University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK
Five principles and five basic skills to train conference interpreters
I believe that one can not become a good interpreter without becoming a very good linguist first. Being a very good linguist means having a flair for languages, being able to talk the hind leg off a donkey, having the gift of the gab.... and be articulate.
In this paper I intend to provide a brief description of a number of guided training exercises which I use in my teaching work with groups, and which can be used by all students outside the classroom as part of their self-training. I believe that the role of an instructor is to provide strategies for the successful self-training of students, as well as designing the course and monitoring the students' performance in the classroom. We have a limited number of hours in the classroom with our students, so it is important that they know how to continue training themselves outside the lab.
In 1982, I myself was interpreting for an international seminar in Moscow on training Olympic swimmers, organised by the Soviet National Olympic Committee for foreign coaches. I took great pleasure in being able to observe the highly professional work of one of the best coaches at that time, Voitsekhovsky. The group of coaches from the different countries spent many hours in the swimming-pool, where Voitsekhovsky was recording every single movement of the Olympic Soviet swimming team, and subsequently (de)briefing each swimmer individually, analysing each and every movement, and developing strategies for each leg, arm, breathing, etc. The very process of swimming was fractionated into small stages or parts. Those swimmers were already very close to beating or had already beaten Olympic and World Records: they were professionals (though they were regarded as amateurs in the Soviet Union). They were not just practising swimming to become better swimmers…
Later I realised that training interpreters is very similar to training
athletes or musicians: one has to train the body (muscles), co-ordinate
every movement with the breath (lungs) and develop different strategies
to win the race or to perform a concert. There is a widely accepted opinion
that it is essential to learn to interpret by doing (practising) interpreting.
At the same time we know that bad habits die hard, especially for
those activities that require automation, like driving, swimming, playing
musical instruments or performing simultaneous interpretation. Two very
important words have already been mentioned: (de)briefing and self-recording,
beyond the realm of Olympic swimming.
The first principle is:
Before starting work with a new training exercise, explain its potential value and psycholinguistic/ professional reasons, and explain how it can be used and adapted by interpreters later in other circumstances.
The second principle is:
Increase the students' self-confidence, particularly where their memory is concerned. This is definitely necessary because almost all of them complain of not being able to memorise new information or retain certain pieces of important data in their short-term memory (STM).
Example: an exercise with interesting/funny information, which is used in order to demonstrate to my students that they can easily remember quite complicated information, provided it is important or interesting to them. Here I explain how our memory works and how it deals with important and unimportant information which we intend to memorise.
The exercise is called “Very Interesting” or “Muy Interesante” and is a dictation of short texts containing interesting figures, dates and information, etc.
Just two examples:
DICTATION (instructor's text or recording)
VERY INTERESTING I:
NUMBERS, NAMES, FACTS
DICTATION (student's text)
VERY INTERESTING I: NUMBERS, NAMES, FACTS
The third principle is:
Work hard on the students’ concentration and level of attention from the very beginning.
Example: An exercise with distractions, like extra sounds, excessive gesticulation, etc. This kind of “distractive modelled environment" I call “training in extra-difficult or obstacled conditions”. Any instructor can create his or her own list of distractions and extra difficulties, depending on the level of the group or the specific aim.
Training in extra-difficult conditions
List of extra-difficult conditions:
New exercises have to be very clear and straightforward in order to be understood and worked through the first time (with a short (de)briefing afterwards). The next time, the training exercise has to be difficult (an authentic or almost real-life level of difficulty). A “real-life level of difficulty” refers mainly to the speed of presentation or the sentence complexity, or a lot of specific vocabulary.
The 5th principle is:
If you work with audio recordings give your students the script and ask them to self-record their performance even outside the lab.
There is one more principle - this time negative - which is why it is not included in the official "list":
It is not my task to teach the students vocabulary.
Firstly, this is because the trainee interpreters studying the MA in Interpreting de facto have to have a “sufficient” level of proficiency in L2 and L3. It is the primary criterion for admission to such MA courses. The aim is clear: we do not teach languages, we teach “interpreting”.
