torek, 17. april 2012

Is it Possible to Ease the Unease?

A while ago a few bloggers (Matthias and Elisabeth, to some extent Lionel, too) wrote about the discomfort zone in interpreter training and the general physical and psychological strength needed during the studies. I agree with all of them, and underline that interpreter training is not one you could undergo just like that, without any effort or hard work, or as we say in Slovenian with one's left hand.

At our faculty, the core of the interpreting course is the second year of MA where students concentrate on consecutive and simultaneous technique, but have some other general interpreter related subjects to pass, too. Personally, I would try introducing these general subject already in the first year of the MA course and leave the last year entirely to the interpreting practice, teacher assisted and unsupervised, but probably there are reasons for this arrangement (administrative or others). 

But how does the general learning curve look like in interpreter training? Well, I believe that is resembles the S-shaped one, with an addition, it has one or several steep drops in the rising phase. Don't ask me to draw it, but I will try to explain it. After having familiarized with and practiced the techniques, students usually expect a steady growth in their performance but this often takes more time than imagined. After a great performance, the next one might be a disaster, and the following one, two, three even greater ones. In simultaneous for example, when we think we've managed the split attention and the listening, analyzing and speaking at the same time, other problems pop up, be it inappropriate lag, speed difficulties, too many omissions or even linguistic problems we never dreamt of (in Slovenian usually errors in declinations or wrong prepositions, or register problems and the inclination to start parroting - translating words and structures, not transposing the meaning). But rest assured, this is perfectly normal and according to an interpreting scholar (Gile and his efforts model) things start to improve with the real mastery of the task (when different aspects don't take so much effort).

However, all this burden might be too heavy to deal with. Normally, teachers always say something positive too, but students mostly retain the negative feedback, the criticism, which is of course discouraging, as would be for any normal person. This is why, strong psychological core is vital for every student. Criticism should not affect their self-confidence and image, they should be strong enough to persist through these difficult phases and try to incorporate teachers' advices into each and every interpreting practice. Start anew each speech, forget about that horrendous feelings they had during the last feedback, which exposed all their flaws and errors (even if they were perfectly masked as benevolent tips and suggestions). This is demanding and takes up a lot of energy and self-control (one might add acting skill), but I believe it's the only way forward, towards progress and that confident plateau we want to achieve during training.

Not that I'm a big fan of Cher, but the "Strong Enough" is a great motto!

Overcoming these difficult times can be easier with some sort of physical activity, yoga or meditation, where students can let go (sweat off) of their fears and regain the powers and grip to continue the hard  climb up the learning slope. Alas, things have to be dealt with quickly and efficiently, as the courses are limited to only 2 semesters (4 if you're lucky), so student should try to benefit from the guidance they are given (so no skipping classes or missing out practice). 

I perfectly remember that awkward feeling (self-deception, tiredness, anger and much more) I often had during and after practice, how often I thought that it would be better to skip the afternoon sessions and regain my strength in peace, away from the classroom booths, even take a day off and shut down all the TV news and podcasts and just dwell in the silence. I still remember the headaches I had, almost every evening, after returning home, and still knowing I have to prepare for the next day, finish the glossary, read another article or two (oh, yes, and spend time with my husband and daughter, if by any chance she was still awake in the late hours I returned home...). But I remember one of our teachers, too, who repeatedly told us that training is just an "ouverture" to real life, professional life, especially if you decide to work as a freelance. So I decided to take time off only when allowed (holidays, weekend), but then very effectively! ;) You need to build up stamina and strength for dealing with this type of stress, balancing the demands of the profession, the client, your personal life. 

I thought that professional life couldn't be as hard as that, but I was wrong, really. Training course offers you a safe place for experimenting, and if you have a bad day, it can stay at that one bad day. But is you start experimenting in real life and have a bad day while on serious duty, the repercussions might be far more severe and life-turning. So, I am not sure how much comfort zone and cocoon treatment is in fact appropriate if we want to prepare students for the 'real thing'. I don't think that there are any shortcuts. 

As with any skill, interpreter skills take a lot of effort to develop, and time of course. Interpreter training courses in fact exist to help students overcome basic hurdles and equip them with coping strategies in a safe environment (where there is no risk of loosing a client or one's reputation), so students need to take these advantages and be prepared to soak all this in, think and reflect on the profession, the techniques and their performance, and ask questions to their teachers and mentors. Surely, new options are opening up for dealing with questions and answers (interpreting.info and the Vega network are fine examples of that), but they should seize the opportunity they have with "mentors" at their hands, because they are there for them. 

Interpreter training is hard, but well worthwhile as it prepares you and opens the gates to one of the best and most rewarding professions there are out there! ;)


četrtek, 05. april 2012

Študij na OP FF (EPP alert!)

Ne vem, katero obdobje je, ali so se vpisi na fakultete že zaključili ali ne, ampak ker je pred kratkim nastal ta zanimiv video o naši fakulteti in študiju na njej, želim še sama napisati nekaj besed o tem.


Filozofska fakulteta from ŠOUVIZIJA on Vimeo.

Filozofska fakulteta je ogromen organizem, ki združuje različne veje humanističnih in lingvističnih študijev, zato je temu primerno včasih tudi malo konfuzna oz. se kot študent lahko izgubljaš v iskanju pravih vrat za ureditev nekega obrazca ali česa podobnega, ampak domnevam, da je pri papirologiji tako tudi na drugih fakultetah. Vsebinsko gledano so programi FF zelo raznoliki, poleg tega pa lahko študentje v svojih individualnih programih pogosto združujejo predmete tako iz naše fakultete kot z drugih. Vsaj v teoriji je to ena od prednosti bolonjskega študija.

