last updated: 17 June, 2001
Peter Kornakov (Dr)
University Teacher in Conference Interpreting
University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK
PAPER:

THE PLACE OF GRAMMAR (SYNTAX and VERBAL GOVERNMENT) WITHIN A SELF-TRAINING INTERPRETING COURSE.
PILOT MANUAL "THE GRAMMAR OF INTERPRETATION".

Abstract
Training interpreters for the 21st century, who are well educated, well informed linguists with a narrow specialisation, poses many practical problems both for teaching institutions and future interpreters themselves.

For the teaching institution it is a matter of designing programmes and finding an adequate balance between theoretical knowledge and the practical skills to be offered to the students. For any student it is a matter of developing all the necessary skills, it is a matter of hard work, of establishing priorities, and indeed, it is a matter of discipline. Discipline implies a lot of self-training outside the laboratory, the ability to listen to oneself critically but impartially, finding difficulties and problems, and designing specific training in order to overcome them.

One of the fundamental aspects of any language learning is grammar in any of its applied aspects: either Morphology or Syntax. With reference to European languages, interpreting from Russian and German into other European languages presents an extra difficulty because of differences, for example between Spanish and Russian or German and English Grammar systems, and broadly speaking, between their syntactical systems.

The syntax of a Russian sentence is a minefield, which the interpreter must hope to cross unscathed: "As you start a sentence you are taking a leap in the dark, you are mortgaging your grammatical future. Great nimbleness is called for to guide the mind through this syntactical maze". (John Glemet, quoted in David Gerver, Empirical Studies of SI: A Review and a Model, in: Translation: Applications and Research, ed. Richard W.Brislin, NY: Gardner Press, 1976: 168) - a very fare description, indeed…

As a professional Russian Grammar teacher with extensive experience of working as an interpreter and translator, I have designed a pilot manual for an interpreter's self-training course, based on specific grammar exercises aimed at improving interpreting skills or, less broadly speaking, those skills that any interpreter working from Russian have to develop.

"While the translator can calmly rearrange the components of a sentence, since the interpreter must start without knowing where the speaker's syntax may take him, he should exercise maximum restraint before jumping in. He needs to attempt to 'see ahead' and plan out the sentence insofar as possible". (Linn Visson, From Russian into English,1999: 89)

In my paper the Model Unit will be presented and its applicability for training interpreters in other languages will be discussed.

Before I present for the discussion the Model Unit, I would like to summarise the wide range of exercises, typically used for training interpreters, and present them in the form of tables grouped by their aim, their input and output, and the possible language combination in order to illustrate the importance of the placing of exercises aimed specifically at syntactical training.

Return to Top of Page

Transparency 1

LIST OF EXERCISES BY THEIR AIM
Aim
Possible exercises
1) Warming up exercises (written, aural and oral)
  • Translation, shadowing in L2, L1, listening
2) Two way Vocabulary activation exercises
  • Two way vocabulary dictation
3) Building vocabulary on synonimical and antonymical level (chains and rows)
4) Training on numbers, names, acronyms
  • Dictations
5) Training paraphrasing skills 1
  • Key-words paraphrasing exercises
6) Training paraphrasing skills 2
  • Finish unfinished sentences exercises
7) Training paraphrasing skills 3
  • Taboo key-words exercise
8) Training predicting skills 1
  • Count Monte-Cristo ("scissors") exercise combined with Sight Interpretation)
9) Training predicting skills 2
  • Clozing
10) Training split attention skills
  • Shadowing with texts (scripts)
  • Working with two texts
11) Training SI interpreting skills 1
  • Frozen translation
12) Training SI interpreting skills 2
  • Frozen interpretation
a) from printed text
    • up – down
    • down – up
b) from audio tape
13) PRACTICE of SI SI + self-recording
14) ANALYSIS (de)briefing

