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Teaching Interpretation in BA Program of Translation in Iranian Universities


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"Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation".

Noam Chomsky

Abstract:

The purpose of the following article is to study the present situation of teaching Interpretation in BA Program of Translation in Iranian Universities. Features of present curriculum are mentioned and its weaknesses are discussed. Also, some guidelines are suggested to be considered in the curriculum.

Key words: Interpretation, Translation, Communication, BA curriculum.

Introduction:

With the expansion of human communications through the world, translation and teaching translation and interpretation has gained enormous importance around the countries and especially in academic systems. In Iranian universities teaching translation and interpretation is coming into interests as the need for communication expands.

The existing BA curriculum for English translation in Iran focuses on practicing translation in various fields, such as basic sciences, human sciences, religion, journalism, and literature. In addition to translation, interpreting is also practiced. But it does not meet the needs of present-day Iran.

This article focuses on BA curriculum for English translation and specially interpretation in Iran. Firstly it considers some of the main definitions in the field and then problems of the present curriculum are discussed. Finally, some guidelines are represented to be considered in BA curriculum of translation and interpretation.

What is Interpretation?

There are a wide range of definitions for interpretation. But maybe the best definition of interpretation is the one developed by a task force of Interpretation Canada which set out to develop the definition that would be used within Canada (1976):

"Interpretation is a communication process, designed to reveal meanings and relationships of our cultural and natural heritage, through involvement with objects, artifacts, landscapes and sites." - Interpretation Canada

Also in Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary interpretation is defined as "communication for establishing and maintaining mutual understanding and cooperation (as between parts of an armed force)."

Miremadi in his book "Theories of translation and interpretation" cites Seleskovitch (1979) talking about interpretation as being more like painting than photography. He says interpreting should not be considered the oral translation of words and can never be word-for-word translation, otherwise he would translate the language but his formulation would leave the thought inscrutable.

Miremadi (1991) introduces three main types of interpretation: Consecutive interpreting, Simultaneous interpreting, and Trans- interpreting.

Simultaneous interpreting

As Miremadi (1991) discuss, Simultaneous interpreting refers to the interpreter's rendering of the orator's words at the same time that they are uttered or a few seconds later. Simultaneous interpreting is a 'listen and speak' process. When one speaks, one never stops thinking. Thinking and speaking go side by side (Seleskovitch 1978:31). Most commonly, it is used in legal settings (trials), diplomatic meetings, conferences, presentations, training sessions, etc.

Consecutive interpreting

In Consecutive interpreting, the rendering of the speaker's speech is carried out by the interpreter with some time lags in between right after the speaker stops speaking (Miremadi (1991). It is mostly used for formal meetings, lectures, negotiations, certain legal procedures, visiting dignitaries, etc.

Trans- interpreting

It is a term coined by Miremadi (1991) in the book "Theories of Translation and Interpretation".

The Translation Profession

Nancy L. Schweda Nicholson, in the book "The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics" introduces three basic trends that in Wilss (1999:181) view have affected the profession since the beginning of the 1990s: globalization, specialization, and technologization.

In Iran also the need for translators and interpreters is increasing very fast. It is coming to be specialized and technology plays an important role in it.

The most important fact in this area is that in BA program of translation in Iranian universities these three parts should be regarded very carefully.

It seems that in BA curriculum of interpretation in Iranian universities two main problems exist about a) students who enter this major and b) the existing curriculum.

The Main Problems in Iranian BA Program

Students: Teaching Translation or Teaching Language?

Those who enter the universities to continue this major shall have some main criteria which are necessary in order to have a curriculum that fulfills all aspects of students and society's needs.

Students who enter this major should be completely familiar with the language of translation, because they are here to learn how to translate not to learn the language itself. So in the process of entering universities the students' level of language should be regarded. Programs regarding the language itself should be maintained before entering universities. In BA curriculum there is not enough time to teach the known 4 main skills of language as listening, speaking, reading and writing. Thus the students should be selected from those who are in intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced levels of proficiency.

Curriculum: How to continue?

In BA program of translation there are four courses regarding interpretation. They are: Translating Audio & Video Tapes, Interpreting 1, Interpreting 2, Interpreting 3, which are supposed to be passed consecutively in the 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th semesters. What is clear here is that they are not enough at all and the students can not become a good interpreter after passing these courses. There should be other courses which can be made students more professional in this area. Some of the main problems of the present curriculum are as followed:

Theory vs. practice

Teaching the theory of translation to students of translation is extremely important. Theory and practice must be linked together in any translation exercise simply because one contributes significantly to the other in the sense that theory of translation makes students of translation aware of language complexities; it gives them a sense of creativity and intellect.

