Review of the Bath MA in Interpreting and Translating

BathMy master’s journey kicked off with an interview day at the University of Bath. First up were two interviews with a tutor, one for each language pair, which involved performing a sight translation – something I managed to embellish with a grand total of 19 “erms” according to one of my interviewers. The afternoon consisted of a short written translation exam. Despite my verbal sluggishness that morning, the experience was relatively relaxed and the only downside was the mammoth train journey from Durham to Bath. For anyone in a similar position, the university is able to offer accommodation on campus at reduced rates.

The course itself consisted of two streams: native English speakers working from a foreign language into English, and students working in both directions between an ‘A’ and ‘B’ language. The exact languages offered on the course can vary from year to year depending on the number and calibre of applicants for each language pair.

In terms of classroom teaching, there were two semesters of consecutive, simultaneous and public service interpreting (with some exams in January) as well as weekly translation lessons. Overall the course was heavily weighted towards interpreting and strongly focused on the EU and UN. In fact, extra classes were put on throughout the year offering, among other things, an introduction to these institutions and an excellent crash course in English law.

Aside from official lessons, students had all-day access to the state-of-the-art interpreting labs and were very much encouraged to make the most of them outside of classroom time for both individual and group practice. On top of this the teaching staff organised several “model” conferences featuring students from all language streams, which served as a great introduction to relay interpreting.

Each student would also undertake a placement that usually involved either visiting the European institutions, dummy boothing, providing real-life interpretations or working in a translation department. For my placement I interpreted at a charity conference and the contacts and insight I gained there enabled me to continue volunteering after I graduated, thereby racking up precious hours of interpreting experience.

Another plus point for me personally was that despite only being allowed to graduate in two languages, I was able to attend classes for my third language as well as those for the TPLS (Translation and Professional Language Skills) master’s. The latter taught editing, revision and even précis writing skills, which weren’t a feature of the Interpreting and Translating course.

As I mentioned above, more attention was paid to interpreting than translation. Ultimately I don’t feel that this hindered my translation ability due to the transferrable skills we learned, the high level of the course and my previous undergrad translation experience. At the time, however, the Bath course definitely lacked information about translation technology and business skills, resulting in my managing to graduate without even knowing what a CAT tool was (!). Having browsed through the latest prospectus, it looks like things have now changed for the better in this area.

When it came to the end-of-year dissertation students could choose between a 15,000-word research essay or a 10,000-word translation with a 5000-word commentary. I opted for the latter, although there was also a ‘dissertation-free’ option if you wanted a postgraduate diploma rather than an MA. For students who already had a master’s degree or experience in the industry, this was quite appealing.

Overall I’m extremely glad that I chose the Bath MA. The teachers were incredibly enthusiastic and terrifyingly experienced, having worked at the very highest levels. They were hard on their students but always in the interest of achieving excellence. I would particularly recommend this course to anyone interested in interpreting at the EU or UN, although prospective translators shouldn’t rule it out: when I started the course I wanted to be an interpreter, but in the end I embarked on a career as a freelance translator and haven’t looked back.Beth Burleigh

Beth translates from French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian into English. Having completed a BA in Modern Languages and an MA in Interpreting and Translating, she launched her freelance career in 2011 and has since also picked up the IoLET Diploma in Translation. Her main specialism lies in the field of sports and fitness, particularly when it comes to more creative texts. For more information about Beth and her services, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Please see the MA Translation and Interpreting Courses page for more reviews and details of programmes available in Europe.

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