These short stretches of texts started from one or two sentences and grew in size gradually. Finally the trainees were given a piece of paper with a full text on it and with a few minutes of preparation were asked to sight-translate the text into Persian.
The first two sessions of class were allocated to sight translation and as usual there was homework practice for the trainees to do and give a report on. Due to lack of time in the experiment, sight translation was done only in one direction, that is from English into Persian. The other way around would be too challenging for beginning interpreters and was thus avoided.
Divided attention exercises were introduced into the program in the third session of the second semester, after the trainees had felt the force of ‘simultaneity’ in their encounter with sight translation.
Split-attention exercises are primarily designed to help one master the skill(s) of simultaneously dealing with two or more tasks. There are many variations of such exercises. We will mention the ones used in the classroom. A Persian text was played for the volunteer trainee who had to not only listen to the text but also count from zero to one hundred. Upon reaching one hundred, the trainee was supposed to try and recall as much of the text as possible. A more difficult version was when a Persian text was played on the player and the trainee had to count not from zero onwards but from one hundred backwards. Having worked on Persian texts, we then moved to English texts and did the same with some English texts.
Still going up on the difficulty level, the trainee was expected to listen to a Persian text but do the counting in English or vice versa. Two sessions of class time were devoted to such exercises and homework was assigned too.
In the fifth session of the second semester, one of the most important and most commonly-used interpreting exercises, namely shadowing, was introduced to the trainees. It is worth mentioning that whenever a new technique was introduced, the learners were expected to reflect upon it to find out the philosophy behind it. The same was done about shadowing and it did not take long before they realized that shadowing is meant to help trainees boost their concentration as well as their quickness to respond to external stimuli.
Like in most other exercises, shadowing started with Persian texts. The trainees were asked to bring a set of headphones to class. The text was played on a player and the volunteer trainee listened to it through the headphones. At this very same time, he was expected to repeat just after the speaker what he was saying.
Initially the trainees were advised not to bother themselves with trying to make sense of what they were hearing or saying, but rather do their utmost to follow the speaker as closely as possible (keep the time lag as short as possible) and be as precise as possible in their reproduction of the string of sounds they heard. This is more technically known as ‘phonemic shadowing’ or ‘phonetic shadowing’, where there is no emphasis on the sense or meaning of what is being heard and repeated. To further practice this, the trainees were assigned to do phonemic shadowing on a text in a totally unknown language and record their shadowing to be able to measure their degree of precision.
The next session, a more advanced variation of the shadowing exercise was introduced and modeled in class. This type is known as ‘phrase shadowing’ or ‘semantic shadowing’. Here, the shadower has to try to lengthen the time lag a little bit so that he comprehends a meaningful bit of the original text before he actually starts shadowing. So the shadower moves further behind the speaker trying to make sense of what is being said/shadowed. As it is clear from the instructions, phrase shadowing resembles more closely the actual task of simultaneous interpreting as it incorporates the element of sense. Once again in phrase shadowing, Persian texts preceded English texts in classroom exercises.
Since shadowing needs special equipment to be carried out optimally, the two sessions were used by the trainer to introduce, explain, and model the techniques. The main job was left to be done by the trainees in their own good time. They were asked to do thirty minutes of shadowing before each session recording their voice for later analysis. Besides, they were also taught that shadowing could also be practiced informally on all occasions; whenever someone is talking we can shadow them in our head!
Anticipation is undoubtedly one of the most important interpreting techniques, if not ‘the’ most important one. Broadly speaking, it entails the ability to make calculated guesses about what the speaker is going to say. In section 2.4.5 in chapter two, we presented a rather detailed discussion pertaining to anticipation and its different types, which we will not repeat here for the sake of brevity.
The seventh and eighth sessions of ‘Interpreting 3’ were devoted to anticipation exercises. The most typical type is a cloze test, where the trainees are provided with a text from which certain words or phrases have been removed and they are supposed to guess what best fits the gap.
To take things one step closer towards a real SI situation, the whole text was not presented altogether at once. It was split into short sections (each a few sentences long) and using Microsoft PowerPoint, had these sections appear on, remain for a few seconds, and then disappear from the screen. Some of these sections had certain parts missing, which the trainees had to provide as they were reading the text. This resembles more closely a real SI situation as in SI, the whole text is not available to the interpreter, but rather the text unfolds itself through an ongoing process.
The texts used were initially in Persian and afterwards in English.
126.96.36.199 (Simultaneous) Paraphrasing
The final technique made use of was the one with the highest degree of resemblance to the actual task of SI, i.e. (simultaneous) paraphrasing. Here too, we started with Persian texts and ended up working with English texts. Initially, the trainees were given some sentences from a text and were asked to provide a paraphrase in the same language; to say the same thing in other words as quickly as possible.
Having worked on paraphrasing in session nine of the second semester, simultaneous paraphrasing was introduced and practiced in session ten. The trainees listened to a text in their L1 through headphones, and were asked to paraphrase it simultaneously in the same language. As this is quite a demanding task, the texts selected were fairly simple and did not pose serious lexical, syntactic, or stylistic challenges to the trainees. The texts were also delivered at a slower-than-normal pace so that the trainees could handle the task. Later, the same procedure was followed with an English text. However, as simultaneously paraphrasing an English text could be easily beyond the trainees’ ability, a software was used to even further reduce the pace of delivery of the text. As it is clear from the explanations, simultaneous paraphrasing is the intralingual counterpart of SI. If a competent bilingual can develop the ability to simultaneously paraphrase a text, they are very close to being able to simultaneously interpret a text; they are in fact one step away. That one step is the “translation variable” (Lambert, 1988, p. 378).
After all these techniques and exercises were introduced, explained, and modeled in class and the trainees gained preliminary experience through their short encounters inside and outside the class, they were ready to move on to the last stage of the job, that is to say simultaneously interpret texts from English into Persian. Within the last four sessions of the second semester, a number of texts were selected by the trainer for SI in class. The same considerations were born in mind for selecting these texts; simple content-wise and slow delivery-wise. The trainees were asked to bring their own headphones so that they could listen to the STs through the headphones.
To carry out this experiment, a number of tools were made use of. To start with, we definitely needed to homogenize the participants in terms of their mastery over English language.
188.8.131.52 General English Test
Administration of such a test was crucial, especially since the subjects were studying in different universities. It could be assumed that the subjects in one group were generally cleverer and more competent in terms of their knowledge as well as skills in general English.
To avoid such a problem and to ensure homogeneity among the participants, two modules (the listening as well as the reading modules) of a mock IELTS were administered to all subjects at the beginning of the experiment and those subjects with extreme scores (lower than 4 or higher than 8) were left out. The test utilized is provided in the appendices (see appendix 1).
184.108.40.206 SI Pretest and Posttest
To assess the subjects’ performance and improvement in the task of interpreting within the course of the experiment, as it is customary in all experimental studies, a pretest needed to be administered at the beginning of this time period, and a posttest at the end.
To this end, two audio texts in English were chosen to be interpreted into Persian by the subjects. There were a number of considerations here as to the criteria for the selection of these texts: firstly, the two texts had to have almost the same degree of difficulty in order to be used as a tool to measure the possible improvement the students had made.
Secondly, it had to be born in mind that we were not dealing with professional interpreters. That is to say,