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

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Part 2: Professional organizations- what are they good for

As said in the previous blog post, I felt an extreme urge to explain and elaborate on professional organizations and my involvement in them after last #IntJC. In the first tweet where I expressed an opinion I said:

“I miss the discussion about the trade in the organizations.” Here’s what I meant – there are far too few discussion platforms within the professional organizations. Things are slowly starting to change ATA has great webminars and a lively discussion platform on LinkedIn (not to mention their conferences). AIIC is tweeting @aiiconline and has a great Facebook page as well as a group on LinkedIn. EST is on Facebook and also tweet at @estrans. But you can always improve – right? When I was a new comer to AIIC (I think I was just pre-candidate) I dared mention at a meeting that it would be nice with mentors. The idea did not catch on – to say the least. One wonderful colleague approached me after the meeting and said: “I’ll be happy to be your mentor, if you want to”. This was different times, and outreach is better now, but I think that we could still use mentors, I think that we could organize regular meetings with people in the professions, both in the real world and on the Internet. #IntJC is a great initiative for this purpose, but I’m sure there are more possibilities.

Second tweet: “Assn are expensive and you want value (i.e. jobs) for money”. Yes most associations are expensive and if you cannot directly see the benefit of joining – why should you? I mean if the organizations does not yield any paid jobs or even limit your negotiating space (like demanding you work under decent working conditions). Then there is no value for money – or is there? Well, let me take a few examples that I have experienced personally. And which also takes me to my next tweet:
“In hard times you act and negotiate as one big body which can be totally vital (sic. in the hurry I wrote vital, but I meant crucial)”. Here’s my experience of that. At one point government bodies in my country decided that the use of English should be the only policy promoted in international context. This meant that a lot of big clients stopped hiring interpreters completely, a very hard blow on the interpreter market. My regional AIIC immediately set up a contact group who visited all involved parties and presented AIIC and interpreting. It raised awareness of professional conference interpreting, and it also helped changing government policy. It demanded a lot of work, and it was not AIIC alone who could change it, but the fact that we were representing an international, professional organization with some 3000 members was a door-opener in this case. It did not mean that individual interpreters were hired immediately, but it probably saved a market in the long-term. My second example is about the ranking of academic journals that I’ve written about here. When the Norwegian Science Board were reviewing their ranking of academic journals (very influential in at least the Nordic Countries), we were many Translation Scholars lobbying for them to upgrade the Translation Journals they had downgraded a few years earlier. The down grading was not due to lack of academic quality, but merely reflecting the fact of an organizational restructuring in Norway. In that case we got support from the EST. The EST president wrote a letter to the Science Board explaining the status of Translation Studies and how the previous change in ranking was groundless. That battle is not over yet. Many publications fight for the higher ranking and Translation Studies does not have its own field in Norway. But our words carry more weight with important international scholars in our ranks. And these battles are usually long and tough unfortunately, you have to show stamina. And that’s easier to do as an organization than as an individual.
So, in my opinion, what are the most important areas for professional organizations? First of all outreach. If you’re not seen you have no impact. So, contact building with other organizations, institutions, practitioners and so forth. And it has to be done on the local level (bad news guys, more unpaid work :-)), the local chapter needs to promote their organization. We are so much stronger if we work in bigger networks with other organizations and people that have the same interests. Secondly, keeping the discussion, professional development and training going within the organization, we are added value! We should be something or members look forward to. Again in big international organizations the work on the international level must be combined with work on the local level. And I know of a lot of good examples as I mentioned in the last post, but I also think there is room for more.

Organisations in the profession – Professional organisations – Part one

It’s time to move on after two weeks of holiday and another two weeks of paper writing and catching up. So, time to catch up on the blog too. And what would be better than take a few lines from the last #IntJC on professional organisations. You can read the archive here. #IntJC is not a forum for long, elaborate and eloquent lines. But that is the strength of it, too. However, after an #IntJC I often feel the urge to complement and summarize, but this time even more so. This time I really felt that I just blurted out strange things. So these two posts are aimed at going back to my tweets and elaborate.

