9 October 2019 (BBC)
When a family arrives in a new country, often the children are first to pick up the new language - and inevitably, they become the family translators. Researcher Dr Humera Iqbal describes what it's like to be a child responsible for dealing with doctors and landlords, bank staff or restaurant suppliers.
"Baba! Baba!" calls out the driving instructor. Thirteen-year-old Jiawei sits at the back of the car while her dad takes his driving lesson. Father and daughter exchange confused glances, then burst out laughing. The instructor, who has heard this Chinese word during one of Jiawei's father's previous lessons, looks puzzled.
"Doesn't 'baba' mean 'move forward' in Chinese?" he asks.
"No," says Jiawei. "It means 'father'!"
Jiawei was in the unusual position of acting as an interpreter for her dad as he learned to drive. She took notes and repeated in Chinese exactly what the instructor said in English - things like "Turn left at the roundabout," or "Slow down at the junction." She's proud that she helped her father pass his test.
"It was quite fun and I thought I was doing something to help my family," she says, looking back. "I was also learning how to drive myself without knowing it, doing something that other kids didn't get to do."
A year earlier, Jiawei's family had moved from China to the UK and while she had managed to pick up basic English at school, her father was struggling. Jiawei became a crucial link helping him find his way in a new country.
Thousands of migrant children in the UK translate for their families every day. My colleague Dr Sarah Crafter and I have come across child interpreters, some as young as seven, helping their parents communicate in shops, banks, and even police stations. It can be stressful for them, especially when adults are rude or aggressive.
6 August 2018 (San Francisco Chronicle)
The United States may be the single most powerful nation in the world militarily, and remains a global economic giant, but we have seen repeatedly that our influence is limited. In part, we are constrained by our inadequate understanding of other nations and peoples, and by our inability to communicate effectively with them.
It is therefore disturbing, and evidence of a dangerous myopia, that we continue to neglect training and education in languages other than English.
In 1979, I was a member of the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, which found that “Americans’ incompetence in foreign languages is nothing short of scandalous.” Last year, nearly 40 years later, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences released a similar report, “America’s Languages,” and its findings were eerily similar: “[T]he dominance of English, to the exclusion of other languages, has also had adverse and often unforeseen consequences at home and abroad — in business and diplomacy, in civic life, and in the exchange of ideas.”
Much has changed in the decades between these two reports, including the continuing spread of English globally. Today, English is an official language of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court, and NATO, as well as the unofficial language of international business.
What has not changed, however, is that English alone — an education in English to the exclusion of other languages — remains insufficient to meeting our needs in a global world.
In times of great national security challenges, such as those we face today, as well as in times of great opportunity, such as the opening of new international markets, we find ourselves scrambling for people who can speak, write, and think in languages other than English. In those moments, we search high and low for people who can communicate in Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, Pashto — and especially for people who understand the idioms and nuances that characterize true communication in any culture.
Because it is difficult to find such people immediately, we are at a disadvantage. Language acquisition is a marathon, not a sprint. By the time we educate and train the experts we need to help us address a particular language gap, we are often too late. The crisis has shifted. Others have captured the new market.
As a matter of public policy, this is a terribly inefficient way to operate.
6 June 2017 (NBC)
Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, the dream of speaking to anyone regardless of language is closer to reality than ever.
Scientists say there are more than 6,900 languages in the world, and anyone who’s traveled abroad knows how hard it can be to get even simple points across in a foreign tongue.
Breaking down language barriers has long been a dream of science fiction — “Star Trek” had its Universal Translator to help the Enterprise crew understand exotic alien speech, and C3PO from “Star Wars” knew more than 6 million forms of communication from across the galaxy.
Now, thanks to advances in real-time translation software, the dream of speaking to anyone regardless of language is closer to reality than ever. Experts say human translators won’t be out of work anytime soon — they’re vital for legal proceedings, diplomatic discussions, and scenarios when exact word choice and tone are necessary — but new inexpensive digital tools allow people to speak easily in situations where communication once seemed impossible.
With software from the Austrian-based tech company iTranslate and a compatible set of wireless earphones, you can now have nearly 40 languages translated directly into your ear. But the tool doesn’t help users understand everything they’d hear on a crowded street yet. Currently, it’s focused on letting people speak with someone else using connected smartphones tethered to iTranslate-enabled earphones. It can facilitate basic transactions and everyday small talk between people who until recently couldn’t exchange a word.
25 April 2017 (Heriot-Watt University)
This course, being run by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, is ideal for anyone fluent in a language but with no interpreting techniques.
As a speaker of a second language, do you find yourself in situations at work where you have to act as an interpreter but have had no formal training? Then this course is for you!
Are you a language student considering a career as an interpreter? Come and join us for a taster course and find out what it means to be an interpreter.
The course will run from 3-7 July 2017 in the university's state of the art interpreting facilities.
Visit the website for more information and book your place by 19 June.
12 December 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)
Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event showcasing the interpreting skills of undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The 2017 Debates will take place on Wednesday 22 March with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. There are two Debates; one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
The Multilingual Debates are open to schools, colleges and universities and aim to stimulate interest and dialogue among young people in the international politics and social issues of the modern world whilst also setting language acquisition in a realistic context.
The topics for the 2017 Debates have just been announced and can be viewed on the YouTube video.
Visit the Heriot-Watt website for further information.
