This year, we have had a few additions to the MCI teaching faculty. One of these is Dr. Ebru Diriker. If hers is not a familiar name, I might describe her by saying that she is a “triple threat”. That is to say, she is 1) an experienced conference interpreter and active member of AIIC; 2) a well known interpreter trainer at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul; and 3) an established researcher in the field of Interpreting Studies, with many publications to her name.
It’s fair to say that she bring a bit of star power to the MCI. I say this not only because of the high-quality work she does with our students, but also because she has been able to connect our students with some of the great minds in our field. Let me explain.
One of the courses that Dr. Diriker is teaching this year is Interpreting Studies. The goal of the course is to get students to reflect critically on interpreting, notably by exposing them to knowledge that has been generated by research and scholarly thought. It’s also a course that is taught online. Dr. Diriker has taken full advantage of this format. She has invited a number of speakers from around the world to talk to our students about some of the most compelling thinking about the work that interpreters do. Here are two cases in point.
Dr. Daniel Gile
Dr. Gile is a working conference interpreter and researcher. He is the driving force behind the Conference Interpreting Research Information Network (CIRIN), and he is the originator of the Effort Model (for a concise summary of the model, look here). I had been fortunate enough to hear Dr. Gile speak before, and I knew that our students were in for a real treat.
In a nutshell, the Effort Model suggests that there are limits on our cognitive resources. Certain working conditions will cause interpreters to overload our resources, which then leads us to make mistakes. The model helps us describe and explain how our resources might be deployed at any given time, and similarly how they might be overwhelmed. It’s a useful tool that helps students take stock of what is happening in their own minds when they interpret.
Of course, our students were mostly interested in trying to figure out how the model might help them get past their sticking points. When you are up against a cognitive wall, so to speak, is there anything you can do to free up resources? And thereby to improve your performance? After Dr. Gile’s formal presentation, there was a very lively discussion!
Dr. Gile’s Effort Model has been on the syllabus of Interpreting Studies ever since the course was first offered. But how truly inspirational it was for this year’s students to learn about it directly from the originator of the model.
Dr. Barbara Moser-Mercer
Dr. Moser-Mercer is also a working conference interpreter, and she was for many years responsible for the conference interpreter training program at the University of Geneva’s Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (FTI). She played a pivotal role in the establishment of Information Processing as a category of research in Interpreting Studies. Over the years, she has addressed a number of important topics, including the development of expertise, and the effects of remote interpreting. (For more on expertise and the MCI, have a look here and here.)
More recently, her attention has been focused on humanitarian interpreting with her InZone project. When conflict and crisis strike, aid workers need interpreters to interact with local people, but rarely are trained interpreters available. InZone seeks to provide interpreter training in these hotspots — refugee camps, disaster areas, and war zones. Doing so not only saves lives in the short-term, it also over the long-term provides trainees with 21st century skills and a pathway to higher education.
Obviously, it’s not always possible for interpreter trainers to physically go to the hotspots in question. At times, it would be unsafe. So InZone makes use of distance learning. In fact, one of the features of the project that caught my attention was the use of “learning hubs”. These are no-nonsense mobile computer labs that can be moved easily into key locations. With solar panels for power and satellite hookups for Internet connection, they can function even when local infrastructure is lacking. In this way, local interpreters can get the training they need online from InZone instructors.
I found Dr. Moser-Mercer’s description of the project to be inspiring! It’s tremendously uplifting to think that our field’s training know-how and research-generated knowledge is impacting vulnerable people in such a positive way. And judging by the discussion that followed Dr. Moser-Mercer’s talk, our students were similarly moved.
Although the Glendon MCI has not been around for a long time, we have nevertheless succeeded in creating a rich learning environment for our students. Thanks to Dr. Diriker and her guests, that environment is richer still! When you study with us, you get practice-focused classes, experiential learning (both on and off campus), and now a chance to connect with some of the movers and shakers in our field.
Have you got a story about a unique experience that bolstered your learning? Tell me about it in the comment field below.