Our Mandarin team did an excellent job working into English for the conference attendees.

Our Mandarin team did an excellent job working into English for the conference attendees.

This past weekend, the MCI students were in the booth again. This time, they were interpreting for the 6th Annual Graduate Student Conference in Translation Studies. This is a yearly event organized by the students in the Master of Arts in Translation Studies (MATS), one of the other graduate programs here at Glendon.

The theme of the conference was “Reflecting on the Past, Preparing for the Future”. The organizers wanted participants to think about the ways in which translation and interpreting are in a state of transition. This is most obviously true when we think about the impact of technology on the language professions, and it was a point driven home by our keynote speaker.

JostSlideDr. Jost Zetzsche is a professional translator, an industry consultant, an author, and — to be perfectly honest — a bit of a thought leader in the field. (If you are interested, you can follow him on Twitter as @jeromobot and subscribe to his monthly newsletter.) Jost was one of the first people publicly discussing translation and technology, well before it became top of mind for most in the profession. So he was well placed to address the theme of the conference with his talk, “No Time Like the Present”.


Jost ended his session on a feel-good note — reminding translators of the profound ways in which they shape communication and society.

He looked back at some of the mistakes that translators made with technology, and he also offered some advice to interpreters. (I think it’s fair to say that interpreters are about to be impacted by technology in much the same way that translators were 20 years ago.) For example, he pointed out that translators

  • were slow to embrace technology;
  • failed to see themselves as businesses and invest accordingly;
  • did not seek out ways to participate in the development of tech tools for translation; and
  • did not try to leverage their expertise in a creative way.

These are all things that we are mindful of in the MCI, and we work very hard to ensure that the interpreters we train will not repeat these errors.


Helen ran a fast-paced session that demanded a lot of participation from the audience.

The conference was also an opportunity to do some skill building. Our colleague Helen Campbell was also on hand. Helen is a 35-year veteran of the Directorate General for Interpretation at the European Commission. The DG Interpretation (also known as SCIC) is the world’s largest single employer of conference interpreters. Helen is a much-sought-after interpreter trainer, and during the conference, she demonstrated why.


Helen’s audience was called on to make their consecutive note-taking more efficient and more analytical.

She ran another iteration of her “Note-Taking Boot Camp” for consecutive interpreting, and the session filled up in a flash! Many of our local interpreters were eager to learn from Helen. Luckily, we booked a large room, and Helen was gracious enough to take in the interpreters who were on the waiting list. I spoke with several of the participants after her session, and — no surprise to me — they all raved about the experience. I’m sure that they walked away with a more finely tuned skill set to use in their professional practice.

The Portuguese team took centre stage in the morning.

The Portuguese team took centre stage in the morning.

Finally, the conference, as I mentioned at the outset, was also a time for our MCI students to shine. This is because the conference was multilingual, with research papers being presented in French, Portuguese, Arabic, and Mandarin. For this reason, we were able to shine a spotlight on some of the language teams that aren’t always the centre of attention.

To be sure, it was a nerve-wracking time. For example, when one of the attendees presented his research in Arabic, everyone in the amphitheatre put their headphones on to listen to the interpretation into English. But our students were up to the challenge, and they conducted themselves like the new professionals that they are.

The Arabic team was the epitome of grace under pressure.

The Arabic team was the epitome of grace under pressure.

Long story short, the conference was an opportunity for both students and outside professionals to sharpen their skills and think about new directions. It was another example of how we offer rich learning experiences to the Glendon community, and the community beyond out gates.

Got a point to make about the MATS conference or others like it? A story to share about how you benefitted from extracurricular learning? Drop me a line in the comment field below.


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