Integrating Technology into Interpreter Training Courses:

A Blended Learning Approach

By Marta Kajzer-Wietrzny & Maria Tymczynska (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland)


In the context of reduced contact hours at many training institutions, interpreting students and their trainers turn to Computer Assisted Interpreter Training (CAIT) solutions to support their learning and teaching experience. However, they need guidance so as not to be overwhelmed by the wealth of options available. In this article we present different CAIT tools for both in- and out-of-class practice including websites, speech repositories, video corpora, interpreter training software, course management systems (CMS), video conferencing tools and a self-contained 3D virtual learning environment with bespoke pedagogical materials. We then specify which CAITs can be used to train particular skills in blended settings and at what phase of the interpreting assignment (preparation, interpreting, reflection). Finally, we present how to teach those skills using CAITs in blended learning pathways. The pathways we suggest include individual practice with prepared materials in a 3D environment (short consecutive), collaborative video conferencing practice in role-plays (longer consecutive with notes), and CMS-aided conference simulations which may also involve clients of interpreting services (simultaneous interpreting). Informed by the idea of guided autonomy, the pathways are intended to foster both individual and collaborative learning in situated scenarios to ensure a steady improvement of students’ interpreting performance and to increase their professional awareness.

Keywords: blended interpreter training, CAIT tools, guided autonomy, situated learning, collaborative learning

©inTRAlinea & Marta Kajzer-Wietrzny & Maria Tymczynska (2014).
"Integrating Technology into Interpreter Training Courses: A Blended Learning Approach"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Challenges in Translation Pedagogy
Edited by: Maria Piotrowska & Sergiy Tyupa
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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1. Computers in interpreter training

Students of interpreting (irrespective of the stage or type of training) need adequate self-study opportunities and learning resources which would allow them to learn about and practice interpreting in varied communication settings. Yet, students do not always have access to suitable training materials (Sandrelli 2005: 1). In the context of reduced contact hours this need has become even more pressing, making both students and their teachers turn to explore the training possibilities offered by various Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools.

The idea of Computer Assisted Interpreter Training (CAIT) emerged in the mid-90s as a spin-off from Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and centred at the very beginning on providing e-learning materials for interpreter training. The first generation CAIT tools took the form of speech banks, such as IRIS (Interpreters’ Information System, University of Trieste, 1999, see Carabelli 2003) or the more elaborate MARIUS (University of Granada, 2003; see Boéri and de Manuel Jerez 2011). The speech banks were well-organised databases of audio, video and text materials classified by the type of interpreting and/or stage of interpreter training. Video-based resources and pedagogic materials were also developed for particular forms of interpreting. For example monologues and bilingual role-play dialogues were created for short consecutive interpreting at the Copenhagen Business School (Hansen and Shlesinger 2007). The pedagogical materials included background documents, texts for sight translation, PowerPoint presentations, glossaries and bespoke tasks and exercises which were accessible from a dedicated e-learning platform. There were also successful attempts to develop authoring programs for interpreting training. For example Interpr-It provided practice materials and Italian audio-only dialogues for students to use in between face-to-face interpreting classes (University of Hull, 1995; see Cervato and de Ferra 1995).

While the present day CAIT tools continue to offer self-study interpreting materials, some CAIT solutions went even further to create life-like interpreting scenarios which require collaboration between students. One of the primary aims of the EVIVA project[1] is precisely to investigate different ICT-based solutions (3D virtual worlds, videoconference- and video-based environments)·with regard to how they support individual and collaborative learning processes with prepared content and in live interactions in business and community interpreting training.

Whether they are meant for individual or collaborative practice, CAIT tools are usually ‘seen as a useful integration to traditional methods, not as a replacement of interpreting classes. However, the implementation of such software tools [does] require a shift in the educational approach’ (Sandrelli 2005: 5). In this article we first specify which CAITs can be used to train particular skills in blended settings and at what phase of the interpreting assignment (preparation, interpreting, reflection), and then propose three pathways for situated interpreter training which promote student autonomy and collaboration.

2. Overview of CAIT tools

In addition to websites and interactive online resources, an entire new generation of CAIT tools is now available including intelligent speech repositories, interpreter training software resembling conference system simulators, and virtual interpreter training environments. Video conferencing tools and video corpora can also be used effectively in interpreter training.

