| by Stephen Diehl

News Stories

(Credit: Oliver Kornblihtt )

Two Middlebury Institute students answered the call to volunteer their services during the United Nations Climate Change Conference—also known as COP26—which took place in November in Glasgow. The students were recruited to interpret for the COP26 Coalition’s “People’s Summit,” a meeting of international climate movement organizers held in tandem with the UN conference.

Julia Benson, a master’s candidate in Conference Interpretation, facilitated an interview in French and English between Haitian climate activist Macius Djivenson and Scottish journalist Karin Goodwin. Goodwin later used the interview for an article on the Scottish public interest news site The Ferret.

“It was interesting to meet one-on-one with people involved in the conference,” said Benson, “and great to have a chance to apply my skills outside of the classroom and see how appreciative people are that I can help them communicate.”

Conference Interpretation student Kole Wright interpreted at a session with Extinction Rebellion activists from French- and English-speaking countries in Africa. He says he spent the first hour of the session speed-translating written questions and answers in the Zoom chat, but in an emergency, had to fill in for one of the English to French interpreters whose Internet connection dropped.

“Luckily, topics like NGOs and climate change were subjects I’d covered extensively in my English-French simultaneous interpreting class, so I was able to provide French interpretation of a Ugandan activist’s speech for participants joining from the DRC, Senegal, Benin, and other francophone countries,” Wright recounted.

The students learned about the opportunity through Professor Christiane Abel, who relayed the request from the COP26 Coalition. Abel says this kind of experience can help students see the link between what they study in their translation interpretation classes and the demands of the market.

“They experience the fact that ‘real’ people actually need them to communicate, so they can get a feel for that pressure versus the more artificial environment of the classroom,” says Abel.

Julia Benson MACI ’22 Discusses Interpreting at COP26

Middlebury’s Andrew Cassel interviews Middlebury Institute student Julia Benson about her work as an interpreter during the UN’s COP26 conference.