Man vs. Machine? The FIT World Congress 2014

It’s been a hectic summer for me, and it’s shaping up to be an even busier autumn. I won’t bore readers with details of what has been keeping me occupied lately (although I will include a few links at the end of this post for friends and family curious to know what has caused me to drop off the map). But at some point amid all the list-making and juggling this summer, it occurred to me that either (a) I manage to find a way to balance blogging with my busy schedule, or (b) it may be time to close up shop on the Diaries altogether. And since I’m not quite ready for (b), here is my attempt to get back in the blogging saddle.

 "Image courtesy of Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".


“Image courtesy of Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

I’d like to ask you all to cast your glances ahead to August, 2014. Just under a year from now, the International Federation of Translators (FIT) will hold its XX World Congress in Berlin. The topic for the 2014 congress is Man vs. Machine? The Future of Translators, Interpreters and Terminologists. Over three jam-packed days, there will be a trade expo, a job exchange and plenty of opportunities for networking, not to mention around 100 different presentations, panels and workshops held around the following four sub-themes (as listed on the call for papers):

• Translators, interpreters and terminologists – careers demanding a diverse range of expertise (e.g. translation technology, terminology work, research expertise, business competencies, translation and interpreting in a wide range of specialist disciplines, literary (book) translation, intercultural competency, post-editing, audiovisual translation)

• How translation and interpreting contribute to safeguarding human rights (e.g. community interpreting, intercultural understanding, court interpreting, medical interpreting, interpreting in crisis and war zones)

• Professional practice and the rights of translators, interpreters and terminologists (e.g. professional ethics, standards and norms, fees, copyright and intellectual property, security and freedom of expression for translators and interpreters, crowd translation, transcreation)

• Teaching and research in the field of translation, interpreting and terminology work (e.g. didactic methods, general education vs. specialist education, CPD, IT tools in training, TRAFUT, language industry studies)

Why am I telling readers about the FIT event almost a year before it is scheduled to take place? Because now is the time for prospective attendees to vote for their favourite presentations, panels and workshops from the list of all the proposals submitted. Only the top submissions will be invited to form part of FIT 2014, so the voting process is key to the success of the event!

I have to admit I’ve got a bit of a vested interest in getting people out to vote. If you scroll way down the voting list, near the end under the heading “Teaching and research”, you’ll see one proposal that bears my name. It’s for a panel discussion entitled “The future is now: Virtual learning environments and the digital revolution in interpreter education” and if all goes according to plan, I’ll be joining Suzanne Ehrlich of the Univeristy of Cincinnati in the United States, Della Goswell of Macquarie University in Australia, Andrew Clifford of York University in Canada, and Kim Wallmach of Wits Language School in South Africa to address this very hot training topic. Together, we’ll offer perspectives from around the globe on how virtual learning has been embraced in interpreter training.

But that’s not all there is for interpreters at FIT 2014. A quick look at the list of proposals reveals a wealth of potential sessions that could be of great interest to those in our industry. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

– a workshop on the use of smartpens in interpreting (Esther Navarro-Hall, aka @MmeInterpreter)

– an introduction to iPads in the booth (Alexander Drechsel, aka @tabterp)

– theatre improvisation techniques as a professional development tool for interpreters (Matthias Haldimann, aka @matthaldimann)

– a panel proposal called “Interpreting 2.0: Exploring the interface between interpreters and technology”  bringing together Navarro-Hall, Drechsel, Nataly Kelly (@natalykelly) Barry Olsen (@ProfessorOlsen) and Thomas Binder

– a presentation on interpreting in the European Parliament (Juan Carlos Jiménez Martín)

– a paper on Edupunk (Jonathan Downie, aka @jonathanddownie)

– A review of EU Directive 2010/64 on the right to interpreting and translation in criminal proceedings (Liese Katschinka)

– A panel on technology and interpretation at European and international Courts and Tribunals (Liese Katschinka, Christiane Driesen, George Drummond)

…and there are plenty more. The good thing is, you can vote for as many proposals as you want! So, if you want to support ongoing dialogue in the translation and interpreting community – even if you don’t think you’ll be attending FIT 2014 in Berlin next summer – please cast your vote for what you see as the hottest topics in our industry today (if you submitted a proposal on an interpreting-related topic but don’t see it on my shortlist, please tell me in the comments section and I’ll add it). If you think you can fit it in, try to plan a trip to Berlin for next summer. I hope to see you there!

