A day in the life… of a tablet interpreter. A slightly exaggerated account.
My electronic wristband wakes me up again. With gentle vibrations, it pulls me away from the warm beach of what I think is a tropical island, making me drop what I think is a non-alcoholic cocktail in the process. I press the button to make the wristband stop buzzing and roll out of bed.
I came across an article the other day titled “Learn English or stay home”. It was written by Olav Øye for the European Voice website, but unfortunately sits behind the paywall. According to the byline, Øye is a consultant and has dedicated his masters thesis (“E pluribus English”) to the study of how English is used in the European Parliament. There has been much discussion in recent months and years about the role of English and the question whether it should and could become the one and only lingua franca of the Union. I think there’s no easy answer to that question. So first of all, I offer you this quick reading list. Go ahead, I’ll wait here
To date, Europe does not have a single European public space which could be compared to what we regard as a public sphere at national level. First of all we lack a lingua franca. There are 23 official languages in Europe, plus countless other languages and dialects. A German who does not also speak English or French will find it difficult to communicate with someone from Portugal, or from Lithuania or Hungary. It is true to say that young people are growing up with English as the lingua franca. However, I feel that we should not simply let things take their course when it comes to linguistic integration. For more Europe means multilingualism not only for the elites but also for ever larger sections of the population, for ever more people, ultimately for everyone! I am convinced that feeling at home in one’s native language and its magic and being able to speak enough English to get by in all situations and at all ages can exist alongside each other in Europe.
To me, saying “everybody should learn English as their first foreign language” is not multilingualism, but that’s another matter entirely…
Officially, deputies and delegates will only speak in their national languages, as a matter of principle. Attending them is a small army of translators and interpreters who assure their message is translated into the languages of the rest of the union — at a current cost of $1.4 billion per year. The big irony, though, is that once they are away from the podium or the microphone, and they are hanging out with other European bureaucrats by the water cooler, they comfortably switch into English, the de facto lingua franca of the union. You might wonder then, when most, if not all, EU bureaucrats master English, what’s the point in maintaining 23 official languages, especially at such expense? Why not just use a single language and, what’s more, why not use the language all EU bureaucrats master — English?
That’s why the EU, why Europa quite simply needs English as an official language, as a second official language in addition to each country’s official language. It should be possible to get along with pidgin English, or “kitchen-table English”, at any given local or regional authority, one should be able to apply for a passport, be admitted to a hospital, give evidence to the police. Using English as a lingua franca is the most pragmatic solution of all because the language is being taught almost everywhere in Europe.
But there’s a second problem with English [...]: It makes us (whoever “us” may be) focus too much on British debates. Daniel Hannan today blogging the same old story of why the UK would and should not be in the EU is getting 100x more attention than a Polish politician/writer writing about how the future EU agriculture should look like. [...] Instead of discussing the actual problems of European politics – and to the credit of many EU-critics there are many – the dominance of English makes us have the old debates over and over again. (Emphasis mine)
Business is not all. Especially in Europe and in times of crisis, it is important that we understand each other – we cannot afford to threaten a construct which, although fraught with bureaucracy, is also there to maintain peace. Personally, I sometimes think that aspect is sadly underrated.
Before we finish off with a lighter take on the subject, let’s get back to Øye’s text. In a nutshell, he says that English has become the dominant language in the European Parliament and that MEPs who don’t speak it at all or not well enough have a serious disadvantage. His conclusion:
Voters and the press should therefore ask the candidates for the European Parliament if they have mastery of English, the language of politics in Europe. Otherwise citizens risk wasting their vote.
While Øye certainly has a point, it boils down to this: All that matters for a candidate to be elected is whether he or she speaks English well enough. Really?
Citing feedback from MEP assistants, Øye also dismisses interpretation in one fell swoop:
Almost none of the assistants I interviewed listen to interpretation into their mother tongue. The reason is that they do not think that interpreters can render speech adequately. Mistakes are made. Body language is lost. In politics, such nuances matter greatly.
Is that so? I would venture to say that even if English is not your mother tongue and you speak it very, very well, quite a lot will be lost. Mistakes will be made (believe me, I sit in those meetings every day). Body language, in fact, is not lost with simultaneous interpretation. Nuances do indeed matter greatly. Just another reason to make use of interpretation. The system overall is certainly not perfect since interpretation is often not available where it is needed. But we are not even close to a European Union that works flawlessly with English only.