Before I start elaborating I’ll go through the translator/interpreter organisations I’m a member of and explain why. I thought I would be able to do both the run through and elaborate on my statements in one post, but I realize it will be too long. So, here’s first my list of organizations where I’m a member and in the next post I’ll continue to discuss professional organizations.

1) AIIC – The longing to be a part of this exclusive club started as soon as I started working. Why exclusive? Well, that’s how it felt when I started working and had maybe 4 conference interpreting days/month, and realized that I had to have 300 days (it’s been cut down to 150 now) in order to become a member, on top of that I had to ask my daunting, experienced colleagues for signatures. But why long for it then? Well to be quite honest, my first reason was selfish – that’s where the interesting jobs lied. On a small market with a strong AIIC community, I had two choices; going grey (i.e. accepting sub-standard pay and conditions) or stick to AIIC standards and colleagues and secure a stable market in the long-term. I didn’t think twice. I’ve been a member for 12 years now, and have probably become one of those daunting colleagues. I have also served on different functions in the organization and I really appreciate what it does for the profession. We can do more – but we are first and foremost the closest conference interpreters get to a trade union. As I also work as community/social interpreter I really understand what a strong professional organization mean to the profession.

2) EST – This is an organization for translation and interpreting studies. Again, joining was of rather selfish nature. I wanted access to their newsflashes and their list of members. But EST is doing a lot of work to defend translation studies in academia, e.g. journal-ranking which is a hot topic that I’ve discussed earlier. They also have an absolutely outstanding scholarship for young researchers in translation studies. And their congress is a vibrant and active TS event, usually resulting in one of the most interesting conference proceedings in the field. The website is loaded with resources both for members and others.

2) ATA – Why on earth would a European interpreter join a US translator organization? Well, first of all, they work for interpreters too, with an active interpreting division. I joined when I went to their conference four years ago, but I have remained a member since I like their newsletter, their journal and the different discussion forums. I have not learnt the profession, but I’ve learnt so much about the profession from them.

3) CATS – Again an organisation for Translation Studies. And no surprise that I joined when I went to a conference there. They support young scholars, they have a good journal and they organize interesting conferences. Good reasons for continue to renew my membership.

4) ATISA – One of my newer memberships. The American Translation and Interpreting studies association. I’m too new to ATISA to have experienced all they do, and unfortunately I will not go to their conference this year. They publish a journal – Translation and Interpreting Studies that I’m looking forward to.

5) Conference of Interpreter Trainers – Also a new addition. Focus on sign language interpreter trainers, but not only. And their journal is online for members!

So much for the professional organizations I’m a member of. I’m not a member of IAPTI,but maybe it’s time to join. None of my memberships are with organizations focusing more on community/social interpreters. So maybe it’s time to add a few more.

Why so many organizations? Couldn’t I use the money better? Maybe, but for all of the above organizations I feel that I’m getting something out of it for me personally , and that I also contribute to the community. But more about that in the second post.

Do you recommend any other organizations? How many organizations are you member of?

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!

Research on interpreting quality: interdisciplinary perspectives

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

The Round table participants were

Teresa Bajo Molina (Experimental psychology), Universidad de Granada, España
Jorge Bolaños Carmona (Statistics), Universidad de Granada, España
Emilio Delgado López-Cózar (Research assessment), Universidad de Granada, España
Daniel Gile, Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle, France
Heike Lamberger-Felber (Coord.), Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Österreich

In this session interpreting was provided so discussions were allowed to flow seamlessly between English and Spanish.

Heike Lamberger-Felber moderated this discussion and started by letting the participants outside Interpreting Studies introduce themselves.

Teresa Bajo Molina (BM) is a cognitive psychologist. Her first contact with Interpreting Studies was when she supervised Presentacion Padilla Benítez’s PhD. She is interested in interpreting because it gives a window in to researching how you’re pushing the cognitive system to the limit.

Jorge Bolaños Carmona (BC) statistician is above all interested in helping to create statistical rigour.

