So what have I been up to

I realize I’ve been very silent the past couple of weeks. I don’t lack ideas, just time. Here’s a short overview of what I’ve been up to. I will try to get back on track on the blog as well.

First of all, I’ve finished my Interpreting Theory course at the University of Bergen. My studetnts have completed their compulsory work and are now doing their exam paper. I had some really interesting term papers and I’m looking forward to reading the exam papers. Way to go! You’re doing a great job guys, I’m so proud of you!

I gave my second and last class on terminology for the conference interpreting students at TöI in Stockholm. There too I was happy to see that students are serious about what they do.

Second, I was part of the organizing committee for the Text-Process-Text conference in Stockholm. The conference topic was process research in interpreting and translation studies and it was a huge success. At the conference we also officially handed over this volume to Birgitta Englund Dimitrova for her birthday.

Directly after that conference I co-organised AIIC Nordic countries’ regional meeting. We were very happy that Miriam Shlesinger agreed to stay for our regional meeting, she gave a talk that was very appreciated by the interpreters present. Personally, I think I have to make a mental note that it can be very burdensome to organize two conferences one after the other even if you are only a co-organizer.

I have also had the opportunity to interpret a few days and also meet The Interpreter Diaries IRL.

So now you know a little about what I’ve been up to during my silence. What have you been up to during November? For interpreters and teachers, one of the busiest months!

A few things that should be compulsory in PhD training in Translation and Interpreting Studies

Through my PhD studies (four years done, 18 months to go) I have been blessed with very good supervisors, solid training, interesting conferences and great networking opportunities. But I have not followed a PhD training in Translation Studies and many of the great things I’ve been able to do has been thanks to particular people and to my supervisors’ great flexibility. And therefore I would like to list a few things that I think should be compulsory in PhD training in Interpreting (and Translation) Studies.

Supervisors. At least two who are not competitors. I have three, and I consider myself very lucky. They are not competing for funding or project plans so they are all very positive and supporting to my project. I have one extremely devoted main supervisor, the other two act as supporters to her. They cover different fields and can give feedback from different angles. At least one of your supervisors must be working in the same field as your PhD project

Summer school. Possibility to participate in at least one longer summer school in your field. It gives great opportunities to meet peers in your field and hopefully also to meet good and inspiring professors in your own or neighbouring fields.

Methodological training. Whichever field you are in or whatever methodologies you use you need to get hands on training in different theories and methodologies. How are you otherwise supposed to know which approach, analysis or methods you are going to use with your material. The risk if you do not get this training is that you end up either blindly following your supervisor or making it up as you go along and thereby risking a new invention of the wheel or something similar. The program I follow has a great training unit, unfortunately it’s in bilingual studies and not in translation studies.

A conference a year. At least! Start going to conferences as early as possible. Again, great networking. You also get to test your material and your results on a bigger audience than your supervisor, and most researchers in Translation Studies are both kind, interested and curious of what other people are doing.

Publish. If you would like to continue as a researcher, you have everything to gain from publishing early. Make sure you pick good publishing channels though, with good I mean serious. They don’t have to be THE journal in your field, but having published in peer-reviewed, scientific publications usually weighs more heavily in your CV than your local news letter.

Organize a conference. Not the whole conference of course, but being part of an orginizing committee for a bigger conference or workshop or seminar is also extremely good for learning how these things work, how you apply for money, how administration works at your university and so forth. And lastly, again, great networking opportunity.

Edit a book. Provided you get help, e.g. being one of two or several editors, this is probably one of the greatest learning processes there is in academia. You get to read draft papers from other scholars, you get to see feed back from their peers, you have ample possibility to discuss the contributions with your co-editors. You get an understanding of the whole editing process. You work with publishers and proof readers. Takes alot of time of course, but well worth it for your future academic career.

Make a study and write an article with your supervisor. Really work together with your supervisor, not just him or her co-signing something you did. A very good learning process and a hands on exercise in how your supervisor works and thinks. Will most likely develop your own research skills alot.

Teach. The best way to really learn your topic is to teach it. So if you can get teaching hours that are in Translation Studies and not in English linguistics. Take them!

Now you probably understand why my PhD studies take a little longer than usual. The other reason for this is that I started without funding and worked parallell to my PhD project. Finally, two things that I have not been able to do, but that I also find important.

Get pedagogical training for teaching at University. Different from teaching at secondary school. Good for future job seeking, and also makes you see your own learning process from a different perspective.

Learn how to apply for funding. Yep, that’s the sad current state of at least humanities today. You have to be very good at looking for funding, and make your projects look sexy for funders…

Read the posts tagged “Sorcerer’s apprentice” at the Cogtrans blog for more tips on PhD in Translation Studies.