As I have pointed out in a recent post, technology is (again) disrupting our profession. More specifically, several "translation apps" have entered the scene as mobile devices conquer our lives. Google's Translate service has been available for a while. Next, Word Lens made a big splash as the first mobile app able to translate what the users saw through the lens of their smartphone camera. The last wave is that of "interpreting apps" such as Babelverse (here's my take on it) that want to provide a platform where supply (i.e. interpreters) and demand (i.e. clients) meet and work together. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), it seems, is not a fad but here to stay.
However, as the Babelverse controversy clearly showed, the approach chosen by some aspiring disruptors wasn't quite right. If you want to read a thoughtful piece about this, look no further than Jonathan Downie's "Crowdsourcing and the Shrinking Middle".
Today, I want to write about a new interpretation app that has launched its beta version just in time for the 54th ATA Annual Conference. It goes by the quirky name Capiche and, in my humble opinion, is doing a lot of things right. A few weeks ago, Frederick Marx – CEO of Keylingo Translations and co-founder of Capiche – contacted me and gave me an in-depth presentation of his project.
First off, I like the name Capiche. There have been too many references to the Tower of Babel in translation and interpretation anyway and I never found them particularly suitable. Capiche also keeps it simple for now. It works similarly to a two-party video call: the client and their communication partner on one side and the interpreter on the other, working in consecutive mode. This would make make sense for settings in public health (doctor's office) or law enforcement (questioning at police office, deposition).
In order to be successful, such a platform must use rock-solid technology. Capiche has chosen to use an innovative technology called WebRTC (real-time communication on the web). But what is so great about WebRTC?
Proprietary software and plugins are the bane of internet communications, [...] as you spend more time negotiating over what tool to use than on the eventual conversation. [...] WebRTC [...] is intended to be an open standard for video and voice communication, embedded in the software that is on every desktop – the browser. [...] You will be able to use a web-based communications service to start a conversation with a friend or colleague (or even a one-to-many or many-to-many web conference), with voice and video, as well as sharing files over a peer-to-peer connection. While a web service will mediate the call, the browser you are using will not matter, as the technology to work with your computer’s camera and microphone will be built-in, with no plugins needed.
I have done several tests of Capiche and WebRTC and found it very good. It was certainly more reliable and less fiddly than Skype or Google Hangouts. But in addition to providing a stable technological platform, Capiche will try to make the matching between clients and interpreters easier. Both can sign up with the service indicating what they want or offer. The system then informs the interpreter of new "opportunities" and he/she can accept or decline.
Currently, Capiche comes in two flavours:
- Open: Interpreters register and are vetted (how and by whom is unclear). Then, they have access to job offers from clients. Interpreters can establish links with regular clients to get priority access to new jobs.
- Private: Interpreters bring their own clients to the platform and maintain a private relationship with them. Private clients are not exposed to other interpreters.
On top of that, interpreters can also build "links" to their peers and form trusted relationships, i.e. when it comes to working together on jobs or replacing a colleague in case of sickness or other problems.
There is also a feedback feature for clients and interpreters, but it is intentionally limited at this early stage.
Money, money, money
Pricing information is available on the Capiche website. I will not discuss pricing in this post because I think it will be subject to further developments – the Capiche team will probably have to diversify their fee structure according to where interpreters and/or clients are based. In addition, the users will have to decide on whether the added value of platform justifies the one-third/two-thirds split. Capiche offers several channels to pay interpreters (including the not-so-uncontroversial PayPal), while clients just enter their credit card details to pay for services used. According to Capiche, payments are processed every Friday and within 7-10 days.
There are a few things that could be improved on the Capiche platform. I have transmitted my suggestions to the developers already, and here they are for your information:
- client-interpreter relations: send preparation material; make list of subjects more precise (currently: general, legal, medical)
- interpreter-interpreter relations: exchange of documents and information (including terminology)
- explain the vetting process
The Capiche team also has an iPhone app in the works. I will report on that as soon as I have tested it.
I am curious to see how Capiche will be doing in the coming weeks and months. Will you be giving it a try?
It was about time I did this. But so far, I have always been reluctant to go “cold turkey”. Last week, however, I was on a mission (that’s what business trips are called here in the EU institutions) to Switzerland and it seemed like the ideal opportunity to put my 7-inch Asus MemoPad through its paces during an actual interpreting job.
The first thing I already noticed at home, and it delighted me: The MemoPad is actually small enough to fit right in the pocket of my favourite travel jacket. And the portability continued to delight me throughout the whole journey, from bus to plane. The MemoPad is much lighter than my (9.7-inch) iPad 2 and feels more like an e-reader. It certainly doesn’t have the great finish of an Apple tablet, but it’s solid and good enough.