2.1. Websites

ORCIT (Online Resources for Conference Interpreter Training)

Designed for trainers and beginning students of conference interpreting, this website features interactive pedagogical tools illustrating such key issues as active listening and analysis or public speaking and note-taking in a very accessible manner. The resources are available in many languages (English, German, Czech, Greek, Spanish, French, and Lithuanian) but they do not focus on language pair specific translation problems. They can be used by trainers to complement in-class instruction or by students in their self-study time.

Interpreter Training Resources

Created with students and trainers in mind, this website features articles and activities on issues related to interpreting practice and research which can be used in the beginning and intermediate stages of training. The rich and varied resources on consecutive and simultaneous interpreting contributed by conference interpreters list key skills to be mastered, present practical tips, direct students to interpreting activities and show examples of correct interpretations. In the note-taking section students will find the general principles of note-taking and practical tips helping them to capture the structure of utterances and organise margins and symbols, as well as bibliographic information with further exercises. The simultaneous interpreting section even contains suggestions on evaluation methods. The website is also replete with interpreting-related advice on using rhetorical devices, parallel texts or language corpora and ideas for organizing new vocabulary and terminology. There is a recommended reading list, links to interesting materials, press releases and practical suggestions for people starting a career in interpreting.

National Network for Interpreting (NNI)

Although this website does not contain materials for interpreting practice, students will find here practical and inspiring content about the interpreting profession. For example there is a map of skills valuable for interpreting (for example the ability to search for information or knowledge of current affairs) linked to clips demonstrating how those skills may be developed. The website also addresses the issue of time management and organization of an interpreter’s professional life by presenting viewers with a sample calendar of a freelance interpreter. NNI moderates a YouTube channel which includes short videos on various matters relevant to interpreting, such as developing an awareness of cultural differences.

2.2. Speech repositories


Speechpool contains speeches searchable by topic and type of interpreting (consecutive interpreting with notes, simultaneous interpreting). Before deciding to interpret a speech, users can read key terms and phrases and explore topic-related links. The repository enables users to grade speeches in terms of difficulty as well as add comments about the quality of recordings. Users can also upload recordings of their own speeches which then serve as practice material for others. The speeches are available in 12 languages with English as the main source language. The site is free but requires registration.

Speech Repository

Tailored towards the needs of trainee interpreters and candidates preparing for their accreditation tests, this repository features an extensive collection of videos including authentic speeches delivered in the EU institutions (press conferences, meetings of the European Parliament, and so on) and speeches prepared specifically for training purposes. Recordings can be browsed using a search engine which enables users to select the source language, the level of difficulty and the interpreting technique. All speeches contain a list of key words and phrases, some are accompanied by transcripts. The speech repository comes with a bespoke software which allows users to simultaneously play speeches and record their interpretations for evaluation purposes. The use of the repository requires registration and is partially coordinated by trainers in selected interpreter training centres.

2.3. Video corpora


The key advantage of video-based corpora in interpreter education is that they ‘provide systematic access to naturally occurring language’ supported by corpus-linguistic methods, which encourages exploratory and autonomous learning (Braun 2005: 47).The Elisa corpus[2] comprises 25 recordings of interviews with native speakers of different varieties of English including Scottish, Irish, and Australian English. The interviews focus on their professional career, a topic which offers good material for incipient interpreters. The demo available on the corpus website enables users to access selected interviews in their full video version supported with transcripts and a topic index. Moreover, the demo includes some pedagogical materials which, although originally designed for language learners, may also be an aid for interpreting students.


The Backbone corpus[3] is designed for foreign language learners and students of interpreting. It comprises ten-minute recordings of monolingual interviews with native speakers of various European languages (English, French, German, Polish, Turkish), which have been transcribed and annotated with regard to thematic and linguistic features (Kohn 2012). It also includes interviews with people who speak English as a lingua franca, which enables interpreting trainees to practice interpreting non-native speakers. Transcripts are available for each video and can be browsed with reference to various linguistic challenges such as cultural issues or specialist vocabulary.