Posted in: Senior Phase
, Cross-Curricular Working
, Promoting Languages
, News from language & education organisations
11 November 2016 (Washington Post)
The extraterrestrial “heptapods” at the center of the new sci-fi thriller “Arrival” aren’t the only strange, poorly understood creatures in the film. The other aliens, it turns out, are linguists, represented by Amy Adams’s Dr. Louise Banks, an academic field researcher who is recruited by U.S. military intelligence to help communicate with a race of seven-legged E.T.s that have descended on Earth, with intentions unclear, from another world.
“A lot of people don’t know what linguists do, or even that we exist, apart from some idea that we just translate lots of languages,” says Jessica Coon, an associate professor of linguistics who consulted on the film and provided a loose model for Louise. Coon unsuccessfully lobbied the filmmakers to change a line describing Louise, arguing that it misrepresents what linguists do: “You’re at the top of everyone’s list,” Forest Whitaker’s Army colonel says to Louise, “when it comes to translations.”
16 September 2016 (SCILT)
As the UCAS application process gets underway, make sure any pupils thinking of continuing their language studies checks out the Beyond School section of our website.
This section contains useful information to help senior pupils decide on the different language courses and options available once they have left school, at college, university or as part of a gap year. There are links to courses available in Scotland and across the UK.
Pupils, parents, guidance and careers staff should all find this section of our website useful.
Posted in: FE
, All Languages
, Language Learning
, Languages - Further Education
, Languages - Higher Education
, Promoting Languages
, Study Abroad
, SCILT news
7 December 2015 (The Language of Football)
Marc Joss is a London-based football translator and interpreter. He speaks Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and English.
Marc has been involved in a host of high-profile translation projects including Guillem Balagué’s Messi, Barça: The Official Illustrated History of FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo: The Biography, as well as translating for the English version of Marca.com. He also works with Premier League clubs as an interpreter.
In the first of a two part interview, we talk to Marc about his translation work.
21 October 2015 (The Guardian)
The Returned is back, and language fans are gearing up for a new round of fights. Imports such as The Bridge, Spiral and Borgen mean we’re all familiar with keeping an eye on the subtitles. Even if we don’t speak Danish, we’ll inform people that “Forbrydelsen” means “The Crime”, not “The Killing”. And if we’re a bit more bilingual, we’ll happily grumble on about how they’ve left entire sections out.
Subtitler Victoria Ward smiles patiently. “People don’t appreciate the spatial constraints.” Subtitlers are limited to 37 characters per row on screen; viewers’ maximum reading speed is 18 characters per second. “You have to be quite brutal.” She works for Voice and Script International in London, who subtitle some of the biggest imports: Spiral, Borgen, The Bridge, Witnesses and The Returned. Ward describes their approach as “light touch”: viewers want to keep up with the action, without having to work too hard. She thinks about her audience – “Is it patronising to subtitle ‘bonjour’?” – and uses full sentences where possible, as they are easier to make sense of.
10 February 2015 (Heriot-Watt University)
In response to feedback from students, graduates, and the profession Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has introduced several new language programmes for September 2015 entry:
- MSc Interpreting
- MSc Translating
- MSc Arabic-English Translating
- MSc Chinese-English Translating
- MSc Cultural Resource Management (delivered in English)
More information is available on the Heriot-Watt website.
28 December 2014 (BBC World Service)
In this edition of Boston Calling, the programme looks at what it takes to be a simultaneous interpreter and a foreign correspondent and his translator tell how their relationship is about more than words.
Listen to the programme on the World Service iplayer.
15 May 2014 (The Guardian)
From an early interest in French sparked at an after-school club to a chance to learn Russian, Helen Reynolds-Brown talks about her career as a UN interpreter.
11 April 2014 (TESS)
Students debate European politics at multilingual event.
“I can’t see any hands going up. No one has a question for the speakers? I would really like you to ask some questions!”
No translation was needed for the brief awkward silence at the end of a multilingual debate in Edinburgh as the chairman opened up the discussion to the floor on the impact of Scottish independence on the future of the European Union.
But it was soon clear that the fast-approaching referendum in Scotland was fuelling young people’s interest in languages and politics. The occasion, hosted by Heriot-Watt University last week, attracted more than 400 secondary school students from across the country.
24 April 2013 (The Guardian)
German president Joachim Gauck's cost-cutting proposal has been welcomed – but not by all.
2 April 2013 (The Economist)
Translation and interpretation in matters of diplomacy is tricky. Language enthusiasts particularly enjoy the story of the Treaty of Wuchale, signed between Ethiopia and Italy in 1889. The text didn’t read the same in Amharic and Italian. The former guaranteed Ethiopia’s king Menelik II a good measure of autonomy in conducting foreign affairs. The latter established an Italian protectorate with no flexibility. The culprit: one verb, forming a permissive clause in Amharic and a mandatory one in Italian. Six years later, the differing interpretations led to war. Ethiopia won.
If only the Ethiopians and Italians had modern translators at their side. Treaty translation is big business today.
7 November 2012 (Business Insider)
Looking for another way to stand out in a tough job market, plus increase your competitiveness and versatility down the road in your career? If you can commit to adding one or more languages to your resume, you’ll instantly stand out from the crowd.
Posted in: S1-S3
, Senior Phase
, All Languages
, Language Learning for Work
, Language Skills
, Languages in the press