Return to Top of Page

Transparency 2

LIST OF EXERCISES BY THEIR OUTPUT and INPUT
 
Aim
Possible exercises
input
output
1) Warming up
  • Translation, shadowing in L2, L1, listening
Texts, tapes, radio Written, Oral
2) Two way Vocabulary activation exercises
  • Two way vocabulary dictation
Audio Oral
3) Building vocabulary on synonimical and antonymical level (chains and rows) Written Written
4) Training on numbers, names, acronyms
  • Dictations
Aural Oral
5) Training paraphrasing skills 1
  • Key-words paraphrasing exercises
Written Oral
6) Training paraphrasing skills 2
  • Finish unfinished sentences exercises
Written Oral
7) Training paraphrasing skills 3
  • Taboo key-words exercise
Written Oral
8) Training predicting skills 1
  • Count Monte-Cristo ("scissors") exercise combined with sight interpretation)
Written Oral
9) Training predicting skills 2
  • Clozing
Written Written, Oral
10) Training split attention skills
  • Shadowing with texts (scripts)
  • Working with two texts
Written

Aural

Written, oral
11) Training SI interpreting skills 1
  • Frozen translation
Aural, written written
12) Training SI interpreting skills 2
  • Frozen interpretation
a) from printed text
b) from tape
Written Aural Oral
13) PRACTICE of SI SI + self-recording Aural Oral
14) ANALYSIS (de)briefing

Return to Top of Page

Transparency 3

LIST OF EXERCISES BY THEIR language combination (L1-L2)
L2= Russian/German L1= English
 
 
Aim
Possible exercises
input
output
1) Warming up
  • Translation, shadowing in L2, L1, listening
  • L2; L1
  • L2; L1
  • 2) Two way Vocabulary activation exercises
    • Two way vocabulary dictation
  • L2-L1,
  • L1-L2,
  • 3) Building vocabulary on synonimical and antonymical level (chains and rows)
  • L1-L2
  • L2-L1
  • 4) Training on numbers, names, acronyms
    • Dictations
  • L2
  • L1
  • L2
  • L1
  • 5) Training paraphrasing skills 1
    • Key-words paraphrasing exercises
  • L2
  • L1
  • 6) Training paraphrasing skills 2
    • Finish unfinished sentences exercises
  • L2
  • L2
  • 7) Training paraphrasing skills 3
    • Taboo key-words exercise
  • L2
  • L2, L1
  • 8) Training predicting skills 1
    • Count Monte-Cristo ("scissors") exercise combined with sight interpretation)
  • L2
  • L1
  • 9) Training predicting skills 2
    • Clozing
  • L2
  • L2, L1
  • 10) Training split attention skills
    • Shadowing with texts (scripts)
    • Working with two texts
  • L1
  • L1
  • 11) Training SI interpreting skills 1
    • Frozen translation
  • L2
  • L1
  • 12) Training SI interpreting skills 2
    • Frozen interpretation
    a) from printed text
    b) from tape
    • L2
  • L1
  • 13) PRACTICE of SI
    • SI + self-recording
  • L2
  • L1
  • 14) ANALYSIS
    • (de)briefing

    Return to Top of Page

    Clozing Exercise

    Traditionally, when we talk about Clozing, we mean a printed text where every tenth word is taken out. By this I mean a preposition, an article, a noun, a verb, an adverb or an adjective, regardless of its function within the sentence. The task is to reconstruct the whole text. This kind of "mutilated" text has been used mainly as an Aptitude Test for MA or PG courses in Interpreting and Translating in many schools.

    For teaching purposes it is advisable to take out not only every tenth word, but any word that is considered "predictable" and suitable for the main purpose of the exercise: to develop predicting or, in other words, anticipating skills.

    Sample 1 Clozing A (traditional: test)
    Sample 2 Clozing B1 (training)
    Sample 3 Clozing B2 (training prepositions and endings)
    Sample 4 Clozing B3 (training prefixes, prepositions, pronouns and endings).

    These "clozingly mutilated" texts have as their primary aim a very important grammatical syntactical task: to train in the student the immediate response to such powerful indicators like Russian prefixes and prepositions, in other words there is a direct dependence between certain prefixes and prepositions. These exercises are aimed at students self and home training, and should be provided with keys or solutions at the end of the Manual.