2.4. Interpreter training software

Black Box

Black Box was ‘the first commercially available authoring program developed specifically for interpreter training’ (Sandrelli and de Manuel Jerez 2007: 288). It allows students to simultaneously play the source material and record their own interpretation. In their interpreting practice, trainees can bookmark particularly difficult passages to which they would like to return. They can even slow down the playback of individual recordings to facilitate comprehension. Black Box allows trainers to create individual interpreting activities or entire practice modules as well as annotate interpreting challenges such as particularly difficult expressions or terms. Other features include the possibility to monitor prosody (Black Box can display waveforms of recorded interpretations) and even perform sight translation (timed scrolling of source text makes students keep a steady pace).


SCICrecTM enables users of the Speech Repository (see above) to download speeches, interpret them simultaneously or consecutively and record their own interpretations. The SCICrecTM software encodes interpretation as an audio-only track in a separate file and then replays it together with the original recording in two audio channels: left and right. Users can control the volume in both channels separately and even mute one channel to check the quality of their interpretation or listen to the original speech. Students of interpreting may then use the recordings for self-evaluation or send them to their tutors. SCICrecTM is compatible with both Windows and Mac and supports extended character sets for Bulgarian or Greek.

2.5. Interpreter training in virtual environments

IVY – Interpreting in Virtual Reality

IVY[4] is a virtual learning environment devised to support students in the initial stages of business and community interpreting training (Ritsos et al. 2012; Braun et al. 2013). Developed within an already existent 3D environment called Second Life (SL), this complex tool allows registered users to access the IVY island as avatars and practice dialogue interpreting in three working modes: the interpreting mode, the live mode and the exploration mode.

In the first mode students work with monologue- and dialogue-based materials which are situated in credible interpreting settings and based on authentic recordings[5]. Before they start interpreting, students read a brief to learn about the details of their assignment. By outlining the roles of the participants, the location of the interaction, and the main issues to be discussed, interpreting briefs set prepared materials in the context of life-like interpreting interactions which helps students to identify with the assignment by increasing its authenticity. Prepared materials come with transcripts and sets of bespoke pedagogical activities which help students to prepare for and reflect on their interpreting practice (Chmiel et al. 2012).

Students may also work in the live mode which makes it possible for a number of users to meet online and hold virtual meetings or even organise mock conferences. Such online meetings can be held between students alone but they can also include potential clients of interpreting services.

The exploration mode is primarily designed for the clients of interpreting services. It helps them to get acquainted with interpreter's work and prepares them for cooperation with interpreters in multilingual meetings.

2.6. Videoconferencing tools

Google Hangout

Although not developed with interpreter education in mind, free video conferencing tools may also be used in interpreter training. Tutors may engage students in interpreting video conferences between potential clients of interpreting or encourage students to take part in simulated meetings to practice interpreting. Once introduced by the tutor, the tool may be used outside the interpreting classroom to provide interpreting students with additional practice opportunities. The key benefit of free VC tools is that there is no need for the participants of the video conference to possess a professional VC system, which makes it available to a larger number of users in remote locations. The advantage of using Google Hangout is that together with other tools offered by Google (drive, social network) it can be adapted to serve as a course management system (Erkollar and Oberer 2011: 572). There are also recording options within Google Hangout: videos can be recorded on Google+ but they have to be streamed over YouTube, which makes them publicly available. Tutors and students may, however, resort to external recording options using either screen capture or audio recording software.

2.7. E-learning platforms (Course Management Systems)


Moodle is an open-source Course Management System (CMS) offering different activity modules and resources that enable educators to make their courses more collaborative. Like VC tools, Moodle was not designed for interpreter training, but it may be easily adapted to serve this purpose. ‘O]nline learning activities incorporating multimedia, such as audio and video presentations and animations [may be used] to create an effective collaborative learning environment while addressing a variety of learning styles’ (Tymczyńska 2009: 148), which is particularly relevant in interpreter training courses. Moodle can be used by tutors to organize practice materials, give instructions and provide students with links to different ICT tools and other resources to help them to prepare for interpreting assignments. It can also be employed to engage students in online collaborative glossary building, forums and chats (see Fictumová 2004: 9–21). Finally, Moodle keeps track of user activity which may be useful for assessment purposes.

This overview served to demonstrate the different possibilities that CAIT tools offer to interpreting trainees in their self-study and to their tutors who can use them to enrich their teaching repertoire. The solutions presented here support students’ interpreting practice and foster their professional awareness.

