Why do I train interpreters?

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I live in a tiny conference interpreting market. The number of Swedish members of AIIC is under 30, the number of Swedish A-language conference interpreters in total, worldwide, is under 100. Our biggest client are the European institutions and any change in meeting or language policy has immediate and dramatic impact on the market. On top of this Swedish people also have a long and strong tradition of learning and using foreign languages so interpreters are often deemed unnecessary.

I would like to stress that this is not a list of complaints, only a realistic description of the market. Not very surprisingly I often get feedback from conference interpreting colleagues on why I train new interpreting colleagues when they see their job threatened. These colleagues argue that interpreting training should only run when there is a need for new colleagues, and, from their point of view, there’s no need now. I don’t agree. Continue reading

Theory and theory

I guess that autumn has been a lot about CPD (continuing professional development) for me. I took a course in working into English B in August (held by Zoë Hewetson and Christine Adams, I can really recommend it) and then the SCIC (interpreting services of the European Commission) training for trainers course in September (it’s offered by SCIC to trainers at its partner universities, and it is definitely worth the effort). And since August I am also taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on “Surviving your PhD” by the famous @ThesisWhisperer Inger Mewburn of Australian National University. Now, I have already survived my PhD, but the course was also pitched at future and present supervisors, so I thought it might be a good idea, that plus the fact that I really like the Thesis Whisperer and I would get the possibility of taking my first MOOC. Continue reading

What about B?

I got a question from a reader (thank you for asking, made me very happy and inspired a new post!)
Do you think that if you make a few mistakes during an entrance exam in your B language you will be turned away? 
My reader writes: I’m confused because I was under the impression that a B language is something you already have “perfect command” of, according to AIIC. Yet language enhancement classes is something that is often talked about in interpreting circles? That indicates to me that schools do accept students with B languages that are “less than perfect.” 

Continue reading

SCIC – universities 2015: Lessons learned

Every year in March the European Commission’s interpreting directorate (nowadays DG Interpretation, but for must of us still DG SCIC) gather representatives from the universities they collaborate with. This year was my second time, but with some 200 participants and a programme filled to the brim it is still a quite overwhelming experience. The webcast is online and you can watch it here. Continue reading

How to be a teacher’s pet – what all my interpreting students need to know

Äpple Stefan Svensson Flickr

Äpple Stefan Svensson Flickr

 

On Monday, our spring term starts and I will teach public service interpreting. Here are some tips for my students to dwell on over the week-end and which go beyond be on time, be polite and give your teacher an apple. Some tips are general for all students, other more specific for interpreting. Continue reading

Let me introduce myself – the interpreter’s introduction

Vector handshake

Vector handshake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When you arrive at a meeting where you will interpret, you will have to introduce yourself. Well, maybe not if you’re part of the staff at an international institution, then you’ll just slip into your booth and do your job. But in all other contexts you will have to tell somebody who you are and what you’re doing there. So how do you go about it?

 

When I arrive at a more conference-like meeting I will just see the person responsible for the interpreters and a short: “I’m Elisabet Tiselius, Swedish booth”, will do. The only thing they’re interested in is that we are there and ready to start working. If there’s a particular tricky terminology or concept you may go and see your delegate and ask for clarification or explanation, but otherwise you sit tight and wait for the meeting to start. Continue reading

Happy New Year!

FIRE WORKS in curacao

(Photo credit: Jessica Bee)

We were out walking today and talked about what was the best thing about 2013. For my part it was easy to answer – finishing and defending my PhD! Yes on November 26 I finally defended my PhD, proof here. But 2013 has been a particular eventful year for me. Most of which I have touched upon in my previous post so I won’t dwell anymore on that, suffice to say that I really wish I had had some more time for blogging (no new posts and 500+ unread posts in my feedly…) and twittering these past months. When I met with Michelle (@InterpDiaries), in April I think it was, we both agreed that it isn’t ideas that lack when it comes to blogging, if only there were some more hours in a day.

