October 31, 2018

Public Service Interpreting – Using Your Language Skills to Help Others

You are learning a language so you will have heard of interpreting: the art of converting one spoken or signed language into another spoken or signed language. The role of an interpreter is to help two or more people who don’t speak the same language to communicate with each other. You may have heard of the different styles of interpreting as well, the most common ones being Conference Interpreting and Public Service Interpreting, but perhaps you weren’t sure of the difference. This blog post looks at what we mean when we talk about “Public Service Interpreting”, sometimes called “Community Interpreting” or “Liaison Interpreting”, and the main differences between this type of interpreting and Conference Interpreting.

How does a Public Service Interpreter Work?

When you think of an interpreter, you may picture a person wearing a headset in a booth at a high-profile meeting, perhaps at the United Nations. They do not speak directly to the people they are interpreting for and can sometimes be “invisible” inside their glass booth. They mainly translate speeches into another spoken language and sometimes translate questions put to speakers who are talking in front of a large audience. Public service interpreters work very differently. Their role is to facilitate a conversation and they are usually physically present beside the people they are interpreting for. Sometimes they are available over the telephone but still a key part of the conversation at hand.


Conference interpreters usually interpret simultaneously, meaning they listen and interpret at the same time in order to convey a speech without breaks. Public service interpreters interpret consecutively: they wait for each speaker to finish and say what they just said to the other speaker in a language that speaker understands, creating a conversation. They may need to take notes or have a good memory to be able to do this effectively. Occasionally, Public service interpreters do do simultaneous interpreting, usually to allow one person to understand a speech or court proceedings, for example, and they will do this in a hushed voice so that person can hear but it will not disturb the proceedings. This method is called “chuchotage” (“whispering” in French).


Another difference between Conference and Public service interpreters is that Conference interpreters usually only interpret from one language into another (usually into their mother tongue), whereas Public service interpreters work bidirectionally, which means they translate into and out of each language needed in the conversation.


What Environments does a Public Service Interpreter Work in?

Public service interpreters are needed to make sure that everyone can have equal access to public services, whichever language they speak. Public service interpreters usually facilitate communication between public service providers and users of these services. They can work in hospitals and GP surgeries, mental health treatment sessions, immigration interviews, Job Centres, the courts and police stations, schools, council services and many more. The fact that they work in a variety of environments means that Public service interpreters must have an excellent grasp of specialist vocabulary in both languages they work in. They also need to speak both languages very well.


What Obligations does a Public Service Interpreter have towards their Clients?

Public service interpreters often translate sensitive or emotive information for speakers. This can be stressful for the interpreter. Public service interpreters must also maintain strict confidentiality: they must not talk about anything they have interpreted outside of the interpreting session and not reveal the names or experiences of anyone they have interpreted for. They must also be impartial – it is not their role to give advice or advocate for one or other of the speakers. Their role is to interpret what is said; it is up to the service provider to provide advice. The interpreter can of course mention if they feel there may have been a misunderstanding but it is up to the service provider to try and correct that.


We hope you have found this post interesting. If you have any comments or reflections, please leave them below!


Suzannah Young

October 24, 2018

Travelling corner: Best camp-site in South Cornwall

We went camping in Cornwall this summer (obviously!) and we had one of the best camping experiences. We went to a campsite called Keveral, which is located not far away from Looe in South Cornwall. There is an organic farm, too, so you can order some super fresh fruit and veg to prepare your meals.

Why was it so special? We loved the atmosphere of the campsite; relaxed and friendly. The campsite is not too big, so everybody has enough space to enjoy some privacy yet, at the same time, not to feel lonely. The area is green and quiet but close to the beach (walking distance), to Cornish towns – Looe, Polperro and Fowey (by car), and to beautiful beaches (Freathy Beach, Lantic Beach and Readymoney Beach). But the best thing about the site was the people; many from Holland and also from Bristol! We met some wonderful people there, had camp-fires and open-air pizza-baking together, and we even managed to organise a get-together once back in Bristol. Magic!

I know we’ll be back (many of the other guests also visit regularly)! It’s a wonderful place for a summer holiday or a weekend escape.

