Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

A Study on the Amenability of Digital Pen Technology in a Hybrid Mode of Interpreting: Consec-Simul with Notes

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

A Study on the Amenability of Digital Pen Technology in a Hybrid Mode of Interpreting: Consec-Simul with Notes

Article excerpt

1. Introduction (1,2)

Most interpreters tend to find consecutive interpreting assignments which require the understanding, memorisation and note-taking of a speech rather difficult and stressful. For this reason, performance enhancing technology is a resource welcome by interpreters, especially if technology is available to reduce the strain on short-term memory retention (the memory in action between the moment a speech is heard and notes representing it taken). Technology-assisted interpreting has long been of particular interest to trainers, practitioners and students seeking to find ways of integrating technological applications to assist them in their everyday professional life.

In 1999, Michele Ferrari, a European Commission interpreter, was the first professional interpreter to employ digital technology by recording the source speech of a commissioner, then playing it back from his digital recording device, and interpreting it simultaneously. For the first time, a consecutive interpretation was performed simultaneously. In an interview, given in 2002, Ferrari justified his choice:

I have always felt a sense of dissatisfaction in performing a consecutive, as if it was a constant struggle against impossible odds. Indeed, I firmly believe it is impossible to do a perfect consecutive, when faced with a difficult, dense and fast speech. Even in the best consecutive of this world, there is always a little something missing. [...] This [consecutive interpreting] entails a lack of rigour, which has always troubled me ever since my first consecutive, and which led me to find a better solution, in order to fully respect the speaker's original speech, in all its aspects. (Gomes, 2002, p.5).

This original approach to a "digitally remastered" consecutive interpretation and this new mode triggered lots of interest from researchers and, from then on, several studies were conducted. As indicated in Hamidi and Pochhacker (2007, p.277-278), various practitioners have trialled different tools to test the efficiency of digital assistance when performing a long consecutive interpretation. For example, Ferrari carried out tests at the DG Interpretation with various devices in 2002 and 2003 (ibid, p.277).

These initial trials were soon followed respectively in 2003 and 2005 by those of John Lombardi and Erik Camayd-Frexas, two American interpreters who found the technique very useful for court interpreting assignments (Lombardi 2003, Camayd-Frexas 2005). In particular, Hamidi completed her Master's thesis on the subject in 2006, carried out a study and collected data on the hybrid simultaneous consecutive mode, also called 'SimConsec'. As cited by Pochhacker (2012), in his recent ATA conference presentation "Consecutive 2.0", other studies of "the note-based vs. recorder-assisted consecutive" have been conducted since by several master's students: Sienkiewicz in 2010, Hawel in 2010, Richter in 2010, and Hiebl in 2011.

The study by Hiebl is of particular relevance to this article as the student used a Livescribe digital Smartpen to carry out the tests, but a different model to the one used for the study reported in this paper. Since the thesis was written in German, the present author was however not able to read it but was interested in some conclusions reported in English in the abstract of the thesis available on the Internet (Hiebl, 2011, p.2).

As most attempts have shown, and as expressed in Hamidi and Pochhacker (2007), the new simultaneous consecutive mode allows an "improvement in quality" (p.278) and "is praised for its increased accuracy and completeness" (p.278). Because "note-taking is no longer necessary [which] allows the interpreter to devote more attention to listening and comprehension" (p.278) it "permitted enhanced interpreting performances" and was "considered a viable technique" (p.288), despite some caveats about poor communication with the public. Indeed, even if the abovementioned studies have found an enhanced accuracy and completeness in the interpretations in the new mode, most have also pointed out a poorer audience contact and interaction during the simultaneous part of the task. …

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