3. Training specific skills with CAIT tools

CAIT tools can be employed during different phases of the interpreting assignment. Some of them are particularly useful for preparation while others are applicable to almost any phase but with a focus on training different discrete skills. Table 1 presents ways of applying CAIT tools to the preparatory, interpreting and reflective phases of the assignment.


Interpreting phases and related skills

CAIT tools

Specific uses




  • context
  • purpose


  • register
  • terms of address
  • background reading
  • term search
  • glossary building



  • consulting materials for background reading and links to other online resources
  • practising with similar recordings
  • collaborating on glossary building

Multilingual Speeches, Speechpool

  • consulting lists of challenging terms and expressions


  • practising with similar recordings
  • searching the corpus (for example: lexical search)

IVY (interpreting mode)

  • reading briefs
  • completing preparatory activities


IVY (live mode)

  • reading instructions for role-plays
  • preparing for assigned roles

Google Hangout

  • reading instructions for role-plays
  • preparing for assigned roles


  • active listening and analysis
  • note-taking
  • working memory training
  • target speech production: monitoring accuracy, fidelity, grammar, intonation and prosody
  • stress management


IVY (interpreting mode)

  • interpreting monologues and multilingual dialogues

Multilingual Speeches,


  • interpreting speeches designed for simo/consec and rated for difficulty


  • interpreting recordings of authentic monolingual interviews in different languages incl. ELF

Black Box, SCICrecTM

  • interpreting with advanced recording options
  • training paced sight translation in Black Box
  • monitoring prosody in Black Box


IVY (live mode)

  • interpreting live role-plays (international collaboration possible)
  • practicing stress management
  • training in a 3D avatar-based environment

Google Hangout

  • interpreting live role-plays (international collaboration possible)
  • practising stress management
  • video conferencing training


  • reflection on preparation and practice
  • self-assessment
  • peer-assessment


IVY (interpreting mode)

  • completing reflective activities
  • consulting transcripts

Multilingual Speeches,


  • consulting transcripts (available for selected materials)


  • consulting transcripts

Black Box, SCICrecTM

  • monitoring prosody in Black Box
  • advanced replay options in SCICrecTM
  • sending interpretations to tutors via SCICrecTM


IVY (live mode)

  • participating in reflective sessions with tutors and/or peers

Google Hangout

  • participating in reflective sessions with tutors and/or peers

Table 1. Using CAIT tools to practise interpreting skills at different phases of the interpreting assignment

The table points to the fact that an e-learning platform can accommodate diverse resources and pedagogical activities. The collection and organisation of such content can be laborious, but it must be stressed that e-learning platforms are very efficient for this purpose and, unlike other tools, they allow tutors to modify course content to suit students' needs at different stages of training.

Although there are few free tools for live interpreting practice, those presented here can be exploited in different ways, for instance in live interactions with potential clients of interpreting. Alternatively, role-plays among students can target specific interpreting challenges.

Authentic speeches from repositories and other resources tend to be more challenging and so they are suitable for the more advanced students. Yet, such materials usually lack a pedagogical embedding (briefs, activities).

Given the number of CAIT tools and their functionalities, students need pedagogical guidance to learn which tools to use at a particular phase of interpreting practice and which skills to focus on. This was visible in the pedagogical evaluation of IVY whose outcomes highlighted the importance of clear and direct instructions to help students to make pedagogically useful choices (Tymczyńska et al 2013: 30).

The best way to provide students with guidance is in blended settings. Tutors need to state clearly the learning goals behind each interpreting session and the skills which are meant to be practiced. This can first be done in class and then reinforced by specifically designed online learning resources. For example, when the goal is to practice active listening and analysis prior to consecutive interpretation, students’ activity in class can be continued in their self-study with repositories. Here, tutor guidance involves the selection of online practice materials and the provision of pedagogical guidelines.

4. Pathways for blended interpreter training

In its current form CAIT tools provide ample opportunities for autonomous individual and collaborative learning. The best way for the tutor to provide students with guidance is in blended settings: this refers both to autonomous individual practice addressing individual interpreting styles (Kajzer-Wietrzny 2013) and to autonomous collaborative practice. Interpreting tutors may encourage students to integrate different CAIT tools into their interpreting practice. This can be organized in a number of ways. Below we present three sample pathways that students may follow under tutor guidance or supervision.