    Frozen Translation and Frozen Interpretation is another powerful tool for training conference interpreters on a syntactical level.

    The big advantage of Frozen forms of training is that the student has one very important factor less to worry about, this being time pressure, while all the remaining difficulties remain unchanged. As far as I understand the value of these two exercises, they provide what is needed for a trainee working from word order "flexible" languages with highly developed preposition-prefix-ending dependence and verbal government, into less "flexible" languages.

    Firstly, why Frozen? And secondly, how these two exercises differ. I've already answered the first question: for me Frozen means that there is no time pressure, the exercise can be performed as a slow motion movie. The main difference between Frozen Translation and Interpretation lies in their output shape or form: the first is done in a written form, and the second in oral. Here I remind my students that all the oral exercises have to be recorded and the tape should be played back for self-(de)briefing.

    Sample 5a: Frozen Translation (top to bottom).
    Sample 5b: Frozen Translation (bottom to top) + Editing
    Sample 6a: Frozen Interpretation 1 (Sight Interpretation)
    Sample 6b: Delayed Frozen Interpretation
    Sample 6c: Frozen Interpretation 1b (using tape recorders and the pause button)
    Sample 6d: Frozen Sentences

    Return to Top of Page

    So, after this detailed description of Clozingly "mutilated" and Frozen exercises, I would like to present to you my vision of the Model Unit.

    The Model Unit within the same topic contains:

    Return to Top of Page

    Conclusions

    Training professional interpreters for the 21st century poses many practical problems. One of the major problems for syntactically "distant" languages, like Russian-English, is the necessity for specific training aimed at "syntactical" differences between languages. This is due to Russian's highly developed prefix-ending-preposition system, accompanied by the supposedly "free" word order. Practical exercises like Clozing, "clozingly mutilated" texts in the source language (e.g Russian) can help to improve a trainee's immediate response to such powerful indicators, like prefixes and prepositions, performing those exercises from Russian into Russian.

    Exercises like Frozen Interpretation/Translation can become one of the major tools for an interpreter's self-training. They are easily self-"designable" and can be used both in the written and oral form. They can also be used to train or to teach how to solve syntactical problems on a Unit of Meaning level (short, medium and large UofM) setting aside only one difficulty: the time pressure. Short-term memory is also trained and the trainee gets almost a full-flavoured experience.

    Return to Top of Page

    ------
    Sample 1
    "TRADITIONAL" CLOZING A: 1/10

    Just Say "No" to the Single Currency
    DOMINIC CUMMINGS, 29
    British anti-euro activist

    By J.F.O. McALLISTER London
    As a child, he lived three years in Poland. _________ (He) has worked in Russia and has a Russian girlfriend. ___________ (His) favourite European city? Naples. ("It's beautiful, chaotic, no tourists.") _______ (But) Dominic Cummings, natural born European, spends most waking hours ___________ (trying) to keep Britain from joining the euro.

    He's good at ______ (it), too. The tiny lobby group Business for Sterling, of _____________ (which) he is campaign director, has repeatedly derailed Labour's fearsome _____________ (public) relations machine in its efforts to make euro membership ____________ (look) desirable and inevitable. Polls show that two-thirds of British _____________ (voters) now want to retain the pound.

    Of course, Cummings ___________ (has) had rich soil to cultivate.

    Return to Top of Page

    --------
    Sample 2
    "PREPOSITIONAL" CLOZING B1

    Just Say "No" to the Single Currency
    DOMINIC CUMMINGS, 29
    British anti-euro activist

    By J.F.O. McALLISTER London
    As a child, he lived three years ----(in)----- Poland. He has worked in Russia and has a Russian girlfriend. His favourite European city? Naples. ("It's beautiful, chaotic, no tourists.") But Dominic Cummings, natural born European, spends most waking hours trying -----(to)----- keep Britain -----(from)---- joining the euro.

    He's good at it, too. The tiny lobby group Business for Sterling, -----(of)--- which he is campaign director, has repeatedly derailed Labour's fearsome public relations machine -----(in)------ its efforts to make euro membership look desirable and inevitable. Polls show that two-thirds ------- (of)----- British voters now want to retain the pound.