———–

…so what have I been up to this summer? In addition to putting together this proposal for FIT 2014, I attended a summer school for researchers, co-planned and ran a CPD course for young interpreters, prepared two courses for the fall term of my favourite online MA program, co-designed and held a skills upgrade course for practitioners, and am currently busy putting together a seminar for trainers in Africa. If you’d like to find out more about any of these initiatives, just let me know! 

Interpreter Training: Is This a Game-Changer?

Even in this world of constant connection and information overload, every once in a while there is a story that stands out from the rest. Being a trainer of conference interpreters, it’s clear that my eye is most likely to be caught by stories and events in my field. What I want to talk about today would appear to be something of a game-changer for interpreter training, or at least a firm step towards bringing training into the 21st century.

We all know that post-secondary education is moving swiftly toward embracing virtual learning environments (VLE). You don’t have to look far to find the trailblazers: headlines were made around the world recently when Harvard, MIT, and other top US schools unveiled edX, a common platform offering hundreds of their courses online for free. Oxford has since responded with a weblearning initiative of its own, and others are swiftly following in their footsteps.

Readers may also be aware that there are more and more opportunities springing up for learning and practicing interpreting online. Here are a few good examples: the University of the Witwatersrand occasionally offers intensive courses in interpreting techniques that are part online, part face-to-face. The FTSK’s Internationale Sommerschule offers weekly not-for-credit online interpreter training sessions. Then there are AIIC’s training webinars, which expose a broad audience to the views of eminent trainers. I also know of a handful of colleagues who regularly teach and meet with students via Skype or get together to practice their technique in Google Hangouts.

However, to my knowledge at least, there has to date been no degree-level interpreter training course delivered 100% online. This is all changing, with the launch of the Master of Conference Interpreting (MCI) at the Glendon School of Translation in Toronto, Canada.

Glendon’s MCI is a complete, two-year postgraduate qualification. It’s not the first of its kind in this respect – indeed, in many ways it is modelled on more classical training models such as the European Master’s in Conference Interpreting – but what makes it new and different is the fact that Year One of the program is delivered 100% online via Moodle (a popular VLE) and Adobe Connect (a webconferencing tool). Successful completion of the first year, which includes modules in healthcare, legal and conference interpreting, leads to a Graduate Diploma in General Interpreting and is intended to prepare students to obtain certification and enter the community interpreting markets in their countries.

Year Two is delivered on Glendon campus and leads to a full Master of Conference Interpreting intended to be equivalent to the high-level training offered by the European Master’s and similar degree programs.

Why am I so excited about Glendon’s new Master’s program? First of all, because of the way it has embraced new technologies. Technology, in its many forms, has been part of the interpreting scene for some time now, but so far schools have been slow to catch up. Another big plus, as I see it, is that it brings together healthcare, legal and conference interpreters in a more holistic training paradigm, which should eliminate some of the tunnel vision typical of many training programs. And last but not least, the remote training approach breaks down geographical barriers, allowing trainers to come together with students regardless of where they are in the world.

Image courtesy of sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I said at the start of this post that Glendon’s new MCI had caught my eye, I neglected to mention that this wasn’t something that happened just the other day. It was actually almost a year ago now that I first heard of the program. In late autumn of 2011, I saw their initial call go out for curriculum developers for the French<>English courses, and the idea started growing in my mind that this was something so new, so different, that I wanted to be a part of it. When a second call went out shortly after Christmas for developers of the Spanish<>English program, I didn’t hesitate. I contacted the people at Glendon and applied for the position of Curriculum Developer for the first-year Spanish to English conference interpreting course.

What ensued has proven to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of my teaching career so far. I became part of an international team of 25 or so curriculum developers based everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Vancouver to Athens and beyond. Together, we built courses for Year One of the MCI, focusing on healthcare, legal and conference interpreting and covering Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese and Mandarin Chinese. The courses are designed to be delivered completely online via Moodle and Adobe Connect, which students – and their teachers – can access from anywhere in the world.

At a professional level, I have benefited in many ways from my collaboration with Glendon. Not only have I enjoyed the challenge of adapting my own teaching practices to the virtual environment, but I have also learned a lot from exchanges with trainers from the healthcare and legal spheres (strike one against aforementioned tunnel vision!) and have benefited from the close collaboration with fellow conference interpreter trainers.