Emilio Delgado López-Cózar (DLC) works on the assessment of research but also on methodology for research.

BM: Stresses that the most important lesson from cognitive psychology is the fact that there is a limit for the cognitive resources and that when it comes to interpreting that picture is very clear. Challenges are similar in Cognitive Psychology and Interpreting Studies since you are studying something that is not immediately perceivable. In order to push Interpreting Studies further there is a need solid hypotheses.

Moderator: What about training in research methodology? Generally in Interpreting Studies there is not much such training around.

BM: In cognitive psychology we spend a lot of time on that, about one term of PhD training is devoted to research methodology.

Moderator: And what about strengths and weaknesses in Interpreting Studies?

BM: I try to stay up to date on publications in Interpreting Studies and I see a lot of good things but also weaknesses. Good questions are being asked, but it is also a very heterogeneous field, very fragmented and I have a problem finding a strong base. Many studies are exploratory and control is missing. I have the feeling that you give up on controlling variables with the ambition to make the experiment closer to the actual object you study. But if you give up control then you cannot draw valid conclusions.

Moderator: How reliable are statistical tools if they are used by untrained researchers in a simplistic design?

BC: Seen from a statistical point of view we can make enormous mistakes in that context, and it’s even worse if there is a poor design. A poor design can destroy years of work. If you want to collect qualitative data you need to consult with experts. You can of course also ask for help from a statistician if you already have collected a quantitative material, but typically they would want something in return of course, such as publication in important publications, effect in academia and so forth.

Here I (blog author) have to add a very personal comment – the fact that Interpreting and Translation journals usually have low ranking scores (for reasons not related to their academic quality but to the fact that there is a small discipline, often not represented in ranking bodies) is an ENORMOUS disadvantage for our discipline.

But back to BC: More cooperation between interpreting resarchers and statisticians is however good and necessary. A word of warning; when asking IT-experts for help to design a web based study, do check that they have sufficient knowledge in statistics. Finally it is important to first know WHAT questions you attempt to answer and THEN look for the proper method and statistical design.

Moderator: We often have a problem with the great variability in our data, many things influence our object of study. How does that affect our aim to do inferential tests?

BC: There are two important variables – those we want to study and those we don’t want to study. The ones we don’t want to study must be eliminated. This is also true for instance for sociological studies where many variables interact and interfere. The conditions of the analysis have to be absolutely right.

Moderator: Is there any use of making inferential statistics on small data? This is another reality in interpreting studies that we often deal with small data.

BC: Of course we can use small data, but only with the right number of repetitions. Often in interpreting you have small data, but you count, for instance, the total occurrence of something e.g. errors. Say you analyse the work of 5 interpreters, you will get a large number of date from the repetition of each individual. So it is rather a question of a small SAMPLE that can still generate a large amount of DATA.

If it’s clear that something is different, why use statistics? Because small variation could affect your data in ways that you did not necessarily expect.

Moderator: Research assessment has also become a field of study and Emilio Delgado López-Cózar will present that.

DLC: In order to evaluate research we use quantitative methods such as bibliometrics, rankings, impact indexes. All these measures are important for people working with research policy. Quantitative outcome of research is measured through publications. Qualitative data consists of for instance peer-review. Research assessment can be done ex ante e.g. when you apply for funding for research or ex post when you assess the results of a project.

Moderator: And what about key terms that often obsess people, such as citation index and impact factor.

DLC: Citations in humanities are delicate. You have to be cautious because of the size of different fields. If there are not many researchers in a filed you have no critical mass and then the number of citations is lower.

Moderator: How do you assess field that you do not know well?

DLC: Bibliometrics is our mirror and we need to look in that mirror. When assessing a field you look at PhDs, publications, journals, research projects, conferences and so forth. You also make a content analysis; the reflection of actual problems, evaluation of tools, methodology, technique and so forth.

Again I as blog author would like to stress the comment I did above on journal ranking in translation studies.

Moderator: I would like to hear from Daniel Gile what you would expect from multidisciplinary in Interpreting research.

