My Roman Holiday

Many readers will know that I have just come back from a whirlwind trip to Rome. I went there to attend a Training for Trainers seminar on “Research Results and Implications for Interpreter Training”. It was a two-day event organized by AIIC Training and given on this occasion by one of the leading lights in interpreting studies, Daniel Gile. Doesn’t sound like much of a holiday, you say?

Well, consider this: I managed to time my visit to coincide with the biggest blizzard the city has seen in decades, which blanketed the Italian capital’s seven hills with snow, made taxicabs scarce and metro queues endless, led to hot water shortages and flickering lights at my hotel, and covered the Roman cobblestones with treacherous ice. Add to that the fact that I was only there for about 36 hours, most of which I spent cooped up in a windowless room with no view of the Pantheon, the Colosseum, or anything else remotely Roman for that matter, and you may seriously start to wonder why I am calling this post “My Roman Holiday” and not “My Roman Ordeal” (hint: it’s not to compare myself to Audrey Hepburn).

It’s quite simple, really. For me, the trip was a wonderful experience. Firstly, it was only the second time in the seven years since my first child was born that I have “treated myself” to some time away from home for professional development purposes (not purely business travel).

It was also a unique chance to exchange views with like-minded individuals on a topic that I have always wanted to know more about: interpreting studies, and in particular, how research into interpreting can impact my work in the classroom. It was, in short, a worthwhile journey in every respect. And yes, I even managed to see a bit of Rome (a glimpse at a snow-covered Colosseum through a taxi window, a night-time stroll up some icy Spanish Steps). So I definitely feel like I can call it a holiday!


On to business, now. Readers don’t want to hear how much I enjoyed myself in Rome, they want to know how the Training for Trainers seminar went, what was discussed at the sessions and so on. I’ll admit it, it was a lot. So, to do justice to it all, here’s my plan:

In this first post, I will just share with you the links to the transcripts of the Twitter feed that a colleague and I produced during the seminar. Judith Dordas, co-author of the blog Cosas de Dos Palabras and a fellow interpreter trainer at the University of La Laguna, tweeted in Spanish as @2paraules and I tweeted in English as @aiiconline (one of my alter egos on Twitter).

In upcoming posts, I will share with you some of the lessons learned and discoveries made over the course of the seminar. As I was jotting down some quick notes in the plane home yesterday, I realized that there was no way it would all fit into one post, so I’ll be dividing my personal musings into two parts. A fourth and final post will compile for readers some of the interesting links and resources that were shared with the seminar participants.

As you can imagine, it might take a while for all of this to get written. But in the meantime, for your personal enjoyment and edification, here are the Twitter feeds from the seminar (if you’re not used to reading Twitter transcripts, please remember that you have to start reading from the bottom to get the tweets in chronological order):

Part 1 – Day One, Morning Session (9:30 – 13:30)

Part 2 – Day One, Afternoon Session (15:00– 18:00)

Part 3 – Day Two, Morning Session (9:00 – 13:00)

Please note that all errors, omissions or inconsistencies in the content of the tweets are my fault and mine alone. Remember, I was busy trying to pay attention to the discussion while tweeting at the same time, and while I don’t mind a bit of multi-tasking from time to time, I have to admit I sometimes got a bit distracted. I tried to make sure that I wasn’t tweeting nonsense, but if any readers with knowledge of interpreting studies see any serious inconsistencies or errors in the feed, please let me know!

Also, it goes without saying that much was discussed that didn’t make it into the feed. The ideas were coming fast and furious, and there’s no way it could all have been reflected in 140-character bites. Also, whenever the discussion got really interesting, I tended to stop tweeting entirely and just listen – which means that the most interesting parts of the seminar were probably the bits that got left out ;).

Quotable Quotes

If you don’t have time to read the transcripts, here are some of my favourite quotes from the feed:

Training is based on traditions, not research. Gile: “The second time you do something, it becomes a tradition.”

Strong personalities often have major impact on the choice of training methods at interpreting schools.

The sheer number of variables in IS research turns every study, however large, into a case study.

