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Section 5

The risks of self-assessment and how to criticise your performance truthfully.

On this occasion we will be treating self-assessment of only the very basic CONTENTS of your interpreting performance. For the moment, we will not worry, for example, about the register (formal or informal use of the language) or any aspect other than the contents. That is, for now, we will be focusing on getting the message across in a comprehensible way in the other language. We will just focus on summarising and finishing all sentences. This is the very minimum in order to be helpful in the Social Forum. Only in this context, will we not mind how you say it, but just that you indeed say it, and that what you say is not wrong.

Case Study 1

You have volunteered as an interpreter for the next WSF. You are told you will be interpreting Arundhati Roy, and you are thrilled. You are nervous, because she is very popular. Indeed you are so nervous that, apart from doing research on her work, you are also going to ask your lecturer about relaxation methods for interpreters. One such method is the Alexander Technique What does it consist of? After self-assessment of your interpretation, do you think the Alexander Technique could have helped in your particular case?

Case Study 2

You will be interpreting Ivonne Deutch. She will be talking about Women is Palestine. Where can you find information on this topic in two languages? Are there any existing glossaries? Self-assess after interpreting. How can you link the use of the glossaries to the quality of your performance?

Case study 3

You have volunteered to interpret at a Social Forum. You are told Rima Awad will speak in the seminar you are scheduled for on Fair Trade in Palestine. Create a bilingual lexicon with the terms you think you will encounter. After your interpretation, underline the difficult words in the transcript (when available) and find them in your mother tongue. Now compare the two sets of vocabulary and put them together in a single lexicon. Had you guessed correctly which terms you would need to find? Were you surprised by many terms?

5.1 How do I know that my content is acceptable?

Please don't forget to record everything you do in the training workshops. This is essential in order to improve from one week to the next. By interpreting in the workshop you will just have done a tiny percentage of what is needed. If you do not listen to yourself afterwards, it will not be useful.

Listen to your performance and follow these few tips. At first, you will find that you sound like a different person. This is normal.

Please don't forget to record everything you do in the training workshops. This is essential in order to improve from one week to the next. By interpreting in the workshop you will just have done a tiny percentage of what is needed. If you do not listen to yourself afterwards, it will not be useful.

It is easier to know if you have made a mistake when you have the original speech written in front of you. Some people get it right from the start, others take more time to do so. This is also normal. If you find you need more practice, go to point 3.4 when you finish. You can also repeat the exercises as many times as needed. Depending on the language combination, you will find that you might need to practice more paraphrasing (repeating a sentence using a different structure). Do this at home, or with someone who can help you in your language combination. During the training workshops, try to get as much in-booth experience as you can.

Read one sentence in the transcript (if available), then listen to what you said in your recorded interpretation, and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Did I finish the sentence in a coherent way? (I will give you more advice on how to do this).

2. Did the main message come across? (It does not matter at this stage that you missed secondary information, adjectives or complicated substructures, just as long as the main idea can be understood; at first it is normal that you summarise.)

3. Can someone who does not understand the source language know what I am talking about in the target language? Did I make myself understood?
4. When comparing the original and my interpretation, sentence by sentence, did I make any huge mistakes? Huge mistakes can be, for example, translating the opposite of what has been said, or changing it so that it means something else, perhaps similar, but not the same (see List of Common Mistakes below.)

Please bear in mind that you might be not be understanding every part of the speech. This happens often among students of interpreting, who are not aware that they misunderstood an idea in the speech and, even after listening to their performance sentence by sentence, think it was well translated and believe their performance is OK, when it is not. Hence the need for a lecturer to listen to your performance (and/or in the case of ad-hoc interpreters for Social Forums, that a coordinator/ professional native interpreter listen to your performance). It is also important to work in pairs with another student whenever possible for your language combination.

Whether you can work with someone else or not, it is ESSENTIAL that you listen to your performance afterwards, comparing what you have said with the original sentence by sentence. Hopefully, you will be able to notice the most important mistakes on your own. This will also help you with acquiring all the needed vocabulary.

5.2 Post-interpreting exercises

a) At home, underline the parts where you had difficulties with the STRUCTURE of a particular sentence. Think of how you could have said it in a SIMPLE way (summarising), and write it down.

b) At home, underline with a different colour the TERMS you had problems with and add them to your specialised glossaries. If it was an easier general term (not specialised), create your own interpreting glossary with the terms you find usually in the speeches you interpret (that is, your own general glossary). Only add a term if it is important (when you think you are going to find it again).

To sum up, each and everyone of you should be listening to your own performance in depth at home, after having interpreted in the lab/workshop. Even if you can work in pairs, self-assessment is essential. After having corrected your recording on your own and, especially, if you think it is OK, have someone else listen to it.

If you cannot find someone who has your exact language combination, try to at least find a native speaker of your target language to listen to your performance. Ask them the first three questions above (Did I finishthe sentence in a coherent way? etc.). Then make a list of what you found more difficult in the source speech and ask a native speaker of the source language if what the speech says is exactly what you understood (it could help to do paraphrasing exercises in front of a native speaker in that source language, just to make sure you did not get the message wrong).

If you do not get the basic contents right in your interpretation, it is essential that you identify this problem as soon as possible.

Copyright 2008, de los Autores de los Cursos. Cite/attribute Resource. Section 5. (2009, March 10). Retrieved February 17, 2020, from OCW-USAL Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License