During autumn I’ve been busy teaching two introductory courses on interpreting, one in Bergen (TOLKHF) and one in Stockholm (ToÖ I). At TÖI (the Institute for Interpreting and Translation Studies), I’ve also been busy launching our Facebook page and our Twitter account (@TOI_SU). On the course developing side I’ve been busy revamping the course Interpreting II, and I’m very excited to see how it turns out as it will start on January 20th. Traditionally we have always given Interpreting II only with Swedish and one other language. This time it will be Swedish and four other languages which means a completely new approach to both teaching and learning interpreting. I have integrated Lionel’s (@Lioneltokyo) approach to start teaching consecutive, when you have students interpret from notes before they actually start to learn note taking. Next term for Interpreting III we will also take on simultaneous interpreting for public service interpreters. I’m still thinking about this since the techniques in public service settings are not the same as in conference settings. There is also very little course literature on simultaneous interpreting for PSI so we’ll see where that takes me. If you have any suggestions, please comment!

As my PhD project drew to an end this year I have also thought about what to do next of course and I have one or two threads I would like to pursue. My most recent research interest has been young children and interpreting or child language brokering as it has been coined (professor Harris writes a lot about it on his blog). I applied for money for a series of workshops on children and interpreting in the Nordic Countries, we did not get it this time but I will apply again, and hope to be successful eventually. I will also try to get project money for a project on just mapping the practice and the ethics around it in the Nordic Countries.  I would, of course, also like to continue to follow and interview my fellow interpreters. I hope they will let me continue to record them and investigate them. I have such a wonderful material that I would like to build on. And finally, I hope to start up a project with my friend Emilia Iglesias Fernández of Granada. We have been in touch again and I hope it will lead to something. All of this will of course not come to an end (or maybe not even to a start) during next year, but I’m positive some things will.

This autumn I have also been the extremely proud guest blogger at Rainy London’s blog. I get tired just reading about my own week, but that was a very fun culmination of an extremely busy spring. An I was very flattered to be mentioned by Jonathan Downie (@jonathandownie) in Ligua Grecas blog.

When I write this I sit in front of my bedroom window at our house in the country side, it is pitch black outside and in the distance I can see the lights from our neighbours’. My projects now are like the lights out there gleaming in the distance. I hope I will find my way there and catch up with them. Any new years resolutions? No, not really, they only give me bad conscience as I’m really not good at following them, but if any – being better to stay in touch.

I wish you all the best for the New Year and I hope that you have plenty of projects that you will be able to carry through too. Thank you all my friends, (both in and outside Internet) for staying in touch and being so supportive this year. I hope we will continue our discussions in 2014.

Good tidings

Summer 2013

Regular readers of the blog will know that summer is a less active period for me when it comes to blogging. Other activities, also known as family life,tend to take over. With three darlings out of school, and two extra darlings who join us for the summer, and an additional four ponies, three dogs, a cat, in-laws, and lots of friends around the house, academic life, writing, or just time in front of the computer is very limited. This year the usual summer silence has dragged out well into the new term. Rest assured that the silence is not final though 🙂

New home, new job and…

There are however lots of changes in my life and hence the reason for the silence. I am happy to share these news with you now, as things are clearing up (and darlings are back in school). First of all we have relocated back to Sweden this summer. After another summer in boxes, I’m now back home ready to start flying (not really looking forward to Swedish autumn, but there we are).

Second big news; I have taken up a part-time position as lecturer at the Institute for Interpreting and Translation Studies at Stockholm University. This means that I have the privilege of teaching interpreting both in Norway and Sweden. My course TOLKHF continues as usual at the University of Bergen, and this term I will teach part of the introductory course to Interpreting and Translation. I have a few lectures and a few seminars to plan so I hope to share some ideas with you and also hopefully get some feedback. I’m slowly getting used to leaving freelance life after almost 20 years of freelancing. I will not completely stop interpreting – it’s too fun, and I need to stay in touch with the business both for my students and for my research.

And finally, my thesis is submitted! I handed it in just before summer and just before our move. Now I have firm indications that I will defend end of November. I’m extremely happy to be done, but naturally, when something as important is no longer part of your life it’s a little bit empty too. In case you’re in Bergen end of November, let me know and I’ll give you all the details.

7th EST Congress

Apart from these more important changes in life I have also participated in two great events. This week I attended the 7th congress of the European Society for Translation Studies where I held a presentation on the results of my thesis, I got good feed back and it was a really nice conference. I met @jonathanddownie in person, very nice experience, an amazing amount of energy, and an interesting thesis in the making. Jonathan co-organized a panel on religious interpreting a very under-researched area that professor Harris has written about on several occasions on his blog Unprofessional translation. My friend Adelina Hild was there too and gave some impressions from her ongoing research on religious interpreters.

