; Pöchhacker, 2005; Lung & Li, 2005; Seeber & Zelger, 2007).
One reason for this could be that there exists a sort of widely-held misconception among people – laypeople to be more precise: anyone who knows two languages well enough can be a translator, and anyone who is a translator can be an interpreter. Schmitz (1988, pp. 273-274, as cited in Ibrahim, 2009, p. 358) makes the following observation regarding this chaotic situation:
Anyone can decide to use the title [translator/interpreter], however dim their consciousness may be of the intellectual equipment required for the jobs […]. If someone designs a building he does not call himself an architect unless he is qualified to do so […]. And yet anyone who thinks he knows a foreign language and can therefore translate, and who feels like earning a living that way full-time or part-time, can put an ad in the paper without more ado claiming to be a translator and interpreter.
In the post-World-War-II era and the 1950s, conference interpreting gained momentum and the first manuals and publications on related issues appeared (Seleskovitch, 1999; Riccardi, 2005). Seleskovitch (1999, p. 56) makes a mention of this unstated assumption prevailing at the time “Once you know languages, you should be fit to interpret.” This, however, is a wild claim that needs to be supported or rejected by data from research.
Yet, to the practicing translators and interpreters of our day, many decades now past that era, such statements seem far from true. Hamers et al. (2002, p. 587), for example, believe that “Simultaneous interpretation is a complex linguistic task, requiring specific cognitive skills” and that “While interpreters are highly competent bilinguals, they also have to perform a very demanding and unusual specific linguistic task.” They conclude that “Interpretation appears as an autonomous linguistic function that is acquired through training and that seems independent from the individual’s bilingual competence.” This is obviously indicative of the fact that it does not suffice to be a perfect bilingual in order to be an interpreter. Hans J. Vermeer’s remarks (as cited in Schmitt, 2012, p. 27) provide further proof in this regard:
T[ranslation] & I[nterpretation] training is not “foreign language acquisition” […] students must already have a high competence in their chosen working languages at the beginning of their studies. Higher education institutes of translation and interpreting are not “language schools,”
Although there are obvious similarities between the two, they seem to be totally different mental phenomena (Herbert, 1952) and “they can hardly be combined” (Ronald, 1982, as cited in Miremadi, 2004, p. 5). She also holds that very few people are indeed mentally capable of performing the task of interpreting. In line with this, Seleskovitch (1978, as quoted in Miremadi, 2004, p. 199) argues that “interpreting should not be considered the oral translation of words”.
Therefore such differences strongly call for research to be conducted in this field to shed some light on the nature of this task as well as its requirements.
1.3 Background of the Problem
One of the most important differences between translating and interpreting is what Mahmoodzadeh (2003) calls ‘the time factor’. Time can be termed an interpreter’s ‘nightmare’ or ‘biggest enemy’. Basically, the idea is that since there always exists a time constraint for the interpreter, i.e. the fact that he should listen to someone speaking in one language and render it in another language, there is always some kind of mental toughness involved in the task. This is manifest in Chernov’s (2004, p. 200) account of SI as “a specific type of professional interlingual activity performed in extreme linguistic and psychological conditions, in an environment hostile to the simultaneous interpreter.” (my emphasis) There are mental barriers to be overcome. This, along with other specificities of the task of interpreters, makes it an interesting issue to be investigated from a number of perspectives.
Some decades ago, translation, and by extension interpreting, were introduced into the academic circle in Iran. Translation has ever since been discussed by scholars who, not surprisingly, were not translation studies scholars on the outset, but went on to become such scholars on the ground that they were interested to scrutinize it in more rigorous and scientific terms.
Students doing an undergraduate program in the field of translation are required to do three courses on interpreting according to the academic curriculum. Sadly enough, however, field observations1 and personal experiences reveal the unpleasant fact that there are very few, if any at all, specifically-designed classroom material, activities, rating procedure etc. for these courses. This has led to a chaos with students and teachers not knowing what the real objectives of these courses are and how to achieve them.
