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Hello, everyone.

I wanted to ask if there's someone in this community who attends or has attended the Master's Degree in Interpreting or Interpreting and Translating MA at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

What is your opinion of it and of the establishment in general?

Will one of the two degrees pay off in both the UK and abroad?

I'm an Italian native speaker who will be (hopefully) graduating next year in Italy and whose language combination, at the moment, is ITA-A/ENG-B/FRE-C ; I also started studying chinese on my own last year but it's starting to get a little rusty and, since German is not on my combination, chinese will maybe my only chance of finding something of a job in the field.

I understand that HW has chinese courses that start from begginer level but the website doesn't clarify up to what level of language they go, so, having said that, here's my next two questions: are the chinese courses any good and do they provide enough knowledge to spend on the market? Would you consider choosing HW University as a good option when it comes to UK universities or should I just consider other places like London MET or Bath?

asked 18 Oct '17, 20:44

Giulianos_I's gravatar image


Much of the answer to your question depends on where you see yourself working because often the first opportunities on a market are given by your teachers after you graduate. They, after all, know you and know you have potential and/or a good enough.

(FYI I didn't attend Heriot Watt and don't know much about it. But the following answer is valid for pretty much any school.)

Going to Heriot Watt won't hurt your chances on the institutional markets abroad, as they have objective entry procedures (e.g.. accreditation tests for which any MA is good enough). However, your language combination is unlikely to be enough to get you into the IT booth at the EU. You would have to add at least German (or maybe Polish) to have a chance. You'd have to check with the EU to see what they need at the moment.

If you want to work in Italy EN-IT, then studying outside Italy is a disadvantage as you do not have that first helping leg-up into the market from your teachers. In theory if you want to work in the UK EN-IT then a UK school should be helpful but it would be worth investigating the IT-EN market in the UK and if Heriot Watt (in Scotland) has the connections to a market that may well be centred elsewhere (London?).

If you want to interpret from Chinese then you can forget all of the above. Since there is no market for Chinese C into any language you will have to learn Chinese to a B level for it to be useful. Again you'd have to see if the IT-ZH market is a worthwhile one. It might be a very lucrative niche. It might be non-existent. If you want a ZH B then I would suggest a year or two more study in Europe and then it's off to China for 2-5 years.

So in summary... if I were you I would first choose a market you intend to work on... IT-EN UK ; IT-EN Italy; EU ; ZH-EN; and then adjust your language learning and your choice of schools accordingly.

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answered 19 Oct '17, 04:28

Andy's gravatar image


Thank you for your extensive reply! What about the EN-FRA market in the UK or at an International level?

(19 Oct '17, 06:00) Giulianos_I

If you are IT A, EN B, FR C then you won't be working on the FR-EN market. If you're EN were an A then everything I said about IT-EN applies to France and EN-FR

(19 Oct '17, 08:12) Andy

Going to Heriot Watt won't hurt your chances on the institutional markets abroad, as they have objective entry procedures (e.g.. accreditation tests for which any MA is good enough).

Since there are fewer test slots available than candidates, even big institutions will now give priority to graduates coming from courses that have supplied them in the past with a high percentage of successful candidates.

This doesn't seem to be the case for HW, at least not for the EU. Heriot Watt is one of the few courses which does not figure on the list of Universities cooperating with SCIC. Adding to that, their course doesn't seem to prepare students to the institutional markets. Read between the lines here.

Would you consider choosing HW University as a good option when it comes to UK universities or should I just consider other places like London MET or Bath?

As Andy says, one could only answer your question by taking into account your whole career plan.

Nevertheless, I'd keep in mind a few things:

  • there is virtually no conference interpreting market in the UK, so the amount of local, experienced, trainers, who are also conference interpreters, in a city like Edinburgh (and even London), will be limited.

  • studying far from the market you are aiming at and in a country that isn't the country of your A language only makes sense in a limited number of cases. E.g. if the training is excellent and will provide you with good perspectives to get a foot in the door (say, training in Paris or Geneva to work in Brussels does make sense).

  • you should look into each training's track record. How many people have graduated from a given course with your language combination? What percentage of those people are established conference interpreters three to five years later?

  • too many courses will let you in even if you don't stand a fighting chance and/or won't bring you up to the level required by the market. Beware and cross-check the offers with this list:

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answered 19 Oct '17, 16:32

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 20 Oct '17, 05:54

Hello, Gaspar. Thank you very much for your answer.

I would like to comment on a couple of things that you mentioned; first of all, like you said, HW University is not among the UK's Universities cooperating with SCIC and yet it was exactly by having a look at that document that I found out about HW back in 2013. I suppose that programme's quality of teaching must have been downgraded. Four years ago, I have tried enrolling to HW Interpreting and Translating Undergraduate programme but my application had been rejected so I chose to attend UNINT University in Rome (up until a few years ago, this establishment was known as "Libera Univeristà San Pio V") right after reading about it on that same document you sent me and now I cannot find it on that list. Well, I have to say now that I'm quite shocked...

I would also like to tell both you and Andy something about my career plans, as I realise that I haven't been very clear in my latest question and I do apologize for that. Briefly, what I would love to do is to work either as an Interpreter (ITA-ENG-FRA and Chinese as soon as I get better at it) or as an Italian teacher abroad, the latter being my plan B in case I should find myself not making ends meet by working exclusively as an interpreter, in one of the following countries: 1)United Kingdom 2)France 3)United States/Canada

The reason Italy is not on this list is both personal and political and I'll only state the political one here, for obvious reasons: since the Financial Crisis, the country has been getting poorer, more corrupt and messier and it doesn't seem to be able to change into a more civil and modern one, therefore living here is a lot tougher if you're young and want to make a living by doing what you love to do, which is working with foreign languages, in my case.

Now, with that being said, would you still suggest I give up on the idea of choosing a CI MA outside of Italy or is there some other place you think I should consider?

(19 Oct '17, 18:15) Giulianos_I

IT A, EN B, FR C is the recipe for unemployment.

Whether ZH makes any sense is for you to find out. Assuming there is a market for IT-ZH, learning the language to the required level will take you ten years or more.

So, the question is: How would you support yourself in the meantime? Would you be willing to postpone your MA by a decade and only have a day-job for that long, while arduously maintaining the motivation and discipline required to attain a close-to-native level of proficiency? You would be starting to study interpreting only when you'll be around thirty, but with no guarantees that you will actually succeed. Despite motivation and a good command of languages, some/many people fail their exams. Others pass their exams but still don't make it in the profession for various reasons.

One more thing: Is there even a course that teaches IT-ZH interpreting? If not, the picture gets even more complicated, as it's hard to learn something that no one is able to teach to you.

(19 Oct '17, 18:29) Gaspar ♦♦

"what I would love to do is to work either as an Interpreter (ITA-ENG-FRA and Chinese as soon as I get better " All of the languages ITA-ENG-FRA and Chinese is not realistic or useful, which is why I suggested you choose between a variety of combinations and possible job markets. Of the places you say you would like to live... 1)United Kingdom 2)France 3)United States/Canada I would be fairly confident about there being no work for you in France. As Gaspar says, the UK CI market is hardly thriving. It may not be a reliable indicator but there a quite few AIIC members in North America with IT-EN (however at a glance a bunch may well be earning their money at the UN in New York without using their IT). If you do want to try the US or Canada then you should probably study there for reasons outlined above.

(20 Oct '17, 13:32) Andy
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question asked: 18 Oct '17, 20:44

question was seen: 1,066 times

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