Die waarde van tolking vir tersiêre onderrig en leer. ’n Ondersoek na die persepsies van tolkgemedieerde kommunikasie in die Fakulteit Regsgeleerdheid aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch

Carmen Brewis

Abstract


Opsomming

Hierdie artikel is gegrond op ’n Meesterstudie wat die onderwerp was van ’n M-tesis in Tolkstudie. Die studie het spesifiek ’n bydrae gemaak tot die bestaande navorsing in Opvoedkundige tolking. Simultane (gesproke) opvoedkundige tolking het relatief onlangs as aparte subdomein van gemeenskapstolking in Suid-Afrika beslag gevind. Navorsing hier te lande verteenwoordig pionierswerk in hierdie ontluikende studieveld. Een van die belangrikste kwessies waarin beleidsmakers en opvoeders belangstel, is die effektiwiteit van opvoedkundige tolking vir onderrig en leer. Die navorser het ’n ondersoek na hierdie vraagstuk onderneem en die persepsies van dosente, studente en tolke getoets ten einde antwoorde op die volgende twee vrae te vind:

  • Wat is die ervaring van opvoedkundige tolking in klaskamers binne die konteks van die Fakulteit Regsgeleerdheid aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch? en;
  • Wat is die waarde wat opvoedkundige tolking vir onderrig en leer binne hierdie konteks kan inhou?

Die T-opsie geld as die verstektaalopsie binne die Fakulteit Regsgeleerdheid. Die ervaring van tolking in klasse is telkens na aanleiding van die navorsingsvrae vergelyk met studente en dosente se ervaring van die T-opsie ten einde afleidings te maak oor die moontlike waarde van tolking binne hierdie konteks. Die unieke aard en die integrale rol wat taal en taalvaardighede in dié vakdissipline speel, maak hierdie konteks verder uniek en moes in die studie verreken word.

Die ondersoek is gedoen met verwysing na kontemporêre idees uit akademiese geletterdheidstudies. Konsepte soos affek, identiteit, toeganklikheid en deelname is verken om uiteindelik die verbande tussen opvoedkundige tolking en onderrig en leer te ondersoek en te beskryf. Die studie is gedoen teen die agtergrond van ’n verkenning van die teorie in Tolkstudie met verwysing na rol, kwaliteit en professionaliteit sowel as resente navorsing uit die veld van gebaretaal.

Die proefneming is in twee modules oor ’n tydperk van vier weke (16 uur) in klasse gedoen met verwysing na drie basiese vrae:

  • Kan tolking in klasse studente help om vakinhoud beter te verstaan?
  • Kan studente hierdeur beter met die klaskamersituasie identifiseer?
  • Word tyd sodoende in die leerproses bespaar?

Deur ’n proses van deelnemende aksienavorsing is data ingewin deur middel van vraelyste, ’n fokusgroepbespreking, onderhoude en waarneming. As navorsingsmetodologie het die navorser van beide kwalitatiewe en kwantitatiewe metodes gebruik gemaak.

Die basiese bevindinge was dat akademiese taalvaardighede van studente aansienlik verskil met beduidend groter taalvaardigheidsverskille onder Engelssprekende studente. Daar is ’n beduidende ontevredenheid met die T-opsie onder studente en dosente. Tolking is beduidend positief ervaar onder studente wat probleme met taal in die klaskamer ervaar, omdat dit gelei het tot ’n groter begrip van vakinhoud, die maak van meer omvattende aantekeninge tydens lesings en die feit dat studente tyd bespaar het in die leerproses. Studente voel nou meer tuis in die klaskameropset wat aanduidend was van wat navorsers in akademiese geletterdheidstudies beskryf as die reis van die “periferie” van geletterdheid na die “kern” daarvan. Verder was dit uit die studie duidelik dat tolking optimaal binne ’n eentalige konteks plaasvind en dat gehaltetolking ’n voorvereiste is. Tolke moet verkieslik oor tolkervaring, kennis van klaskamerdiskoers en vakkennis, beskik. Suksesvolle kommunikasie, naamlik om te verstaan en om verstaan te word, bly ’n kernvoorwaarde vir leer.

The value of interpreting in a tertiary teaching and learning environment. An investigation into the perceptions of interpreter-mediated communication in the Faculty of Law at Stellenbosch University

Extended abstract

Educational Interpreting (spoken) has only fairly recently been established in South Africa as a separate sub-domain of community interpreting. Local research represents pioneering work in this emerging discipline. One of the most important issues that interests policy makers and teachers, is the effectiveness of educational interpreting for teaching and learning. This article makes a contribution towards the existing body of knowledge on Educational Interpreting (EI) by considering the role of interpreting-mediated communication in a tertiary teaching and learning context. It is based on a dissertation that was submitted for a Master’s degree in Interpreting Studies (IS). The writer conducted an investigation in the Faculty of Law of Stellenbosch University into how educational interpreting is perceived by lecturers, students and interpreters and whether it can promote teaching and learning in the context. This article is a synopsis of that study. Educational Interpreting is herein firstly placed as subtype within the broader field of IS. This is followed by a brief discussion of “role” in IS and of contemporary ideas from Academic Literacy Studies (ALS). After a short explanation of the methodology that was used to conduct the investigation, the results are discussed. Finally certain recommendations are made for interpreting in university classrooms.