The MemoPad actually belongs to my wife, so I only use it occasionally – mainly for browsing the web or reading the articles I have saved to Pocket. Using it for work is a completely different game. I tried to prepare as best as possible by installing a bunch of apps before I leave. But let’s go through this step by step.
Android vs iOS
There are a few things I really, really like about Android, some of which are rather subjective. It looks better than iOS – certainly better than iOS 6, but also better than iOS 7, which looks unfinished. Another big plus are widgets – little windows that give access to content or functionalities of apps. For example, it allows me to display a handy list of all the reminders I have buried in my thousands of Evernote notes. They can also display the time, your calendar, the weather or your email inbox.
In a similar vein, Asus has equipped the MemoPad with mini-apps (browser, calculator, alarm clock etc.) that can float over the app you are currently using. So when you are creating a glossary (more on that later), you can use the floating browser to quickly look things up without having to switch to another app.
A big plus of Android over iOS is that it’s much more flexible and powerful when it comes to exchanging files or bits of information between apps – a process that’s notoriously cumbersome on iOS, because you end up with several copies of one and the same object.
Android tablets seem to work fine with accessories, too, such as the Apple Wireless Keyboard or the Cosmonaut Stylus.
Working with files
The first thing I usually do is gather meeting documents and other relevant material into a folder on my device. While I appreciate the portability that cloud services like Dropbox afford, I make it a point to keep work-related stuff offline.
Most Android tablets already come with a file manager or at least a “Downloads” app pre-installed, but those apps are often confusing, too limited in their functionality or both. After some googling, I settled with Clean File Manager and have been quite happy so far. As you can see in the screenshot, you have access to files by file type. You can manage files, add folders, zip and unzip files, just to mention a few handy features. Folders you need often can be added to the “Bookmarks” section in the left navigation, which I find very useful.
Unlike “Documents”, my favourite file manager on the iPad, Clean File Manager does not actually let you view documents. That’s alright, since your Android tablet probably came with some sort of document viewer or Office software like Polaris Office.
If you want document annotation (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll have to install another app. I went with the rather popular Adobe Reader which works fine, albeit not as smoothly as “Documents” on the iPad. For example, selecting text is sometimes a bit fiddly and not as easy as in other Android applications.
Unfortunately, my favourite terminology software – Interplex – is not available on the Android platform (yet?). I am not a fan of using tables in Word or Excel spreadsheets for terminology, so I searched the Play Store for database apps. And I must say, I found a true gem called “Memento”. This is a multi-purpose database app for managing all kinds of things from contacts to collector’s items. But since it is so flexible it works great for terminology management. Just create a database for your topic and language combination and you’re good to go. Great features of Memento include:
- starring entries to create a list of favourites (nice for listing terms that are very important or hard to memorize)
- adding a direct link (shortcut) to any glossary in Memento to the Android home screen
- synchronisation with Google Drive spreadsheets which allows for easy desktop entry, collaboration with colleagues and backup.
The only reference apps I tried during my test were dict.cc and Linguee. Dict.cc works great, allows you to download language packs for offline use and was reliable content-wise. Linguee, however, was completely unusable for me (and my colleague, too) as it kept crashing while I tried to look up words.
What about handwriting?
I don’t know about you, but for me, a seven-inch tablet almost begs to be used as a digital notepad. And I have used the MemoPad as exactly that, in combination with my beloved Cosmonaut stylus – but not in an actual meeting (yet). For me to dare using it in a mission-critical situation, the note-taking apps and the tablet itself must be rock-solid. I am still afraid of hitting the wrong button in the heat of the action, inadvertently sending my valuable notes into digital nirvana. But that may just be a question of adaptation and practice on my part. After all, other interpreters have already proven that it’s feasible. Also, Asus has added added a setting to its MemoPad that lets the user deactivate the “home bar” (back/home buttons, task manager) which should be very useful in this context.
My iPad favourite for handwriting is Penultimate, which is part of the Evernote family, but not available on Android. From the apps I have tried, I liked Handwriting best, mainly because of the uncluttered and functional interface and because of how easy it is to add new pages and navigate between them. For reference, here are the other apps I played with:
All in all, this experiment was really fun. I will definitely do this again and put the Asus to the test during a week of meetings here in Brussels. Stay tuned!
Instead of a long post, today, I only want to share a short excerpt from an interview I came across via Twitter the other day. It features Holly Behl, a Denver-based interpreter with a high interest in new technologies, especially tablets. I highly recommend you read her posts about a paperless interpreter experiment: part 1 | part 2.