Pathway 1: Individual practice in IVY

Focus: short consecutive without notes

This pathway is envisaged for individual practice sessions especially at the beginning of interpreter training as part of home assignments which can later be discussed in class with regard to interpreting challenges and possible interpreting strategies. In this particular scenario, student’s task is to prepare, complete and reflect on an assignment in IVY. Interpreting assignments in IVY involve working with bilingual interviews or monologues divided into short chunks (suitable for consecutive interpreting without notes).

Having accessed the IVY Island in Second Life and selected the desired language combination and practice materials, the student teleports to the appropriate location, reads the interpreting brief and carries out preparatory activities. There are generic and language specific activities. The former raise students’ awareness of diverse interpreting issues, the latter foster anticipation of language- and culture-specific aspects of the interpreting assignment. Once prepared, the student launches external recording software to save their interpretation for reflective activities. At this point the student interprets the selected monologue/dialogue without notes paying attention to the issues discussed in the preparatory activities. Reflection on the interpreting assignment constitutes a very important part of the interpreting practice and in IVY it is aided by generic and scenario-specific reflective activities. At this stage, students may listen to their rendition, evaluate its accuracy by consulting the transcript of the original, consider the efficiency of the strategies applied, analyse their intonation, fluency, and so on.

A similar pathway would also be possible with the use of Black Box or a Course Management System, but it would be necessary for the tutors to feed those tools with relevant pedagogic materials first.

In this pathway students’ autonomous practice (including preparation and reflection) is aided by tutor guidelines and bespoke pedagogical materials. The IVY solution is unique compared to other CAIT tools as it provides students with a self-contained virtual learning environment. Not only do students practice interpreting in life-like scenarios, but they also analyse interpreting briefs and complete learning activities which present them with interpreting-related tasks, questions, and problems to be solved. By mirroring real-world communicative events (interpreting situations and conditions), this environment fosters students’ self-paced and self-monitored autonomous practice (see Tymczyńska et al. 2013). The IVY environment may be used to aid the development of diverse discrete interpreting skills (such as memory training or fluency in target text production). Dialogue- and monologue-based scenarios can also help interpreting trainees to deal with the continued switching of language direction, instances of weaker coherence, self-repairs and asides which are characteristic features of spontaneous speech. More importantly, however, such scenarios can be used to develop an awareness of professional situations: by working with interpreting briefs, preparatory and reflective activities students learn how to prepare for and reflect on their interpreting assignments much the same way as an interpreter does in real life (see Braun and Slater forthcoming).

As a further step, interaction and communication management skills can be practised in live settings which favour dialogic interaction in collaboration.

Pathway 2: Collaborative practice in Google Hangout

Focus: longer consecutive with notes

This pathway is envisaged for collaborative practice as part of home assignments once students have mastered the basics of interpreter-mediated communication working with prepared materials. In this pathway students prepare and carry out a role-play in Google Hangout and then analyse their performance with their peers and/or tutor in an online or in-class reflective session.[6]

Students can practice a role-play scenario specifically assigned by the tutor or choose a role-play from a list provided earlier. To authenticate the scenario, every role-play contains a short description introducing the context of the interaction, the participants and the main topics to be discussed. The non-interpreting role-players are provided with scenario-specific instructions and sample resources to prepare for their roles. Their task is to come up with a detailed list of issues to be discussed and to prepare a brief for the interpreter(s) including information about the interpreting assignment, expected terminology, and so on. In addition to the brief from the role-players, the interpreters are also provided with scenario-specific instructions. Prior to the online enactment, students do background reading and prepare relevant terminology. The online interpreting interaction is video-recorded (either using internal Google Hangout recording options or a dedicated screen capture application). After the role-play students analyse the recording and discuss aspects related to their performance and to social interaction such as turn-taking. Initial spontaneous reflection can take place among the students alone, it may also include the tutor who can prompt students' recall of selected challenging passages and encourage reflection on the efficiency of strategies they applied. Alternatively, the tutor may watch the entire recording and provide students with feedback during an in-class reflective session.

