Changing Paradigms and Approaches in Interpreter Training: Perspectives from Central Europe

edited by Pavol Šveda (2021)

New York: Routledge, pp. 270+IX, ISBN 9780367518912

Reviewed by: Vorya Dastyar

One distinguishing feature of training programs for interpreters, in terms of setting, is to decide if the training should be tailored to the needs of conference interpreters or community interpreters. While conference interpreter training is no longer exclusively focused on, training curricula are evolving to adjust to the requirements of other interpreting settings in terms of emerging skillsets. The book under review, focused on community interpreting, explores the current situation of interpreter training in Central Europe, and showcases methods and approaches to training interpreters in this part of Europe. The book represents a long-awaited attempt to establish a training paradigm for community interpreting, which still lacks professionalization in numerous countries across the globe.    

In the introduction, Pavol Šveda briefly discusses how the idea for this book developed from the Translation, Interpreting, Culture (TIC) conference held in Nitra in 2018, and limits its scope to interpreter training in the so-called V4 group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia), Austria and Slovenia. Šveda points out that in Central Europe, under the impact of immigration developments since 2015, the focus has now shifted towards training community interpreters, and that another important paradigm shift is the impending change in interpreting and interpreter training under the influence of COVID-19 pandemic.

In chapter one, Pavol Šveda and Martin Djovčoš draw a general picture of the historical developments in interpreter training in the multilingual context of Central Europe, and highlight the recent shift towards training community interpreters under existing socioeconomic circumstances. The situation of interpreter training in Central Europe changed after these countries acceded to the EU in 2004, and most of interpreter training is still under the impact of the heritage of Austro-Hungarian Empire. The authors discuss parallelism under the influence of EU and divergence stemming from national educational norms and standards, and socioeconomic development as characterizing factors of current interpreter training programs in Central Europe.

Part I focuses on community interpreter training programs in Central Europe, with important insights into issues of design, development, implementation, and revision of training curricula, best practices to be shared, and recent trends towards transformation in interpreter training, not to mention historical developments. Some chapters in this part, however, do not address the specific challenges of the initiatives introduced to meet emerging needs of the society at large. The challenges that lie ahead must be identified and overcome in order to produce satisfactory educational outcomes.      

Chapter two by Pavol Šveda and Helena Tužinská focuses on the general nature of public service interpreting in post-Communist Central Europe.  Relying on relevant examples and data from reports, the authors highlight the ineffective practices and common problems in interpreting for asylum seekers in V4 group and Ukraine, such as state authorities’ view of interpreting for immigrants, unavailability of qualified interpreters in relevant language combinations, and lack of (transparent) principles of professional ethics for community interpreters. Advocating a paradigm shift in viewing immigrants, the authors argue for the establishment of academic programs at undergraduate and graduate levels in line with the Bologna Process, and introduction of specialized training courses for community members interested in playing the role of communicative mediators.

Franz Pöchhacker dedicates chapter three to the developments in interpreter training curricula in Austria, and an analysis of relevant driving forces. The discussion includes the 1946 curricula with a sequential model for interpreting replaced by the 1972 Y-forked curriculum. Reform started under the impact of international academic context in the 1990s, with pedagogy enriched through collaborative work, and liaison and dialogue interpreting appearing for the first time in the 2003 and 2007 curricula, respectively. Pöchhacker thought-provokingly states that the reformed curricula may have become a double-edged sword: they might serve as good practice to be shared, or may struggle to follow fast developments, e.g. in ICT. Finally, Pöchhacker discusses the 2016 certificate-course initiative by the University of Vienna as highly promising for training in legal interpreting.

Ursula Stachl-Peier writes chapter four on developing a parallel course for sign language interpreting and community interpreter training through collaborative work in Austria, where conference interpreter training was prevailing for decades. Community interpreting enters the picture under the impact of the Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS) project aiming at the inclusion of ÖGS in the regular curriculum of the Department of Translation Studies at the University of Graz. Interpreter training is complemented by training of trainers (ToT), a 2003 interesting initiative by AIIC essential for the success of training programs. Curiously, however, Stachl-Peier does not address the specific challenges of ToT in terms of modern interpreter trainer’s profile/competence, and integration of technology into training programs (Dastyar 2019). The same issue arises in chapters seven and nine of this book.

