Non-language students’ experiences participating in T&I contests

A fountain in front of RUDN in Russia

Training translators and interpreters in real-world settings is a longstanding academic tradition. Today, multilingual, domain-specific practices explain why university graduates need to combine foreign language and translation and interpreting (T&I) skills with field-specific knowledge. Therefore, in addition to traditional bachelor’s and master’s T&I programmes, the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN) in Moscow has been running a specific university-wide professional conversion course on specialised T&I in line with specific undergraduate course content in non-language programmes. Upon successfully completing the course, students are awarded a diploma in specialised T&I in line with their majors. This concept ensures students are consistently involved in T&I activities beyond their classroom assignments.

Among the activities students participate in are T&I contests. For the past two years, non-language students at RUDN have successfully taken part in a number of such contests.

Every autumn, Moscow State University of International Relations hosts its International Student Contest in Specialised Translation with Minsk State Linguistic University and the Association of Professional Translators and Translation Companies of Kazakhstan. The contest generally brings together over 800 representatives from several countries. In 2022, RUDN students were among the silver and gold medal winners in English–Russian and Spanish–Russian translation in the legal and business intelligence tracks and took third place in English–Russian translation in the political track in 2023. The most attractive reasons students have cited for participating in such competitions include enhancing their awareness of interdisciplinary challenges in specialised translation and helping them understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Another contest of note is the Annual Russian Student Contest in Scientific Translation from English and German, which takes place between March and May. In 2023, the contest also added legal and economic tracks. Participating students from the RUDN Law Institute submitted translations in a number of the competition’s legal translation categories, and six RUDN University students won prizes in the English–Russian and German–Russian tracks. Among many positive points, students appreciated the opportunity to be assessed by ‘external’ professionals and to see how their own legal translation skills compared to those of the other universities’ participants.

The final example is the International Interpreting Competition (May–June 2023 at Minsk State Linguistic University), which included consecutive interpreting about intercultural communications challenges and sight translation on cutting-edge technology. Two third-year bachelor’s students from the RUDN Institute of Environmental Engineering rose to the top through the final round and won gold and silver from among 48 other participants. When asked about the most challenging part of the contest, they emphasised the importance of quick thinking and mental flexibility, in addition to language mastery.

As a consistent part of T&I course curriculum, contests help students be more motivated, foster social maturity, develop self-evaluation skills, and identify future career paths and challenges.

Anastasia Atabekova (RUDN)

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