Top 10 Lessons Learned in Rome (1-5)

In last week’s post, I shared with readers how much fun I’d had battling the elements to get to AIIC’s Training for Trainers seminar in Rome. This week, I want to tell you a bit about the insights I took home from that event.

I learned so much over the course of the two-day seminar on Research Results and Implications for Interpreter Training that there’s no way I could ever share everything, so I’ve decided to give you just a list of the top 10 lessons learned. I will have to divide the list up into two parts (brevity may be the soul of wit, but once I get going, it’s hard to stop me!). Here goes…

1) One of the best things about the seminar was just how international it was. It brought together trainers from all around the world. Of a total of 13 participants in my group, there were trainers from South Africa, South Korea, Senegal, Ukraine, Argentina, the Netherlands, France, Italy, the Canary Islands and Belgium (I’m told that at the first workshop held a few days earlier, there were participants from Egypt, Brazil and Australia, among others).

The international flavour was also reflected in the research material covered. I was very interested to hear that a great deal of research in interpreting studies these days is coming out of China and Taiwan, for instance.

This international focus allowed me to gain a broader perspective beyond the solely European experience that has marked me throughout my own training and practice. I may be Canadian by birth and upbringing, but I am 100% the product of the European conference interpreting tradition (I trained at the University of Westminster, I work for the European institutions and I teach on the MIC, part of the European Master’s consortium).

This Eurocentrism of mine – or “fishbowl mentality”, as I jokingly called it in Rome in conversation with one colleague, evoking the image of the goldfish happily swimming around in its bowl, completely unaware that there is a great big ocean out there – became increasingly clear over the course of the seminar, when I was surprised to hear that training models that are anything but commonplace in Europe are widespread elsewhere. Just to give a few examples: I learned that conference (not community) interpreter training into a B language is systematic in some parts of the world, that in China interpreter trainers love to use textbooks, that including language learning or “enhancement” in interpreting training is often the norm elsewhere, and that simultaneous modules are not always preceded by training in consecutive. Revolutionary thinking …

That's me at the top

2) To counterbalance this, I should say that I derived great comfort from the realization that it would appear that fellow trainers tend to confront the same problems in class wherever they are in the world, despite considerable differences in training approach, format and philosophy. There was a lot of sympathetic nodding around the room every time someone raised a new problem or classroom challenge – which is not to say we all agreed on how best to tackle it! So maybe the world isn’t such a big, strange place after all.

3) Also, the impression I got in Rome is that much of what I tend to do in class – whether it is in imitation of my own trainers at Westminster, based on reading or discussions with other trainers, or even just the result of my own “gut feeling” – often seems to be backed up by the results of research. Here are a few examples:

First, there’s the idea that the production of an interpretation is not just about finding the right form (“packaging”) or sense (the words you choose), but rather requires a careful balance of both (check!).

It would also appear that engaging students in a conscious comparison of syntactical and lexical differences between language pairs is a useful exercise, whether you call it “comparative stylistics” or not (check!).

Also, it was nice to hear that I have some research on my side when I tell my students in note-taking class not to worry too much about what language they note in, and that they are doing themselves a favour by getting as much processing done before putting pen to paper (check!).

4) It was also great to hear that many of the topics that I cover in the new workshop series that I launched last year are also considered by many to be recommended components of an interpreter training course. Just to explain briefly, last year I started to give monthly workshops on a specific topic above and beyond regular classroom sessions. The idea is to have highly interactive sessions where I pick apart a specific interpreting-related topic together with students.

So far this year, the workshops have looked at self-assessment and independent study techniques outside of the classroom (here’s tulkur’s post on the subject), stumbling blocks in note-taking (see the related post on the Diaries), and exam preparation (see this recent post for part, but not all, of the content of that seminar). I was supposed to give a seminar on the different tasks involved in simultaneous before Christmas, but it had to be cancelled (small child, high fever, you get the idea).