Thanks to Maria Cristina de la Vega’s good comment I have to add one more thing:

Teaching interpreting workshops in conjunction with local language/interpreting associations. They are likely to be more accessible and probably thrilled to have you. That could also serve as a training ground for the conferences you might submit your papers to, and help you to refine your focus.

As you can se it’s a verbatim of her comment I can only agree. It is a very good experience, more easily accessible and usually a very positive audience, but with tricky and intelligent questions.

Reading tips

So many good and interesting blog posts to read this week that I just have to pass them on. First of all read Bootheando’s post on Sibel Edmonds. If you don’t read Spanish scroll down and watch the video.

Then Rainy London Translations has a really interesting and above all funny post on Interpreting Wars, survival tips for the booth.

The Interpreter Diaries continues her postings on becoming an interpeter and interpreting training. Now the time has come to deal with “The aptitude test.”

The Liaison Interpreter has a post on fees (it’s form last week but still worth reading) that largely inspired my own post on the same topic.

Unprofessional Translations turns 82 (years! not blogposts) this week and celebrates with a post on translation and aging. Many happy returns, and thank you for all the interesting posts.

And finally, in Swedish and a few weeks old, the Swedish community interpreter Tolken (just as me), who writes about the Assange court proceedings and the critical comments that the interpreting has gotten there. One of the reasons that Assange can claim that the Swedish rule of law is toothless, is that he has not gotten proper access to translated documents and qualified interpreters.

Do you really need interpreter training? A few reasons for not closing the Interpreting MA at the University of Westminster, UK

Bilinguals interpret all the time, for friends, family and others in need. Children who have grown up bilingually are used to interpreting. And since everybody is learning English nowadays anyway, why bother to train new generations of interpreters?

I’m not sure whether this was the way the University of Westminster reasoned when they decided to close down their MA in conference interpreting.

This is a course that has a long, and well-founded good reputation. It was established in 1963 (at the Polytechnic of Central London), actually one of my colleagues went there in those early years. Since then the school has produced many more colleagues working for the EU institutions of course, but also for the UN and even Canadian governement. Other than Swedish and English booth they have also trained colleagues for the French, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Bulgarian, Irish, Maltese, Russian and Chinese booths.

In the announcement from the University it says that the interpreting course

is a well-respected course that has been recognised by the EMCI, AIIC, the EU and the UN in various ways for the quality of its graduates. The closure of the course is not a decision that has been taken lightly and it has not been taken because of any quality, teaching, management or recruitment problems.

OK, so a good course, highly reputable. One of the oldest interpreting trainings in Europe. No problem when it comes to applicants, management of quality and yet it has to close down. Why?

Well, it’s not making enough money…

English interpreters are soon a scarcity. The European Union, for instance, fears that it will not be able to cover their need for interpretation into English in 5 to 10 years. Fewer and fewer people with English mother tongue learn foreign languages and therefore the access to people who can even be considered to become interpreters is decreasing. And on top of that, Westminster chooses to close down a good, well-functioning interpreting school.

So, I guess that since the school is not making enough money, we’ll just go back and rely on people who grew up bilingually and who probably learnt the trade when they were in diapers. Or, hey, maybe language students can do it as a student job, that way they can exercise their languages as well. I would like to quote my colleague Victoria who blogs at http://www.tolken.se when she speaks about growing up bilingual:

And if you were “born” with two languages it’s even better, then you know everything, don’t you? Personally, I remember how my dad always used to talked about things like “enter into force”, “temporary asylum accommodation”, “tarsus”, “fenced pasture”, “percutaneous coronary intervention”, “the Administrative Procedure Act” and similar words, when I was a little girl. The languages ??just came flying at me, of course it was completely effortless.

Interpreting is a highly qualified job. Future conference interpreters are screened for interpreting aptitude, they have to pass entrance tests covering both language skills and general culture. It helps to have grown up bilingual, but it’s far from enough. After that they are trained in different interpreting techniques. If you have the language skills and interpreting aptitude it takes at least a year and you’re probably better off with a two-year-course. Despite language skills, aptitude and training there is still a high level of failure at the final exam. Between 50 and 70 % of the canditates make it to a diploma.

Unfortunately, very few community interpreters are screened and trained in the same way, I believe they should be, because their work is just as, if not even more, important.

And in a time where there is a growing lack of interpreters with English mother tongue, an increasing need for upholding standards and every reason to boost and improve our interpreting training programs; The University of Westminster chooses to close down one of the oldest and most well-reputed interpreting schools. It is a shame!

If you want to have your say on the closure of Westminster’s interpreting course you can do it here.

You can also read what other bloggers have to say about this at Bootheando, Interpreting Diaries, Traducción e investigación, Aventuras de una traductora-intérprete en Madrid and Dos Palabras.

