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OPENING UP IN INTERPRETATION STUDIES Daniel Gile INALCO and CEEI (ISIT), Paris Paper given at the Translation Studies

Congress: "Translation Studies: an Interdiscipline", organized by the Institut fr bersetzer- und Dolmetscherausbildung der Universitt Wien, Vienna, 9-12.9.1992. Published in Snell-Hornby, Mary, Franz Pchhacker and Klaus Kaindl (eds). 1994. Translation Studies An Interdiscipline. Amsterdam/Philadelphia. John Benjamins. 149-158.

1. A historical overview of conference interpretation research Interpretation research history in the West can be divided into four periods: 1.1 The fifties: The first steps Several remarkable texts were written on interpretation in the fifties: Herbert (1952) Rozan (1956) Ilg (1959). They were based on personal experience and did not claim any scientific validity, but they did identify most of the fundamental issues that are still discussed at the present time. The first academic study was Paneth 1957. 1.2 The experimental psychology period: Paneth's thesis was followed by a small number of experimental studies by a few psychologists and psycholinguists: Treisman, Oleron and Nanpon, Goldman-Eisler, Gerver, Barik - see Gerver 1976. Gerver, the most active of these researchers, conducted experiments on interpretation over 10 years. In particular, he co-organized with Sinaiko (1978) a symposium on interpretation which brought together interpreters and scientists from various disciplines for the purpose of initiating research cooperation. Unfortunately, there was no follow up to this initiative. During this period (the sixties and early seventies), a number of hypotheses were formulated regarding the interpreting process and the influence of and reactions to various factors such as source language, noise, speed of speech delivery, etc. but, as explained further down, serious doubts can be formulated regarding the representativeness, and even the validity of

many of these studies. Moreover, the number of both researchers and studies was small, with very few replications of experiments. In terms of actual achievements in gaining better insight into interpreting processes, results are rather disappointing. 1.3 From the beginning of the seventies to the mid-eighties: The practitioners come in Towards the end of the sixties, more interpreters were attracted towards interpreting research. Ingrid Pinter (Kurz) from Vienna was the first conference interpreter (and psychologist) who defended a Ph.D. dissertation on interpretation (1969). In the following years, there were numerous other studies: more than 20 M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations on interpretation were defended in the seventies and eighties (see AIIC bibliography or the bibliographical lists in Trieste's The Interpreter's Newsletter). The main thrust in interpretation research and theory (IRT) came from Paris, with more than 10 doctoral dissertations completed between 1973 and 1990 - most of them at ESIT - a few books and many papers. The most salient features of research during this period can be summarized as follows: 1. Most of the research was done by practicing interpreters. 2. Most of the research was theoretical, not empirical. 3. Most of the research was compartmentalized: except for the ESIT group, researchers worked in isolation, and often were not aware of each other's studies. This was due to: a. b. c. d. Linguistic problems Political obstacles Personal attitudes A lack of training in scientific research methods. Developments during this period can be summarized as follows: - A number of ideas on the process of interpreting, developed mostly by the ESIT group in Paris, crystallized into a dogma and gained weight in the community of practitioners cum researchers (hereafter "practisearchers"), most of whom were also interpretation teachers.

The major principle underlying the whole structure was that interpretation is based on the meaning, message or sense in the SL speech, not on words or linguistic structures. The interpreter does not transcode SL words into TL words, but extracts the 'message' of the SL speech as an ordinary listener would, and then reformulates it into the TL without referring to the SL as such. The "Thorie du sens", as it was named by its proponents, also considers that speech comprehension and speech production are virtually automatic (effortless) if working languages are mastered fully. As a consequence, characteristics of the SL and the TL as such are irrelevant to the interpretation process, and so are contrastive studies of languages. Along similar lines of reasoning, interpreters do not produce speeches reflecting linguistic equivalences, but statements based on a comprehension process followed by a separate production process in specific communication situations. Studies that do not take into account the full natural interpreting environment, both linguistic and extralinguistic, are not valid. It follows that in the eyes of "Thorie du sens" proponents, the experimental approach is not valid in interpretation research. These ideas were used in developing interpretation training strategies. Interpretation students are supposed to have full mastery of their working languages upon admission to school. Training consists in interpretation exercises. The emphasis is on comprehension of the content of the SL speech and on the quality of the TL speech as such, not on linguistic equivalences. As regards actual research results during this period, several models of interpreting were developed, including information processing oriented ones (Moser 1978, Gerver 1976) and a processing-capacity oriented "EffortModel" by Gile (see for instance Gile 1990), and a number of ideas were formulated on training, on processes, on the differences between interpretation of ad-libbed speeches and speeches read from texts (Djean Le Fal 1978), and on other aspects of interpreting. However, there was little interaction between researchers and little empirical evidence, experimental or

