Contributor corner: Geoff Watts

Geoff Watts
Image credit: Bowbrick/Flickr

Geoff Watts spent five years in academic biomedical research, realised he’d made a mistake in thinking he’d enjoy lab work, and dropped out with no plans for the future beyond staying in touch with science. Journalism eventually offered the ideal escape route, and he’s since divided his time between writing and radio broadcasting.

He’s presented countless programmes on science and medicine for BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 and the World Service – but has not yet learned to like the sound of his own voice.

What is your feature about?

Being pretty bad at languages myself, I’ve always been intrigued by what still seems to me to be a remarkable skill: simultaneous interpretation. To listen in one language while speaking in another and conveying the same content presents the brain with a demanding and wholly unnatural task. How does it do it? My story looks at the progress being made by neuroscience in its attempt to find out.

What did you learn that you didn’t expect?

That contrary to what I thought must be a total myth, some simultaneous interpreters might (might) be able not just to knit or doodle while they’re interpreting, but even do a crossword.

Read Geoff’s feature in Mosaic, publishing 18 November 2014.