Secondly, in any case I think that it is a waste of teaching time to "teach" new vocabulary on a word-to-word level on MA courses. It is the student’s responsibility to do this all the time if they want to be professional interpreters. At the same time I admit, the “ideal course” may include some specific hours of training dedicated purely to word-to-word drills (not teaching) from L1 (or SL – source language) into L2 (or TL – target language), continually alternating both languages. The purpose of such a drill is not to learn new vocabulary, but to achieve an automatic response to vocabulary in both languages: L1 and L2.
The ‘Golden Rules’ of Simultaneous Interpreting and some training strategies:
|1. Remember that Interpreting is an Act of Communication||
|2. Make the best possible use of the technical facilities||
|3. Ensure you can hear both the speaker and yourself clearly||
|4. Never attempt to interpret something you have not heard or acoustically understood||
|5. Maximise your concentration||
|6. Try not to be distracted by focusing attention on individual problematic words||
|7. Cultivate split attention, with active, analytical listening to the speaker's input and critical monitoring of your own output||
|8. Use, where possible, short, simple sentences||
|9. Do not translate "words" - work with "units or chunks of meaning"||
|10. Be grammatical||
|11. Make sense in every single sentence||
|12. Always finish your sentences||
|13. Try to end a speech as close as possible to the speaker||
|14. Once started - there is NO going back! "Do not leave your audience halfway!"||
|15. The list is still open…||
Below are a number of techniques used in my classes which aim to develop a number of skills that I recognise as essential for any interpreter.
Training techniques and exercises to teach:
Concentration vs Dispersed Attention
Dispersed attention can be compared with light, which passes through a matte crystal and illuminates a large square. If we use lenses instead of a matte crystal, the illuminated spot with light focused on it would be considerably smaller but brighter. The concentration of attention focuses our perception on one item, while other - peripheral - objects disappear from it. Research on cerebral activity in a state of deep concentration reveals that there is no asymmetrical activity at that specific moment, and that both hemispheres work together simultaneously (See Granovskaya, 1997: 60).
Interconnectability between activities
Interconnectability is defined by the speed of transition from one type of activity to another. The dispersed attention allows us to maintain several different objects within our field of attention. The more "passive" or "relaxed" a person's condition, the better the result of our "dispersed" attention activity. The instructor's role is to explain this and create the necessary conditions while teaching. Self-confidence can help considerably in creating a "relaxed" condition during the process of SI (See Granovskaya, 1997: 62, 63).
Ear preference/hemisphere dominance
There is a clear dependence between the dominant hemisphere and the dominant eye. Is there any similar dependence between the dominant hemisphere and the dominant or “comfortable” ear for interpreters?
There is still no official, definitive result on a right/left ear preference for professional interpreters, but some practising interpreters claim that by shifting one headphone slightly off one ear, they manage to focus better on the incoming message. One ear is covered by the headphone and the other, partially released ear, is used to monitor their own delivery in L2.
It is still unclear whether this is the same ear as what might be referred to as their “telephone ear” or whether right-handed and left-handed interpreters always release the same ear when interpreting from L1 (SL) into L2 (TL) and from L2 into L1, but one thing is clear: each one of the trainees has to find his/her “comfortable ear” for each of the language combinations. In my practical classes I simply inform my PG students, trainees in simultaneous interpreting, about such a possibility and ask them to try each ear with each language combination. Some of them are immediately aware during the class training that one of their ears is “more comfortable”; others need more time and more self-observation.
So what should we teach future interpreters? My answer is: interpretingtechniques.What does this mean? What kind of skills do we need to teach them?
Those skills are:
Separate training for each skill may include:
1a.- Selective Listening
This mainly requires a lot of attention and concentration, which is why the following is necessary:
requires mainly language guessing and predicting skills.
This requires skills such as instant short and medium-term active memory. It is necessary to work on:
requires important skills such as the ability to compose edited texts
based on certain key-words (or symbols for consecutive interpreting) or
good "editing" and text compression. Such skills need special training
using the key-words methodology. The main options might be as follows:
KEY-WORDS based EXERCISES:
This requires the development of the following skills:
for simultaneous interpreting:
We have to teach our students all those skills and, at the same time, we – as instructors – have to familiarise them with interpreters' ethics and codes of behaviour, along with self-training techniques.