Collaborative and situated learning (see Kiraly 2000; 2005) have the potential to engage groups of students working to attain the same goal. In the case of consecutive interpreting, collaborative settings enable students to practice dialogic interaction. They can learn efficient turn-taking strategies, ways of negotiating meaning and coping with misunderstandings by asking for clarification. In addition to co-ordinating the interaction, students also practise remote interpreting. The use of video-conferencing technology creates perfect conditions for learning to cope with such challenges as overlapping speakers or lower quality of the audio and video signal. In video conferencing student have a limited view of the speakers which means that they need to learn to interpret speakers’ non-linguistic signals based solely on the facial expressions and gestures which are visible from the screen. In collaborative online practice students can also monitor and give feedback on their peers’ performance which fosters the development of peer assessment skills and eliminates the additional stress factor related to tutor supervision. By working together, students can identify additional areas for improvement, which is difficult in solitary practice. To further authenticate this pathway, role-play scenarios for advanced students may include participants from foreign interpreter training institutions or even prospective clients of interpreting services who do not speak students’ mother tongue. In such cases this pathway may be adapted to fit an in-class role-playing scenario with non-interpreting participants in remote locations.

Pathway 3: In-class collaborative practice aided by Moodle

Focus: simultaneous interpreting

This pathway is envisaged for students’ collaborative practice sessions orchestrated in class and preceded by a thorough individual online preparation.

In this pathway, students prepare for and participate in a mock conference with potential clients of interpreting services (or other interpreting students if potential clients are not available), and then reflect on their interpreting assignment in a feedback session with their tutor.

Prior to the mock conference, the tutor uploads preparatory materials for students on Moodle. These may include links to online resources focussing on relevant skills such as research (ORCIT), analysis (NNI website) or reformulation (Interpreter Training Resources). Conference-related materials including sample opening statements, articles and audiovisual materials on similar topics from online newspapers, speech repositories or video corpora may also be uploaded. Based on the preparatory materials students create a glossary, either individually or in collaboration, and upload it to Moodle before the mock-conference for the tutor to review. The mock-conference takes place in an interpreting laboratory and is moderated either by the tutor or a conference participant. Speakers (students or clients) are interpreted simultaneously by trainees in booths and the trainees have to follow proper both behaviour. Interpretations are recorded.

After the mock-conference the tutor may moderate an in-class reflective session focussing on interpreting challenges. During the session the trainees (and possibly the clients) compare their experiences while the trainees discuss the efficiency of strategies they applied to deal with challenging passages (specialist terminology, managing social interaction). Such a general feedback session may be followed by individual student reflection after class, whereby students would listen again to the recordings of their interpreting performance and reflect on their major strengths and weaknesses.

Collaborative pathways are valuable because they increase the authenticity of the learning experience and allow students to test their interpreting skills in scenarios simulating real professional contexts. The more authentic such pathways are, the greater the chance that students become more engaged in their interpreting practice and have a better sense of achievement. Even in semi-authentic interpreting contexts students can increase their situational awareness because by engaging in collaborative interactions with their peers (and possibly clients) students modify and construct new knowledge and develop or refine existing skills and competences (Piaget 1955, Vygotsky 1978, Moser-Mercer, Class and Seeber 2005).

Like in Google Hangout, this pathway is also collaborative but it is supplemented with additional benefits offered by content management systems. Moodle allows the tutor to carefully instruct the students at the same time not limiting them to just one resource. Tutors may also design their own materials and successfully share them with students via CMS. They can upload notes with guidelines for practice and preparatory or reflective learning activities, enable online collaboration on glossaries and even carry out terminological quizzes. This makes the learning experience better structured (because all activities and resources are included within relevant modules, individual files can be hidden from view and shown when necessary) and more autonomous but leaves good opportunities for guidance. In contrast to self-contained environments like IVY, Moodle allows for the introduction of self-developed materials supporting collaborative interactions, but it also requires greater effort because content has to be created, uploaded and managed (Tymczyńska 2009: 157).

The pathways explore the notion of guided autonomy in both individual and collaborative interpreting practice using different CAIT tools. By working with credible or authentic scenarios students learn to actively co-construct new knowledge, practise interpreting and interpreting-related skills, discuss challenges and address their weaknesses in reflective sessions. Tutor guidance coupled with students’ growing responsibility for their own learning can help to motivate students to engage in regular and challenging interpreting practice.

5. Discussion

Integrating technology into interpreter training courses using a blended approach necessitates some pedagogical adjustment but it offers many advantages.