Q: Simultaneous interpreters are already using new technologies in the booth, it is quite common to see interpreters working with laptops, netbooks and tablets, using apps and bringing their own headphones. But I know you love to use technology also in consecutive, can you tell us a little bit of how you profit from the new opportunities mobile technology is offering interpreters today?
A: Yes, I keep trying to start the green revolution in digital note-taking. There are several legal settings where I do consecutive, and after a year or so of buying bulk packs of legal pads for my notes, I got curious for a better solution. The iPad is great for a lot of things, but the Galaxy S Note is the only tablet I’ve found with native stylus integration and the ability to capture handwritten notes with the precision and reliability required for consecutive note-taking. This solution has worked so well that I often find myself without pens—they’re just not part of my work kit anymore. Instead, I have my reference material, pen, notepad, to-do list, and leisure reading all wrapped up in one slender piece of equipment.
You can read the full interview here.
DISCLAIMER: This article represents purely the author’s own views and in no way engages DG Interpretation or the Commission. It was written in a completely private capacity.
Interpreting is caught in tsunami currents of technological and social change that are sweeping away whole industries in a matter of years and replacing them with structures never before seen in human history.
Katherine Allen on “21st century skills”1
What Katherine Allen describes in that quote can be summarized using just one word: disruption. And massive disruption is what Interpreters currently face, albeit not for the first time. A radical step is upon us: the general roll-out of information and communication technology in the field of conference interpreting (cf. Berber 2008:52). In analogy to the paradigm shifts described in Vladimir Kutz’s competence model of interpreting studies3, I would call this the “technological paradigm shift”. To be able to cope with these impending challenges, interpreters must be introduced to new technologies already during their training. As Kiraly4 put it: „An important part of the education of any professional must entail practical training in learning how to use the everyday tools of the profession”.
This piece looks at some of the many shifts and changes in the interpreter’s profession. I will make suggestions as to how interpreter training can adapt. Saying that today’s students bring a lot of curiosity and skills to the table when starting their studies is stating the obvious. We do not need blind euphoria, but rather a reasonable and critical curiosity. Curiosity, after all, is one trait of character that makes a good interpreter.
Past: The Nuremberg Trials
Simultaneous interpretation is the most recent form of interpreting which, in turn, is considered the second-oldest profession in the world. SI, as it is usually abbreviated, was only made possible by progress in conference technology. It is fair to say that the profession of the conference interpreter is closely linked to technology. And the War Tribunal in Nuremberg after WWII is considered the breakthrough event for modern SI. (I say “modern SI” because “chuchotage” as a low-tech form of simultaneous has been around forever.)
SI was not invented for dealing with Nazi crimes at the Nuremberg court, though. Decades before, the League of Nations in Geneva had already looked into alternatives to the time-consuming consecutive interpretation, which had always been part and parcel of international diplomacy. An American business man called Edward Filene played a key part in this quest. As an ardent supporter of the League of Nations and as a participant in meetings of the International Labour Conference, he knew how complicated things could get with consecutive and submitted a proposal in 1925. Filene envisaged a simple interpreting booth with a high-quality microphone that would be connected – via an amplifier – to the earphones worn by delegates in the room. Oral contributions would have to be translated beforehand and then read out by the interpreter while the delegate gave his speech. Since Filene was no technical expert, he enlisted the help of British electrical engineer Gordon Finlay. Finley cobbled together a first prototype using telephone components. IBM eventually took over the “Filene-Finley System” and developed it further. IBM’s “Hushaphone” was used successfully at both the League of Nations and the United Nations (cf. UN Resolution 152). Later on, French military Léon Dostert (Eisenhower’s personal interpreter) was tasked with solving the language issue at the Nuremberg trials and picked the IBM system (cf. Moggio-Ortiz5).
Now try, just for a second, to imagine what it must have been like for those brave interpreters enrolled to work in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. Many of them had no formal training as interpreters (which was the rule back then, and not the exception) and mastered several languages because of their biography. Try to imagine you would have to interpret one of the darkest chapters of world history with mostly untested equipment for months on end with no special training whatsoever. (Some of the Nuremberg interpreters had experienced persecution first-hand because they were Jews or refugees.) Consecutive was the established standard and many of the more conservative interpreters were rather skeptical. They feared a loss of quality and went as far as belittling their progressive colleagues as “telephonists” (cf. Moggio-Ortiz5). And indeed, the working conditions were all but ideal. Interpreters did not sit in a closed-off booth, but rather, in groups of three, behind a simple shade of glass with absolutely no sound insulation. They had to put up with bad earphones and had to share a single microphone. The system often provided only poor sound quality or broke down completely. On top of that, “monitors” were hovering over them, listening to the interpretation and even correcting it occasionally. A second team was always on stand-by in an adjacent room, following the proceedings through loudspeakers (cf. Vander Elst6).
