Studying translation and interpreting / Studenten heute und damals

The Guardian interviews five people who were students in the 1970s and 1980s, taking them back to their universities to see how things have changed.

They include Gary Younge, who studied Russian and French translation and interpreting at Heriot-Watt University from 1988 to 1992.

In languages, this meant three types of interpreting – simultaneous, conference (summarising chunks of a speech) and liaison (acting as an intermediary) – as well as translation. We spent hours in the dictionaries room in the basement of the library , trying to find just the right word. We sat in booths wearing headphones trying to stop Jacques Delors or Mikhail Gorbachev racing away with the end of a sentence before we had finished rendering it into passable English.

And Stuart Jeffries did German (possibly inter alia) at Oxford, where remedial grammar classes are now held for some of ‘the brightest and best qualified in the country’.

13 thoughts on “Studying translation and interpreting / Studenten heute und damals

  1. Ooh, that quote from Gary sends shivers down my spine. The Dictionaries Room (sorry, Grauniad, it just has to be capitalised) was the quietest place on campus (apart from the meetings of the Lib Dem Soc.). I caught Gary’s last year at HW when I was in 1st year, and can remember feeling very proud that he was a LINT student whenever I saw him out and about.

  2. I sometimes look in at the website of my “alma mater”, the University of Salford, where I did German and Russian in 1974-1978, including lots of interpreting. Apart from the University now offering “exotic” languages such as Chinese and Arabic, one major change appears to be the high security of the Department. Students now appear to have to pass through various sets of scanner gadgetry … unknown in my day. Also the library used to be the hub of activity (we mostly took work seriously) ….. nowadays students are more likely to be training for rowing races on the River Irwell (an impossiility in my day when one risked 3 days in hospital in bed with a stomach pump if one was foolhardy enough to drink the local waters….)


  3. They certainly do get the wrong idea sometimes. Once, after a trial, a defendant hugged me and thanked me, in floods of tears, because she hadn’t been convicted. She clearly thought I had had something to do with the judge’s decision.

  4. Larko: It isn’t all quite right, but I won’t say what.
    I tried it again and finished up as an octopus. The last-but-one question was ‘Pick a number, any number (5 or 8)’. I wonder what would have happened if I’d chosen 5?

  5. As I do not remember the number question, the questions you get must somehow depend on your earlier answers. The description of the Boa Constrictor I am supposed to be is totally wrong, possibly with the exception of a wide mouth.

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