observational, to support hypotheses against conflicting ideas and to drive research forward. 1.4 The 'Renaissance' In November 1986, the Scuola Superiore per Interpreti e Traduttori of the Universita degli Studi di Trieste convened a large conference on the theoretical and practical aspects of teaching interpretation. During this conference, a number of ideas in the prevailing dogma were publicly challenged (see Gran and Dodds 1989), and calls were made for more cooperation with researchers from other disciplines. This conference marked the start of a new period, which has the following characteristics: 1. Most of the research work is still done by practicing interpreters, but they are increasingly attempting to use findings and ideas from studies on written translation and from the cognitive sciences. Some cooperative projects are conducted with scientists from other disciplines (see in particular Gran and Fabbro 1987, Tommola & Niemi 1986, Kurz - in this volume), and there are more and more calls to cooperate with such experts. 2. There are increasing calls for more empirical studies. The number of empirical studies has increased dramatically over the past few years (see Gran and Taylor 1990 and issues N. 2 to 4 of The Interpreter's Newsletter of the Trieste school). 3. There is increasing communication between interpretation researchers. The Trieste school has largely contributed to this communication through its journal, The Interpreter's Newsletter. AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters, set up a Research Committee which has been compiling and updating an interpretation bibliography. An international network for information on interpretation research (IRTIN) was set up at ISIT in Paris. Former East Block countries are opening up, and the Japanese have started communicating with the West thanks to the efforts of Masaomi Kondo in Tokyo. 4. This movement has been accompanied by a more open-minded attitude on the part of practisearchers. This movement seems to be due to the larger

number and weight of 'second generation researchers', whose attitude is different from their elders', more than to a change in the latter's position. In particular, while research activity in Trieste, Vienna, Brisbane and Tokyo has increased, ESIT has been keeping a low profile over the past five years or so, with very few research papers.
2. Opening up in interpretation studies - what for? The words "opening up" have a positive moral connotation, but it seems appropriate to look at the issue not so much morally as pragmatically. Most researchers would probably agree that the medium and long term objective of present day interpretation research is to gain a better understanding of interpretation processes. In that respect, the 'opening up strategy' can be weighed against a more protective attitude. 2.1 Opening up within the practisearchers' community The basic advantages of increased communication and cooperation between researchers within any field are obvious. In the case of interpretation research, there is an added important geographical element: because of the small number of conference interpreters and because of psychological barriers, it is very difficult to gather large samples of interpreters for empirical studies. Cooperative research makes it possible to increase sample sizes and to increase the number of controlled variables by pooling together local samples. 2.2 Opening up to the scientific community at large It can be argued that initially, there was a risk involved for practisearchers in entering the gravitational field of much larger disciplines such as the cognitive sciences: the smaller mass might have been 'swallowed' by the larger mass and lost its identity and purpose. In that respect, setting up a separate discipline and developing it until it reached a critical mass of its own may have been a wise choice. On the other hand, closing one's mind to the methods and views that developed in other disciplines meant either losing the benefit of their relevant results, or losing time in re-discovering them. In the case of IRT, this protective attitude also extended to other paths followed by researchers in the same discipline. It is risky to speculate on past history, but two observations can be made regarding the consequences of the protective trend which was dominant in the seventies and early eighties: 1. Because of the very nature of scientific research, which progresses on the basis of numerous inputs and their interaction, the absence of such interaction could only result in a relative impoverishment of results. In the case of interpretation, we believe it led to stagnation throughout the period during which the 'isolationists' dominated the interpretation scene. In particular, the interesting work that was done by isolated investigators in various countries, including Gerver, L. Anderson, Mackintosh, S. Lambert and others remained virtually unknown, while dozens of publications continued to repeat over again the same assertions and counter-assertions on such important questions as the