Graduates, before sitting interpreting exams for admission to European and international institutions, need extra training (often they train at home using far from sophisticated equipment). They often ask what to do to convert raw material, mainly articles and tapes recorded from radio into a training exercise. Generally speaking, they are interested in learning how to take any text and convert it into a training exercise. It is relatively easy to find articles on almost any topic currently being discussed at the European Parliament or Commission; even original documents from these bodies are often available on the Internet, but the main question remains the same: can they be used as they are for training purposes?
Teaching students to make meaningful use of any source of raw material
(i.e. texts, radio and TV recordings, etc.)
It is always important to remember that a text represents a different genre, which poses several problems and, in turn, strategies:
b) try to compose meaningful sentences based on those units of meaning
The training of future interpreters should necessarily include some psycholinguistic training, taking into account the fact that a major part of the work depends on self-preparation by the students. The instructor’s role, to aid self-preparation, is to provide some useful guidelines, strategies and exercises that can be used outside the language laboratory, without an instructor and without sophisticated equipment. The aim of this paper is to offer some general ideas concerning self-preparation for future interpreters and the role of the instructor.
Chernov G. (1994) "Message Redundancy and Message Anticipation
in Simultaneous Interpreting", in: Lambert S., Moser-Mercer B. (eds), Bridging
the Gap: Empirical Research in Simultaneous Interpretation, Vol.3,
Amsterdam/Philadelphia, Ed.: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1994: 139-153.
Hamers Josiane F., Blanc Michel H.A. (1989) Bilinguality and Bilingualism, Cambridge University Press.
Gerver D. Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpretation and Human Information Processing. London: Social Science Research Council, report HR566/1
Granovskaya Rada M., Bereznaya I.Y. (1991) Intuition and Artificial Intellect, Leningrad (in Russian).
Granovskaya Rada M., (1997) Elements of Practical Psychology, St-Petersburg, SVET Publishing Co (in Russian).
Kornakov Petr, (1996) "Russkaja grammatika kak osnova kursa "Vvedenie v ustnyj (sinxronnyj) perevod", Rusística Española, n. 6: 31-38 (in Russian).
Kornakov Petr (1996), "To Teach Interpreting or to Teach through Interpreting?" Rusistica, Great Britain, June, n. 13: 17-20 (in Russian).
Pearl Stephen B. (1995) "Lacuna, myth and shibboleth in teaching simultaneous interpreting", Perspectives: Studies in
Translatology, n. 3 (2): 161-190.
Global Warming will kill 20m
More than 20 million
people face starvation,
drowning, or dying of
thirst in the next 50 years because
of the "unstoppable juggernaut" of
four leading British climate
scientists claimed today.
The Kyoto summit
on global warming,
which opened yesterday,
fails to address the real problems,
Politicians should be looking
to adapt to climate change
rather than arguing
about inadequate emissions targets.
key advisors to the Government,
released their findings to
The Guardian "to inject some reality
into the proceedings".
Global Environment Outlook 2000
UNITS OF MEANING
TASK: Create meaningful sentences
an important report
produced by the United Nations
to make disturbing reading
global environment outlook 2000
the state of the world
approach the year 2000
in terms of
time is running out
to prevent damage
it is already too late
irreparable harm to
severe water shortages
reduced agricultural productivity
through loss of topsoil
greater unwanted vegetation growth
algae at sea
heavy application of
fertilisers on the land
use of natural resources
to emerge from poverty.
has gone too far
to prevent irreversible damage
it's already too late
to discuss the report
issues that it raises
to be joined by
Head of the UN Information service
images of war
trains and vehicles
losing their lives
the number of
loss of military lives
the end of a war
the end of the suffering
by warring sides
to leave their homes
a major manufacturer
110 million landmines
around the world.
two million more
the Mines Advisory Groups
to address the problem
Landmines: finish the following sentences:
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