Ampak dovolj splošnih govoranc - največ lahko povem o študiju na Oddelku za prevajalstvo. Gre za razmeroma mlad oddelek, ki pa je v zadnjem času zelo aktiven in študentom poleg rednega študija na vseh treh stopnjah bolonjskeg študija ponuja tudi različne opcije izmenjav (krajših ali semestrskih v sklopu Erasmus sheme), pa tudi skupni študij s partnerskimi univerzami v tujini. Poleg tega so profesorji precej dejavni v okviru različnih dvo- ali več-stranskih partnerskih projektov doma in v tujini, tako da je velik poudarek tudi na raziskovalnem delu, ki ga na področju prevodoslovja kot specifične vede, doslej ni bilo prav veliko. Tu tiči tudi razlog, da je na Oddelku toliko mladih raziskovalcev, med njimi tudi avtorica tega bloga. Potem so tu še obštudijske dejavnosti, izleti v tujino, gostujoča predavanja zanimivih gostov (*o njih ste že brali!) ipd.

Ampak nazaj k samemu študiju. Na prevajalstvu so študentje razdeljeni v jezikovne skupine glede na prvi in drugi jezik (obvezno dva!). Prvostopenjski študij Medjezikovnega posredovanja poskrbi za splošne osnove medkulturnega delovanja (od slovnice, sociologije do literature in kulture), drugostopenjski študij Prevajanje pa je bolj usmerjen in skozi različne module študentom približuje posamezna področja prevajanja (politična, pravna, promocijska, literarna besedila, računalniško podprto prevajanje ipd.). Študij je torej zelo praktično naravnan (veliko sprotnega dela, ja, domačih nalog!) in poskuša študente opremiti s čim več relevantnega znanja, da jim ob vstopu na trg dela ne bi bilo prehudo zaplavati v resnih poklicnih vodah. K temu prispeva tudi obvezna praksa v partnerskih ustanovah.

Tudi drugostopenjski študij Tolmačenje je podobno praktično naravnan, ob nekaj splošnih predmetih, ki služijo kot uvajanje v sam poklic in nastopanje in nadgrajujejo jezikovno znanje, je največji poudarek ravno na praktičnih urah tolmačenja z različnimi izvajalci, ki imajo izkušnje na trgu ali pa domačih oz. tujih institucijah. Čeprav obstaja semestrski urnik, se od študentov pričakuje tudi malo fleksibilnosti, prav zaradi profesorjev, ki so dejavni tolmači, pa tudi zaradi tujih obiskov (glej zgoraj *). Zlasti pa se od študentov pričakuje velika mera zavzetosti in samostojnega dela tudi izven rednih ur s profesorji, ko sami vadijo, se medsebojno spodbujajo in ocenjujejo in tako nabirajo hudo potrebno kilometrino in sproščenost, ki sta potrebni za uspešno delo (in izpit na koncu študija, ki žal ne sodi med najlažje in najbolj prepustne ...). Ampak o tem, morda kdaj drugič. O tem kako fino je študirati v takšnem majhnem in intenzivnem študijskem programu (s čisto novimi tolmaškimi aparaturami!), pa ste slišali in videli že na posnetku! :)

ponedeljek, 02. april 2012

Gestures in Simultaneous Interpreting

As promised a few posts ago, here's a few words about gestures in simultaneous interpreting, which we had the pleasure to address with our Portuguese guest professor Elena Zagar Galvao. As the interpreting section at our Department is rather small (up to 10 interpreting students per year, this year 6), our lecturers often come from the translation section of the department or the linguistic ones at the Faculty, while interpreter trainers usually come from the market and bring their invaluable experience from practice.

But since our faculty forms part of the EMCI network and is also open to Erasmus exchanges, we often have the opportunity to work with foreign professors as well as with seasoned interpreters in the framework of SCIC ‘s pedagogical assistance to university programs in interpreting. This, together with monthly videoconferences with interpreters at the European Parliament and multipoint conferences with other universities, gives our students a wonderful chance to get to know other interpreters and experience more variety in terms of interpreting practice.

Ms Galvao is a professor of translation as well as a freelance interpreter and a PhD student, dealing with gestures in simultaneous interpreting. Of course, in this technique, gestures are not part of the message the receiver of the communication can get through his or her earphones, but they seem to be of relevance to interpreters themselves.

Ms Galvao’s research is not finished yet but she was able to give us a short presentation (a speech for students to practice) on some of the preliminary findings.  She recorded the performance of professional interpreters and interpreting students and analyzed it in terms of gestures.

It seems that professional interpreters use their hands and head movements as well as the posture in general, to transfer and reinforce the message of the speaker. Often, when the speaker makes a gesture interpreters repeat it, but they might also make a different gesture or use it where they see fit even if he speaker doesn’t make one. Gestures are usually used in describing locations, visual aspects of something or a process. For professional interpreters gesturing seems not to require additional attention or resources (Gile’s theory), it might even help them to release some of the comprehension and rendering “burden”.

However, with students gestures seem to be less frequent, rather, their posture and gestures clearly show when they’re struggling with content (comprehension or rendering). Of course, towards the end of their training, the use of gestures becomes more natural and used as a way to enhance the message.

An interesting question that I believe arises for interpreter training is whether trainers should pay specific attention to gestures. Could we help trainees improve their performance by highlighting that they can and indeed must use their entire body to pass the information even if the audience only hears their voice? Gesturing the message might relax some of the tension (in comprehension and rendering) and ease the burdens making the interpreting smoother and better.