Present: Remote Interpreting
In a way, history is about to repeat itself. In recent years, remote interpreting has become more and more important. In this form of interpreting, speakers and interpreters are not in the same room. Audio and video are transmitted over short or even long distances. Remote is gaining ground in both the private and the institutional interpretation sector. While the European Parliament and the European Commission have done ground-breaking work with comprehensive tests under scientific oversight using custom technological set-ups, the private market uses mainly existing solutions for phone or video conferences, even Skype. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity so far to gain personal experience with the system used in the European institutions. However, I have talked to many colleagues who have tried it (remote interpreting teams are put together from a pool of volunteers). As pointed out in relevant literature (e.g. Moser-Mercer7, Mouzourakis8), remote interpreting has inherent disadvantages. Interpreters are no longer an integral part of the proceedings, they get tired more quickly and suffer from a higher level of stress, both physically and mentally. They can no longer decide on their visual input.
Be that as it may, I shall not discuss remote interpreting itself in this piece but rather how interpreters deal with this challenge. The “big bang” for remote would probably be 27 October 2005, when the British EU presidency held a summit meeting at Hampton Court Palace. (Update: The very first time remote was used in the European Institutions was the November 2003 Parliament plenary in Strasbourg. The languages of the candidate countries were present, but had to be implemented via remote because of lack of space.) The venue is of historical significance and provides only limited space which is why the decision was taken to relocate the interpreting booths and the interpreters. Extensive technical preparations were necessary and long negotiations with interpreter representatives ensued. Today, the institutions have a common agreement on remote interpreting. Due to its strictness and level of detail, remote was rarely used in the past. That changed in 2011 when the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers requested a limited exception to the agreement for working dinners of the heads of state and government (cf. Vereycken9). This exception was subject of heated debates among EU interpreters, who were afraid that quality would suffer and that they would be removed from the actual meetings for good. After a few “remote working dinners”, both interpreters and customers evaluated the outcome: while some interpreters were critical, customers were found to be speaking more languages than usual. Several improvements are currently being implemented – which could mean that remote interpreting may become more of a standard practice in the future.
My intention is not to generate blind euphoria. I continue to believe that the disadvantages of remote interpreting must be pointed out, researched and, if possible, removed. But in my opinion, the tipping point for remote interpreting is not for away. When that day comes, many questions will pop up: Will interpreters swap the booth with their home office, working exclusively from the comfort of their own home? How do they deal with being physically separated from the meeting venue? With possible problems caused by a lack of lip synchronicity or by technical problems? Are we ready to have our visual input managed by technicians? Some of these questions touch on the very foundations of our profession in much the same way simultaneous interpreting did when it came up decades ago. The former AIIC honorary president Hans Jacob bemoaned in 196210 that the widespread adoption of SI had “de-personalised and mechanised” the interpreter’s profession. Skeptics may say the same thing about remote interpretation today. But if you ask me, remote is here to stay and will gain more ground as economic and ecological needs develop. Technology has already disrupted many industries and will continue to do so. We have no reason to believe that our profession will be the exception to the rule. I am convinced that we have to maintain a sensible and critical approach towards these developments. But we can only do that when we are well-prepared, having developed a certain degree of expertise in terms of technology that we can apply specifically to what it does to our profession. “Understand the wave, and you can ride it. Refuse to adjust, and you will be swallowed,” as Michael Saylor11 put it.
Are we ready to “ride the wave”? After WWII, a group of bold and courageous interpreters was willing to ride the wave called simultaneous interpretation at the Nuremberg trials, some of them without any significant preparation. Today, interpreter training is much more formalized and has developed strong institutions. But my impression is that curious and courageous interpreters are still a minority. This minority must become a majority!
So, what do students know?
In my diploma thesis12, I discussed the question of how training could close the gap between the skills interpreting students bring and the (technology) competencies that are required to be a professional conference interpreter. Quite some time has passed since my research and technology has been evolving quickly. Smartphones and tablets, such as the iPhone and the iPad, have entered the scene, bringing us ever closer to pervasive computing. While students are most certainly more aware of technology and possibly more skilled, too, their skills will vary considerably. Interpreter training must therefore strive to bring all students up to a certain level and pave the way for technology adoption in the profession. During the course of study, T&I-related technology literacy should be developed and applied in the classroom.