Organising blended interpreter training courses around the idea of guided autonomy entails that the traditional roles of the tutor and student need to be redefined. Much akin to self-directed learning in adult education (see Grow 1991), the role of the interpreting tutor also changes from that of authority and coach to that of motivator and guide, and even to that of facilitator, consultant and delegator depending on the extent to which students are able to self-direct their own learning. Therefore, tutors are advised to adapt their teaching and change roles where necessary (see Kiraly 2003). Interpreting students, on the other hand, need to use tutor guidance to their advantage and learn to organize and manage their own study time to achieve the desired learning outcomes (see Kelly 2005: 21–41).

Although there are many ways in which ICT tools may be used to facilitate situated interpreter training in blended settings, it can be argued that it takes time to develop authentic or credible interpreting scenarios and equip them with pedagogical materials (such as related PowerPoint slides or reflective activities). This is because tutors need to find appropriate interpreting materials online (see Kajzer-Wietrzny forthcoming), situate them in credible scenarios (provide interpreting briefs) and enrich them with preparatory and reflective activities. Alternatively, tutors can use a self-contained environment like IVY which already contains bespoke pedagogical materials. However, we would like to posit that it is worthwhile to integrate authentic recordings with pedagogical activities. It has been shown that trainees appreciate such materials because they make the interpreting practice more life-like, which increases the satisfaction from the learning experience and the motivation to develop discrete interpreting skills, professional awareness and self-assessment skills (Hansen and Shlesinger 2007; Tymczyńska et al. 2013; Braun and Slater forthcoming). Preparing role-play scenarios or mock-conferences for live interaction appears to be more demanding than working with prepared materials. Yet, such forms of interpreting practice offer greater authenticity and spontaneous interaction and have been warmly received by students in the pedagogical evaluation of virtual learning environments in the EVIVA project (in progress).

Another group of issues to be considered relates to course design. At a global level interpreter training in blended settings needs balance between online and in-class practice. At a local level tutors need to decide which CAIT tools are most suitable for out-of-class practice and which tools can be used in class. Such decisions depend on the curriculum and student needs. When students need advanced note-taking practice they will interpret longer chunks with complex syntax, numbers, and so on. Such practice can be carried out in class but very often due to reduced contact hours students will turn to speech repositories or IVY in their self-directed practice. In other words, the proportions between offline and online activities need to be adjusted to the needs of a course and individual students (see Garrison and Kanuka 2004: 96–7).

A related question involves proportions between students’ in-class and online activities in their final grade. It could be argued that regardless of the setting students’ interpreting performance should be given priority. However, preparatory and reflective tasks done either in class or online may also be graded. If tutors decide to grade glossaries or recordings of online interpretations, then their workload will increase substantially. Yet, if students are not asked to present hard evidence of their self-directed practice, they may not treat it seriously. Such questions need to be resolved by tutors or programme administrators.

Finally, when preparing courses in a blended setting tutors need to take two key factors into account: the so-called steep learning curve (see Sanchez 2007; Carr, Oliver and Burn 2010) and hardware problems. The former is inherent in all new technological solutions which require users to adapt to the new methods to reap benefits later. Some users get accustomed to novel technological solutions relatively quickly while for others initial difficulties may be discouraging. Tutors need to be aware of this and adjust their guidance so that students develop a flexible approach to technology and are able to come up with alternative solutions to their problems. In case of insufficient or malfunctioning student hardware tutors may decide to extend the deadline for an online assignment, make it accessible from university's computer lab or even enable its completion offline.

CAIT tools will soon become a necessity in interpreter education and tutors need to be trained to help students overcome technical obstacles to keep them engaged in the learning process and excited about using technology for interpreting practice. This will only be possible if tutors themselves are not disenchanted with technology and know how to successfully implement CAIT tools in their courses. It is therefore vital that tutors also receive appropriate training to sensitize them to students' needs in blended contexts. Such training could for example demonstrate how to provide guidance in on-site or online tutorials in addition to carrying out an induction session and providing users with instruction manuals.