Next up will be the February workshop on communication skills and voice-related issues. Sessions later in the academic year will look at meeting preparation and working with documentation, teamwork and booth manners, professional standards and ethics, and taking your first steps as a professional interpreter after graduation. Many of the above topics were flagged up over the course of the Rome seminar as being key parts of interpreter training – which of course was music to my ears!

5) As could only be logical after a seminar like this, I have set myself some homework. Specifically, I have promised myself to go read up more on the Effort Model developed by Daniel Gile (sorry, no hyperlink – there’s too many to choose from!).

My feeling is that parts of the model of trickled down to me through my own trainers, and that it is implicit in some of what I do in the classroom, but I would like to have a look for myself. I also have a sneaking suspicion that knowing more about the Effort Model will help me with my preparation for that postponed seminar on simultaneous that I want to make up at some point before the end of the year.

I have to say, I had a bit of a private chuckle when Daniel told us about the Tightrope Hypothesis, since it immediately reminded me of the post on juggling that I published a couple of weeks ago. Either we interpreters have shamefully limited metaphorical resources, or we all wish we’d run away and joined the circus when we were little, and are making up for it now.

It's been a while since I used this one

I see that I have already made it halfway through my top 10, so now is as good a time to stop as any. My next post, coming soon, will wrap up the list.

Related post: My Roman Holiday

7 thoughts on “Top 10 Lessons Learned in Rome (1-5)

  1. This is getting to be just one massive ego trip. A lot of Me Me in there. Goes against the grain of interpreters being anonymous and discreet individuals, methinks. But fascinating for novices and acolytes I’m sure.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way, Sarah, as it certainly wasn’t my intention to blow my own horn with this post. If anything, I was trying to show how much I’d enjoyed the seminar, and how useful it had been to me (blowing the T4T horn, if you like).

      I have just reread the post to see whether it is indeed a bit to “me-heavy”, as you say, and I guess I could have spared readers the talk about my lecture series, which didn’t need to be included to make my point. But the rest is directly related to the various points that I was trying to make, and not to any ego trip on my part (at least not consciously).

      As for the lack of discretion, I try to be very carfeul about that at all times. Any time that I have referred to specific events or individuals in this blog, it has always been with their express permission. Please let me know if you see any evidence to the contrary.

  2. Thank you . You really speak my mind when mentioning lessons from the workshop. Thank you also you mentioned there were participants from Egypt (humbly me).
    May I borrow or rather steal some of your post or use it in my page which is a little bit similar to what you do here but in Arabic 🙂
    Waiting for your permission.
    Waiting for more posts.

    • Dear Mervat,

      Please feel free to use whatever you may find useful on my blog. That is what it’s there for! I wish I understood Arabic so I could go read your blog as well. If you wish, you can leave the link to your blog here for any readers who might speak Arabic and want to check it out.

      I saw that you were at the Training for Trainers seminar in Nairobi – I would love to hear more about that. Maybe you could write a guest post for me? 🙂


  3. Pingback: Top 10 Lessons Learned in Rome (1-5) | Metaglossia

  4. I guess its time for me to say thanks Mr Charles. I started reading your blog last year while still on the training as an interpreter/Translator French/English in NIGERIA FRENCH LANGUAGE VILLAGE BADAGRY,LAGOS NIGERIA. Because i am learning French language in a complete English speaking environment, it was a very difficult experience. But i must confess reading an article from you every day gives me an insight or two into the real thing and the real challenges ahead and even how ton overcome them.
    I finished my POST-GRADUATE DIPLOMA IN CONFERENCE INTERPRETATION AND TRANSLATIONS last year and currently doing my three months Internship with ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Benin which i hope to finish in April.Of course, the labour market follows.
    Your TOP LESSONS LEARNED IN ROME is humble enough and so down to earth even for beginners like me. Ia looking forward to the concluding part of it. Was also wondering whether there were participants from Nigeria.
    Thanks so much and bless you.

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