Kinga Macalla

October 17, 2018

Book review: The Bilingual Family. A Handbook for Parents by Edith Harding and Philip Riley

Learning is the product of ‘motivation x opportunity’ – Edith Harding and Philip Riley

With over half of the world’s population being bilingual, as Edith Harding and Philip Riley remind us, I find the topic of bilingualism important to discuss and learn more about. The Bilingual Family by Edith Harding and Philip Riley is a practical guide to bilingualism. We can find there many useful topics being covered and issues discussed. It starts with an introduction to language and bilingualism (definition, level of fluency, simultaneous and successive acquisition). The chapter that I found really important was about the factors that influence the decision on whether to bring up children bilingually. After all, the decision on bilingualism will influence the whole family’s life, and it’s crucial to make it as informed as possible. Obviously, sometimes bilingualism is a completely natural consequence, as it was in my family’s case. I did read some books on bilingualism, but rather than thinking about pros and cons against bilingualism, I thought about how to implement it and what language plan to have for my family. Another interesting chapter is devoted to case studies. Here we find 16 different examples of bilingual families and learn how they approached bilingualism, and how their children learnt to be bilingual (to various degrees). To whet your appetite, I’ll only mention that there is also a sub-chapter on intelligence and bilingualism.

I highly recommend this publication to parents who face the decision of introducing bilingualism and don’t know how to approach it and for those who are already bilingual, but need some support or have some unanswered questions.

Are you a bilingual family? What books on bilingualism have you read and would like to recommend? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

October 10, 2018

Book review: Teach like Finland. 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy D. Walker

Once, I walked into [the] first grade classroom at my Helsinki school, and I found tiny children with real needles in their hands. It was especially scary, because I couldn’t find [the teacher] initially. Timothy D. Walker

Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

In 2001, Finland shocked the world when its pupils achieved the highest scores on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a set of tests evaluating critical-thinking skills in maths, science and reading. What was their secret? – I wanted to know. My query lead me to a book by Timothy Walker, Teach like Finland, where he walks the readers through the Finnish schooling system from an insider’s perspective, him being a teacher in Finland.

When we read the book, we come across many surprising facts, e.g. in Finland, pupils have frequent breaks, short school days, light homework, long holidays and little standardised testing. We also learn that the education system finds it important to invest in certain values, such as well-being (recharging, physical activity, simplicity, playing outside/in the wild), belonging (building strong relationships with the pupils, having fun and celebrating with the pupils, banishing bullying), autonomy (valuing freedom, getting to know pupils’ passions, planning with the students, demanding responsibility), mastery (the importance of teaching the essentials, leveraging technology, implementing some music elements, preparing summative assessments, discussing grades with the pupils), mind-set (enjoying the teaching process and then the holiday time, collaborating with other teachers, welcoming experts). The last two sub-chapters talk about time-off (vacate on vacation) and about joy of teaching, and I find both of those topics essential if one wants to implement any of the suggested strategies. Taking time off to recharge is crucial if we want to be more productive and enjoy our work, and joy of teaching (learning) means that we’re not only passionate about what we’re doing, but we actually enjoy the process of teaching (learning), which makes us happy.

I think the focus in Finnish schools is more on developing different life skills (e.g. mindfulness, interpersonal relationships and self-awareness) than concentrating only on their academic achievements. At the same time, this education system is deeply rooted in Finnish culture and heritage, which may mean that implementing it in another country may not be as successful (worth checking?). However, through making small changes and amending our teaching styles or our approaches to teaching, we may experiment to see if the Finnish approach (or parts of it) can work in our teaching/learning setting.

The book is a fascinating publication for those who are involved in the education system: teachers, scholars, policy makers… but also for parents, if they wish to learn more about the Finnish teaching and learning style.

Have you read any interesting publications on the Finnish education system or other countries’ education systems? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

October 3, 2018

How do you start? What would be your key tips for parents wanting to raise their children bilingually?(4)

Three months ago, we introduced a new series of video interviews and online interviews which are devoted to the subject of bilingualism. We find the topic of bilingualism fascinating and we want to discuss some of the issues and benefits linked with being bilingual, as well as many other bilingualism-related topics. If you have any ideas or questions related to bilingualism, let us know in the comments below.

Today, in our fourth YT video, we attempt to answer  the question “How do you start? What would be your key tips for parents wanting to raise their children bilingually?”. Our special guest is Łucja Miniewska, an expert on bilingualism both academically (she holds an MSc in Bilingualism) and practically (she’s a mum of two bilingual children). Please click the link to watch our YT video.

Kinga Macalla