DG: About multidisciplinary approach in interpreting studies, we have seen the advantages and challenges of multidisciplinary in this round table. If we want to study the nature of interpreting, cognitive psychology, linguistics and communication are important areas. But it is important not to loose the characteristic features of interpreting out of sight. You cannot, for instance, control away variables to the extent that you loose your sample. Our weakness in Interpreting Studies is that we look up to methods developed in another field and swallow them without a critical eye. What we need is help to understand the CONCEPTS of issues in cognitive disciplines in order to be able to adapt those concepts to Interpreting Studies.

Question from the audience (Franz Pöchhacker): What about other research designs such as surveys and web-based surveys?

General answer from the panel: Surveys as method is a good and easy accessible method, but you have to understand their limitation, such as controlling who is answering and that each respondent only answers once and so forth. The important issue for any research design is that the design is rigorous. If the design and method is good then also exploratory studies are fine.

Moderator: And what would it take for you as researches from other studies to enter into a specific project in interpreting studies?

BM: I am already involved in interpreting projects but you have to understand that it involves making sacrifices.

BC: I would look for a project with the possibility to create something that others doesn’t have already. However it is difficult for researchers in the beginning of their career, who are building their CV to engage in fields that do not give immediate bibliometric feed back.

On this note the panel ended its discussions. Again I think it very well sums up our problem. I would also like to point out that the panel did not touch upon mixed method design and had no representative from sociological research (or other areas working with qualitative methods). Neither was neuroscience or phonetics/phonology mentionned. Although I realise the time was very limited, I would have appreciated that aspect as well when it comes to multidisciplinary.

I also found both professor Bajo Molina’s and professor Gile’s comments on the field very interesting. Professor BM talked about a fragmented field where it’s difficult to find a strong base. Professor Gile talked about not uncritically swallowing methods from other fields. Although the trend today is towards multidisciplinary I believe that Interpreting Studies should work more on the centripedal power rather than the centrifugal power. Interpreting Studies are multidisciplinary per se and will gain more on working on that common solid ground than on stressing differences.

Konstantina Liontou – anticipation

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

Konstantina Liontou, (University of Vienna) presented the results from a study on anticipation. According to Jörg Anticipation is prediction and interpretation of source text units before their actual utterance. Kirchoff claimed that experienced interpreters are seldom wrong about their expectations and that when errors are discovered they are corrected. The impact of erroneous anticipation is less sense consistency with the original. When Jörg tested this only 2,24% cases were found with erroneous anticipation.

The language pair German-Greek is an interesting study object in this respect since it presents several syntactic differences that create challenges for the interpreters. Challenges comprises verb position, position of negation particles

Liontou’s corpus consists of German and Austrian MEPs during the Parliamentary session. The topic was environment and the period from April 2006 to December 2008. The number of speeches was125. This yielded 2 x 5,5 hours of speech and interpreting and possibly involved16 interpreters.

The biggest challenge for Liontou when analysing the mateiral turned out to be how to you define erroneous anticipation contrasted with more general anticipation.

Liontou reached higher levels of erroneous anticipation than for instance Jörg did. When polishing away all the unclear cases she arrived at just over 8 % of clear cases compared to Jörg’s 2.24 %.

Despite the slightly higher level of erroneous anticipation it still represents very low levels and Liontou findings support Kirchhoff’s claim. An important finding that none of the errors detected were contre sense.

Panel – Quality in the interpreter’s profession and training

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

Participants in the round table discussion were:

Susanne Altenberg, DG for Interpretation and Conferences, European Parliament
Jesús Baigorri Jalón, Universidad de Salamanca, España
Ann D’haen-Bertier, DG Interpretation (SCIC), European Commission
Ingrid Kurz, Universität Wien, Österreich | Research Committee of AIIC
Heike Lamberger-Felber (Coord.), Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Österreich
Franz Pöchhacker, Universität Wien, Österreich
Robin Setton, Shanghai International Studies University, China | Université Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle, France

Moderator Heike Lamberger-Felber kicked off the discussion by asking about the professional practice. The factors that influcence interperting quality, how have they changed over the years. How does UN, EU and OECD intepreters perceive external factors that influence their interpreting today.