I also had a chance to chat with Pekka Kuijamäki who is behind the project of translation and interpreting in WWII Finland (blog here). Very interesting project that I think professor Harris has blogged about too. I was also happy to meet Céderic again. First time we met was this spring in Mons at the conference “Le Nord en Français” and he gave me the inspiration to a previous post. This time I got to listen to a presentation of Céderic’s research project on how intonation affects the understanding in interpreting, very interesting project and an extremely ambitious data collection.

The EST congress is an exhausting exercise with more than 400 participants (record for Germersheim, the organizing university) and over 20 parallel panels. The best thing about EST though is that ”everyone” is there, so you get to socialize with most people in Translation Studies i Europe and beyond, very nice setup. Congratulations to the organizing committee at the FTSK at Germersheim too, who managed this huge event.

InterpretAmerica

This spring I submitted a proposal for InterpretAmerica and was accepted to their Interpret-Ed sessions, a ten-minute-talk that was be web-streamed and recorded for publication on their home page. Splendid opportunity to talk about one of my findings that I still cannot get to grips with. And absolutely daunting!

InterpretAmerica was a great opportunity to meet and network with colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic (and a few from this side too). Brandon Arthur is just as nice in real life as he seems on Street leverage, and imagine I had to cross the Atlantic to meet Ian Andersen from SCIC interpreters :-). It was also great to meet Stephanie Jo Kent again, and to get to know Cris Silva, and finally meeting Andrew Clifford @GlendonTransl8 in person, and many, many others.  And yes, I got to meet and talk to the Babelverse guys Joseph and Mayel, we had a good discussion, I’m not totally convinced yet, but I’ll admit they want to listen to the profession, their FAQ page is new, and they seem to have listened to a lot of the questions that came up in Reston and are looking to answer them.

The whole event was extremely well-organized (great work Katharine and Barry!) and with a nice open atmosphere. Apart from the keynotes and panels (the program is available here) there were also thematic workshops. Although the workshop on social media was extremely tempting, I decided to go to the workshop on vicarious trauma, separate post will follow on that. At the speaker dinner I got to sit next to the charming Saima Wahab, author of “In my father’s country”, she was supposed to be the second keynote, but could not make it last-minute. I was very happy I got to talk to her at dinner, I’m reading her book now.

If you want to listen to my topic that I cannot really come to grip with, you can watch it here:

I can also recommend that you listen to the other Interpret-Ed talks. It was very interesting to hear both Cris, Victor, Michelle and Stephanie. Victor’s approach to managing medical interpreting is absolutely amazing.

Now I’m looking forward to an intensive autumn with students to teach, courses to plan, articles to write and of course a thesis to defend. And some interpreting, what about you?

 

Interpret America, here I come!

Plaza at Lake Anne in Reston Virginia

Plaza at Lake Anne in Reston Virginia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m extremely excited! My proposal for Interpret America was accepted. I’ve been wanting and aiming to attend InterpretAmerica since it started in 2010, but other things have gotten in the way. I admit I don’t work on the American continent, but their program is always very interesting and this year is no exception.

But there are two reasons in particular that makes this extra special. First I’m one of five speakers in their new Interpret-ED format, so I had to submit a video proposal, and the talk will be recorded and broadcasted – cool! Second, I get to talk about things I found in my research about interpreting and practice. I will not spill the beans already, but I’m very much looking forward to hear your reactions on my findings. I was very surprised myself and have spent a lot of time thinking about it.

I’m also very much looking forward to meet other colleagues in Reston, both new faces and old friends. There are also a few tweeps I hope to meet in person. And, as I have called for a discussion between inventors of new technologies and interpreters I’ll be in the front row for the plenary on new technologies (don’t worry I neither bark nor bite).

This year’s program follows up on previous years discussions of creating a professional identity and how to form the profession. There’s also a key-not on creating presence in social media and a whole panel on social media with Nataly Kelly (our own Interprenaut and of course Found in Translation, CSA and now Smartling), Brandon Arthur (from Street Leverage)  and Ian Andersen (who is behind the European Commission’s interpreting unit’s popular Facebook page  among other things). I’ll be in the front row there too 🙂

And then, there’s the book talk and book signing – Saima Wahab, Pashto interpreter, will talk about and sign her book “In my Father’s country”, and Nataly Kelly will sign her book “Found in translation”. I’ve already read Nataly’s and Jost’s book (maybe I should bring it and get it signed or will that seem too eager?), but I’m very much looking forward to read Saima’s.

