Die waarde en uitdagings van diensleer vir tolkopleiding: die ervaring van die tolkopleidingsprogram aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch

Harold M Lesch

Abstract


Opsomming
Die behoefte aan doeltreffende kommunikasie in ʼn samelewing, saam met die taalwerklikhede van die openbare domein, noodsaak dat taaldienslewering in ʼn veeltalige land ʼn prominente rol speel. Gevolglik word die opleiding van professionele tolke aan ons tersiêre instellings noodsaaklik, aangesien die tolkpraktyk in ʼn veeltaligheidskonteks bevorder behoort te word. Tolkopleiers beskou blootstelling aan en ondervinding in die tolkpraktyk as ʼn onmisbare onderdeel van die opleidingsprogram vir beginnertolke. Hierdie artikel is ʼn voorafstudie wat fokus op die interaksie met taalgemeenskappe en diensleer vanuit die perspektief van tolkopleiding. Winston (2005:223) voer aan dat “practicum, service learning, and interacting with community groups all reinforce the underlying understanding that students need […] to learn through interactive, collaborative experiences with others”. Hierdie aktiwiteite is “student-centered learning activities that foster the development of critical thinking, decision-making, and self-assessment that are essential to interpreting effectively and competently” (ibid.). Kritiese denke, etiese besluitneming en selfassessering is kernvaardighede wat studente benodig vir die tolkpraktyk. Volgens die beginsels van gesonde gemeenskapsinteraksie moet diensleer nie as ʼn lukraak aktiwiteit beoefen word waar die studente vrye teuels gegee word nie, maar dit behoort ingebed te wees in ’n akademiese kursus en formeel geassesseer word. Studente behoort op so ʼn wyse na te dink oor die diensleeraktiwiteit dat hulle verdere begrip van en groter waardering vir die dissipline kry, sowel as ʼn verhoogde bewustheid van persoonlike eiewaarde en verantwoordelikheid teenoor die burgerlike samelewing ontwikkel (Bringle en Hatcher 1995:12). Teen hierdie agtergrond ondersoek die artikel die interaksie van die leerlingtolke met die taalgemeenskappe en die rol wat diensleer in hulle opleiding speel. Die diensleer in hierdie konteks is kursusgebaseerd en kredietdraend. Deur die tolkgebeure behoort die studente insgelyks meer kennis te bekom van en ervaring te verkry in die tolkpraktyk, maar ook in die waarde daarvan vir interkulturele kommunikasie. Die bereiking van hierdie uitkomste word beoordeel deur refleksie oor die diensleerervaring van die leerlingtolke. Die metodologie vir hierdie artikel behels ʼn teoretiese verkenning van die veld, ʼn kritiese ondersoek na die studente se ervaring soos deur hulleself opgeteken en laastens ʼn besinning oor die gepaardgaande uitdagings.

The value and challenges of service learning for interpreter training: the experience of the interpreting training programme at Stellenbosch University

Extended abstract

The quest for effective communication in society and the language realities of the public arena, necessitate that language service delivery in a multilingual country should play a prominent role. Consequently, the training of interpreting professionals becomes indispensable in our tertiary institutions, as interpreting practice in a multilingual context needs to be encouraged. Trainers of interpreters perceive exposure to and experience in the interpreting practice as an essential part of the training programme of these novice interpreters.

This article is a preliminary study that reflects on the role of interaction with the community and service learning in interpreter training. According to Winston (2005:223) “practicum, service learning, and interacting with community groups all reinforce the underlying understanding that students need […] to learn through interactive, collaborative experiences with others”. These activities are “student-centered learning activities that foster the development of critical thinking, decision-making, and self-assessment that are essential to interpreting effectively and competently” (ibid.). Critical thinking, ethical decision making, and self-assessment are core skills for students in interpreting. According to community interaction principles, service learning should not be seen as a random activity where students have carte blanche, but it should be embedded in an academic course and formally assessed. Students should reflect on the service learning activity in such a way that they gain further understanding and broader appreciation of the discipline, and a sense of personal value and civic responsibility (Bringle and Hatcher 1995:12).

Against this backdrop, this article investigates the interaction of the trainee interpreters with the language community and the role of service learning in their training. Through the interpreting experience, students should not only be able to gain more knowledge of and appreciation for the discipline, but also the value thereof for intercultural communication. Whether these outcomes are achieved, is assessed by reflection on the service learning encounter of the trainees. The methodology of this study constitutes a theoretical investigation of the field, a critical examination of the students’ experiences as documented by them, and lastly a reflection on the challenges involved.

