SCIC – universities 2015: Lessons learned

Every year in March the European Commission’s interpreting directorate (nowadays DG Interpretation, but for must of us still DG SCIC) gather representatives from the universities they collaborate with. This year was my second time, but with some 200 participants and a programme filled to the brim it is still a quite overwhelming experience. The webcast is online and you can watch it here.

The European institutions contribute actively to the training of conference interpreters. As university we can apply for funding for our interpreting programmes, we get support through virtual classes with trainers from the institutions, and DG SCIC (Interpretation) sends trainers to the universities for Pedagogical Assistance. There is also a multitude of virtual support (Speech repositorySCICtrain, ORCIT, podcasts) and with non-institutional spin-offs such as SpeechpoolA word in Your Ear and Interpreter training resources).

All of the above gives good support for the universities, and once a year we get together to exchanges views. The conference has one big challenge though, with so many participants it’s difficult to create enough interaction to make room that exchange of views. And we’re conference interpreters after all, so we love to have or say, but due to time constraint it’s usually not many discussions. This year was different though, the organizer made a great effort to create interaction through panels with trainers, one focusing on the training support and the other one on how to bridge the famous gap between training and free-lance test. The conference was also preceded by a survey to the universities on the support from DG SCIC (Interpretation). All this together with twitter-feed and e-mail questions provided ample opportunities for exchange. So, what did I learn. First, a few things I really should now by now, as experienced conference goer…

1) Bring a tissue. By now, I have understood that I will cry when the Leopoldo Costa laureate gives the acceptance speech. Maybe it’s a sign of becoming an old lady, or simply proof of the talented laureates. In any case @Goldsmith_Josh ‘s speech was eloquent, witty and touching.

2) Be early. Despite my infinite struggles I often arrive last minute. It is rarely a problem as I’m not late, but arriving last minute means that the room is full and it’s really hard to find the people you’d like to see. Even more difficult if you don’t know their faces…

3) Be prepared. I flatter myself for having good memory of names and faces, but when I, for the second consecutive time, don’t recognize a colleague I both like and would like to see, there are NO excuses!

And then on to the teaching practice. My take home messages:

4) Booth practice. I will start working in the booth with my students in training. We can tell our students what to do in the booth a million times, but unless we actually work with them they will not experience what it’s really like. On a side note, I have to say that I love my teaching team at TÖI, because when I came back and told them about my experiences and that I would like to go into the booth, they answered that they had already started trying that out!

5) Ambassadors’ scheme. At London Met they have started an ambassadors’ scheme of alumni students who can help new students through exercises and as renumeration the ambassadors will be given extra classes and practice time – perfect if you prepare for a test, for instance. You can read more about it here.

6) Bridging the gap. The “bridging-the-gap-between-the-training-programme-and-the-free-lance-test” discussion is an eternal debate. But I’m inspired (by the ambassadors’ scheme among other things) to continue to support students after the exam and until a freelance test. Contrary to some of my peers, I’m not sure we can bring students up to EU-working speed in one year. But, I do believe we can provide enough tools to, as Roderick Jones put it, make the students hit the ground trotting. And if we get our former students to trot-on we will soon get them into a nice regular canter. Danielle D’Hayer of London Met has a very good contribution to the debate here.

7) Participation in tests. One of the forms of pedagogical assistance universities can get is participation in final exams, but Roderick Jones suggested trainers could get invited to sit on freelance tests. Wonderful! That way we would get first hand experience on demands, and we could also coach unsuccessful students.

8) Mentors. Yes we need them! Not sure how a perfect mentor programme would work, but quite convinced we need to develop them and keep improving them. As @ApatrideDude put it on twitter “I have a mentor-shaped hole in my life”.

9) Lifelong learning. One of the suggestions from the survey was a training for trainers scheme for experienced trainers. Sounds like music to my ears! The SCIC-universitites conference is a little bit like that, but only one representative per university can go, wouldn’t it be a wonderful boost for our teaching staff to be able to participate in such courses.

Finally, my two stars and a wish. Two things I really liked and one thing I would like to improve:

Star: The panel idea was absolutely excellent. Star: I very much appreciated the survey. Wish: A morning of smaller workshops on different topics related to exchange of practice. For instance, applying for and reporting of funding, teaching methodologies, study visits, virtual classes, using SCICtrain and other on-line resources, and so forth.

Thank you so much for this conference! Already looking forward to next year.

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