So, on the 14 and 15 of June I’ll be spending 48 intensive hours in Reston, Virginia. Come join me there or be sure to watch the video afterwards and tell me if you agree or not.

How to assess interpreting

Use new evidence of learning to replace old

Use new evidence of learning to replace old (Photo credit: dkuropatwa)

This is not my first and surely not my last post on assessment. If you’re looking for the other posts just type “assessment” in the search box to the right. Last Friday (March 15, 2013) I gave a talk on process and expertise research in the Nordic countries at the conference “Le Nord en français” at the University of Mons (one of my alma maters, actually). I also presented the results of my PhD project. All this in 20 minutes, so you can imagine I didn’t have the time to be very thorough.

One of the questions that came up was how I actually went about doing my assessment, and why I choose this particular methodology and not others. As I didn’t really get round to go through my assessments thoroughly, I thought I’d try to do it here. Thanks for the discussion Cédéric, if you stop by and read the post, don’t hesitate to comment or ask more questions.

When I set out to investigate interpreters at different levels of experience I understood quite early that I had to evaluate or assess their product one way or the other. I did not want to assess them based only on my own judgment. I preferred to have “independent/objective” judges, as I was afraid I would be biased both as an interpreter myself and as a colleague to several of my informants. So, fairly early on I decided to use groups of assessors rather than asses myself.

1. Choosing an instrument

Next, I had to choose the instrument for assessment. A popular method for assessing interpreting both in research and otherwise is to use a componential approach. Components typically cover fluency, correctness (terminology, grammar, syntax), sense consistency (with original), logical cohesion, intonation, accent, style and more (or less). Assessors evaluate each component in order to get a complete evaluation of the interpreting. There were several reasons why I did not want to use this componential approach. First, different researchers had pointed out potential problems when using this type of assessment. Heike Lamberger-Felber found in her PhD that it was very difficult to get consistent results from a componential assessment. But, while the rating of the different components varied a lot, the assessors’ rankings of the different interpreters were almost in agreement. Angela Collados-Aís and her ECIS research team have published several reports on assessment, pointing out that although the assessors in their different studies all agree on the level of importance of different components (e.g. fidelity to the original is the most important), other components (e.g. native accent) affect how the most important ones are rated. So a foreign accent would give a lower score for fidelity, although the interpretings word wise were identical. Another important aspect for me was that I wanted to use people without personal experience as an interpreter to be assessors. The reason behind it was that the Swedish interpreting community is so little that it would be almost inevitable for interpreter-assessors to recognize interpreter-informants.

2. Carroll’s scales

So, I started looking at other types of assessment and soon found a type of Lickert-scale used by Linda Anderson already in the late 1970’s. She used two scales created by John Carroll in 1966 to assess machine translation. John Carroll LINK specialized in language testing and he was a big critic of the discreet point theory. The discrete point theory claims that from certain features in a language learner’s production you can predict the learner’s proficiency in that language (rings a bell? if not – reread the paragraph above). When Carroll developed his instrument for translation he said that a translation can be perfectly true to the original but incomprehensible or perfectly comprehensible but completely untrue to the original. Therefore he developed two scales one for intelligibility (comprehensible or not) and the other for informativeness (different from the original or not). The translations were assessed using both scales. Linda Anderson then applied them as they were to her data collected from conference interpreters. She did not dwell much on using the scales, but seemed to fear that they were too blunt.

The scales had not really been used since then, but I found them appealing and wanted to test. One issue was that the scales had served as basis for creating the scales for the US court interpreter accreditation test (FCICE) and this test had been very criticized for its accuracy (or lack thereof). Andrew Clifford has investigated those tests and argues that there may not be any significant difference between the different test constructs. I do not argue against Clifford’s conclusions, on the contrary, but I think the problem lies in how the court accreditation test was developed and is used, rather than a problem with the original scales.

More than one researcher (but far from all) have sniggered at me for using scales that old, which clearly did not create a spin-off in the interpreting research world. If they weren’t used again it must be because they weren’t good, right? But since I’m a stubborn risk-taker I decided to go ahead. What more fun than to dance with the devil? (Yes, I am being ironic in case you wonder…)

3. Tiselius’ adaptation (sounds grand talking about myself in third person right?!)

The scales had to be adapted of course. They were created for translation and I was going to use them for interpreting. Furthermore, there were nine scale steps, some of them difficult to discern from one another. I wanted clear differences between the scale steps, and no middle step, no number five where everything generally OK could be put. Therefore I changed the definitions from written to spoken language and from English to Swedish. I also reduced the steps from nine to six, merging a few that were very similar.

