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Review of Teaching and Testing Interpreting and Translating
EDITORS: Valerie Pellatt; Kate Griffiths; Shao-Chuan Wu TITLE: Teaching and Testing Interpreting and Translating SERIES TITLE: Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning. Vol. 2 PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG YEAR: 2010
Wu Zhiwei, Faculty of English Language and Culture, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies
Translation and interpretation have evolved into two inter-related disciplines with a growing number of academic publications. Among them, teaching and testing have drawn much scholarly interest and remain two important areas in the translation and interpretation research community. Teaching translation is never easy. ''Teaching about translation, […], is as complex, divided and sophisticated an activity as much translation itself'' (Newmark, 1991:139). It entails a variety of issues, such as ''the training of translators and interpreters, either within institutionalised settings […] or outside […], and the use of translation as a mode of achieving other goals (e.g. in language teaching)'' (Hatim 2001:162-163). Testing translation and interpretation in the academic setting, meanwhile, is no less challenging, for it hinges upon the complexity of course design, examiners' belief, the reliability and validity of exam procedures, and much more.
It is in this context that this comprehensive volume, one of the series ''Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning'', deals with the dual areas of teaching and testing in the ''twin fields'' (to use the editors' term). The volume consists of 17 chapters, and is divided into six parts: Part One to Part Four focus on classroom practice, curricula, quality assessment, and professionalization issues in translation respectively, while Part Five and Part Six focus on training and quality assessment in interpreting. All these papers contribute, in one way or another, to the improvement of pedagogy and evaluation in translation and interpretation.
Part One begins with Zakia Deeb's chapter, which investigates the relation between students' misreading of vocabulary and the subsequent errors incurred in their translation. Three causes of misreading are pointed out: word shape and sound interference, word positioning, and overgeneralization from previous experience. Deeb then illustrates and analyses these three causes with examples taken from students' exams. She attributes inattentive reading, low language proficiency and inappropriate use of the dictionary as the cause of the errors made by the students. Finally, based on her findings, she proposes some pedagogical suggestions for translation exam takers.
In Chian-li Lin's chapter, he undertakes an empirical approach to explore the possibility and effect of incorporating discourse analysis (DA) into translation teaching. He compares the translation performances of two parallel classes, who were asked to take a pre-test and a post-test before and after four DA courses, plus mid-term and final exams. He analyzes the results in both quantitative and qualitative manners, pointing out the overall learning outcome, the significant improvement on DA-specific elements made by the experimental group, and the significance of the correlation between DA-specific improvement and the mid-term and final exams. From these, Lin believes that DA will help students with an enhanced ability to see a larger picture of the source text and consequently produce better translation.
In a less researched and yet inter-disciplinary topic, Elena Xeni deals with translation studies in language education settings, particularly those that involve young age groups. After reviewing the ups and downs of translation as a teaching method, she puts forward seven reasons in favor of this teaching practice intended for early years' education. To support her arguments, she undertook a qualitative study to solicit opinions from pre-primary and primary school teachers and undergraduate teachers-to-be. Based on this, she argues that translation should and must be included in pedagogy, and she proposes some practical guidance for using translation as an effective tool.
Angela Uribe de Kellett and Steven Kidd present a project on translating educational material intended for children into Spanish. The project is undertaken by a team, with the help and guidance of the lecturer. The authors explain in detail about the features of the source text (ST) and their decisions and solutions in rendering the target text (TT). They discuss the non-translation of ST names with(out) additional explanation, replacement of counterparts in the TT, deletion and substitution, dialectal terms, rhetorical devices and more. Through their presentation and illustration with detailed examples, they conclude that simple children's reading materials with complex translation issues are of pedagogical significance. Projects of this kind would enhance the awareness of the TT audience on the part of translators and build capacity for tackling translation problems with relevant strategies. Hence, these projects should be incorporated into and encouraged in translation courses.
In Ya-Yuan Chen's chapter, she adopts an empirical approach to look into the relationship between group discussion and reflective thinking in the translation teaching setting. Her experiment reveals that small group discussion helps to raise students' awareness, improve translation quality, and better understand reflective thinking. She also indentifies two types of scenarios from the preliminary data collected from the students' discussion: the teacher-student scenario and the equal-partner scenario. She argues that the latter is more conducive to students' reflective thinking and their ability to identify and solve problems than the former. Based on this, she advocates group discussion and reflective learning in translation teaching.
On a different but not unrelated topic, Mary Ann Kenny examines the impact of task design on small-group interexchange in the online translation exercise setting. In particular, she investigates the different effects of cooperative and collaborative implementation by comparing the cognitive (evidence of students' learning) and non-cognitive (administrative aspects or matters not related to learning) on-line postings and evaluation reports written by students. She finds that fewer cognitive postings in terms of percentage are identified in collaborative implementation, hence less effective online negotiation. She explains that asynchronous text-based communication is conducive to performance of subdivided tasks, but detrimental to collaborative tasks, which require face-to-face conferences.
