Languages and Intercultural Studies

Heriot-Watt University ranked second in Scotland and eighth in the UK for Modern Languages in the National Student Survey 2020. In the National Student Survey 2019, 100% of students said staff were good at explaining things. We achieved the highest ranking in Scotland for employability from Modern Languages in the Guardian University Rankings 2019.

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Languages at Heriot-Watt University 

At Heriot-Watt University we don’t just teach languages, we teach languages for a purpose.

For 50 years we have produced graduates with the highest professional standards, specialising in the areas of interpreting, translation, teaching and international business.

Our reputation is reflected in recent university league tables.

We are ranked Number 1 in Scotland in the National Student Survey 2018 after achieving the highest rating for Overall Student Satisfaction, and in the National Student Survey 2019 our student satisfaction levels increased further to 92%. In the Guardian University League Tables 2019, we achieved the number 1 ranking in Scotland for employability from modern languages degrees. 

We teach in French, German, Spanish, British Sign Language and Chinese and offer a suite of career-focused degrees which can be tailored to the individual skills and interests of each student. Globally recognised academics and practising professionals with years of experience deliver our teaching and our Edinburgh campus is home to state-of-the-art interpreting and translating labs, as used in professional settings. 

Accreditation and recognition

Highlighting our professional ethos, we’ve been chosen as an official higher education partner for the Chartered Institute of Linguists - a professional body that maintains the highest standards for practising interpreters and translators.

We are founding members of CIUTI, the world’s oldest and most prestigious international association of universities who train interpreters and translators. As a CIUTI member university, our graduates are recognised by industry and international organisations such as the European Parliament and the United Nations.

We benefit from close collaboration 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.

Our BSL course is accredited and graduates can register with the UK and Scottish sign language interpreting bodies NRCPD and SASLI.  

We are also a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), the UK-based professional association of interpreters and translators. 

Launch a global career with international experience

Studying languages can open up a world of possibilities for your career. Our alumni work in every corner of the globe, as freelancers or with international organisations, NGOs and multinational corporations.

With small class sizes we build a tightknit community between students and staff and maintain close ties with our graduates as they launch their careers. We invite graduates back each year to share invaluable advice at specialist career events, offering our current students excellent networking opportunities.

On each of our modern language degrees you will have the chance to study Year 3 abroad on 1 or 2 exchange placements, studying at our partner universities immersed in your chosen language and culture. Our partner universities have been chosen because they share our applied and practical ethos for the teaching of languages. 

On BSL you will spend Year 3 on a work placement in the BSL community. 

Teaching and assessment

Teaching facilities include:

  • three state-of-the-art interpreting laboratories equipped for simultaneous interpreting
  • three further digital language laboratories with CAT Tools for translation practice
  • a dedicated lab for BSL interpreting training
  • audio-visual self-study facilities
  • a virtual learning environment accessible on or off campus.

All of our practical language classes are small and interactive.

Key information

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