The Caspian Higher School of Interpreting and Translation (CITS) is a structural subdivision of Astrakhan State University that trains Masters of linguistics within the programmes “Theory of Interpreting and Translation. Intercultural and Interlingual Communication” (Master’s degree in interpreting) and “Theory and Practice of Translation in Professional Communication” (Master’s degree in translation). This is a joint project of ASU, the Directorate-General for Interpretation of the European Commission, the Directorate-General for Logistics and Interpretation for Conferences of the European Parliament, supported by the United Nations, World Intellectual Property Organization, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Government of Astrakhan region and other leading Russian and foreign organizations.
Cooperation with the European institutions was initiated in July 2010, when a delegation of representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament arrived in Astrakhan in order to help Astrakhan State University launch a project on training interpreters and translators for international organizations. Then, in 2011, a number of consultation visits were held – experts from the Directorate-General for Interpretation of the European Commission (DG SCIC) and the Directorate-General for Logistics and Interpretation for Conferences of the European Parliament (DG LINC) visited Astrakhan State University to assist in development of curricula of the MA programmes, choice of conference interpreting equipment, etc.
The study programmes were finally launched in the 2011/2012 academic year. The first group of MA students started their studies in September 2011 (these were 13 students, including citizens of Kazakhstan). The academic year was successfully completed, and since then the DG SCIC and DG LINC have been providing Astrakhan State University with active pedagogical and consultative assistance (lectures and master classes by their experts in training modules of the programme, virtual classes and participation in aptitude tests and final exams).
The DG SCIC and DG LINC helped ASU establish cooperation with leading European translation and interpreting schools (Sorbonne, University of Geneva, universities of Vienna, Ljubljana, Istanbul, etc.), which help ASU to run educational programmes according to the highest EU standards. The curricula were developed on the basis of the most prestigious MA programmes in translation and interpreting.
With active participation and consultation assistance of the DG SCIC and DG LINC, a new unique conference interpreting lab was equipped and prepared for classes (it can be used both as a classroom and a conference room). The equipment is exactly the same as in the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels and in the best universities worldwide (Televic, Belgium). Now Astrakhan MA students benefit from the same learning conditions as their peers have in HEIs of Geneva, New York or Paris.
The official opening ceremony of the conference-interpreting classroom took place in December 2012. It was attended by Marco Benedetti, the Director-General for Interpretation of the European Commission, the Governor of Astrakhan region, the Consul-General of Kazakhstan in Astrakhan and other distinguished guests.
Since then, the School graduated eight groups of top-class interpreters and translators (and the ninth one on the way). CITS has established cooperation with several large organizations (such as the United Nations, World Intellectual Property Organization, Russian Foreign Ministry, etc.) and foreign universities. The School has also won several foreign grants, initiated a number of academic projects of Caspian and international importance, and keeps on moving forward.
It is important that the Caspian Higher School of Interpreting and Translation focuses on the Caspian region languages. Astrakhan region has traditionally close ties with its Caspian neighbors, and nowadays these ties are developing dynamically. Therefore, it is important that ASU has become a center for training experts who are proficient in the Azerbaijani and Kazakh languages (all students learn these languages), Farsi (this is an established direction) and the Turkmen language (a new, but very promising direction).