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Evaluating the Education of Interpreters and their Clients through Virtual Learning Activities

EU Lifelong Learning Programme, Project, 531140-LLP-1-2012-1-UK-KA3-KA3MP

The EVIVA project set out to evaluate virtual learning environments (VLEs) for the training of interpreters and for the education of professionals in business and public service contexts who (may) have to work with interpreters in their daily lives. Because of migration and mobility across Europe, there is currently a high demand for interpreting in business and public service contexts. One example is the increasing demand of legal interpreting as a result of Directive 2010/64/EU on the Right to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings, which had to be transposed into national law by the end of 2013. There is, however, a lack of training available for interpreting in these contexts, primarily because of the traditional focus of interpreter training institutions on conference interpreting and because of the broad range of language combinations and contexts in which business and public service interpreting is required.

In addition to a need for training interpreters, training for ‘clients’, i.e. those who work with interpreters, has been advocated. Recognising the particular requirements for interpreting in public service contexts, the final report of the European Language Council Special Interest Group on Translation and Interpreting for the Public Services (SIGTIPS) recommends to public service providers that ―staff should be trained to work with translators and interpreters (SIGTIPS: 2011: 22). Similarly, Article 6 of Directive 2010/64/EU states that the training of legal practitioners should include training on how to work with an interpreter.

Using ICT-based solutions can address the need for greater provision of training for interpreters in business and public service settings, not only from the point of view of providing wider access to training opportunities, but also from the point of view of making teaching resources in digital form (e.g. audio or video recordings in multiple languages) available and easily reusable. Although Ertl and Pöllabauer (2010) and Valero Garces (2009) rightly emphasise the importance for interpreting students to experience practice in real-life situations to complement classroom-based training (e.g. through internships), real professional practice is not always accessible for trainee interpreters. In such situations, ICTs can offer solutions for simulating real-life practice and can thus offer learners a similar experience of situatedness and authenticity. In particular, the use of ICTs in interpreter training also provides greater opportunities for interpreting students and their potential future clients—e.g. students in HE and vocational training studying law, medicine, hospitality, business and other subjects—to train together, by enabling them to interact live and simulate professional practice and thereby leading to a greater awareness of each other‘s role in the communication. Moreover, the use of ICTs in their training will help students to acquire digital competence.
It is clear that using ICTs—and particularly VLEs—in interpreter training has benefits, but many questions still remain unanswered about how efficient these different technologies are in the context of interpreter training and how the affordances of the different technologies can best be harnessed and maximised.

In accordance with this, the overall objective of the EVIVA project was to evaluate the educational opportunities that different types of VLE, which were deemed to be particularly useful in the interpreter training context, can offer trainee interpreters and users of interpreting services. This overall objective was divided into a number of specific objectives, namely:

  • i. To investigate:
    • a. the efficiency and affordances of the VLEs chosen, i.e. how they support different types of learning activities
    • b. the learning processes, i.e. what and how learners from diverse backgrounds learn by using the specified types of VLE
    • c. the user experience, i.e. the ability of the VLEs to simulate real-life/professional conditions to bridge the worlds of work and education
    • d. the ability of the VLEs to support the acquisition of digital competence as an important ‗by-product‘ of their use;
  • ii. To develop innovative evaluation methods for objectives 1a-d by combining traditional methods of assessing interpreter performance with research methods such as introspection, corpus analysis and visual analytics;
  • iii. To use the results of (i) and (ii) to formulate design recommendations and guidelines for best practice for VLEs in the context of training interpreters and their clients, drawing on blended learning and flipped classroom approaches.

As a wider aim, EVIVA sought to improve the education and training of interpreters and their clients. Given the current role of ICTs in professional interpreting, the evaluation of relevant VLEs was considered a key step towards achieving this aim. By evaluating educational solutions that reflect real-life situations, EVIVA aimed to contribute to bringing together the worlds of work and education. Using the context of educating and training interpreting students and their clients as a test bed, the outcomes of the project will inform the development and design of future VLEs and will enhance the learning opportunities for learners across different educational sectors.
In accordance with this, the main target groups of the project were interpreting students, users of interpreting (‘clients’), trainers of interpreters and clients as well as VLE developers.

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