“Practice in a real setting”: Heriot-Watt students improve their skills in the Scottish Parliament

For three Thursdays in a row, Heriot-Watt MSc students from the Translation and Conference Interpreting course have had a unique chance to hone their skills in a professional booth at the Scottish Parliament.

With the help and support of Roberta Bianchini, Office Manager to Colin Keir MSP and a graduate from the M.A. in Translation and Interpreting herself, a scheme was put in place in cooperation with the Scottish Parliament, enabling students to test their skills from real live parliamentary discussions, similar to what professional interpreters tackle on a daily basis in any multilingual organisation. The microphones remained switched off, as is the usual practice for dummy booth sessions, and the students’ performance was monitored by members of staff who accompanied them and sat with them in the booth.

Thanks to the excellent facilities, a number of students were able to work together in the professional interpreting booth, practicing various techniques: simultaneous interpreting into French, Spanish, German, Arabic and Chinese, from the live speeches happening below, in the debating chamber, but also chuchotage (also called “whispered interpreting”) into English.

Student feed-back was very positive and enthusiastic. One of the students said: “It was a great hands-on experience! It was really interesting to discover a real professional setting and working-space, and also to see how the parliamentary debates work”.

On top of giving students valuable hands on experience, the aim of this session was to help students become more aware of what they need to focus on at this stage of the learning process. The message seems to have sunk in. As one student said “it allowed us all to figure out in more detail where our weaknesses lie and I know that we will all be working hard in the weeks to come to find solutions to them”. Each student left the Parliament with a clearer idea as to the progress they still need to make to be fully ready for the professional world, and most importantly, how they could use class materials and live resources like the broadcast of Holyrood sessions to perfect their technique.

This session form part of the extra events arranged by Heriot-Watt in order to help students become ready for the demands of the job market. In March, many of these students will be interpreting for real at our Multilingual Debate (editor’s note: more info available shortly).

Author: Fanny Chouc

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