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Frequently Asked Questions

Public Service Interpreting programme

In what languages are the courses taught? Our Public Service Interpreting (PSI) courses are taught in English only but may include bilingual assessments. They do not include bilingual teaching because this would result in considerably higher fees.
What are the main topics covered? The “Professional Conduct in Public Service Interpreting” module is suitable for both students new to interpreting and those who already work as interpreters. It covers topics that are further developed in the “Public Service Interpreting – Health” module (the “Public Service Interpreting – Law” module has been withdrawn until further notice) such as practical and ethical issues related to working as a public service interpreter in the UK and the skills required.

We strongly recommend that students, particularly those new to interpreting, complete this module before the specialised one. If this is not possible we can provide some of the material but there may still be gaps in knowledge that could have an effect on their grade for the “Public Service Interpreting – Health” module.

The main topics covered in the PSI Health module are:

  • The skills required of a Public Service Interpreter and tested in the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) examination (see questions on the DPSI below): consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, sight translation and written translation.
  • The Impartial Model of interpreting and issues and principles of professional conduct for PS interpreters.
  • The practices of Public Services working in Health and the terminology they and their clients are likely to use.
What kind of terminology are Public Services and their clients likely to use? The terminology that Public Services and their clients use that causes the most difficulty is specialised terminology but it also includes euphemisms, idioms, swearing and potentially embarrassing language.
Will the course cover all the terminology a PS interpreter will need to know? No, this is not possible because language is constantly evolving as are public service practices and their terminology. This means that interpreters need to be constantly updating their vocabulary. Also there is no limit to the topics that can become relevant in public service settings. We cover commonly used terminology and teach research and assignment preparation skills.
How can I decide what courses to take? Students should first complete the “Professional Conduct in Public Service Interpreting” module (or an equivalent / similar one) and then enrol on the “Public Service Interpreting – Health” module.


Are there any tests or exams in the courses? There are short written tests throughout the courses and bilingual oral tests towards the end.
Your tutors will give you more detailed information at the start of each course. Students need to reach a pass grade in order to qualify for the credits associated with each module.
Will I get an interpreting qualification at the end of the course? No, our courses are designed to support students who are considering or preparing for examinations for external and independently awarded qualifications. The most widely recognised qualification for Public Service Interpreters in the UK is the DPSI (see below).

The credits awarded on successful completion of the PSI courses are confirmed by the Examinations Boards that meet in July and October..

Is there a minimum attendance requirement? Yes, students will not gain credits if they are not able to attend at least half the course. The reason for this is that the training is heavily dependent on practical work in class.
What will happen if I have problems that affect my attendance or performance? Students may occasionally experience personal circumstances, such as illness, bereavement, etc., which can seriously disrupt their ability to study and/or affect performance in an assessment. The University considers extenuating circumstances to be circumstances which:

  • have prevented you from performing at your usual level in an assessment; and
  • are unforeseen or unavoidable; and
  • are close in time to the affected assessment.

If you believe you have extenuating circumstances whilst taking a course provided by Cardiff University Continuing and Professional Education, you should make this known to the course tutor as soon as you become aware of them.

For further information on what kinds of circumstances are likely/unlikely to be accepted see:

What is the DPSI? DPSI stands for Diploma in Public Service Interpreting. This diploma can be obtained by sitting an external examination run independently by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL). You can find further information on this and other qualifications on their website ( under “Qualifications”.

Our courses are designed to support students in their preparation for the DPSI examination but the fee for that exam is not included in our fees. Entry to the exam is a separate procedure for which separate fees are payable. The DPSI is set at levels 6 and 5 (5 for the written translations) whereas our PSI courses are set at level 4.

Students who do not wish to sit the DPSI examination are also welcome to attend our courses.

What does the DPSI examination consist of? There are five units, three oral and two written.

Unit 1 comprises two dialogues requiring mainly consecutive but also some simultaneous interpreting, one where the simultaneous interpreting is from the Other Language (OL) into English and the other one where it is from English into the OL.

Units 2 and 3 are two Sight Translations (oral translation of a written text) one into and the other one from English.

Units 4 and 5 are two Written Translations, again into and from English.

For the exam, candidates have to select one language to translate and interpret from and into English and one of three pathways: Law, Health or Local Government.

How long does the DPSI exam take and where and when does it take place? The oral tasks normally take around one hour. The written translations take place on a different day and students are allowed one hour for each.

We are a DPSI examination centre but for some languages, students still have to go to London for the oral tasks (units 1, 2 and 3). This depends on the number of students taking a specific language and pathway (Law, Health or Local Government) combination and on how many teams of assessors are available for a particular language.