In the present curriculum, there are some courses regarding theory of translation, such as Translation Techniques, Contrastive Linguistics, Theories & Principles of Translation, etc., and other courses regarding practice, such as Translating Simple Texts, Translating Journalistic Texts, Translating Political Texts, etc. These courses are not related and they do not match each other. It is better to represent some main theories of the field and then immediately in the same course related practical exercises should be presented.

In the courses related to the interpretation nearly no theory is represented. The first course regarding interpretation is Translating Audio & Video Tapes which is going to be done in the 4th semester, in it no theory is going to be taught, and just a number of videos and audios are brought to the class to work on. In the three other courses related to interpretation (interpretation1, interpretation2, and interpretation3) also no theory is presented.

Direction of Translation

 In most of the cases the direction of translation is from TL into SL. It is a good way of learning how to translate but market also demands for translators who can translate from SL into TL. Therefore, some courses regarding this direction also should be designed.

Specialized Teachers

The teachers in the courses regarding interpretation are not professional interpreters. Sometimes they are not even professional translators. So they can not succeed in their teaching and students do not learn about different situations and different problems that may occur in real conditions. At least, it is suggested to the teachers to be in contact with some of the professionals in the field to be up to date.

Course subjects

There is no coordination in the choice of subjects between teachers of these courses. So either the subjects are repetitive or they are not matching other courses. There should be a smooth move from Translating Audio & Video Tapes to the interpreting courses, letting students work on theory first and then practicing different kinds of interpreting and not just working on listening skill as it is practiced now. The present curriculum in this area should be changed to let students at least feel what interpretation is. Different subject matters and different situations of interpretation should be practiced in this program.

Furthermore, the students should become familiar with dubbing, subtitling, sight translation, and machine translation as they may be needed in their future working situation. Additionally, they are good courses in the sense that they can increase the students' motivations to learn translation and interpretation effectively.

Another important fact that should be regarded in the BA curriculum is the need to know about different accents, formal and informal languages, slang, vulgarities, and profanities which may affect their future job.

Here the main characteristics of a good interpreter are discussed and the ways students can improve them are presented.

Characteristics of a good interpreter

In order to talk about characteristics of a good interpreter, first the basic principles of interpretation should be considered as to provoke, to relate, to reveal, to address the Whole, and to strive for Message Unity.

The main characteristics of a good interpreter can be presented as followed:

To have thorough knowledge of both SL and TL

To have thorough knowledge of the culture of both SL and TL

To have dominance in the related field

To be quick-witted

To know short hand writing

To possess comprehensive vocabulary

To have a powerful memory

To have comprehensive general knowledge

To be calm

To be acquainted with different accents of the SL

But the question here is that how students can improve these skills? Here very shortly some guidelines are represented that can be manipulated in BA curriculum.

To have thorough knowledge of both SL and TL and to have thorough knowledge of the culture of both SL and TL is what students should obtain before entering the field. But corresponding teachings also should be engaged in the curriculum to make sure that the students' knowledge of both SL and TL will work together in an eventual setting.

Dominance in the related field is what every interpreters need to have. He or she should be a specialist in the field he or she is going to work on. Furthermore, interpreters should be trained about basic working knowledge including Journalism, Marketing, Psychology, Non-formal and adult education theory and presentations, Business management and finances, Recreation and tourism planning/principles, Media planning/design principles. In the present curriculum, some of these working knowledge are regarded. But since students surely need them in the future, they should be taken into account more precisely by teachers of the field.

Because of the nature and peculiarity of interpretation all the three stages including analysis, transfer, restructuring occur at once in the mind of the interpreter in the shortest possible length of time, and that is when being quick-witted becomes an unquestionable characteristic of an interpreter.

To be quick-witted students need a quick mind. They have to be critical and have a rather high esteem of themselves. Most of the times being quick-witted is a gift from God and an art some people have. But there are some ways to improve it.

One way to be witty is to listen intently to others. Students should try to think one step ahead in any conversation. Additionally, there are some other ways to improve this ability, which are mostly based on improving level of IQ.

Another main characteristic of an interpreter is about knowing short hand writing. It is clear that not all words can be written down equal in pace with those of the speaker. Miremadi (1991) in his book says some linguists argue that selectivity should be confined to prominent words, that is, those words which play key roles in sentence semantics. Thus, they argue that a consecutive interpreter should jot down only those words which can later be used in recalling sentences.

