25th Anniversary Celebrations at the Master’s of Conference Interpreting, La Laguna

This is a special week for us here in La Laguna. Interpreting students, trainers, alumni and a number of top names in the interpreting community will be coming to our University to join us in marking the 25th edition of our Master’s of Conference Interpreting program. It’s not every day that a conference interpreter training program turns 25 – indeed, only a handful of courses in the world have such a long trajectory behind them – and so it is only fitting that this event be celebrated in style.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Stuart Miles

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Stuart Miles

The anniversary celebrations will be held over two days, February 13 and 14, and will offer something for everyone. Thursday’s program includes keynote presentations and panel discussions with invited guests on a broad range of topics, from the history of training to the future of our profession, and will be crowned with a gala dinner. Friday starts with a round of paintball for visiting alumni and concludes with a session of speed networking.

The MIC is honoured to see so many illustrious leaders of the interpreting community coming to join in the celebrations. These include Mario Benedetti (Director General of Interpretation at the European Commission), Linda Fitchett (President of AIIC), the heads of the Spanish booths at UN Geneva and the European Parliament, as well as trainers and alumni from the four corners of Europe.

All the details of the upcoming event can be found on the MIC’s blog, which includes a video showing life at the MIC. If you’d like to follow the proceedings from afar, they will be tweeted live using the #MIC25 hashtag. To give you an idea of what to expect, here is the schedule (in Spanish) of the talks and panel discussions planned for Thursday.

Nuevos tiempos, nuevos retos para la formación de intérpretes de conferencias

Jornada de conmemoración del XXV aniversario del Máster en Interpretación de Conferencias de la Universidad de La Laguna

9.30 – 10.00 h.

Conferencia: “La interpretación en las Instituciones europeas: el multilingüismo en acción”.

D. Marco Benedetti (Director General de Interpretación de la Comisión Europea).

10.15 – 11.00 h.

Conferencia: “Los inicios de la formación en interpretación de conferencias”.

D. Richard Fleming (ex intérprete funcionario de la Comisión Europea).

11.30 – 12.30 h.

Mesa redonda: “Nuevos espacios de formación en la interpretación de conferencias”.

Dª Natalia Sánchez-Calero (DG Interpretación Comisión Europea); Dra. Denitza Bogomilova (DG INT Parlamento Europeo); D. Cristóbal Osuna (ONU); Dª Linda Fitchett (AIIC),  Dª Lourdes de Rioja (ULL).

12.45 – 13.45 h.

Mesa redonda: “La formación de intérpretes en los servicios públicos”.

D. Fernando Gascón Nasarre (APTIJ), Dra. Marta Arumì Ribas (U Autónoma de Barcelona), Dª Marlene Fernández Pérez (ULL); Dra. Carmen Toledano Buendía (ULL).

15.00 – 15.30 h.

Presentación: “El régimen de integración de Canarias en la Unión Europea”.

D. Ildefonso Socorro Quevedo, Viceconsejero de Economía y Asuntos Económicos con la Unión Europea del Gobierno de Canarias.

15.45 – 17.00 h.

Mesa redonda: “¿Hay vida después del MIC?”.

D. Javier Hernández Saseta (DG Interpretación); Dra. Jéssica Pérez-Luzardo (U Las Palmas GC); Dª Zia Firoz Papar (intérprete autónoma); D. Ramón Ruiz López (intérprete autónomo).

Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book

Today’s post looks at what I consider to be one of the most important interpreter training resources to come out in recent years. It was my intention to write this review of Andrew Gillies’ new book, entitled Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book (Routledge, 2013) when it was first published last spring, but life had other plans for me, and so it is only now that I am finally able to sit down and tell readers what I like so much about it.

book review Gillies

For those students and trainers who haven’t yet had a chance to get their hands on a copy, let me just give you a brief idea of what you’ll find inside. As the title implies, Gillies’ new book is meant to help guide students as they practice their budding interpreting skills. It offers a compilation of over 300 different exercises targeting various aspects of the interpreting process. The exercises, which have been taken from a wide range of sources (all duly cited), are grouped into four main parts (A: Practice, B: Language, C: Consecutive Interpreting and D: Simultaneous Interpreting), and each of these parts is further divided into several sections (active and passive language enhancement, delivery, reformulation, split attention, etc.).