For information on sitting the examination in Cardiff go to and / or contact Sian Austin (


Do I need to do the courses to be able to sit the DPSI examination? No, the DPSI examination is open to anyone even if they have not undertaken any courses.
Will I be ready to sit the DPSI exam by the end of the PSI Health or Law course? This will depend on many factors including your language competency in both English and your other language, how much study and research you are able to undertake during the course and your interpreting experience.

These courses should help you to decide whether you are ready but, as you have to register by the end of January for the examination in June, we recommend that students who are not already familiar with the DPSI examination at the start of the PSI Health and Law courses wait until the following November to register for the following June.

How difficult is the DPSI exam? The exam is set at the level of an undergraduate degree. Past papers and examiner reports available at the CIoL website can give you an idea of the level of difficulty. Please note that registration with CIOL as an IoLET Affiliate or in professional membership grades is a pre-requisite for exam registration and allows the candidates to access the past papers and other resources. Once you enrol in one of our courses you will have access to a full set of past papers from the Library at Senghennydd Rd..
What languages are covered in the courses? As the courses are in English, we accept students who speak any other languages. Although there are sometimes language pairs or groups, for many students this is not the case.
What level of English do I need to have to undertake these courses? You should be able to understand and express complex ideas using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation and have a good grasp of idiomatic English. A native English speaker should be able to understand your spoken and written English without difficulty. If you are a native English speaker then the same applies for the other language(s) that you intend to use for public service interpreting.
Do I need to be able to read and write my other language (OL)? If you are not able to read and / or write your other language you can still take our courses but you will not be able to sit some parts of the DPSI exam and gain the full qualification. You will not be able to undertake most Police work (specially taking witness statements). If you are not able to read your other language you will not be able to undertake sight translations and these are sometimes part of our bilingual assessments. You should discuss this with the tutor at the start of the course..
How can I find out what the employment prospects are for my language(s)? Public Service interpreters normally work on a freelance basis and it is very difficult to predict demand because it depends on many unforeseeable factors. WITS, the Wales Interpretation and Translation Service, holds statistics on recent supply and demand for different languages and you can apply to register with them even if you don’t have any qualifications. They can also explain the benefits of qualifications and training in relation to their booking policies. For some bookings they approach qualified interpreters first and pay a higher rate.

The NRPSI website ( can also provide information regarding the number of registered interpreters for a given language by geographical area in the UK.

What is the NRPSI? It stands for National Register of Public Service Interpreters and it is a national register of qualified interpreters, mostly DPSI holders. Their website (see above) provides information about criteria for entry.
Where will the course be taught? The courses are generally taught at the Centre for Continuing and Professional Education in Senghennydd Road (CF24 4AG) but occasionally there are classes taught elsewhere in the University. There might also be sessions with service providers in other locations..
Will I need to use e-mail and other IT facilities for the courses? Yes, students are offered a University e-mail account and we use it to communicate with them. We use a Virtual Learning Environment called “Learning Central” to post resources, information and announcements. We also give students the opportunity to discuss issues of interest via a discussion board.
Students who encounter difficulties using University IT facilities will have the support of the Cardiff University IT department. The use of Learning Central is an essential part of the course.
How can I enrol on a course and is there a closing date for enrolments? You can enrol on a course by filling in an enrolment form and returning it to the Reception office at the Centre for Continuing and Professional Education (Senghennydd Rd, Cardiff, CF24 4AG). You can obtain the form by downloading it from the web or from the Reception office who can post one to you if you ring them on 029 20870000.

You can enrol up to the time of the first lesson provided the course has not reached its full capacity but the course might be cancelled if not enough students have enrolled by the starting date. The minimum number of students required to run a course is 10 and the maximum is 16.

An early enrolment is recommended because access to Learning Central can take up to two weeks to set up after enrolment.

Where can I find more information about the courses? In the Choices magazine available from the Senghennydd Rd Reception office and in the Centre’s web pages (under Languages) on the Cardiff University website
Is there any financial support for students? There is a Fee Waiver Scheme (FWS) for students who can present documentation to prove they were on benefits within 6 weeks of the start of the course and who do not already have a qualification from Great Britain or another country. For further information go to

Please take care when translating the name of a qualification from another country because you should only tick the “overseas degree” box in the enrolment form if it is at a level equivalent to a UK degree.


What is the best way to communicate with the tutors? The best way is by e-mail (as below)
Who can I contact if I have other questions? Please send any further queries to Zora Jackman by e-mail (