    Of course, Cummings has had rich soil ----(to)----- cultivate…

    Return to Top of Page
    --------
    CLOZING B2
    PREPOSITIONS and ENDINGS

    Наши дипломы отныне признаются в Европе

    7 апреля Госдума ратифицировала Конвенцию ____ (о)
    On the 7th of April the State Duma ratified the Convention on

    признан____(ии) квалификац____(ий), относящихся ____ (к)
    the recognition of qualifications related to

    высш__(ему) образован__(ию) _(в) Европейск_(ом) регион_(е).
    Higher Education in the European Region.

    Это важное решение способно в корне изменить судьб____(у)
    This important decision could radically change the destiny

    мног____(их) росси____(ян): наши дипломы отныне должны
    of many Russian citizens: from now on our diplomas will be

    признаваться в Европе, что ______ (для) мног___(их) может
    recognized in Europe, which for many of us could result in the

    упростить процедуру поиск___(а) и получен_____(ия)
    facilitation of the process of finding and getting

    хорош_____(ей) работ____(ы).
    better jobs.

    России понадобилось 15 лет для того, чтобы добиться признан_____(ия) качеств_____(а) отечественн______(ого)
    Russia needed 15 years in which to achieve recognition of the quality of its

    образован______(ия) Западн______(ой) Европ____(ой).
    Educational standards by Western Europe.

    Return to Top of Page

    --------
    CLOZING B3

    PREFIXES, PREPOSITIONS, PRONOUNS and ENDINGS

    Однажды французский писатель Александр Дюма
    Once the French writer Alexander Dumas

    путешествовал __ (по) Герман__(ии). Он не знал ни одного
    was travelling across Germany. He didn't know a single

    слова по-немецки. Вдруг он (у)_видел ресторан.... Французский
    word in German. Suddenly he saw a restaurant. The French

    писатель (во)__шёл __(в) ресторан… и сел _____(за) столик….
    writer entered inside and sat at a small table.

    К __ (нему) подошёл официант и (с)__просил ___ (его), что
    A waiter approached him and askedhim what

    он будет есть. Дюма хотел (за)___казать грибы, но не знал,
    he would like to have to eat. Dumas wanted to order mushrooms, but didn't know

    ___ (как) сказать это по-немецки. Писатель подумал, взял
    how to say it in German. He thought a bit, took

    бумагу, (на)__рисовал большой гриб и (по)__казал рисунок….
    a paper, drew a big mushroom and showed the drawing

    официант….(у). Тот (по)___смотрел _____ (на) рисунок и
    to the waiter. The waiter lookedat the drawing and

    (у)____шёл. Скоро официант вернулся и (при)_____нёс
    left. The waiter soon returned and brought

    писател….(ю) зонтик.
    the writer an umbrella.

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample 5a 
    FROZEN TRANSLATION 1 (top to bottom)
    In the coming information age, 
    access to documents, 
    broadly defined, 
    will be done electronically, 
    just by travelling across a network 
    that people now call 
    an information highway. 
    I'm quite happy 
    this will happen. 
    I could be wrong 
    about how quickly.
    Instructions:

    The source text is given to the trainee already divided by units of meaning, each UofM is uncovered at once still covering the following one, and their task is to write down the translation of each UofM in the free space on the right next to each UofM. The main limitation: the trainee can't change anything already written, but can take any time to think about the best way of dealing with those structures.

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample 5b 
    FROZEN TRANSLATION 2 (bottom to top) + Editing
    Instead of using keys 
    to enter your house, 
    the Wallet PC 
    identifies that 
    you're allowed to go into a certain door 
    and it happens electronically. 
    Instead of having tickets to the theatre, 
    your Wallet PC will digitally prove 
    that you paid. 

    When you want to board a plane, 
    instead of showing your tickets 
    to 29 people, 
    you just use this. 

