Seminar: An Interpreter’s Wish List

20160607_133604Elena Errico, University of Genoa
An Interpreter’s Wish List
Date and time: Tuesday 7th June, 1.30pm
Room: MC232, City Campus


Interpreting is a very challenging cognitive activity not least because it requires professionals to take translation decisions under very strict time constraints and while performing several mental operations concurrently. Basically, when you are interpreting and a translation problem comes up, you can’t stop speaking and look it up in your resources. As a result, in addition to cold blood, language proficiency and a solid interpreting technique, a very systematic preliminary documentation methodology is required to be able to “survive” comprehension gaps, lexical gaps, etc. In this respect, I believe technology might help in the (crucial) preparation stage in several ways, such as the selection of texts to build comparable as well as parallel small corpora which should also include OCR capability, the extraction of multilingual encyclopaedic glossaries of unusual terminology, and the possibility of updating and merging the corpus and the lexical/terminological resources with those of other colleagues of the interpreting team. Thinking of the heterogeneity of the private market(s), where the majority of free-lance interpreters work, this tool should be flexible enough to process diverse text and discourse genres and adjust to different needs according to the interpreting technique and mode required.

Another interesting help might come from automatic transcription: in some cases, a double input (the source speech and its concurrent transcription) might ease the cognitive load of having to carry out several mental operations at a time. I am referring especially to consecutive interpreting: if a reliable automatic transcription system is available, the interpreter will no longer be required to make the effort of memorizing long stretches of speech with the aid of a complex note-taking technique and instead carry out sight translation of the transcription of the speech after having already listened to it. Automatic transcription might also be helpful in remote interpreting and whenever listening conditions are far from ideal due to the interpreter’s bad positioning, noisy environments, high delivery speed of the speaker, etc.  Here again, the tool should be very flexible and adapt to the diverse settings and suboptimum working conditions (poor speakers, hardly comprehensible pronunciations, overlapping of voices, etc.) interpreters sometimes experience, especially on the private market.