritage and language policy. Visit their websites to find out more.

Rankings - Languages and Intercultural Studies

National Student Survey Results Heriot-Watt Ranking
National Student Survey 2019 2nd in Scotland / Top 10 in UK
National Student Survey 2019 92% Student Satisfaction

We believe that language connects us. It brings people together and helps us create a better world. This video shows how our students will impact the world in a positive way by developing their interpreting, translating and communication skills.