There are several platforms to bring together practitioners, teachers and researchers. One of them is “Transforum”, a platform established in 1984 by the German T&I association BDÜ. In 2002, a Transforum working group compiled a list of skills that future translators should have. The list includes, among others, mastery of TM systems, terminology tools or machine translation software. This one example shows how translators may be more likely to be accustomed to IT relevant for their everyday work.
In my conclusions on the use of IT in interpreter training at the five major universities in Germany, I noted that all of them provided training in new technologies and new media with varying priorities (such as electronic speech processing at Saarland University). I also found differences between traditional institutes and “newcomers” and, within a given university, between “bigger” and “smaller” languages. In brief, English departments are ahead of other departments, which may be due to a wider offer in software and to the fact that English is the de-facto default language used in new technologies.
Putting skills to use
For decades, translators have been integrating a wide range of new technologies into their daily work, maybe because they had to. But the work of interpreters remains remarkably technology-free – apart from the conference technology required for simultaneous interpretation. A quick glance at the software available is revealing: Translators can find a wide and diversified range of solutions, such as Translation Memories (Berber2). But solutions tailored to the needs of interpreters are few and far between. Interpreters use IT to prepare their assignments and follow up on them afterwards, to manage their free-lance business, but increasingly also as an information tool on the job. Translators can hardly do their job without technical assistance in a time where source texts become increasingly technical and complex but the time available keeps shrinking. What is more, they often have to work with the tools that their clients use or demand. Interpreters, however, could get by without much technology: Terminology can be managed in notebooks (or is printed out at home before the assignment), notes are taken on paper. This tradition may lead to a certain degree of skepticism among the talking kind when it comes to new technologies. Our consoles we know inside out, yes. But there is not much to know, after all, and they haven’t changed all that much in the past.
Skepticism in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. I knew quite a few “tech skeptics” back in university, both teachers and students. I know quite a few today, both young and old. But new technologies can be incredibly useful. Nobody would claim they can replace interpreters altogether – at least not yet. And not even the best computer in the world will turn an unqualified interpreter into a genius. New technologies should be explored in the safe environment of the classroom. Once the daily grind sets in, making time for this is much harder.
Attaining competence in a professional domain means acquiring the expertise and thus the authority to make professional decisions; assuming responsibility for one’s actions; and achieving autonomy to follow a path of lifelong learning. This is empowerment.
I will now discuss the following three use cases:
- Ways of using hardware and software in interpreter training
- Using a Smartpen for pedagogical purposes and for the new interpretation mode of “simultaneous consecutive”
- Information management
1. Ways of using hardware and software in interpreter training
While notebooks have become very popular in booths, a new category has been making inroads in recent years: tablet computers. They are a perfect fit for interpreters. Compared to traditional notebooks, they are small and lightweight. Since they have neither fan nor keyboard, they are silent and they last for a long time without a charger. Internet access is possible via WiFi or a mobile phone module. They may not be as multifunctional as a computer – that’s the point, and it’s also an advantage. Users are usually restricted to just one application at a time, which can aid concentration. A tablet put to good use is indeed an “infallible information butler”13.
Most students will carry a more or less smart phone in their pocket nowadays. Those smartphones can be a very useful tool for budding interpreters: dictionary, notepad, dictaphone for self-study and much more. I see a huge potential here for mutual learning and teaching among students and with trainers.
Software has gone through what can be called a revolution. Social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, and platforms for virtual collaboration have mushroomed. Those tools could be integrated with the suggestions In my diploma thesis, I have looked at mock conferences. Mock conferences are part and parcel of interpreter training at all major schools and provide an excellent opportunity to simulate an interpretation assignment “as close as possible to real-life situations”14 and from various perspectives (client/interpreter). The complete preparation, including organisation, time management, documentation, collaborative terminology work etc., could be handled available via an online platform like Google Drive or also available via Basecamp or similar functions in their respective university IT. An additional benefit from the didactic point of view is the automatic documentation of all work that may be valuable for reviewing and follow-up.
In 2008, the Livescribe company launched its first “smart pen”, a slightly oversized writing contraption full of electronics providing additional features. An infrared camera just below the writing tip records the movements of the pen on special paper and a built-in microphone continuously picks up ambient sound. Handwritten notes are synchronized with the sound recordings using a digital time signature. After the fact, just tap anywhere in your notes with the pen and it will play the sound recorded at that point in time – either through the built-in speaker or through headphones. Printed on the special paper are “buttons” for play, rewind, fast-forward, volume and playback speed.