In chapter five, Agnieszka Dominika Biernacka presents a case study on interpreter training at the University of Warsaw, where two postgraduate programs are offered, one on conference interpreting (EMCI) and lasting four semesters, and the other targeting public service interpreting and translation running for two semesters. In response to the technological turn in interpreting, blended learning is applied to interpreter training. However, introducing the technological component into training is left to the discretion of trainers, turning blended learning into a challenge in terms of learners’ potential interest in technology-assisted learning and emerging needs in Poland. In a survey on the state-of-the-art of blended learning in interpreter training and relevant needs analysis, trainers are found to mainly have a positive attitude towards it. The author makes out a good case for inclusion of blended learning in training curricula.

Ildikό Horváth dedicates chapter six to the evolution of interpreter training in Hungary under the impact of interpreting market, characteristics of trainees, teaching methodology, and relevant regulations. The late 1990s marked the establishment of the first conference interpreter training program in Hungary. With Hungary joining the EU in 2004, Hungarian became one of its official languages. Under the impact of the Bologna process, a combined interpreter and translator training program at the MA level was offered in 2009, with conference interpreter training still offered at the post-graduate level. Public service and court interpreter training was offered for the first time in 2014, and was reformed in 2016. A PhD-level Translation Studies program was established in Hungary in 2003, with interpreting becoming an increasingly popular subject of doctoral research at ELTE University.

Chapter seven by Ivana Čeňková focuses on new methodologies and training formats of interpreter training at the Institute of Translation Studies in Prague. Complementing the mandatory basic curriculum are two specializations on the MA program, one on conference interpreting and the other on community interpreting. Tracing the history of interpreter training in Czech Republic, Čeňková, focusing on conference interpreter training, discusses interesting training methods and formats, e.g. an intensive postgraduate EMCI course, mock conferences, and digital platforms.  Interesting student events are offered together with ToT seminars as a collaborative effort to interpreter trainers. Although Čeňková does not explicitly speak of moving away from teacher-centered instruction towards learner-centered education as an important shift in learning habits, her chapter is evidence of important efforts and initiatives in line with the same paradigm change.

Chapter eight is a contribution by Markéta Štefková on curriculum design for public service interpreting and translation (PSIT) in Slovakia, where a systematic approach to PSIT is lacking. PSIT fundamentals are in a grey area: Štefková reports poor quality of interpreting for immigrants by non-professional interpreters, and little need for training. Five universities offer interpreter training based on a traditional curriculum still lacking PSIT components. According to Štefková, this is because of little potential for specialization in interpreting or translation under the burden of other curricular components, or rigid accreditation process hindering training from responding to social needs. E-learning modules combined with intensive training in PSIT sector are offered, based on a comparison of PSIT in neighboring countries, Štefková’s professional background, and partnership with relevant institutions, resulting in Erasmus+ PACI project on training community interpreters.

In chapter nine, Nike K. Pokorn and Tamara M. Južnič draw on two nationwide surveys to examine whether interpreter training in the Republic of Slovenia corresponds to relevant social needs. One survey is on the pressing language-support needs in the Slovene healthcare system, and the other focuses on the language profile of conference and sworn interpreters. The results show that the training of interpreters working on the Slovene market is largely irrelevant to the current needs of the society in terms of the setting they work in, the languages spoken by newly arrived migrants, and migrant inclusion. To solve the problem, short-term specialized training for court interpreters is introduced by the University of Ljubljana, where ToT is offered as a collaborative effort to community interpreter trainers.