    Instructions:

    The source text is given to the trainee already divided by units of meaning, each UofM is uncovered at once from bottom to the top covering the remaining part of the source text. In the space on the right each UofM is "translated" using "initial forms": infinitives, nominative, etc. The main aim of this training is to edit the text searching for best strategies to link separate units of meaning.

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample 6a
    Frozen Interpretation 1a (Sight Interpretation)
    First of all, 
    what do people mean 
    when they use the term "euthanasia".
    The term was originally used to indicate 
    that death was easy and painless. 

    But in later times 
    it was translated by most people 
    as "mercy killing" 
    and this has sparked a major controversy 
    in the medical and legal world 
    internationally and locally, 
    of course.

    Instructions:

    The source text is given to the trainee already divided by units of meaning, each UofM is uncovered at once still covering both the previous and the following one, and their task is to record the interpretation on the tape. 

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample 6b
    Delayed Frozen Interpretation 
    Does everyone understand 
    the term "euthanasia" 
    in the same way, 
    or are there perhaps 
    different interpretations of it?

    It is a bit of a technical term, 
    so let me explain 
    that we distinguish 
    four different forms of euthanasia. 
    We talk about "voluntary", 
    "involuntary", 
    "active" and 
    "passive" euthanasia. 

    Instructions:

    The source text is given to the trainee already divided by units of meaning, each UofM is uncovered at once still covering both the previous and the following one, and their task is to retain in their short-term memory the previous UofM and start interpreting it while being exposed to the next one. The exercise is recorded on the tape. 

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample 6c
    Frozen Interpretation 1b 
    First of all, 
    what do people mean 
    when they use the term "euthanasia".
    The term was originally used to indicate 
    that death was easy and painless. 

    But in later times 
    it was translated by most people 
    as "mercy killing" 
    and this has sparked a major controversy 
    in the medical and legal world 
    internationally and locally, 
    of course.

    Instructions:

    The source text is given to the trainee recorded on the tape, already divided by units of meaning leaving pauses between them, and their task is to record the interpretation on the tape. In the case when the trainee works on his/her own, the source text can be divided by UofM using the pause button.

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample 6d
    FROZEN SENTENCES AIMED AT PARTICULAR DIFFICULTIES

    Во время опроса выяснилось, что …
    The survey/poll showed/demonstrated/revealed that….

    На следующей неделе в Париже состоится встреча глав профсоюзов…
    A meeting of the heads of Trade Unions will take place in Paris next week…

    В принятой вчера резолюции говорится…
    The resolution adopted/passed yesterday stated…

    В этом докладе много материалов на данную тему…
    This report contains a lot of materials on this subject…

    В библиотеке мало хороших книг…
    There are very few good books in the library…

    В магазине достаточно продуктов…
    There is enough food in the store.

    The same strategy or construction ("there is") works

    a) Нам здесь нечего делать. В городе нет ни одной библиотеки.
    There is nothing for us to do here. There is not a single library in the city. (Which can be interpreted making the prepositional case the subject: The city doesn't have a library…)

    b) Необходимо более тесное сотрудничество… Надо это сделать…
    There is a need for closer co-operation… There is a need to do this … (Which can be interpreted inserting the subject: We need to do this… or using the passive form of the verb: This should be done…)

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Transparency
    Russian Syntax

    Russian word order is generally described as fairly free and English word order as fixed. Russian syntax, however, is governed by a set of rules which allow for considerable variation depending on the emphasis, emotion, tone, and style of the speaker. English fixed word order has less possibilities for the kinds of inversion allowed by Russian case endings, for Russian often begins a sentence with a complement, verb, or object, revealing the subject only several words –or from the interpreter's point of view, minutes– later.

    Case forms also erect syntactic hurdles. How is the interpreter to handle a sentence which begins with a dative, accusative or prepositional rather than a nominative subject?

