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Review of  Teaching and Testing Interpreting and Translating

Reviewer: Wu Zhiwei
Book Title: Teaching and Testing Interpreting and Translating
Book Author: Valerie Pellatt Kate Griffiths Shao-Chuan Wu
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 21.3590

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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
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.

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

Hatim, Basil. 2001. Teaching and Researching Translation. Pearson Education Limited.

Newmark, Peter. 1991. About Translation. Multilingual Matters.

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 pedagogy.

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