Jesus Baigorri Jalón said that in order to answer truthfully to this question he did a survey among his former UN colleagues and the reality as perceived by interpreters today when they are rendering a speech is that they are speaking more UNese, they are often flooded in acronyms and they daily deal with many non-native language varieties. Today they also see new actors in the meetings that are unfamiliar with interpreters’ needs and who often lack training of communication skills. Other challenges today comprise new information technologies, read speeches and increasing speed.

Robin Settion hedged with the question: are things really getting harder or are our views changing? He reported that interpreters at OECD struggle with the same problems viz. read texts, increased density, lack of documentation and non-native accents. He also said that a particular challenge for free lancers were not enough exposure to the current situation. He advocated a working practice to improve the situation. First try to avoid problems by getting as much information as possible (from speakers, users, clients and so forth) and of course by preparing duly. But when the problem strikes, you have to learn to adapt to the situation by applying different strategies (norms, judgement, priorities, coping) and we should learn respond it according to the required stimuli.

Heike Lamberger-Felber summarized Susanne Altenbergs comments since Susanne unfortunately had fallen ill. But she reported that at the European Parliament the meetings are being web streamed which means a redefinition of the expectation of the interpreter. Interpreting becomes more public and therefore interpreting quality and pressure on interpreters increase. European Parliament works on issues such as for what purpose does the quality need to be produced and does quality meet costumer satisfaction.

Anne D’haen-Bertier stressed that the focus on quality is justified when you think about the fact that in a meeting in Commission or Council with full language regime 66 interpreters works to and from 22 languages and the quality of the interpretation is only as good as the weakest link. Interpreters’ quality is being monitored regularly by SCIC both individual interpreters’ performance and the technical aspects on quality. Commission who is also responsible for the interpretation at the European Council, CoR and EcoSoc has 120 000 interpreting days per year.

Ingrid Kurz as member of the AIIC research committee represented AIIC and presented the organisation’s admission rules (briefly 150 days of interpreting practice, sponsoring from three members who has been members for three years and has worked with the colleague in that language combination). She said that the admissions procedure was developed as an insurance for aiic members’ professionalism. She said that the work to ensure quality went via: 1) self imposed requirements (cf. aiic rules), 2) technical requirements, and
3) measurements of service performed by asking the users.

Anne D’haen-Bertier added on that topic that SCIC does regular customer satisfactory surveys. Clients are asked for their satisfaction on different indicators such as presentation, language and so forth. Clients are satisfied up to 80 and 90 percent depending on the indicator, and the lowest score was correct terminology with 75 %, interestingly enough the lowest figure for terminology satisfaction was given by non-native speakers of English listening to the English booth.

Franz Pöchhacker representetd the public service interpreting field and said that when it comes to quality in community settings expectations are fairly clear but a problems lie in the focus on quality in conference interpreting. There are no big institutional employers that have a natural reason to focus on the quality in the community interpreting. The European institutions should be a more active actor here. Another major driving force for the low quality is the ridiculously low pay (for instance 12 euros in Spain) and low incentive to get training, professionalization and so forth. Not a level playing field when it comes to quality in interpreting.

Anne D’haen-Bertier responded that Commission was involved in setting standards for legal interpreting. They participate in a forum that focused on setting standards for training, certification and registration. Then Anne D’haen-Bertier went on to discuss the problem with the fact that students are usually not at the level to pass the accreditation test of the European Instiutions when they finish interpreting school. There are many valid reasons for this, one being that the fact that the student has to be operational the day after accreditation make the tests have extremely high standard. SCIC tries to tackle this with introduction programmes, key training schemes and so forth.

In the comments from the audience a representative from the sign language interpreting community invited the participants to a closer co-operation on accreditation (since several countries have accreditation tests instead of sponsoring) and possibly also training.