Now only using the scales remained …  When it came to using the scales I had to decide whether to use sound files or transcripts. After all, interpreting is the spoken word, and should it be assessed on the basis of written words? And if I wanted to use non-interpreters as assessors then I would have to justify that. Presumably, interpreters, especially those who have jury training, would be better than non-interpreters at evaluating interpreting.

4. Interpreters or non-interpreters?

I had both interpreters and non-interpreters rate the first batch of interpretings (on transcripts as I did not want the interpreters to recognize their peers). It turned out that in raw figures the interpreters were slightly more severe, but the scores from the two groups correlated and the difference was not significant. These results indicated that I could use either interpreters or non-interpreters.

5. Sound-files or transcripts?

I designed a study where the intelligibility part of the interpretings was assessed by non-interpreters from both sound-files and transcripts. One group assessed transcripts (with normalized orthography and punctuation) and the other sound files. The sound files got slightly worse scores than the transcripts, but again the difference was not significant and all the scores correlated. So from this respect I could use either sound-files or transcripts.

I ended up going for transcripts. This decision mostly came from the insight that Collados Aís provided on how deceitful the voice is when it comes to assessment of product. Pitch, intonation, accent, security and so forth affects the impression of the quality of the product. Clearly, this aspect is important for the assessment of the interpreting, but with the aim in this study to assess only the skill to transfer an entire message in one language into another it seemed wise to exclude it, too many confounding variables.

6. The assessment

The assessment units ended up looking like this:

Intelligibility

First the raters saw only the interpretation and they rated that according to the scale from completely unintelligible to completely intelligible, from 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest). They also had a sheet with the full explanation of each step of the scale next to them when rating. If you’re curious I left a copy of the sheet in English here.

Informativeness

Then the raters unfolded the sheet of paper and the European parliament’s official translation showed up at the bottom. Then they rated the informativeness of the interpreting, i.e. the difference between the original and the interpretation. This time from no difference compared to the original to completely different compared to the original. Now the scale is inverted so 1 is the best score and 6 the worst. You may wonder why the scale is inverted this time; I decided to stick with Carroll’s original proposal where a low score is equal to little difference. The zero on the scale means that the interpreters added information not present in the original. This typically happens when something implicit is explicitated or when an additional information or hedge is given.

7. Did it work?

The results I got in my cross-sectional material were very promising, clear differences where I would expect them, i.e. between non-interpreter subjects and interpreter subjects, and between novice interpreters and experienced interpreters. The inter-rater variability, that is the variability of the scores between the different raters, was also low. So far, I’m not sure about the results for my longitudinal material. I did not see differences where I expected them. This may be due to a failing instrument (i.e. my scales) or less difference of the interpreting products than what I expected. To be continued…

Now, there are a few more things to try out with my scales. Obviously, an interpreter trainer would not start transcribing their students’ interpretings and divide them into assessment files before assessing or grading them. But, presumably, the scales could work in a live evaluation as well. I have not yet had an opportunity to test them, but I’m looking forward to that, and I will of course keep you posted.

References

Anderson, L. 1979. Simultaneous Interpretation: Contextual and Translation Aspects. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Department of Psychology, ConcordiaUniversity, Montreal, Canada

Carroll, John, B. 1966. “An Experiment in Evaluating the Quality of Translations.” Mechanical Translations and Computational Linguistics 9 (3-4): 55-66.

Collados Aís, Á., Iglesias Fernández, E. P. M. E. M., & Stévaux, E. 2011. Qualitätsparameter beim Simultandolmetschen: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven. Tübingen: Narr Verlag.

Clifford, Andrew. 2005. “Putting the Exam to the Test: Psychometric Validation and Interpreter Certification.” Interpreting 7 (1): 97-131.

Lamberger-Felber, H. 1997. Zur Subjektivität der Evaluierung von Ausgangstexten beim Simultandolmetschen. In N. Grbic & M. Wolf (Eds.), Text – Kultur – Kommunikation. Translation als Forshungsaufgabe (pp. 231–248). Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag.

Tiselius, E. 2009. “Revisiting Carroll’s Scales.” In Testing and Assessment in Translation and Interpreting Studies. C. Angelelli and H. Jacobson (eds.). 95-121. ATA Monograph Series. Amsterdam: Benjamins.