Monterey Institute of International Studies

Presidential Debates Provide Authentic Training Opportunity for Interpretation Students

interpreters_presidential

The view from one of the interpretation booths in the Irvine Auditorium during the October 11 vice-presidential debate.

October 4, 2012 - 12:00am

Students in the Translation and Interpretation program at the Monterey Institute embrace every opportunity to test their skills in real world settings.  For aspiring interpreters live debates, unpredictable, fact-filled and fast by design, are a very challenging but rewarding training exercise.  “Interpreters often perform better at an event like this than in class because of the authenticity of the experience,” says Professor Jacolyn Harmer.

Anne-Kathrin Koch (MATI ’13) agrees and says “having an opportunity to interpret such an event makes us feel less like students and more like interpreters.”  The challenges are many, including the density of the speeches, which are often filled with information and numbers.  Every language has its unique characteristics.  Anne-Kathrin was interpreting the English into German and says that in and of itself is hard when interpreting a fast-paced event like this, as German uses a lot more words than English, “which means we interpreters have to be very precise.”   Specific vocabulary and names of programs and legislation such as “Race to the Top” and “Affordable Health Care Act” provided further challenges.

“I was listening in the booths last night and thinking….Wow!” says Professor Harmer, “especially given all the features Anne listed.”  She says that events like this are very exciting and they not only feel real, but are real for the students.  As Anne-Kathrin explains, “a real hands-on experience like this makes you realize your strengths and weaknesses in a very effective way.  It is a crucial part of our learning experience at MIIS.”

“I was aware of them implementing all kinds of coping strategies,” says Professor Harmer says with a smile. “Secretly I was glad it wasn’t me interpreting!”

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