It is envisaged that interaction with the community will contribute to an environment where student learning is enriched and research relevance is enhanced. It is argued that community interaction supports the institutional commitment to reciprocity, redress, development and transformation. This interaction can take on various shapes and forms within the context of higher education as highlighted in the article. These include, among others, community-based research, participatory action research, professional community service and service learning. In its fullest sense, community interaction is the combination and integration of teaching and learning (i.e. service learning). Different forms of community engaged learning can be identified. These forms may be placed on a continuum between two important distinctions, namely the primary beneficiaries of the service (i.e. the community or student) and the primary goal of the service (i.e. community service or learning).

Within the framework of Kolb’s cycle (1984:41) for the learning experience, one is fully aware of the educational advantages service learning has for the trainee interpreter. The service learning component for the interpreting students entails that students should deliver an interpreting service to various linguistic communities. Within an up-and-coming multilingual country, one would assume that it would be rather easy to obtain the appropriate sites to deliver such a service, but this is easier said than done. In the Western Cape there is a great need for liaison interpreters in the healthcare setting (see Levin 2005; Schlemmer 2005; Lesch 2007:74). In accordance with the categories of service learning, as mentioned in the article, both the community (i.e. the healthcare community including the professional service provider and the patient) and the trainee interpreter would benefit from this relationship. However, there are various challenges; for instance, at one tertiary institution the healthcare management  are in agreement regarding the importance of healthcare interpreting, but fall short of giving permission to accommodate the trainee interpreters at their institution. The main concerns are ethical issues, including the possibility of incorrect information being conveyed by the trainee and the confidentiality of patient information. One agrees that this is a valid concern, but in a survey conducted by Feinauer and Lesch (2009) at this very healthcare institution, it was established there was only one untrained interpreter for this major institution. The gap between theory and practice is evident – to argue in favour of political correctness, but to practice the opposite.

Kolb’s concept of experiential learning (as in the case of the trainee interpreter) further explores the critical pattern of learning from experience through reflection to conceptualisation and action, returning to further experience. Concrete experience entails direct practical experience. Witter-Merithew and Johnson discovered that when students work together to reflect on their work, they “gain deeper levels of understanding” (2005:45). Reflective observation focuses on what the experience means to the individual and requires observation, examination, analysis and interpretation of a specific concrete experience. Abstract conceptualisation gives meaning to discoveries by relating them to other discoveries, other forms of knowledge; and active experimentation is taking further action and testing conceptualisations (and their implications) in different situations.

Research has shown that service learning is a powerful pedagogy and it involves expertise. For students to have the best possible gain from the exercise it should be structured to enhance student development. This cycle provides the student with the means to create a link between learning experiences, theoretical grounding of these experiences and the real world. Furthermore, it provides room for active experimentation that can transform conceptualisation, test abstraction in practice, and construct and modify the next concrete experience. According to Sax and Astin (1997), the outcomes of service learning are aimed at academic development, life skills, including racial tolerance and cultural understanding (especially in intercultural communication).

As language is often undervalued, it is important to opt for a community interaction activity involving language that demonstrates an impact on the community, but most importantly also adds value for interpreter training purposes. The students should build on their experience and, as a matter of importance, share it with their peers. The interpreting internship, in accordance with Bringle and Hatcher (1995), is credit bearing. Students are required to share their experience regarding problems, challenges, positive experiences, etc. with the group during the practical sessions. However, most importantly, it is expected of them to compile a detailed written report towards the end of the academic year.

Apart from the legislative and institutional framework such as policies, mission statements, etc., it is important, from within the interpreting programme itself, to believe in the value of the internships and to foster the partnerships with the community. It is a primary aim to establish collaborative working relationships with different communities where intercultural communication plays an important role. The importance of a language intermediary therefore becomes important within the extended communication process. These partnerships will provide the potential for a comprehensive framework and strategy for community engagement and service learning for interpreting. However, as mentioned in the article, various challenges remain.

Much of the learning for interpreters takes place in practice where they have hands-on experiences. For students this learning occurs during their practicum where they learn experientially while interpreting under the supervision of a mentor. Apart from existing challenges, lecturers should attempt to develop service learning partnerships and opportunities for students to experience their future career first-hand. This theory, and the four learning abilities of the cycle, directly relate to how interpreting students learn as they advance. It exposes the trainee to relevant skills regarding different models of interpreting, for example the “black box” or advocacy model. From the lecturers’ point of view, this service learning cycle also provides the opportunity and impetus for relevant curriculum development.

Learning through experience is an important aspect of training for all interpreters. Service learning should therefore not be done haphazardly, but trainers and mentors should understand the learning cycle and how each step works to guide students or protégés through the learning process. In doing so, the trainee will be provided with “a rich learning experience and an avenue […] to achieve life-long skills refinement” (Bentley-Sassaman 2009:67). 


Keywords


tolking, opleiding, eksperimentele leer, diensleer, gemeenskap, interpreting, training, service learning, community

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5842/43-0-201

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ISSN 2224-3380 (online); 1726-541X (print)

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