This has resulted in an obvious inefficacy of these three courses to meet their objectives. Trainers seem to mistake these courses with other superficially similar but actually different courses such as ‘laboratory courses’, where the students are taken to a language lab to improve their listening-speaking skills in their B-language (English), or ‘audio-visual translation courses’ where they are taught about translation of movies and the like of it.
If translation is to be taken more seriously, then interpreting courses, materials, exercises etc. should also be redefined in light of research in the discipline.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The lack of textbooks, materials, rating schemes, selection procedures, etc. regarding SI can be in part due to the fact that it is “a relatively young profession” (Seeber & Zelger, 2007, p. 291; see also Seleskovitch, 1999; Shaw et al., 2004; Riccardi, 2005; Pöchhacker, 2005; Lung & Li, 2005), and a rather under-researched area (Dillinger, 1994; Shaw et al., 2004) within TS. And as Massaro and Shlesinger (1997, quoted in Lee, 2011, p. 158) have pointed out “one of the reasons why progress in the understanding of SI has been slow is that SI behavior is complex.” Shaw et al. (2004, p. 73) write “Although the literature on [interpretation] pedagogical issues is gaining ground, there are few empirical studies exploring the progression of student performance in class.” From what was said, it follows that research in the area of interpreting should be conducted in order to inform, among other things, education. Pedagogical concerns are thus of prime importance to present and prospective interpreting trainers.
The present study, through application of a number of interpreter-training-specific exercises, is an attempt to shed light on the effectiveness of such teaching activities to overcome these mental barriers. Such activities have been discussed at length in the literature on interpreting (see Chernov, 2004; Green et al., 1994; Kalina, 1992; Kurz, 1992; Moser-Mercer, 1997; Padilla & Martin, 1992; Pöchhacker, 2004). There are data-driven as well as theory-based arguments for and against each and every one of these exercises. However, they are applied as a package in this experiment to see whether or not they can positively affect the outcome of trainee interpreters.
These exercises include shadowing, improvisation, sight translation, divided-attention exercises, memory-improving exercises, anticipation exercises, (simultaneous) paraphrasing and the like. Each of these techniques can be done with many variations in the classroom raising and lowering the level of difficulty of the task to suit the trainees’ level of mental preparedness. They will be discussed in further detail in the next chapter.
A final note of caution to be sounded here is that the significance of this study does not lie in coming to a ‘yes’ in re
ply to the above-mentioned question, rather it lies in discussing the whys and wherefores of any result obtained in the end, and in coming to a better understanding of how interpreting education should be handled. Therefore even a ‘no’ should be deemed significant in paving the way for further research to be conducted with the same objective of devising an efficient practical model for the teaching of interpreting.
1.5 Purpose of the Study
The present research is an attempt to investigate, as objectively as possible, the effects of exposing trainees to interpreter-training-specific techniques on the quality of their performance in simultaneous interpreting. It will strive to verify or reject the effectiveness of such techniques in an interpreting class, using data obtained in the course of the experiment to be conducted.
Ultimately the researcher hopes the results of this study and others alike (to be carried out in the future) will prove useful in devising and/or refining curricula for interpreter training courses, as well as in developing efficient selection procedures for would-be interpreter trainees (whether in academic or non-academic institutions).
1.6 Research Questions
It is the intention of the present study to find answers to the following three questions. It is worthwhile to mention, however, that out of these three the first question is the main concern of the project and of prime importance to the researcher while the other two are regarded as side issues which, in the researcher’s eye, deserve attention:
Q.1 Is there a significant relation between the trainer’s application of interpreter-training-specific techniques and the trainees’ performance improvement in simultaneous interpreting?
Q.2 Is there a significant relation between the trainees’ multiple intelligences and their performance improvement in simultaneous interpreting?
This question is to be broken down into eight sub-questions each relating to one of the eight types of intelligence