In reading a text usually we do not concentrate on the letters of a word. But mostly we just see the first and the last letter of those words. In taking notes for an interpretation also the first and the last letter of the words should be written down very carefully to make the recalling of that word easier. Key terms, main reasons, central ideas, repetitions, and even a louder tone of voice should be pointed in the interpreter's notes to be later mentioned in the same manner.

Students can also use their own abbreviations to be used in their notes. Here there are some of the signs and abbreviations students can use in their notes:

b/c = because 

b/4 = before

→ = cause, leads to, produce

Cf. = compare

­ = increase, higher than

¯ = decrease, lower than

.·. = therefore

# = number

@ = at

Possessing comprehensive vocabulary plays a crucial role in interpretation. Different aspects of each word, different words for a possible situation, their implicit and explicit meaning and also the feeling each of them may convey are what an interpreter should know. Courses regarding this characteristic of an interpreter are those which are related to the reading skill.

To have a powerful memory is completely important for an interpreter. But what is known is that strong memories do not retain individual words, nor individual meanings but "the entire body of thought" (Wolfgang Zielke, 1970).

Here are some tips to have a powerful memory:

Being able to focus and use their full attention is essential if students want to give themselves the best chance of remembering something.

Being interested in what students are trying to memorize is definitely an asset.

Using some creativity is important. Students should conjure up some vivid mind pictures linked to what it is students need to remember. This is a technique used by all the professionals who entertain us with their amazing memory feats.

Practice makes perfect in this as in other things. Students should set themselves memory challenges.

Whenever students are studying something really important that they want or need to remember, some Mozart can be played in the background. Studies have shown that the brain synchronizes itself to sound frequencies it's subjected to. If students need to concentrate, the frequencies found in the music of Mozart are among the best to harmonize the brain.

Additionally, exercises like retelling in the source language, categorization (grouping items of the same properties), generalization (drawing general conclusions), comparison, description, shadowing exercise (a paced, auditory tracking task which involves the immediate vocalization of auditory presented stimuli, i.e., word-for-word repetition in the same language, parrot-style, of a message presented through a headphone (Lambert 1899: 381) can help students to improve their power memory.

Finally, in memory training trying to remember some poems by heart can be an aid to students as they have rhyme and rhythm and because of that it can also be helpful in learning new vocabularies.

Students of translation and interpretation should strengthen their general knowledge of economics, history, the law, international politics, and scientific concepts and principles to become a good translator and interpreter. Reading other well-written material that will help broaden their general knowledge can help students to gain comprehensive general knowledge. To meet this goal, students can take college-level courses, and review high school texts, etc. It is also a good idea to strengthen their knowledge in a specialized field, preferably in a technical field, like computers, in which they are going to work in future.

Regardless of where, for whom and under what circumstances he is interpreting, the interpreter should get involved in his job with calmness, trying his best to present decent interpretations, for his job will be evaluated on the basis of how his performance is, rather than on the basis of how he sits, how he moves his hand and the extent to which he shows respect to the ones he is interpreting for. Students should be aware of this fact and they should be trained to be calm when they are in the position of an interpreter.

Since an interpreter is one who should be able to work around the world and in different countries, he or she should be acquainted with different accents of the SL and TL. An interpreter may face different situations, different people and of course different accents. Thus, he or she should work on different accents of both SL and TL to understand those accents and even in some situations in the case of need he or she should be able to talk on those accents to be understood.

Conclusion

Language interpreting or interpretation is the intellectual activity of facilitating oral and sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between two or more users of different languages. This article discussed about the present BA curriculum of translation and especially interpretation in Iranian universities. Although there are some good points in the curriculum but some weaknesses also exist.

The problems of the present program were considered in two different parts of a) students and b) curriculum itself.

Characteristics of a good interpreter were listed and some guidelines to activate those characteristics in students were mentioned.

On the whole, it can be concluded that working on both translation and interpretation in the BA program can not be successful, as there is not enough time to work on different aspects of them completely. Thus, there should be two different majors, one for translation and the other for interpretation to train professional translators and interpreters who are able to work effectively in the society.

References

Veverka, John A. 1994. Interpretive Master Planning. Falcon Press, Helena, MT.

Miremadi, S.A. (1991). Theories of Translation and Interpretation. Tehran: SAMT Publication.

Kaplan, R.B. (2002). The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Oxford: OUP.

Wyrick, J. (2008). Steps to Writing Well. volume.1. Lyn Uhl Publication. Boston.

Hoseini, Z. (2002). Training Translators. Translation Studies Journal. Year 1, Issue 2, Summer 2002.



Published - September 2009









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