In Yvonne Wen's chapter, she talks about how teamwork presentations can be incorporated into the translation courses offered in the technical and vocational education system (TVES) in Taiwan. She first explains the difference between students in the TVES and their counterparts in a traditional educational setting, and then reviews the benefits of the teamwork approach as applied in classroom instruction. Based on this, she assigns two teamwork projects (website evaluation and peer teaching on one academic paper) to her students, who are later required to give a presentation in the class. The learning outcomes of these projects, as demonstrated in the final exams, are not satisfying, in that few students remember the key contents of the academic paper.
Part Two Chus Fernández Prieto and Francisca Sempere Linares discuss and advocate a pedagogical shift from the translation competence approach to translator competence approach, in order to bridge the gap between professional needs and students' actual competency. They argue that the translation competence approach is teacher-centered, less encouraging in student collaboration and produces students lacking the skills required by the translation profession. Therefore, they suggest a shift to the translators' competence approach, by working with industry, consulting national standards, and reviewing literature. Based on Kiraly's social constructivist approach to translation education, they maintain that simulation tasks in translation should use authentic materials, and should be student-centered, to encourage collaborative learning and problem-based learning, and to ensure that the task is process-oriented, reflection-driven and assessment-based. They believe that the social constructivist approach could serve as an alternative to the traditional pedagogy.
In Elisa Calvo's chapter, she examines the Spanish translation and interpreting curriculum and traces its historical development over the past years. She argues that the Spanish curriculum in translation and interpretation has been heavily theoretical, syllabus-centered and product-driven. In the past decades, it has evolved to be interdisciplinary and pragmatic but the theory-based and product-driven nature still spells trouble to pragmatic implementation in the classroom. Calvo advocates a practice-based curriculum and views a curriculum as a process, which would be interpretative and critical in teaching and learning translation and interpretation.
Part Three In Federico M. Federici's paper, he explores the topic of assessing translation skills. He first reviews some of the supporting theories on self-reflective practice and revision that contributes to students' learning process and assessment. He then explains how the portfolio assessment and feedback system are organized and structured to serve formative and summative purposes. Building on this, he elaborates on the feedback sheet that facilitates the students' learning process and ensures fair and consistent grading. This portfolio assessment system enables students to select, revise, absorb and receive feedback, and above all to get familiar with the complexity of translation skills required by the profession itself. Finally, he presents three years' data indicating the improvement of students' performance before and after feedback.
Maria Kasandrinou deals with the issue of translation evaluation and regards it as a means of quality assurance (QA). She borrows the term “quality assurance” from industry to emphasize the significance of evaluation. She reiterates the importance of evaluation by discussing why, when and what to evaluate. After reviewing the drawbacks of current practice, she presents a case of teaching translation of texts about paintings, illustrating the QA model of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). Finally, she discusses how the PDCA model functions in favor of students' reaction, learning, behavior and results (Kirkpatrick's four levels to be evaluated) and how each step of PDCA model should be construed.
Part Four Elisa Calvo, Dorothy Kelly and Marián Morόn discuss the employability issue in the Spanish curriculum, an issue that has been neglected by convention. Given the background that specific tutoring and isolated career advice are not effective in shaping students for professional purposes, they introduce the Employability Project, which includes job-search training, round tables with professionals and former students, and sessions with mentors. They also present lists of topics discussed in the training, round tables and sessions. Finally, they compare the strengths and weaknesses of the project from the view point of the external examiner and from self-assessment to shed light on future versions of the project.
Part Five Diana Berber looks into the application of information and communication technologies (ICT) in conference interpreting training, a little-studied area. As such, she indentifies the typology of ICT and divides ICT objectives into Training ICT, Conference interpreting ICT and Mode ICT. She also explains how information technology and/or communication technology serve these three purposes by listing the possible supports delivered via ICT. In order to find out the status of ICT in institutes worldwide, she sent out questionnaires to 182 training institutions to solicit their opinions. Based on this, she argues that the use of ICT, whether as a pedagogical tool or as technical support in professional practice, should be embraced by current interpreting trainees and practicing interpreters.
In Frans de Laet’s chapter, the use of a mock conference in the interpreting curriculum is examined and discussed. The author elaborates on the goal, the frequency, and the content mix of a mock conference. The author also mentions the necessity of student preparation and the analysis of the conference programme, as is the case in real interpreting practice. The author then discusses the features and selection of materials for consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting and sight translation.
In Dinghong Fan’s chapter, the language-related problems of Chinese students are focused on and analyzed. Unlike the Western practice, Chinese students are admitted into an interpreting program when they are not necessarily fluent in English. Given this background, the author draws readers’ attention to such language-related problems as English competence, contrastive knowledge of typological and structural differences, note-taking, interpreting numbers, and rendering Chinese expressions with unique characteristics. He also illustrates these problems with detailed bilingual examples and explains how these problems would affect Chinese students' interpretation. Based on this, he proposes some pedagogical suggestions, including offering language enhancement courses, training students to be autonomous learners, and enhancing communication and interaction in the Chinese-English interpreter training community.
