Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Reading Skills for Sight Translation in Public-Sector Services

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Reading Skills for Sight Translation in Public-Sector Services

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Unqualified interpreters present a serious obstacle to communication in the public sector, a situation that is challenging for both the professionals and their clients alike (see for example IMDI, 2007; Nilsen, 1995, 2001, 2005, 2011). A recent report on interpreting at the University hospitals in Oslo (Linnestad & Buzungu, 2012) demonstrated that only approximately 10% of interpreting assignments were performed by a person with appropriate interpreting competence.

Currently there is no general consensus regarding the qualifications necessary for public-sector interpreting (see also Nilsen, 2013). Within the field of interpreting studies, interpreting for public-sector services has so far mainly been studied and discussed as an activity requiring oral skills, in the sense of skills for interpreting between speech in two languages. For that reason, training in, and assessments of, interpreting also may be based on an assumption that interpreting requires oral skills only. Yet sight translation ("ST"), which is a hybrid combining interpreting and written translation, with the source text written and the target text spoken (Agrifolio, 2004; Dragsted, Mees & Hansen, 2011; Setton & Motta, 2007, p. 203), is a technique required in many publicsector interpreting assignments. (1)

The term ST may refer to slightly different types of activities depending on the conditions under which the ST is performed. Firstly, one may distinguish between ST with and without preparation of the text, also called unstressful and stressful ST (Lambert, 2004, p. 298). Secondly, a distinction also exists in the literature on ST between ST and sight interpreting (Lambert, 2004). The question is whether this special mode is actually interpreting or translation. Since both oral and visual forms of information processing are involved, ST can be defined as a specific type of written translation as well as a variant of oral interpretation. Sylvie Lambert (2004, p. 299) states that sight interpretation occurs when the message is presented both orally and visually. This activity is also known as simultaneous interpretation with text (Pochhacker, 2004, p. 19). It occurs when the interpreter sight translates while listening to the speaker's live delivery, a mode that is common in conference interpreting. ST, however, involves the transposition of a message written in one language into a message delivered orally in another language (Lambert, 2004, p. 298).

Above all, this specific mode of interpreting requires well-developed reading skills in addition to oral skills. However, ST has mostly been viewed as a pedagogical exercise for raising students' awareness of syntactic and stylistic differences between the source and target languages (Martin, 1993, p. 400; Viaggio, 1995, p. 34-35). Interpreters are rarely trained in this task per se (Pochhacker, 2004, p. 186). ST has also been considered useful in developing oral skills and language-transfer skills through the process of syntactically restructuring and paraphrasing the source text (Ilg & Lambert, 1996, p. 73). Furthermore, ST is used, not only for the above mentioned pedagogical tasks, but also as a traditional step between consecutive and simultaneous (SI) (Song 2010). It is considered an exercise to learn to anticipate (see among others Noel & Song, 2006; and Weber, 1990).

There is, however, a need for education and training in ST (Changmin, 2001; Ersozlu, 2005; Sampaio, 2007). Results from a study conducted by Marjorie Agrifoglio (2004) show that ST is a complex and unique technique, which places cognitive demands on the interpreter that are by no means less rigourous than those of simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. Furthermore, Agrifoglio's study indicates that the continuous presence of the source-language text seems to be the greatest obstacle for the sight translator, affecting target-language expression and the ability to coordinate the tasks of silent reading and oral translating. …

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