appropriateness of work into the B language, the importance of learning consecutive before simultaneous, or the language-specificity of interpretation. Moreover, interpretation theory remained very Eurocentric in the West, with ideas that would probably have developed differently had the dominant stream been aware of problems posed by Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and other non-European languages as well as some East-European languages. 2. Another consequence was an almost total interruption of IRT activity by 'outsiders' such as psychologists and psycholinguists after the early thrust of the sixties. We believe that the practisearchers' outright rejection of such 'outsiders' and of their research methods had much to do with it. What is the potential value of such 'outsider's' contributions? Some practisearchers consider it has none. Their criticism bears on two points: the outsiders' methods, in particular their experimental approach and attempts at quantification, which they oppose on classical grounds well known in the behavioural sciences, and their lack of understanding of the nature of interpreting, which has led to a number of serious weaknesses in their research, in particular on the following points (for a more complete discussion, see Stenzl 1983 and Gile 1991): - Subjects in their experiments are often interpreting students or even 'bilinguals' with no training or professional experience in interpreting; - Experimental conditions and tasks are not representative of interpretation (translation of isolated sentences or even words, work from and into languages not in the interpreter's usual combination, 'speeches' not representative of actual conference speeches, etc.) - Performance assessment is inadequate, especially as regards errors. We believe most of this criticism is at least partly justified. The question is whether such problems are inevitable, in other words, whether they are inherent to the working methods, ideas and constraints prevailing in the cognitive sciences, and in particular in cognitive psychology and in psycholinguistics. Our opinion is that there is no reason why 'outsiders' should not understand explanations on the philosophy of interpreting as seen by practitioners and on the latters intuitive assumptions on the process. Such explanations could be a good remedy to a number of methodological weaknesses. On the other hand, in the cognitive sciences, the dominant research approach is experimentalistic and involves attempts to control all variables. Clearly, it is very difficult to reconstruct in the laboratory an environment representative of all interactions occurring in real-life interpreting situations. In our opinion, this does not mean that experimental research is not valid, but steps should be taken so that it is as representative as possible. In particular, comparisons can be carried out between experimental results and observational findings, obtained under authentic field conditions. Moreover, on the practisearcher's side, there are weaknesses which suggest the contribution of 'outsiders' could be very valuable:

- Interpreters have first hand knowledge of interpretation, but very few have real expertise in disciplines such as cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics and neurology. Reading a few books and papers is not enough to turn them into full-fledged cognitive scientists. This means that they lack the foundation to interpret correctly the phenomena they observe in speech comprehension and speech production, and that they could benefit from progress achieved in these disciplines by expert researchers. - As mentioned in Section 1.2, most practisearchers, motivated, perceptive and intelligent as they are, have not undergone specific training in scientific research. More than technical methods, they seem to be lacking scientific discipline in applying rigorous critical thinking in their investigations (see Jensen 1985, Gambier 1986, Toury 1991, Gile 1991). Some guidance from 'professional researchers', who are used to the discipline of research, and whose very lack of familiarity with the field of interpretation may lead them more easily to the questioning of ideas that practitioners take for granted, may be very constructive. - Another point, mentioned by Stenzl (1983:42) and Shlesinger (1989:8), is an attitude problem. The famous "experimenter's effect" is liable to be much stronger in practisearchers, who are trying to raise the social status of interpreting by showing that it is an intellectual profession for an elite, than in neutral 'outsiders'. - Last not least, practicing interpreters do not have as much time for research as 'professional researchers'. Neither do they have the research infrastructure that full-time researchers or academics have. 3. What type of action? As mentioned in Section 1.3, it would seem that at present, IRT is moving away from the protective approach and towards a more "open" direction. This is a natural evolution of the situation: A new generation of interpretation theoreticians and researchers is emerging. The first generation pioneers had personality, ambition and drive, and because they were so few, some of them found themselves in academic positions which were higher than what their actual academic training and research know-how should normally allow, which may help explain their defensive position now, which younger practisearchers do not have. There does not seem to be a reason for the ongoing trend to change, but a number of steps may help strengthen it. 3.1 Actions within the I/T community Two directions could be followed: making information more widely available, and aiming at sensitizing young researchers to the potential value of this information. The first involves setting up information/communication structures. Networks such as IRTIN are one example. So are I/T research associations, in particular the European Society for Translation Studies. I/T journals are obviously very useful. The format of TRANSST and of the IRTIN Bulletin are particularly suited to the dissemination of information on research activities and publications. I/T congresses are also a useful vehicle, depending on the way themes and papers are selected. In this respect, the theme "Translation studies, an interdiscipline" of the