The experience has been personally enriching as well: names I had previously only known from textbook jackets or website bios swiftly became trusted colleagues with faces and voices, not to mention valuable views on various aspects of training. The group of developers grew quite close (and this considering we only ever met on discussion forums and virtual chats!) over the months that the project lasted. I even took some time out of a family holiday to Germany this summer to meet in person one Glendon developer with whom I had enjoyed a very fruitful online collaboration.

So what comes next at Glendon? The French<>English program has just started its classes, and I’m told that Glendon will once again be taking applications starting October 7th for the Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin MCI courses, slated to start in early 2013. And if there is enough interest, Arabic and Russian could soon follow.

As for me, well, I’m just looking forward to the next chance to have this much fun working on a project!

Read what other members of Glendon’s curriculum development team have written about their experience:

Julie McDonough-Dolmaya 

James Nolan 

Gladys Matthews 

 

An Interpreter’s Summer Wish List

Around this time last year, I wrote a post on my blog about what interpreters do to keep themselves busy over the summer. There are usually plenty of options out there for those of us looking to do some professional development during the holiday break, and Summer 2012 is no exception.

Just a few weeks ago, Bootheando published an exhaustive list of what’s on offer for interpreters over the next few months, and if you’re still wondering what you are going to do with yourself during the upcoming low season, I highly recommend that you go over to her blog and check it out.

As usual, I have a pretty long wish list of summer professional development goals of my own. Unfortunately, not all of my wishes will come true, since many of the events that interest me most are scheduled for weeks when I already have other commitments (and last I checked, those replicator thingees that look so good on Star Trek still won’t do living organisms).

These are the events I most regret not being able to fit into my Summer 2012 schedule:

June

InterpretAmerica’s upcoming 3rd summit, entitled “21st Century Interpreting: Staying Relevant in a Transforming World”, is shaping up to be even better than the first two editions (if that is at all possible).This annual event is quickly becoming the point of reference for the interpreting industry in North America, and I would love to have been able to hop across the pond to Monterey to check it out.

The dates for this year’s summit are June 15-16, which is next week already (!), and so I imagine it’s too late for anyone who hasn’t already registered to sign up at this point, but at least we’ll have Twitter to help us follow the goings-on from afar (the hashtag will be #IASummit).

July

Berlin is in serious danger of being overrun by interpreters next month, with a number of interpreting-related events being planned in the German capital. At the top of the list, there’s the “Interpreters for Interpreters” workshop scheduled for July 13, which looks very promising indeed. Program highlights include coaching, yoga, retirement planning and stress management for interpreters, and much more. I read the report and saw the photos of the last such workshop held a few months back and it looked like a good (and educational!) time was had by all.

Scheduled to take place just before that event, on July 12, is a day-long workshop looking at IT for interpreters, organized by AIIC Germany and offered by Ignacio Hermo (@ihermo, my partner in crime at @aiiconline).  And then, on July 14-15, AIIC will be holding its semi-annual Private Market Sector meeting, which I’ve never attended but am told is very much the place to be. Sigh …

As if those weren’t enough reasons to want to go to Berlin next month, the week of July 16-20 will see the city playing host to a German Language and Culture Seminar for interpreters. I understand the registration deadline is June 15th, so if you think you might be interested in attending, you’ll want to decide quite soon.

August

The highlight of my summer could easily have been a visit back to Canada (my home and native land), where the Glendon School of Translation in Toronto is organizing a Professional Development Series for conference interpreters. In Week 1 (August 6-10) of the Series, Glendon will welcome recent graduates of interpreter training programs. In Week 2 (August 13-17), they will host seasoned conference interpreters who are eager to take their game to the next level, or to add a new working language.

Both weeks will focus on language enhancement in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese or Russian. The instructors for the Series will be former Government of Canada staff interpreter Roland Sarot, former UN staff interpreter Lynn Visson, and former UN Chief Interpreter James Nolan. I’m told there just a few spots left, so if you think you might be interested, you’ll want to contact Glendon ASAP.

I’d also played with the idea of spending some time in Lisbon this August on another one of those excellent intensive Portuguese courses that they run at the CIAL language school (the Portuguese & Surf course sure looks tempting!), but it was not to be. To make up for it, I’ve already made a mental note to keep a week free in January 2013 for the next intensive Portuguese course for interpreters at the University of Lisbon.

From the looks of it, I am going to have to get into the habit of making more such mental notes, or I’m never going to get to do anything on my professional development wish list…

Image: freedigitalphotos.net