Gile: “Research is not mathematics. It’s not right or wrong.” Small comfort …

A theoretical basis can provide a great framework for training, and can answer students’ big question: “but WHY is it so?”

Remember, accreditation and training are not the same, i.e. you can be accredited but not trained and vice versa.

Gile: “Interpreters are USOs – Unidentified Speaking Objects” 😉 How do you identify that quality in aptitude tests?

Aptitude tests are so hard to design, yet it is in everyone’s interest (unis, trainers, students) to ensure they deliver the goods.

Aptitude is not just about language skills. It’s also a matter of cultural sensitivity.

Here’s an interesting point: interpreter training in China is textbook-based, whereas the West generally has no use for them.

Role plays and mock conferences introduce less tangible aspects of interpreting into the classroom.

And what about theatrical and voice training? This can help interpreting students with confidence, delivery and problem-solving.

Use of technology in training: CAIT, PRAAT, smartpens, skype, …

New thinking on the “interpreter role”. Speakers, listeners and interpreters apparently do not always agree on what it should be!

Delegates may not care as much as we think they do about the quality of  interpreter performance – as long as they get the message.

Interesting fact: Sign language is the 12th official language in the South African constitution!

“Tightrope hypothesis” means interpreters work close to cognitive saturation at all times.

Chinese, Japanese and Korean pose huge problems re: numbers because of different magnitudes (and we thought German was tough!)

From pyscholinguistics: in speaking, bilingual brains activate both languages, then must inhibit the one they don’t want to use.

Opdenhoff: 96% of interpreters had already worked into B. It’s not seen as extraordinary at all, it’s business as usual.

How do long-term memory and working memory fit together? Image: If LTM is the bookshelf, then the WM is the desk. Not a lot of room on the desk, so info must be processed and stored on the bookshelf.

The traditional approach of trainers to “focus only on the meaning, not the form” might not be all that ideal.

When balancing focus on form vs meaning in the classroom, common sense should rule.

Globish causes difficulties and dissatisfaction in interpreters – you can say that again!

Cultural mediation: is it part of the interpreter’s job or not? Schools don’t usually offer specific training for it.

11 thoughts on “My Roman Holiday

  1. Nice entry! And thank you for the detailed updates.
    Just out of curiosity, was ‘the importance of teaching ethics to future interpreters’ ever discussed? I am looking at the transcripts but I don’t seem to find anything about it.

    • Hi there,

      Actually, the course itself wasn’t specifically about recommendations for training, it was about how results of research can guide trainers on what best practice for training might be. So we weren’t sitting there taking notes on “dos and don’ts in the classroom”. We were reviewing recent research and seeing how findings might influence the approaches we take in class.

      But to answer your question, yes, there was some talk in Rome about how training in booth manners, teamwork, awareness of cultural differences, professional standards, ethics etc. should form part of every training course. To me, it’s only logical that training should prepare interpreters for realities outside the classroom. On the course where I teach, I run a seminar near the end of the year on ethics, which is one of the most popular seminars among students.

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  3. hi dear ,, it was pleasure to know that the author whom i love to read her posts and blog was with me in the same TOT event
    I am Mervat Saber , the English Arabic interpreter from Egypt (the veiled girl)
    nice to know by chance we met in person 🙂
    it was really pleasure to meet you all such great elite galaxy of interpreters trainers i learned alot from each and every one of you
    as for the holiday it was one of the starnge treats i have in life 🙂
    pls keep in touch
    my greetings from Nairobi,, I will attend the TOT by Barbara Moser-Mercer

    • Hi Mervat,

      It’s lovely to hear to like my blog, and that you were at the training seminar in Rome too! But I think you must have been in the group on February 3-4, since there was no mysterious veiled girl in my group on February 5-6 ;).

      We trainers should really try to stay in touch in some way – I find the exchanges very fruitful!

      • Hi dear
        yes i like ur blog and follow it up 🙂
        second yes you r right i was in the 3,4 Feb seminar
        but it is also great to get to know each other
        yes we should keep in touch specially i am just starting as interpreter trainer and wishing to benefit from your experience to be able to help promising interpreters in my country and in the region both the african and arab regions 🙂

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