Brian L. Price and Professor Mariam B. Labrum, Spanish and Portuguese
Last year I submitted a proposal for funding to support a research project aimed at improving the quality of interpreter training at the undergraduate level for all those students with demonstrated interest in the field of interpretation. I claimed that such improvements would benefit the existing Spanish Translation and Interpretation program at Brigham Young University, and could eventually serve the needs of other institutions. In the course of my investigation, I have determined that such improvements can be made with relatively little effort and without having to hire large quantities of additional staff to meet the needs of a stronger interpretation program.
Most of my research was conducted at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California. The Institute is regarded as the premier institution for translation and interpretation pedagogy in the Western Hemisphere. I interviewed two individuals: Dr. Diane de Terra, dean of the College of Translation and Interpretation; and Holly Mikkelson, an instructor and one of the foremost educators for community interpreters. My discussions with these two educators confirmed my original hypothesis. Due to a lack of qualified trainers, budding interpreters are being deprived of opportunities to develop their craft under the careful supervision of trained professionals. A structured undergraduate program that would provide a broad spectrum of interpretation styles and fields is feasible, though some type of educational tool is necessary to aid in the implementation process.
Students at MIIS have a well-structured program in which they practice skills and are evaluated by the teacher and other students. Students practice in groups outside of class and evaluate each other’s work. Teachers become involved in large training sessions, periodically giving feedback on brief observations they make in general training sessions. Some evaluations are done on an individual basis, and are more easily achieved during consecutive interpretation practice. Overall, students are left to do most of the work outside of class and on their own time.
BYU by Comparison
With regards to technology, BYU has comparable facilities to those of MIIS with regards to quality, though such is not the case for quantity. BYU has excellent booths for interpretation practices in the HLRC (though there are only two booths). The computer lab room next door to the HLRC, however, is an ideal area for improved training. There are more than twenty booths with good isolation, TV monitors, headsets with isolated earphones, and a monitoring booth at the front of the room to help observe students while they work.
TALL as an Interpreter Training Tool
The Technology Aided Language Learning (TALL) system used by the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT, is the ideal training model for interpreter training. The system is a self-contained language pedagogy program with the capacity to allow students to listen to a text, interpret in either a simultaneous or consecutive mode, record the interpretation, transcribe, translate, and compare documents. With slight modifications to the basic structure and the introduction of digitally recorded texts, the TALL program could easily be converted to a training module that would allow students to receive the training they need without having to increase the ratio of instructors to students.
The Program Idea
The following outline is a sketch for an improved interpretation unit for the BYU Spanish Translation & Interpretation program:
1. In the second year of the program, students are given the opportunity to choose to follow an interpretation route that would put more emphasis on interpretation. This emphasis, however, does not exist to the exclusion of translation training. It would allow the student to choose a specialty on which to focus, while still practicing the valuable skill of translation.
2. Student practices involve the following step of steps:
a. The student listens to digital texts and simultaneously interprets the text.
b. The interpretation is recorded and saved by the computer.
c. The student reviews his/her work, and transcribes the interpretation, representing pauses, interruptions, etc.
d. The student then compares the transcription with a prepared translation of the text, examining it for structural incongruities, terminology, linguistic register, idiomatic expressions, and deep meaning.
e. The student corrects the transcription for grammar, punctuation, etc.
f. After comparing the documents, the student re-interprets the same text, this time paying attention to subtleties missed in the first attempt.
g. The student prepares one final transcription and then turns the original, the corrected version, and the final transcription in to the instructor for grading.
3. The student repeats this process for a variety of different fields (legal, religious, political, medical, etc.)
Future work in this area will include petitioning funding for installing TALL computers in the language lab, development of a final project, and more intensive class preparation in different fields. As I stated in my original proposal, the curriculum would incorporate how to organize interpretation services for a large conference, courtroom and community interpreting, professionalism in escort interpreting, consecutive interpreting, ethics, business organization, familiarization with equipment and systems, tag team interpreting techniques, decalage, and other aspects of the profession.