Tuija Kinnunen and Gun-Viol Vik-Tuovinen – Quality in court interpreting

This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.

Gun-Viol Vik-Tuovinen (University of Waasa, Finland) and Tuija Kinnunen (University of Tampere, Finland) talked about quality in court interpreting, what is the sine qua non, and how can it be reached. They stress that quality can be reached through collaboration. Legal protection requires pre-trial work for many people and Vik-Tuovinen and Kinnunen argue (and I couldn’t agree more) that interpreters should be involved in that process.

The data examined in their study on how interpreters, lawyers and judges perceive interpreting quality and how to get it in the court room, consisted of recorded hearings and interviews with interpreters, judge, lawyer, lawyer AND interpreter, one video-recording.

Interpreters and lawyers are experts in the court room, but they are not experts in the same field and rarely in each others’ field. So the expertise in the court room resides in collaborative activity. Interaction and cooperation is needed between court and interpreter in order to reach the aims for the two parties. Moreover there are cultural differences in the courtroom and the speech register can vary from very simplistic to written legal texts.

Today the initiative lies very much with the interpreter whether s/he will get background documentation in a court case or not. You could describe it as a mutual responsibility for interpreters’ preparation for a court case, but not always a mutual understanding.

Joanna Ziobro – Local cognitive load

This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.

Joanna Ziobro (University of Rzeszowski, Poland) talked about feasibility of empirical research in simultaneous interpreting. She took her theoretical starting point in Gile’s Effort Models and his tight rope hypothesis. (Wonderful illustration of the Effort Model by the way with wine glasses, I would like to make them into communicating vessels though). She also added an additional effort which I liked the effort of suppressing thoughts that don’t have anything to do with interpreting (we’ll baptise it Ziobro’s effort?). I liked it as a professional since I have experienced exactly that. There are of course wonderful moments when you go into flow, but there are other painful moments like when you realise you forgot your child at the day care center or suchlike.

In her experiment she compares the performance of first and second year students and investigates local cognitive load through error analysis. Supposedly failure in the processing is due to local overload. She also let students report in retrospective interviews (with recording as prompt), where she could see that depending on personality some students reported a lot and others considerably less.

So far, she reports that novices (1st year students) omitted more, even whole segments, whereas semi professionals (2nd year students) aimed to render everything, but the novices interpretation included fewer errors, maybe more time to reflect on correct interpretation of the sentence.

Luckily she concluded that although there are methodological challenges in empirical research in simultaneous interpreting it is feasible.

Jan-Hendrik Opdenhoff – Better into B?

This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.

Jan-Hendrik Opdenhoff (University of Granada, Spain) reported on a web-survey of interpreters own perception of their performance into their B-language. He found that 55 % of the participants in his study found that they were better working into their A-language and 36 % were as pleased with working into their A-language as their B-language. The preference for direction did not correlate with interpreting training or the length of the stay in the B-language country. Except for interpreters who reported longer stays in the B-language country before the age of 15, for this group they were more at ease working into their B. There was also a difference in language pairs, some language pairs reported more ease working into their B-languages.

Another important factor is the listeners’ mother tongue. If your listeners are mother tongue speakers of your B-language then the listeners’ satisfaction becomes more important.

Referring to Gile’s quote that the perception of quality not the same among interpreters, listeners and researchers, Opdenhoff added that the interpreters’ perception of quality is the same as they expect their listeners’ perception of quality to be.

Aymil Doğan – check list for awareness of metacognition

This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.

Aymil Doğan (Hacettepe Üniversites, Turkey) talked about a check-list she had created to help students become aware of their metacognition when interpreting. Metacognition is what you do when you think about or reflect on your thinking. Through a pilot study with 25 students she came up with categories such as stamina, stress, accuracy, self-monitoring, anticipation etc, etc. Later she tested the result of her checklist by comparing interpreting students and other students (of translation with notions of interpreting) awareness of the metacognition.

Anne-Birgitta Nilsen – Interpreting for young children

This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.

Anne-Brigitta Nilsen (University of Oslo, Norway) talked about about quality in interpreting for very young children (age 3-7). She started exploring this because she had found that some interpreters are reluctant to interpret for young children. They are reluctant because they believe that children do not understand turntaking and the role of the interpreter, and you cannot interrupt a young child because then they will loose track. Her study comprised only four children from the age of six and a half to three, but the results were clear children of that age both understand turntaking and the role of the interpreter. It is also possible to interrupt them. She concluded that interpreting for children, same as interpreting for adults, and that quality in interpreting in general becomes more salient when studying children and particularly young children. A comment for the audience pointed out that maybe you adapt the way you interpret when you interpret for young children e.g. use of first person, register, simplistic language and so forth.

Impressions from the second international conference on quality in interpreting

If you have been following my twitter feed you see that I have been active during the conference :-). Most of the sessions I have been to has been very interesting. As usual there is always some frustration of colliding sessions, but unfortunately you cannot have it all. Almuñecar is an idyllic little town by the sea and the sun is shining and the orange flowers blossoming so it could be worse (maybe even better if I had the time to enjoy all that).

I’m pleased with my own presentation, at least it generated some interesting discussions. Clearly I will have to continue working on how to assess my material, since it did not really work out as I expected in the first place. But that’s the way it is.

Conference preparation

Getting more desperate by the minute as I am preparing for a presentation at a conference in on Quality in interpreting in Almuñecar in Spain. As always when I’m writing a conference presentation it seems so long, everything takes more time than it should, my numbers are not in order and other things intrude on my work. So, after this short update. Back to work…

Daniel Gile – Enhancing research in interpreting

This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.