Part Six Part Six begins with Hildegard Vermeiren's chapter, which adopts a sociological approach to the evaluation of interpreter performances. She identifies the stakeholders of the interpreting exams and also the criteria for all parties throughout the exams. She then explains how consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation are structured and evaluated by the evaluators. As institutions are stratified bodies, she also elaborates on the interaction among the jury, the Faculty exam board and the special exam board for appeal cases, by describing the division of their responsibilities and the procedures they follow to reach the final decision of ''pass/fail'' on students' performance.
In the final chapter of the book, Shao-chuan Wu explores the reliability issues of simultaneous interpreting assessment. He begins his chapter by asking a list of questions and presenting readers with some scenarios of interpreting assessment. With this, he emphasizes the validity and reliability of the assessment. In order to understand the (un)reliability and inconsistency issues in the exam, a pilot study was conducted to show how examiners with different backgrounds may vary in evaluating interpreting performances. The study asked eight subject examiners to judge five students' interpreting performances in a paired comparison manner. The study, with comprehensive data and quantitative analysis, shows that interpreter examiners may not necessarily agree with one another in grading examinees' performances, as opposed to the consistency displayed by the experienced language teacher examiners. Finally, the author calls for further study to shed more insight on why the judgments differ.
This volume looks into the ''applied'' aspect of translation and interpretation, which is crucial to the development of translation and interpretation as a profession trained and assessed in academia. The discussion and presentation of topics are practically and reflectively approached by the authors. The book also serves as a good stage to display different and less familiar practices adopted by other institutions and/or instructors in the common theme of teaching and testing interpretation and translation.
Despite the rich content and diversified range of topics it covers, this volume is not without its problems. The first one is the inconsistency between the editor's introduction and the table of contents. In the Introduction, on page 4, the editor discusses an article by Elisa Calvo, Dorothy Kelly and Marián Morόn under the umbrella term of Part 2, but this article is in Part 4, according to the contents and the presentation order in the book. However, the editor mentions this article again in the Introduction to Part 4 (p. 5). The purpose of discussing the paper twice in different orders is a bit confusing to readers. Another case inconsistency involves the absence of the heading ''Abstract'' (or the absence of an Abstract per se) in Federico Federici's chapter (p. 171).
Whilst readers understand the editors' intention to represent as many varied voices as possible, sometimes, readers may find some chapters are less conclusive in presenting their findings and extrapolation. For example, in Elena Xeni's paper, translation as a mode of language teaching is discussed. The Grammar-Translation Method (GTM) used to be dominant in the 19th and early 20th century, and was ''considered one of the best ways of practicing the application of rules, as well as the transformation of sentences […]'' (Davies & Pearse, 2000:188), but this method invariably leads to teacher-centered classroom practice (ibid:188-189). Given this, a better approach would be to point out how translation can be incorporated into the existing teaching methodologies (e.g. how translation blends into the task-based learning and other pedagogies), so as to demonstrate how group-based translation, instead of the traditional GTM, will benefit and motivate students.
Another case in point is Yvonne Wen's paper. In her paper, teamwork projects as a means of teaching translation are introduced and discussed, but the outcome of the tasks (two presentation projects) is not qualitatively or quantitatively judged, as the author herself points out: ''Although the author was a little bit disappointed and frustrated when only a very small percentage of students could still remember […]'' (p. 125) and ''What she [the author] can do is keep thinking of new teaching methods and organize classrooms and teaching materials in a more effective way […]'' (ibid). These remarks are actually contradictory to the benefits of teamwork the author reviews on pp. 118-119. From this, readers are not sure whether teamwork exerts positive, fair or negative influence on classroom instruction, with the absence of a conclusion and analysis of lower-than-expected effect.
As some of the papers collected in this volume are empirical studies, I note that ''empirical studies, both observational and experimental, need to be plentiful before data can be considered as being representative of more than a limited population of practitioners and of more than a limited range of environmental [interpreting / translation] conditions and tasks.'' (Gile 1994:43). A critical mind and a discerning eye are needed on the part of readers, notably translation and interpretation practitioners, when they try to extrapolate from many findings, some case studies and a bit of ''individualistic anecdotalism'' (to use Hatim's term, Hatim 2001:9) in this volume.
REFERENCES Davies, Paul & Pearse, Eric. 2000. Success in English Teaching. Oxford University Press.
Gile, Daniel. 1994. ''Methodological aspects of interpretation and translation research'', in Lambert, Sylvie & Moser-Mercer, Barbara (eds.), Bridging the Gap: Empirical research in simultaneous interpretation. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hatim, Basil. 2001. Teaching and Researching Translation. Pearson Education Limited.
Newmark, Peter. 1991. About Translation. Multilingual Matters.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
WU Zhiwei is currently an Assistant Lecturer in Faculty of English Language
and Culture, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. He is the chapter
contributor and co-author of two interpreting course books and also a
practicing conference interpreter, accredited by China Accreditation Test
for Translators and Interpreters (CATTI). His research interests include
quality assessment in interpreting, interpreters' role and interpreting