Brian Trevor Griffiths, 1930-2014

A pioneer of practical training for interpreters in Britain has died

February 6, 2014

Brian Trevor Griffiths, often known as BTG, was born in Woking, Surrey, on 29 September 1930 and educated at Woking Grammar School before studying French at the University of Nottingham (1948-52). He became an accomplished flyer there and, after national service in the Royal Air Force, took up a commission as a serving officer in the education wing.

Although Mr Griffiths spent most of his 21 years in the RAF delivering University of London degree courses in French at the Cranwell staff college in Lincolnshire, he also taught in Hong Kong and had two three-year postings to France, at the Nato HQ in Fontainebleau (1960-63) and at the École de l’Air in Salon-de-Provence (1970-73). It was only when he retired from the air force with the rank of wing commander in 1973 that he began a second career as an academic. Appointed a lecturer in French at the University of Bradford, he became the driving force behind the postgraduate diploma in interpreting and translation.

It was under his leadership that the university developed what became known as the “Bradford method”, which integrated vocational training in interpreting and translation into hitherto literature-based language programmes.

Two interpreting laboratories were used for simulated multilingual conferences, where trainees could hone their skills as consecutive and simultaneous interpreters. Over the following decades, more than 300 Bradford graduates found employment in the United Nations, European Union and other international institutions.

“Brian Griffiths played a unique role in establishing interpreting as an intellectual and vocational skill in this country,” recalls John Russell, emeritus professor of Russian and security studies at Bradford. “He helped set the very highest standards that, due to the short-sighted policies of successive governments towards modern languages, fewer and fewer British graduates are able to meet.”

After retiring from Bradford as a senior lecturer in 1997, Mr Griffiths continued to teach on the diploma course, although the very success of the “Bradford method” meant that it was widely adopted elsewhere and the diploma was eventually closed down in its home university in 2008. He also devoted more of his efforts to the training of interpreters for the EU and its institutions in the accession countries, especially in the Baltic and Balkans.

Mr Griffiths died of cancer on 1 January and is survived by his wife, Jean, three children and three grandchildren.

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