Videoconferencing technologies can benefit teaching on Interpretation and Translation Studies courses in a number of ways. While students in this discipline do have the chance to hear from guests coming to the University to deliver lectures, run workshops or give recruitment presentations, it is not always possible for experts to visit us on campus due to time constraints. Most experts in this field travel extensively for private and public activities. As a solution, Skype lectures provide excellent opportunities to students to interact with and learn from experts who may not be academics, but work full-time in the interpreting and translation industry.
As part of the project of using videoconferencing technologies in our classroom, we conducted a Skype conversation with an interpreter from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Students were given some preparation materials to help prepare for the topic to be discussed and to benefit from the translation session with the remote participant. The session involved going through the translation, getting confirmation on what industry-specific jargon was appropriate to use in this case, and enjoying informal interaction with the remote participant. The latter part of the session involved posing questions to the interpreter. The students were keen to discuss her work both with the FAO and as a freelancer. The discussion also focused on talking about the participant’s average working day, salary and expectations in terms of translation output.
Several aspects of the session worked particularly well. Our lecturer and the remote participant had discussed beforehand what we were meant to learn from the session. The lecturer was still very much involved in guiding the session so that we would meet the lesson’s learning objectives along with having the opportunity to interact with the speaker on the other side. That meant that the group was able to move forward in terms of what we needed to learn in that class but we were also able to step away from traditional forms of instruction by doing something different from what we normally would. The lecturer worked with the students before the session to prepare questions on a range of issues, including how much anyone could expect to earn in the translation industry.
Students really appreciated the opportunity to get both a fresh perspective on the industry as well as insight into what to expect in terms of workload, pay and time-management issues. This was invaluable information which we do get in small doses from our own lecturers, but of course there are may different career decisions that can be made within the broader area of ‘interpreting and translation’. It is always good to hear from those who made slightly less common career choices. We might never had received such information without the use of videoconferencing technologies. The speaker could only join us via Skype because she lives and works in the south of Spain and has a family to look after, but this technology made such a meeting possible.
Interacting via Skype meant that we had to be fully engaged to show the speaker that we were attentive. We wanted to portray the university and ourselves in the best possible light. We were very focussed on what we were doing, and the session was particularly engaging if nothing else due to its novelty. If used appropriately, the technology’s benefits can be tailored to specific courses. It can achieve specific objectives such as learning about certain jobs or to encouraging students’ participation and interaction. Any use of such technology will require students and lecturers to be constantly involved to ensure that sessions are fully productive. They can serve a variety of purposes instead of being replacements for regular lectures. My own experience attests that the use of videoconferencing technologies can make it possible for students to get a more well-rounded view of their subject and to prepare them better for life after university.