    (Lynn Visson, From Russian into English: An Introduction to Simultaneous Interpretation, 2nd Edition, Focus Publishing, R.Pullins&Co, Newburyport MA, 1999: 90)

     

    The syntax of a Russian sentence is a minefield, which the interpreter must hope to cross unscathed: "As you start a sentence you are taking a leap in the dark, you are mortgaging your grammatical future. Great nimbleness is called for to guide the mind through this syntactical maze". (John Glemet, quoted in David Gerver, Empirical Studies of SI: A Review and a Model, in: Translation: Applications and Research, ed. Richard W.Brislin, NY: Gardner Press, 1976: 168)

    "While the translator can calmly rearrange the components of a sentence, since the interpreter must start without knowing where the speaker's syntax may take him, he should exercise maximum restraint before jumping in. He needs to attempt to 'see ahead' and plan out the sentence insofar as possible". (Lynn Visson, 1999: 89)

    Return to Top of Page

    -----
    Sample: The "NET" exercise
    Source text: 
    If there is a lack of clear focus, it is because of these mandates, many of which the bank is expected to carry out without adequate funding…
    word
    synonym
    antonym
    If  Should it be the case
    Where it is proven that
    In the event that
    Although
    Despite the fact
    there is there exists
    a situation prevails
    a situation has come about
    none exists
    there is an absence of
    no
    a lack of Insufficient
    inadequate
    a dearth of
    not enough 
    less than a desirable amount of
    too much
    an excess of
    a plethora
    an abundance of
    clear  Precise
    well-defined
    obvious
    visible 
    Vague
    imprecise
    woolly
    lacking clarity
    focus  concentration on essentials
    attention to detail
    goal-oriented
    targeting of effort
    dissipation of effort
    wide range of preoccupations
    dissipated
    lacking concentration
    because of due to
    the result of
    a consequence of
    derives from
    flows from
    independently of
    despite of
    unrelated to
    bearing no relationship with
    these mandates demands
    missions
    obligations
    terms of reference
    tasks
    The bank the World Bank
    the IBRD
    the institution
    the organisation
    the body
    Is expected to People expect to
    is supposed to
    is intended to
    was designed to
    should
    would be remiss not to do
    Is not expected to
    should not
    does not have the mandate to
    outside it sphere of action
    does not correspond to its purpose
    Carry out Execute
    implement
    put into motion
    do
    ensure
    Leave undone
    ignore
    fail to do
    renege on responsibilities
    without in the absence of
    should there not be
    faced with
    having
    with
    with the existence of
    being endowed with
    having at one's disposal
    adequate sufficient
    enough
    the right amount of
    inadequate
    insufficient
    not enough
    short of requirements
    funding budget
    money
    resources
    financing
    financial means
    support
    allocations
    Instructions: To the given source text the trainee should find synonyms and antonyms to almost every word and present the "net" as given above.

    Return to Top of Page

    Abstract
    Training interpreters for the 21st century poses many practical problems both for teaching institutions and future interpreters themselves.

    For any student it is a matter of developing all the necessary skills, it is a matter of hard work, and indeed, it is a matter of discipline. Discipline implies a lot of self-training outside the laboratory, and designing specific training in order to overcome specific problems.

    One of the fundamental aspects of any language learning is grammar in any of its applied aspects: either Morphology or Syntax. Interpreting from and into Russian, from and into German presents an extra difficulty because of the differences between Grammar systems.

    As a professional Russian Grammar teacher with extensive experience of working as an interpreter and translator, I have designed a pilot manual for an interpreter's self-training course, based on specific grammar exercises aimed at improving interpreting skills.

    The Model Unit contains:
    1) a number of small but condensed introductory to the topic texts with the relevant vocabulary organised as synonymical and antonymical chains and rows;
    2) "mutilated" texts for clozing exercises aimed at developing forecasting skills;
    3) specially re-designed texts for the so called "frozen" interpretation, especially useful for conference interpreting training;
    4) small blocks aimed at syntactical training, taking into account the length of the unit of meaning and its "borders";
    5) small texts for reformulating aimed at syntactical training;
    6) larger texts aimed at prepositions and conjunctions and
    7) the verbal government training and drills on the syntagmatic level.

    Return to Top of Page

    copyright: Peter Kornakov (2001)

    Back to the index

    Back to the main page