Part II shifts the focus from community interpreter training to motivation maintenance and enhancement of interpreting trainees, another topic at the TIC conference in Nitra. Like the rest of personality traits, motivation is subsumed under the general term soft skills, an under-researched area in aptitude and aptitude testing in Interpreting Studies (IS) (Dastyar 2019). Chapters under part II address the role of motivation in the interpreting performance and pedagogy, but leave out the validity of motivation as a predictive factor in aptitude testing, not to mention learner motivation factors of pursuit of training in interpreting. It would have been interesting to see this edited volume address these two main research strands.    

Chapter ten by Soňa Hodáková focuses on the impact of cognitive skills on interpreting quality and stability. Hodáková discusses the results of her pilot study on quality and stability of interpreting performance under the influence of personality traits, as well as the potential implications of the findings for teaching interpreting. Although the study has been conducted on a small sample of research subjects, the findings from quantitative data analysis indicate that there may be a link between cognitive skills and personality traits. Finally, the chapter author discusses possible implications of her research findings for interpreting performance and output.   

Chapter eleven by Miroslava Melicherčíková and Michael E. Dove presents the findings of an empirical study in Slovakia on interpreting quality and motivation. A questionnaire is applied to gather basic information on a sample of 81 translation and interpreting students in Slovakia, and an interpreting task is used to collect data on their interpreting performance. Output quality is assessed using propositional analysis, and evaluators are recruited to assess the recorded interpretations. The findings relate to the three hypotheses of the study. Acknowledging the limitations of propositional analysis in assessment, the chapter authors combine it with selecting adequate quality criteria using surveys, and an assessment sheet based on the literature. For more reliable results, the chapter authors could have combined propositional analysis with error analysis as an assessment approach (Bartłomiejczyk 2010; Dastyar 2019).

David Mraček and Petra Mračková Vavroušová have authored chapter twelve on the pedagogical implications of interpreting diary for trainees and trainers in the early stage of teaching consecutive interpreting. Through analysis of a corpus of 20 diaries, Mraček and Mračková Vavroušová aim at capturing data on the respondents’ learning experience. The chapter authors argue for trainer and trainee empowerment under the impact of learners’ diaries as self-reflection tools. The authors make a good case for (learner) empowerment, which was originally proposed by Kiraly (2000) in his social constructivist approach to translator education. Empowerment is also considered to be an important precept in translation and interpreting pedagogy.  

Chapter thirteen by Pavol Šveda concludes the book by summarizing its important discussions. Šveda highlights the need to adapt to the changing geopolitical and socioeconomic circumstances in Central Europe, and flexibility in study programs in terms of specialization and interdisciplinarity. The chapter author reminds us that, due to current low demand for new interpreters and under the impact of the pandemic on conference interpreting as an important paradigm shift, training programs should no longer exclusively focus on conference interpreting; rather, they need to respond to changing paradigms, emerging migration developments in new social contexts, and relevant needs, as documented in this edited volume.  

On the technical side, in places, there are typographical errors- “the” is used instead of “The” (p. 147, quoted paragraph, ll. 3); “es examiner” is used instead of “as examiner”- and grammatical inaccuracies- “conference training” is used instead of “conference interpreter training” (p. 255, para.4, ll. 1).

Overall, this edited volume offers fresh insights into both new developments and changing paradigms in interpreter training in Central Europe, and as concerns maintaining and boosting learner motivation. With its diversity of perspectives, the book engages the reader in the evolution of interpreter training in response to emerging training paradigms, and sociopolitical and socioeconomic change. This is recommended reading for directors of interpreter training programs, curriculum designers and developers, interpreting scholars, and doctoral students of interpreting.


Bartłomiejczyk, M. (2010) “Effects of Short Intensive Practice on Interpreter
Trainees’ Performance” in Gile, D., Hansen, G. and Pokorn, N. K. (eds) Why Translation Studies Matters. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 183– 194.

Dastyar, V. (2019) Dictionary of Education and Assessment in Translation and Interpreting Studies (TIS). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Kiraly, D. (2000) A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator
. Manchester: St. Jerome.

©inTRAlinea & Vorya Dastyar (2021).
[Review] "Changing Paradigms and Approaches in Interpreter Training: Perspectives from Central Europe", inTRAlinea Vol. 23
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