Daniel Gile (Université Paris 3, France) talked about institutional and social issues in research in interpreting. He presented an interesting overview of PhD theses in conference interpreting defended the past 40 years. From the seventies until today the number of defended theses dealing with conference interpreting per decade went from 7 to 45 (beautiful development but depressingly low, still… and I dare not think of the figures for community interpreting or sign language interpreting). He pointed out that there seems to be a strong psycho-social motivation behind the PhD work, committing to a PhD thesis is taking on a long-term engagement and something that is promoted through the atmosphere in the professional environment. One possible reason for an increase of the number of PhD theses that comes out of certain universities may be the leading researchers active there. Without the psycho-social motivation you are more vulnerable when it comes to getting institutional motivation and support. Since the interpreting training is practical, unless there is a strong conviction from teachers there is no familiarization with theory. Another important issue is the competition between teaching and practice. A good market creates less time and incentives for students or practitioners to go into research.

Day 10 This is what I bring to the booth

1) My computer – under the best circumstances I have my USB-modem or Internet access in the booth. If not, it’s OK. I still have a lot of word lists on my computer.

2) My little black note book – I have an address book that I use as notebook. I keep my entries according to topic (agriculture, economy, European Works Council etc.) and each topic is in alphabetical order.

3) Pen (or rather lots of pens, pencils and markers but that’s just because I like it) and paper – most of the time the organisers provide pen and paper, but just in case…

4) A book to read when I do not interpret – If you work in a booth you work in teams of two or three, this means that there are periods when you don’t interpret. When you don’t interpret you have to be attentive of course and help your colleagues, but still there are periods when it’s good to have a book. It’s good if it’s not to captivating though, it has happened that I missed “my cue”, because I was too absorbed in my book. My colleagues quickly reminded me of course, but it’s nevertheless very embarrassing.

5) Coffee – tons (or rather liters of coffee, I’m a real addict….

As you can see, I usually carry round lots of weight. I do like the snails, I carry my home on the back. You may have noticed that I do not bring dictionaries. I used to, before the lap top era. Now I only do it occasionally, in meetings with very specialized terminology.

The only difference in my packing if I do a community interpreting is that I cannot read my book in the meeting and I do not bring coffee. Otherwise, the I carry around the same stuff.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can view the whole list here.

Day 06 A Day at Work

A day at work differs a lot if you are on a community mission or conference mission. Your community interpreting day will typically start with you gathering all your dictionaries and word lists (not too much though you will carry it around for the whole day), you will absolutely need a pen and your note pad (actually it may be better to have all that packed up the day before), you also need to know where you are going, names and possible contact numbers (sometimes places can be difficult to get in to). Once you’re ready off to, for instance, the court house.

If you’re lucky it’s a day long hearing and you don’t have to move around that much, otherwise you’re out of the court house after an hour usually (that’s fairly average for shorter law suits or cases, a witness hearing may be even shorter at least where I work), after that you’re off to a midwife for a pregnancy check-up. After the pregnancy check-up you hopefully have time for some lunch and then you’re off to the migration board for an information meeting for newly arrived refugees.

Usually there is little time to prepare, you are lucky if you get a file from the court. For medical appointments you usually just know the name of the person who booked you. Regular meetings at for instance the migration board are good, because usually you do them more than once and will know in general how they are done. You have very little contact with your colleagues, simply because as a community interpreter you rarely work in teams. This also means that you are pretty much on your own for terminology and so forth.

For a conference interpreting mission the day at work starts already a couple of days before your job. Longer before if you are not familiar with the topic, maybe just the afternoon or evening before if this is a routine job. When you start preparing you surf the internet, your read up on the topic, you make word lists and so forth.

The evening before you check all the practical details; where are you going, how long does it take you to get there (if you’re working out of town or out of the country you may be traveling the evening before), do you have your contract, dictionaries, power point etc. If the meeting is very specialized the speakers are usually kind enough to send you their power points.

You get to the meeting at least 30 minutes before you start. An interpreter is NEVER late. In my 15 years of interpreting I have never been late for a private market meeting. I have been late to meetings at different institutions a couple of times, mainly due to flight problems (snow, strike and so forth), it is of course just as inadmissible to be late to an institution, but usually they have a back up team of interpreters so it’s a little less damaging. On the private market you can ruin the whole meeting.

As you get to your meeting you take out all your aids, i.e. dictionaries, word lists, computer, note pad and pen. Pen is also a no, no to forget. You say hello to you colleagues, check last minute changes, have a coffee and… you’re on air.

In the booth you take turns with your colleagues, 15-30 minutes at a time. When you’re not on air, you have to maintain a certain level of concentration as you may need to help your colleague with different things such as; technical mishaps (the sound disappearing is a nightmare), terminology, difficulties to catch names, get the right page in a power point or document and so forth.

At lunch you just want a calm moment and a chat with your colleagues, sometimes it’s good to check terminology with your delegate. No interpreter loves to continue interpreting during lunch conversations and speeches, if interpreting is needed during lunch it is wise to provide extra time for interpreters to recover. You cannot be a top performer all day without proper resting time.

The afternoon you’re back in the booth with basically the same tasks as in the morning. Don’t forget to bring a cup of coffee to the booth for the grave yard slot, you know the first speaker after lunch when everyone is tired.

After a day of interpreting be it community of conference you are worn out. Of course you develop stamina after years in the business, but the fact is that it is a very demanding task where you have to stay alert and concentrate intensely for long periods of time. So what you are longing for after a day of interpreting is a bit of rest and… silence.

This post is part of a list, 30 days of interpreting. You can see the whole list here.