Sanako is a Finnish Educational Tech company helping schools and language teachers to improve language teaching efficiency and results.
For Dr Sharon Black, Lecturer in Interpreting (with Spanish) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), her Sanako solutions are “essential software tools for teaching interpreting.” Dr. Black, who has taught at UEA since September 2018, added Sanako’s software-only Conference Interpreting System to the department’s existing Sanako Study 1200 solution shortly after her arrival.
How Sanako Conference Interpreting System integrated into a normal language lab
In combination, these products offer full function conference interpreting functionality and are accessed via the department’s 18-seat language lab. Educators are able to manage and run multiple activities and groups simultaneously. Their value, as Dr Black outlines, is immediately clear:
“What’s great is that they enable students to listen to each other, not just the teacher. This helps them to provide peer feedback within simulated live environments.”
These environments are drawn from the worlds of conference and public service interpreting. Students would typically learn the skills of conference interpreting during the Autumn term before moving onto public service interpreting in the Spring term. This approach exposes students to very different scenarios as they move from consecutive and/or simultaneous interpreting in the conference module to understanding how best to support practitioners in court, healthcare, justice or social services settings.
In both courses, Dr. Black’s Sanako products play a key part:
“Our Sanako systems are very useful in supporting the delivery of both of these courses and we always get very positive feedback from students. They find the system easy to use and appreciate how it simulates real-world and professional scenarios.”
In addition to building vocabulary and core language skills, the UEA conference interpreting module also seeks to build up the students’ poise, confidence and professionalism. Students are regularly placed in mock conference settings, either interpreting live for a group or remotely to an online audience. The Sanako Study 1200 system is widely used in both situations to capture audio files and to help students to build up their skills through extensive linguistic practice. All students can get involved in the lesson and all are able to practice their speaking skills simultaneously. Importantly, as Dr Black notes, Study 1200 then allows the educator to
“listen to everyone speaking individually. I can give them individual feedback at any stage or all together as a group at the end. It’s fantastic!”
Dr Black also praises the Sanako solution’s usefulness in replicating telephone interpreting scenarios. She continues:
“Students find it very beneficial and engaging when we practice this on Sanako. It’s particularly powerful as doctors and patients often use the services of remote telephone interpreters and as a result cannot see them. In these situations, it’s difficult for interpreters to work without any visual clues. Sanako enables us to randomly assign groups of 3 students to these roles and it perfectly captures these challenging situations for interpreters.”
Operating a language lab during the pandemic and teaching online
As Dr Black and her colleagues prepare for the start of the new, pandemic-affected university year, she admits to feeling somewhat apprehensive, but she’s also looking forward to doing her best to face the challenges ahead successfully. It’s obvious that much planning and preparation has been done at UEA in order to “give students the best support and best student experience we possibly can.” UEA students will receive a blended pedagogical approach when term restarts, combining in person and online learning, but Dr Black highlights significant change for in-person lesson delivery.
Although students will still be able to access the language lab, due to social distancing arrangements, only 8 students will be able to use it at the same time this semester. With student safety in mind, UEA have decided that masks must be worn during in person teaching events. Also, it is safer for students to remain at their workstation and not move around the room or change seats. Dr Black acknowledges that these safety precautions will have an impact on student interactivity, which is such a vital part of language learning:
“Can you imagine trying to learn a language when you cannot even face each other?”
Dr Black therefore identifies that Sanako solutions
“will be even more valuable than ever before. Students will remain at their workstations in the language lab during seminars, so we’ll be maximising the opportunities Sanako offers for them to communicate with each other and to develop their listening and speaking skills. Sanako will be the tool we use to communicate with each other during classes and to make those classes more interactive.”
UEA is now also beginning to incorporate the latest Sanako Connect online system, which will allow students to gain valuable experience in remote conference interpreting, and will enable lessons to continue outside the classroom.
Importantly Sanako’s Conference Interpreting System enables Dr Black to listen in to (and record) any of her students’ conversations “at the click of a button.” This helps save her
“huge amounts of time as there’s no need to download and then review everything offline.”
Yet Dr Black acknowledges that higher education teaching staff have faced steep learning curves as they have been learning how to use many different online learning and teaching tools in just a few months, including their Sanako solutions. Dr Black has been supporting colleagues to use the Sanako systems and highlights the “really good training” she has received as a Sanako customer:
“I am always super impressed by Sanako’s customer service. They’re always really helpful and very supportive. It’s very much worth the money we pay.”
Dr Black concludes:
“Sanako products are vital for maintaining the quality of teaching and the quality of student experience on our courses. They also offer students an unrivalled opportunity to use professional-level software.”