Marc Orlando, the coordinator of the T&I Studies Program at Monash University in Australia, has turned the Livescribe Smartpen into a formidable tool for teaching students how to take notes. Beyond the note-taking systems devised by Matyssek or Rozan, every interpreting student needs to develop a technique that works for him or her (cf. Orlando15). According to Marc (Orlando 2011), the Smartpen enables us to not only focus on the actual interpretation or the notes that were taken in the process, but also on how the notes were taken over time. A video recording of the student only permits an evaluation of external appearance. The Smartpen’s time signature, however, is an easy way to listen to what was actually said when the student noted down something. Additionally, the audio recording of the original speech and the notes taken can be bundled together as a multimedia file called “pencast” and then stored and reused. This would allow students to compare and discuss their individual performances outside the classroom.
Michele Ferrari, an interpreter of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation, also leverages the Smartpen technology: for a novel hybrid mode of interpretation dubbed “simultaneous consecutive” (cf. Hiebl16 and Ferrari17). Instead of capturing a speech by taking notes the traditional way, the interpreter records it and uses that recording almost as if she were interpreting simultaneously. But since the interpreter has already heard and processed it, she can adapt the rendering and, let’s say, leave out redundant elements (as she would in a classic consecutive). Whenever there are difficult elements in the speech (numbers, names or particularly dense thoughts), she can slow down the playback – or accelerate it to skip repetitions in the original text. The idea here is not to do away completely with the notation. The interpreter can write as much or as little as she wants. Rather, the Smartpen is a support that can reduce stress through the safety net of a sound recording (and notes on top of that). Especially in “typical” consec settings, where accuracy is key (healthcare, police, courts), it could be extremely useful. The Smartpen’s inconspicuousness could be an asset when it comes to how it is embraced by interpreters. Michele has suggested additional use cases such as the use of the pen by members of selection panels in accreditation tests or the creation of audio glossaries.
3. Information Management
p>The internet has become an indispensable tool for interpreters: communicating with clients and colleagues, obtaining information for the next assignment, learning new languages and maintaining them. In several ways it is similar to that most classic fount of all knowledge, the library. To start your search, all you have to do is enter. But to really find, you need a certain degree of expertise. In a library, you can consult comprehensive catalogues or ask one of the librarians. However, on the Internet, you’re more or less on your own. That is why knowing how to research information is now more important than ever before. In the age of the internet and ubiquitous information, preparing for an assignment is both much easier and much harder. We now no longer need to pore over encyclopedias and specialized literature – everything is just a quick web search away. We are rather confronted with the risk of information overload. For any given topic, an encyclopedia may give us a well-researched, concise article and the internet floods us with anything from a Wikipedia article to a highly technical scientific paper. What is needed to search (and find!) efficiently is the right toolbox: knowing how to translate the required information into the right search terms, being familiar with search operators (in order to exclude terms or search within a specific website, for example) and knowing that simply running an image search for an unknown word can give useful results quickly. Finally, the results of the search need to be properly evaluated (cf. November18). Other components of information management (cf. Gillies19) include the use of concordance software to go through comprehensive preparatory material or methods of terminology management. Unfortunately, terminology management often plays only a minor role in interpreter training (cf. Veisbergs20).
In this context, I would like to refer quickly to the idea of an “interpretation portfolio” which I have developed earlier12. In analogy to longer texts that translation students have to translate during their studies, interpreting students draw up an “interpretation portfolio” as a means of recording how they prepare for a simulated conference on a given topic. Firstly, it should contain all relevant documents used for preparation, such as their own and others’ glossaries and parallel texts or background information. Secondly, students should write a commentary describing which research strategies they applied, which sources they found useful, which difficulties they faced and how they were able to overcome them. Another use-case for the portfolio could be the compilation of practice material (such as video and audio recordings) for self-study and a documentation of how it was used.
Interpreters today stand right in the middle of a “tsunami” of technological and social change. We must act and “understand the wave” to be able to ride it and not drown. Translators, it seems to me, are ahead of us interpreters. We now have to catch up in both education and professional practice – most likely through the combined efforts of everybody involved (interpreters, clients, trainers, researchers). There already are highly promising examples, such as the pedagogical support provided by the interpretation services of the European institutions or projects such as the “Speech repository” or the “Virtual classes”. Practitioners and trainers should continue to examine, use, modify and further develop existing and new technologies, in particular remote Interpreting. These activities should be accompanied by interpreting studies. Cooperation platforms, such as CIUTI, the SCIC Universities Conference or the EP’s Rectors’ Conference should continue and intensify their work against the backdrop of a single European higher education area, while professional associations such as AIIC continue to make valuable contributions. Unfounded fear of technology can simply disappear when trust is built through constant contact with the new (through training, colleagues and clients). When we are forced to deal with the new and when we experience what a difference technology can make, we may be more willing to make good use of it.