Once appropriate adjustments have been made, this approach brings about unquestionable advantages to interpreter training by empowering students, providing them with collaborative training opportunities in life-like settings, enhancing their assessment skills and giving them a competitive edge on the technological end. Guided autonomy empowers students by fostering self-reliance, increasing their motivation and making them more responsible for the objectives, content and progress of their own learning process. Unlike traditional interpreter training courses which focused on reproducing the content of the source message, scenarios simulating client-interpreter interactions make students more aware of the social and professional aspects of interpreting. In-class and online role-plays or mock conferences additionally turn students’ attention to the pragmatics of polite interaction such as greetings and the exchange of pleasantries, turn-taking, or negotiation of meaning. Life-like scenarios aided by CAIT tools help to promote student engagement in the learning process. Finally, integrating technology into interpreter training courses teaches students digital literacy, a valuable skill on the labour market (for instance in remote interpreting).

The blended approach to interpreter training also empowers the tutors who can manage their courses more effectively. In-class hours may focus on new challenges and strategies and collaborative activities, while online practice may be more individualised and help students to improve in specific areas of difficulty identified in class. As regards assessment, students' online activity may be tracked as different CAIT tools indicate how frequently individual users log in to a service and how much time they devote to their practice. Such data may be helpful in providing individualised feedback and contribute to a more informed evaluation of the students (for instance students' weak performance could be associated with a lower frequency of practice).

6. Questions for further research

In the absence of sufficient hard data it is still unclear to what extent different CAIT tools aid learning processes and activities in individual and collaborative interpreter training. EVIVA, a follow-up project to IVY, aims to analyse the affordances of such tools and ascertain in how far they support work with prepared interpreting materials and role-plays. EVIVA will focus on 3D virtual worlds, videoconference- and video-based environments and analyse the learning processes of both interpreting students and clients of interpreting services taking into account the development of digital literacy.

The findings of EVIVA and similar projects will help to determine to what extent such prominent notions in translation and interpreting pedagogy as situated learning, autonomous learning (problem-solving) and the acquisition of digital literacy apply to virtual learning environments. It is hoped that the outcomes of such projects will serve to inform blended interpreter training pedagogy and may even be useful in fully online interpreter training courses.


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[1] EVIVA (Evaluating the Education of Interpreters and their Clients through Virtual Learning Activities), EU Lifelong Learning Programme 2013-14, project 531140-LLP-1-2012-1-UK-KA3-KA3MP; co-ordinator University of Surrey, UK; with financial support from the European Commission.

[2] The development of the ELISA corpus (English Language Interview Corpus as a second-Language Application) was supported by a young researcher grant (S. Braun), University of Tübingen 2003-04; see Braun (2006, 2010).

[3] BACKBONE (European Lifelong Learning project 143502-LLP-1-2008-1-DE-KA2-KA2MP, 2009-10; co-ordinator: University of Tübingen, Germany); with financial support from the European Commission.

[4] IVY (Interpreting in Virtual Reality), EU Lifelong Learning Programme 2011-13, project 511862-LLP-1-2010-1-UK-KA3-KA3MP; co-ordinator University of Surrey, UK; with financial support from the European Commission.

[5] Recordings available in IVY are based on authentic interviews from ELISA and Backbone.

[6] It is recommended that prior to the online enactment students practice role-plays in class to develop efficient turn-taking strategies, practise maintaining eye-contact and discuss interpreter positioning options. In class students should also learn about such important aspects of remote interpreting via VC tools as greetings, facial expressions, gestures and proper microphone management.

About the author(s)

Marta Kajzer-Wietrzny is Assistant Professor in the Department of Translation Studies, Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. Her research activity so far has focused mainly on corpus based interpreting studies, but she is also very interested in interpreting didactics which is connected with her work on two LLP projects: IVY (Interpreting in Virtual Reality) and EVIVA (Evaluating the Education of Interpreters and their Clients through Virtual Learning Activities).

Maria Tymczyńska is Assistant Professor in the Department of Translation Studies, Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. Her main research interests are the psycholinguistics of translation, the mental lexicon and processing in trilingual interpreters, and new technologies in translation and interpreting didactics. She is currently involved in two LLP projects: IVY (Interpreting in Virtual Reality) and EVIVA (Evaluating the Education of Interpreters and their Clients through Virtual Learning Activities).

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©inTRAlinea & Marta Kajzer-Wietrzny & Maria Tymczynska (2014).
"Integrating Technology into Interpreter Training Courses: A Blended Learning Approach"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Challenges in Translation Pedagogy
Edited by: Maria Piotrowska & Sergiy Tyupa
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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