Promoting Cross-Cultural Communication Through Linguistic Diversity

Promoting Cross-Cultural Communication Through Linguistic Diversity

The Translation and Interpreting Institute (TII) is part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). Nada A. Al-Mahmeed, Director of TII’s Translation and Training Center, reflects on the impact of their language courses and translation and interpreting services.

1. What programs does TII offer?

Guided by our three pillars, TII extends unique and specialized learning opportunities to the local and international communities. The Language Center (LC) and Translation and Training Center (TTC) offer a wide range of lifelong learning opportunities in foreign languages, and in translation and interpreting, while the Translation and Interpreting Studies Department (TISD) delivers two innovative and interdisciplinary MA programs.

The LC’s enriching courses serve the aspirations of professionals as well as the broader community, reflecting our understanding that language is the main form of communication and connection among people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Mastering multiple languages may help our diverse population in Qatar, and globally, to communicate better and achieve fruitful impacts together; as individuals, a closely knit community, and active global citizens. TII currently offers 12 languages to adults: Arabic, English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish, and six to children and teenagers: Arabic, French, Spanish, German, Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese. 

TTC workshops span a range of specialties and focal topics, including legal translation, translating sports, note-taking for interpreters, subtitling, accessible hospitality and events, and many others. We found that the workshops appeal to professional translators, interpreters and communication specialists who frequently communicate in both Arabic and English. 

Our MA programs in Translation Studies and Audiovisual Translation are a sound foundation for professional work in various sectors and doctoral study. Work placement experience and training in our state-of-the-art labs advance students’ skills to a professional level. 

When it comes to our professional services, TII aspires to be the top institute offering qualitative translation and interpreting services including audiovisual translation through TTC. We extend translation services to institutions within and beyond Education City. Providing professional translation and interpreting services does not deter us away from our main cause at CHSS and TII: social justice. An example of our socially driven projects is our work with the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) and Save the Children to translate The Paediatric Blast Injury Field Manual into Arabic and French, which is contributing to saving lives in conflict zones. We’ve also worked with Qatar Museums and Joaan College on translating books that shed light on the country’s history and achievements. 

We supported the 2020 Ayjal Film Festival’s inclusive screening for the sixth year, and for the first time as a professional service since being initiated as a student project back in 2015. This confirms the commitment to accessibility and inclusion from both the Doha Film Institute and CHSS. 

2. What impact are you having through your programs?

An example of TII’s less visible impact and engagement has been through our contributions during COVID-19. We worked with the Government Communications Office (GCO) to translate essential information into Malayalam, Urdu, Hindi, and Nepali and content for the Coronavirus Information Service automated chatbot. We saw this initiative as our duty, which enabled communities to be properly informed and empowered. During the pandemic, several of our students and alumni volunteered their services in translating and disseminating information. 

In terms of social impact, TII and the LC have a close relationship with the diplomatic community. We’re proud of our collaboration with the Chinese Embassy, and having our language students take part in their Chinese New Year celebrations. Witnessing how different cultures connect is exciting. We’ve also had several European ambassadors coming into our language classes to encourage our students’ learning and engage in friendly, informal conversations.

Translation is an essential method of communication, and we provide our expertise in almost every sphere: political, business, legal, and medical. As Qatar prepares to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM, 2030 Asian Games, and other events, TII focuses on sports in some of its activities. Two such learning opportunities are the Translating Sports workshop, and Ability Friendly Coaching the Coach Program. The latter will soon be offered in partnership with QF Community Development, aiming to help football coaches develop the necessary practical coaching skills to train aspiring footballers with various abilities and make sports accessible to all.

3. How has COVID-19 influenced TII?

We’ve taken Qatar Foundation’s (QF) “learning never stops” approach to heart and, by adapting, found new opportunities. I wouldn’t be exaggerating in saying we managed to switch our courses to online delivery practically overnight. 

I personally believe the world will never fully go back to how it used to be, and the same applies at TII. I do regard in-person learning as more beneficial, but recognize that a segment of the community would love to continue taking our courses online. It saves their time not having to travel to our Penrose House premises and is often easier for shy or introverted students.

Our online language courses are now attracting enrolments from Japan and other countries though this international demand is not entirely new. Because our training is specialized and of very high quality, we’ve had participants come from as far afield as Morocco, Kuwait and Oman to attend TTC’s four-day professional development workshops. 

4. How do TII’s programs contribute to HBKU’s vision?

TII’s programs are open to learners from different backgrounds and specializations who want to strengthen their ability to communicate and translate from one language to another. We’ve had diplomats, business executives, military and sports professionals, and others join our courses and workshops. On an academic level, our students and graduates work in various fields. 

This ability to offer learning opportunities that engage everyone in the community stems from the intense interdisciplinarity of our offerings. Other examples are CHSS’ PhD in Humanities and Sciences and the two MAs in Digital Humanities and Societies, and in Women, Society and Development. I believe this approach is one of the reasons behind TII’s success.