interpreting simultaneously and to help them develop what can be called interpreting competence (for more information on this, see chapter 2).
The participants in the control group, nevertheless, did not receive such a treatment as is usually the case in many universities and educational institutions in the country.
Due to many reasons, which are not discussed here for the sake of brevity and which are indeed worth considering elsewhere, what happens in interpreting classes in Iran shares a great deal, if not everything, with listening comprehension classes, oral (re)production classes and other translation courses. Although such practices (aimed at improving the trainees’ listening comprehension, oral production and general translation skills) are not only useful but also necessary tools, there seems to be more to interpreting skills than this; to enable a trainee to develop interpreting competence, one needs to take further steps in the course of training so as to equip the trainees with necessary mental capabilities required of interpreters.
Thus the participants in the control group (taught by another trainer in order to remove any doubts as to the biasedness of the teaching method) were not exposed to such interpreter-teaching-specific practices, and were taught in the same way as most trainees in interpreting classes are.
The techniques and exercises specific to interpreter training, which were applied to the experimental group as the treatment, and the way they were introduced into the syllabus for these two courses will now be briefly discussed.
Memory enhancement exercises were the first exercises applied to the experimental subjects in the course of the experiment. There is no denying that a good memory is of vital importance to any interpreter. To improve one’s memory there are various techniques some of which are textual, some non-textual (graphic, numerical, etc.). Since in interpreting we are always dealing with some sort of text, textual techniques were introduced and made use of in the class.
The most basic type of exercise was playing a stretch of text for the students without allowing them to take notes and asking them to try and remember the most important points from the text. This started with short stretches of text (around five minutes) and little by little as the students got used to the task, longer stretches of text were played out to increase the demand on their memory.
Another variation of this technique was playing a text while asking the students to try and remember specific bits of information, for instance only the proper nouns, the numbers and dates, etc. The first texts were in the trainees’ L1 (Persian) and later on texts in their L2 (English) were used.
In spite of the fact that textual techniques were used in the class, other memory improvement exercises (memorizing phone numbers, using mnemonics) were also introduced and the trainees were advised to use any kind of technique to suit them. The basic rule was that interpreters are required to improve their memory as the demand on their memory exceeds that of many other professions.
Memory improving exercises were the main focus of the class during the first three sessions at the very beginning of ‘Interpreting 2’, and continued to be part of the class procedure up until the end of the experiment; later on in the course of the experiment, each session started with one such exercise lasting no more than fifteen or twenty minutes. Apart from this, the trainees were assigned to work at home doing further memory practice and give an oral report on their progress to class.
Such exercises are a natural follow-up to the memory enhancement exercises. After the first few sessions which were spent focusing solely on improving the trainees’ memory, they were asked to listen to a long stretch of text and subsequently to summarize as much important information from the text as they could in a limited number of sentences; for instance they had to listen to a 20 to 30-minute long text and then summarize as much information as they could in no more than five sentences.
Another variation was to play a couple of sentences from a text, then pause it and give the trainees a shorter-than-usual time to interpret it into the TL. By placing such a time constraint on the trainee interpreters, they were, on the one hand, implicitly reminded once again of the matchless value of time and on the other hand forced into finding a way to express more information in fewer words.
The ability to condense huge amounts of information into short sentences is particularly helpful when a simultaneous interpreter has a lot of information to convey in the TL at a specific point in time but is pressed with time, because the speaker is talking faster than usual, and has to compress the information into a short stretch.
Condensation/compression/summarization techniques were practiced for three sessions following the first three sessions of memory enhancement practices. Like in the previous section, the first texts were in Persian and then English texts were used to increase the level of difficulty of the task. There were also homework assignments for the trainees on which they had to give a report to class.
It is almost taken for granted that interpreters need to be good speakers. Having good public speaking skills is an indispensable asset to an interpreter. After all interpreters have to be able to look good on the stage and sound good on the microphone.
One of the techniques used to boost public speaking abilities is improvisation. When one improvises a speech, they learn how to organize their ideas quickly without preparation, how to relate ideas to one another, how to argue and counter-argue, how to fill the gaps, how to search for words in their mind in no time, and how to get round something when faced with a challenge. These are all valuable assets to an interpreter, whether consecutive or simultaneous.
To practice all these skills, the trainees were asked to come to board and stand in front of the others, were given a topic at random, and were asked to improvise a speech off the cuff on the topic. To make matters even more complicated, they were sometimes given controversial topics and were asked to improvise a short speech in favor of it. Immediately afterwards, they were asked to improvise another speech on the same topic but this time against it. Such a technique is particularly relevant to interpreting since it implies that interpreters must be able to get away from themselves and their own inner worlds and ideas and approach other people’s worlds and viewpoints. One of the main differences between public speaking and interpreting is that a speaker follows ‘their own’ line of thought whereas an interpreter is bound to follow ‘someone else’s’ line of thought and reasoning.
The topics were chosen in such a way as to include a vast array of subjects and like other exercises, the improvisations started in Persian and then shifted to English. Two sessions of class time were devoted to this technique and homework assignments were also part of the program.
126.96.36.199 Consecutive Interpretation
Consecutive interpreting, though a stand-alone mode of interpreting, is almost always included in any interpreter training program; Déjean Le Féal (1997, p. 618) dubs CI as “the fastest and safest way” to achieve the pedagogical goals of an SI training program.
Therefore the remaining seven sessions of the first semester (Interpreting 2) were allocated to CI practice. The texts to be consecutively interpreted in class were chosen in such a way as to cover a wide range of topics (law, social issues, economic issues, political problems, environment, and psychology to name but a few). Effort was also made that the texts represent a variety of accents (not only standard British and American English, but also English spoken with German, Chinese, Australian, … accents) as it is oftentimes the case that interpreters are required to interpret non-native speakers of English into their L1.
The class procedure consisted of one trainee volunteering to do the interpretation. They would then listen to a section of the selected text in English and were required to render it into Persian. At the beginning, the sections to be interpreted were kept very short (two or three sentences). As the trainees progressed along the path, the sections gradually grew in length up to a few minutes.
Note-taking techniques were also introduced as an inseparable part of any CI session and practice was directed toward note-taking skills. A great deal of note-taking practice was assigned as homework for the students. They were advised to listen to Persian texts at first trying to take down notes and having done enough practice in note-taking in L1, shift to L2 (English).
As the trainees practiced CI in class, the trainer gave them on-the-spot feedback as to how to improve their performance on the stage. Tips regarding time management and coordination, gesticulation, compensation, confidence building and composure were provided in due time.
188.8.131.52 Sight Translation
The beginning of the second semester (Interpreting 3) was when the concept of sight translation was introduced into and utilized in the program. The trainer used Microsoft PowerPoint to produce slides containing certain pieces of text that appeared, remained on the screen for a few seconds, and then disappeared. At the very same time, the trainee interpreter was supposed to produce a rendering of that section. This gave the learner an idea of the simultaneity of the process of comprehension and production. The pause time was manipulated by the trainer to adjust the level of difficulty for