Alexia Sloane – budding interpreter!

Have you seen the sweet story of Alexia Sloane who lost her sight at the age of two but who has been developing a strong gift for languages? Thanks to MEP Sturdy she was allowed into the European Parliament to try interpreting. Here she is on a video when she is reading from one of her own texts that won her an award. And here is a little longer article about her.

Now how’s that for an unprofessional or natural interpreter?

How to choose your working languages

How many languages do you know and how/why do you know them? Do you recommend to concentrate on one language (other than your first language) or learn more languages which would give more work offers I guess.

I just got this question from a student wishing to pursue studies in interpreting. This is probably the most common question from students. And the answer is not as straightforward as the question (what else?). First of all you need to know your mother tongue very well. It seems obvious, but speaking a language and interpreting into a language are two very different things. When you interpret into a language you need to master all domains, all registers, and all nuances. It is so much more than just speaking your mother tongue or being fluent in a language.

How well you have to master your other languages and how many languages you “need” depend on where you aim to work. Interpreters can be “bi-active”, meaning that you master two languages equally well and work to and from both languages. In that case you have two mother tongues or you are very near native in your foreign language (an A or B-language for interpreters). Bi-active interpreters work for NATO, for courts, as conference interpreters or as community interpreters. It is more or less impossible to be bi-active in more than two languages.

Most interpreters who work for larger institutions such as EU or UN work only into their mother tongue and from at least two, but often three or more languages. The languages you work from are languages you comprehend fully, but which you do not master as mother tongue. In interpreting lingo these languages are called C-languages.

So, you cannot say that its better to focus only on one language or several. It depends on what you would like to focus on. And it also depends on whether you have a second mother tongue or a language in which you are near native. So more languages does not necessarily mean more work offers either. However, a language combination with very high demand in your region will most likely give you more work offers. Also, if you are the only one with two very rare languages you will probably have a stable market.

Personally, I work from English, French and Danish into Swedish. I work to and from English in court but not in conferences. The reason for my language combination is that I only have one first/ A/ mother tongue language and I work mostly for the EU. I am almost near native in English and therefore I work in court to and from English, I have not developed my English into conference use. You can read more about me and my languages here.

Day 03 Interpreting teachers I remember

The interesting thing in interpreting training is that all your teachers are professional interpreters. This means that if you make it through interpreting school, your former teachers will be your colleagues. It’s like being trained into a medieval guild. And somehow after a couple of years in the business your former teachers grow into being just colleagues. Basically you stop being afraid of them.

There are horror stories going around about teachers whose only goal seemed to be to make at least one student crying every lesson. I’ve understood as I started teaching interpreting that the difficult thing about it is that (often unintentionally) you criticize personal things like voice, word choice and so forth. Therefore your students may perceive you as harsher than you actually are or want to be.

So much for general comments on interpreting teachers and then to the teachers I remember. Most teachers I had were great. Without my Danish consecutive teacher I would not have passed my exam. She gave me extra classes at her place, just like that. Taking of her own free time for nothing, just to help me pass. I did not have enormous problems with Danish, but consecutive technique took some time to master.

At my interpreting school, staff interpreters came on Friday mornings every week and Saturday mornings once a month to give interpreting classes. On top of that we had interpreting classes with other teachers as well. I don’t remember that my interpreting was ever “cut to pieces” by teachers, but I remember occasions when we laughed real hard at what I produced. The worst comment I have ever got was actually a little later when I had been practicing working into English from my mother tongue. Then a teacher told me he never wanted to hear me utter another word in English ever again. I told you it’s tough from time to time.

But in general, thank you to all my teachers. You were devoted, inspiring, tough and most of all determined teach us interpreting. And you made me an interpreter!

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

Halliday, Systemic Functional Grammar and Descriptive Translation Studies

The total opposite of structural language theories (such as Saussure) are functional language theories. Here represented first and foremost by Michael Halliday. Halliday is the father of SFL, systemic functional linguistics, from which genre pedagogy (see for instance Pauline Gibbons) seeks its roots. SFL seeks to analyze language from both structure and words in order to establish three metafunctions namely ideational, interpersonal and the textual. I haven’t seen any interpreting research using SFL (absolutely not a guarantee that there isn’t any), but guts feeling says it should fit well. There are some translation research done with SFL as one analysis model though. Apparently the problem with SFL as tool (only as hearsay as I haven’t tested it) is that it is descriptive, but does not really lead you any further. A bit like DTS, Descriptive Translation Studies. DTS was founded by Guideon Toury and became a revolutionary change in direction in translation studes, which up until then was almost solely prescriptive.

I teach from a book by Jan Svennevig “Språklig Samhandling” and the post is only my interpretation of his book in particular and of systemic functional linguistics in general.