present conference is an excellent choice. Sensitizing young researchers to the value of such information is a pedagogical task, which should be performed by teachers and research supervisors, in particular in the framework of courses on I/T theory and research courses in doctoral programs. In schools where graduation theses are part of academic requirements, students feeling no inclination towards original research could be encouraged to choose 'information subjects': their theses could be reviews of the literature on specific questions, comparative analyses of schools of thought, of authors, etc. Teachers and research supervisors should point out that ideas, theories and evidence from written translation and from the cognitive sciences are relevant and show why. 3.2 Cooperative actions with cognitive and other scientists Besides reading the work of researchers in the cognitive and other relevant disciplines, more aggressive strategies can also help: 1. Cognitive scientists could be invited to lecture in interpretation conferences. The NATO conference (Gerver and Sinaiko 1978), could have been very productive, had the interpreters been more open-minded. A similar conference would probably be much more successful now. 2. Cognitive scientists could be invited to lecture in interpretation schools. Whenever possible, they should be encouraged to prepare lectures tailored to the needs of interpretation. This would lead them through a selection process that would bring out the most relevant parts of their discipline. 3. Young researchers from relevant disciplines could be encouraged to undertake interpretation research, and offered assistance in both information and logistics. 4. Joint projects could be undertaken with such researchers. However, two caveats may be appropriate. One problem is that practisearchers do not speak the same language as cognitive scientists, as becomes painfully clear time and again when such scientists are approached for cooperation and when they take part in editorial committees or in committees assessing doctoral or other research work in interpretation studies: the questions and issues that interpreters consider important often seem totally devoid of interest to cognitive scientists and vice versa. It may take some effort to find convergence areas. Secondly, Interpretation research is still in its initial stages, with very little evidence, far too flimsy to build an interpretation theory, let alone a 'general translation theory' based on interpretation theory. When practisearchers approach scientists they wish to cooperate with, they should be aware of that. Unlike Seleskovitch and Lederer (1989:246), we believe cognitive scientists are working with more precision, logic and depth than practisearchers. The mouse can well invite the elephant for a stroll in the desert. But it should not claim it raises a larger cloud of dust than its companion. REFERENCES

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Moser, Barbara (1978) "Simultaneous Interpretation: A Hypothetical Model and its Practical Application", in Gerver, David & Sinaiko, H. Wallace (eds.) 1978, 353-368 Paneth, Eva (1957) An investigation into Conference Interpretation, M.A. Thesis, University of London, 159 pages Pinter, Ingrid (1969) Der Einfluss der bung und Konzentration auf Simultanes Sprechen und Hren, unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Vienna, 167 pages Rozan, Jean-Franois (1956) La prise de notes en interprtation conscutive, Genve: Georg, 71 pages Seleskovitch, Danica & Lederer, Marianne (1989) Pdagogie raisonne de l'interprtation, Paris: Didier Erudition, 281 pages Shlesinger, Miriam (1989) Simultaneous Interpretation as a Factor in Effecting Shifts in the Position of Texts on the Oral-Literate Continuum, unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Tel-Aviv Stenzl, Catherine (1983) Simultaneous Interpretation - Groundwork towards a Comprehensive Model, M.A. thesis, University of London, 58 pages Tommola, Jorma & Niemi, P.(1986) "Mental load in simultaneous interpreting: an on-line pilot study", in Evensen, L. (ed.) Nordic Research in Text Linguistics and Discourse Analysis, Trondheim: Tapir, 171-184 Toury, Gideon (1991) "Experimentation in Translation Studies: Achievements, Prospects and some Pitfalls", in Sonja Tirkkonen-Condit (ed.), Empirical Research in Translation in Translation and Intercultural Studies, Tbingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 45-66