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.

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