- Allen, Katherine (2012): „21st Century Skills“. http://najit.org/blog/?p=770 (Consulted on 30/11/2012) ↩
- Berber, Diana (2008): „ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in Conference Interpreting. A survey of their usage in professional and educational settings“. CETRA Research Seminar in Translation Studies 2007. ↩
- Kutz, Wladimir (2003): Lecture on Interpreting Studies at the Institute of Applied Linguistics and Translatology at Leipzig University. ↩
- Kiraly, Don (2000): A social constructivist approach to translator education. Manchester: St. Jerome. ↩
- Moggio-Ortiz, Evelyn (2008): „Interpreters Meet History“. http://www.unspecial.org/UNS678/t21.html (consulted on 28/12/2012) ↩
- Vander Elst, Patricia (2002): „The Nuremberg trial“. http://aiic.net/page/983 (Consulted on 27/12/2012) ↩
- Moser-Mercer, Barbara (2005): „Remote interpreting: The crucial role of presence“. Künzli, Alexander (Hrsg.): Empirical research into translation and interpreting: processes and products. Bulletin suisse de linguistique appliquée. Neuchâtel: Vereinigung für angewandte Linguistik in der Schweiz, 73-97. ↩
- Mouzourakis, Takis (2003): „That Feeling of Being There: Vision and Presence in Remote Interpreting“. http://aiic.net/page/1173/that-feeling-of-being-there-vision-and-presence-in- remote-interpreting/lang/1 (Consulted on 27/12/2012) ↩
- Vereycken, Hilde (2012): „Remote Interpreting. The Council Experience“. Presentation at the 16. SCIC Universities Conference on 16/03/2012. (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/cooperation-with-universities/universities-conferences/16th/docs/5a.hilde_vereycken.pdf – consulted on 27/12/2012) ↩
- AIIC Private Market Sector Standing Committee (2011): „Conference and Remote Interpreting: a New Turning Point?“. http://aiic.net/page/3590/conference-and-remote-interpreting-a-new-turning- point/lang/1 (Consulted on 27/12/2012) ↩
- Saylor, Michael (2012): “The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything”. New York: Vanguard Press. ↩
- Drechsel, Alexander (2004): „Computereinsatz beim Dolmetschen in Ausbildung und Praxis. Ein Beitrag zur Dolmetschdidaktik“. Diploma thesis. Leipzig: IALT, Schmitt/Stoll. ↩
- Rütten, Anja (2003): „Computer-based Information Management for Conference Interpreters“. Presentation at the 25. International Conference on Translating and the Computer on 20/21 November 2003. ↩
- Gile, Daniel (1995): Basic concepts and models for interpreter and translator training. Am- sterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. ↩
- Orlando, Marc (2010): „Digital Technology Advances for Consecutive Interpreting. A New Dimension in Note-taking Training and Assessment“. Presentation at the AUSIT Biennial Conference 2010. (http://ausitconference.org/documents/MOrlando_abstr.pdf – Consulted on 27/12/2013) ↩
- Hiebl, Bettina (2011): „Simultanes Konsekutivdolmetschen mit dem Livescribe(TM) Echo(TM) Smartpen“. Master thesis. Vienna: Zentrum für Translationswissenschaft, Pöchhacker. ↩
- Ferrari, Michele (2011): „Practical Applications of the SmartPen in the Working Life of an Interpreter“. Presentation at the 15th SCIC Universities Conference on 17 March 2011. (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/cooperation-with-universities/universities-conferences/15th_dg_interpretationuniversities_conference/docs/2011_ferrari-notes.pdf – consulted on 27/12/2013) ↩
- November, Alan (2012): „Teaching Zach to Think“. November Learning. (http://novemberlearning.com/wp/assets/teaching-zach-to-think.pdf – consulted on 23/09/2013) ↩
- Gillies, Andrew (2012): „The Impact of Technological Advances on the Teaching of Conference Interpreting“. Presentation at the 16. SCIC Universities Conference on 16/03/2012. (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/scic/cooperation-with-universities/universities-conferences/16th/docs/3.andrew_gillies_presentation.pdf – consulted on 23/09/2013) ↩
- Veisbergs, Andrejs (2007): „Terminology Issues in Interpreter Training“. Documents of the Baltic Sea Region University Network „Quality and Qualifications in Translation and Interpreting II“. (http://www.tlu.ee/files/arts/645/Quali698bb7e395e0b88d73d603e33f5b153f.pdf – consulted on 23/09/2013) ↩