So far, so good*. But what makes Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book so indispensable that I have taken to packing it in my suitcase and pulling it out on every possible occasion to wave it under fellow trainers’ noses? For me, the appeal of this new book lies in the fact that it is based on a number of training principles that I hold near and dear to my heart, and it shows me new ways to apply them in my teaching. These principles may seem obvious to many readers, but I’ll briefly list them here anyway:

1 Interpreting is a complex process that can be broken down into a number of component parts or sub-skills;

2 To improve overall interpreting performance, you should work first on improving these component parts separately;

3 Effective learning is best achieved by setting clear, measurable, and above all obtainable objectives;

4 Learning can (and should) be fun!

Let me illustrate how Gillies’ new book promotes learning along these principles. Let’s say that we’ve got a couple of students having a hard time with their delivery in simultaneous: they’re speaking in a very monotonous voice, hunching over, and mumbling into the microphone. We’ve told them to liven it up a bit, asked them to record themselves and listen to their own performance, even suggested they place a little sticky note on the booth’s glass saying “DELIVERY!” or “KEEP IT LIVELY!”, but nothing seems to be getting the message across.

So we turn to Gillies’ book for some new ideas on how to encourage these students to communicate better in the booth. We flip to Part D: Simultaneous Interpreting, find the section on Delivery, and lo and behold, there’s not one but six new exercises to try. We decide to go for exercise D.2 Inverted conference, where Gillies suggests running a mock conference where the speakers sit in the booths and the interpreters sit at the main table. The idea is to demonstrate the simultaneous interpreting is also a communicative act, and that behaviour that would not be appropriate for someone speaking before a group – speaking in a monotonous voice, hunching over, mumbling – is also not appropriate in the booth. It’s the perfect exercise: it’s targeted (on communication skills), the impact is immediate and measurable (in the form of audience feedback), the students are bound to take the lessons learned back with them into the booth, and, last but not least, it’s probably quite fun.

The book is replete with ideas such as these that offer trainers new ways to address some of the most recurrent problems students face. Are your students wondering how they can improve their general knowledge, apart from reading the paper every day? Have them check out exercises B.1 to B.17, there’s sure to be something there that interests them. Do they need guidance on how to cultivate split attention? You’ll find exercises for that in C.131 to C.140. And the list goes on…

At this point, you may be wondering why it’s called “A Student’s Practice Book”, when all I have been doing is explaining how trainers can use it. I guess that just reflects my own personal bias – I see it first as a resource for trainers like me. But of course, students will also be able to make use of the ideas covered in the book. In particular, advanced students of interpreting will find plenty of ways to structure their group practice sessions and lots of new ideas to keep themselves and their classmates motivated. Beginning students, for their part, will want to read the sections on practice and feedback as early on in their training as possible.

It should be made clear, however, that the book is not a manual, to be read from start to finish, that will teach the absolute beginner how to become an interpreter (for that, you’ve got Gillies’ other main title, Note-Taking for Consecutive Interpreting: A Short Course (St. Jerome, 2005), which offers a step-by-step guide for beginners on how to develop a workable note-taking technique). Rather, Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book is a wide-ranging, diverse compilation of resources that students and trainers of all levels will want to have on their bookshelf and consult as the need arises.

As I see it, Gillies has spared us all the trouble of having to sort all those loose papers we’ve gathered over the years, all the photocopies we’ve received from training seminars, all the ideas we’ve scribbled on sticky notes after conversations with fellow trainers over coffee, because he’s just gone and done it for us. For this reason alone, I consider the book to be a major contribution to interpreter training. The added bonus in my case is that it has also allowed me to add some variety to my own training approach. After many years in front of a classroom, one runs the risk of falling into a rut and, worse, losing enthusiasm for the training experience. Thanks to Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book, it doesn’t look like that will happen to this trainer any time soon.

*For an excellent take on Gillies’ book, check out Barry Slaughter Olsen’s review “One Interpreting Practice Book to Train Them All”, published on the InterpretAmerica website.

The death of healthcare interpreting in the Netherlands

This is a reblog of a piece I wrote for the AIIC Blog. You can find the original post here.

When patients must provide their own interpreters, the healthcare system itself becomes ill. The ensuing social and personal toll is once again being ignored in the name of transient budgetary savings.

Most people with even a marginal interest in the interpreting profession will have heard about the events involving the UK Ministry of Justice’s changes to court interpreting procurement and the scandals arising from service provider Capita’s mismanagement of interpreter resources (if you haven’t, you can read a summary of events here and follow the interpreter response here). It will come as a sad surprise to hear that something even more worrying is going on in the Netherlands. There, healthcare interpreters have seen their profession effectively erased out of existence as a result of a government decision to no longer pay for interpreting services in healthcare settings.

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