Theoretical concepts from IS as well as recent research from the field of Sign Language Interpreting (SLI) formed the basis of the dissertation and are briefly discussed. Existing research on EI in a tertiary educational environment also brought valuable insights into how specific attributes of educational interpreters differ from those of conference interpreters. The differences between communication in a university classroom and other types of communication arrangements is considered and how this has a bearing on the typology of the interpreting and the style of the interpretation. Academic literacy lies on the interface between language and learning and therefore an investigation into contemporary ideas from (ALS) such as affect, identity, access and participation provides a valuable vantage point for an investigation into the role of EI in the context of the study. To be academically literate implies “knowing how to act and speak in academic discourses”. In this journey from the periphery of knowledge to the center of the discipline, liberating literacy is considered the final goal. Here the student finally becomes an insider in the discourse and can start taking part as a full participant. 

This article discusses the unique role played by educational interpreters and how they contribute to the process of “meaning-making” in the classroom. This is done by acting as “clarifiers” and by making links and relationships between ideas overt. Apart from remedying the cultural “noise” in the communication, it is also done through their ability to reflect on talk and to see, due to their position “in the middle”, when speakers speak on different discourse trajectories. Interpreters further help to create a common culture between participants and to reduce the asymmetry that exists specifically in a tertiary educational context. This role can help to restore trust between the speakers. Interpreting makes mother tongue education possible. With reference to the importance of mother tongue education, this article discusses how EI plays a role in enhancing teaching and learning in the study context.

The Faculty of Law of Stellenbosch University has the T-option as default language option in classrooms. Therefore, this study tested perceptions of interpreting with reference to the research questions and compared it throughout with perceptions of the T-option.

Methodology

The trial was conducted in two modules during a four-week (16 hours) period, with specific reference to three basic questions namely:

  • Can interpreting help students to understand subject content better?
  • Can interpreting help students to better identify with the classroom situation?; and
  • What is the effect of interpreting on time management in the learning process?

Two modules were identified for the trial, namely Private Law 373 (Law of Delicts) and Private Law 171 (Family Law) as respectively Group A (137 respondents) and Group B (12 respondents). Group B, a first-year group, served as a supplementary qualitative component to the study and provided valuable insights compared with the respondents from Group A, who were already in their third year.

Data was collected through a process of Participatory Action Research using questionnaires, a focus group discussion, interviews and observation. This research perspective was optimal in order to gain an insider perspective in a bottom-up process of data collection. As research methodology the researcher made use both of quantitative and qualitative methods.

Questionnaires that were handed out to the respondents in Group A contained both quantitative Likert-scale questions as well as “open” questions eliciting qualitative data. A focus-group discussion was held with the users of the interpreting service as well as semi-structured interviews with the lecturers and the interpreter. The interviews generated valuable qualitative data. Group B received a short questionnaire with mainly open questions comprising another qualitative component. Mixed-method research allows for triangulation. This results in more reliable data, where conclusions cannot merely be attributed to methodology.

The predominant findings of the study are reported, first with reference to the T-option and then the interpreting. The quantitative (statistical) data (Group A) is firstly discussed followed by the qualitative data from the open questions, the interviews and the observation.

Quantitative results

With regard to academic language proficiency it was evident that there is a significant difference between language proficiency in the two languages of instruction among students from group A. In a statistical comparison between the Afrikaans and the English-speaking groups, it was clear that the difference in proficiency was significantly larger among English-speaking students.

T-option

Although a large number of respondents in Group A reported a positive experience of the T-option, there were a significant number of respondents who reported a negative experience. Statistical data are reported with reference to various aspects e.g. time-management in T-option classes, the taking of notes during lectures, the extent to which lecture content is understood in T-option classes including paralinguistic information like sarcasm, irony and jokes, the ability to identify with the learning environment and how respondents feel about the treatment of the two different languages in classes. Group A was further asked whether they see interpreting as “necessary” in their Faculty and whether it could, in their opinion, provide a sustainable solution to language issues in the Faculty. Statistical comparisons (hypothesis-testing) between the user-group and the non-user group are reported as well as differences between the Afrikaans and the English group. P-values and standard deviations are given.

Educational interpreting

The reporting of data with reference to the EI mainly follows the same format as for the T-option. The data confirmed that EI was experienced largely positively by students who struggle with language in classrooms. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they would make use of the interpreting if such a service is provided. Statistical correlations done according to the Spearman-correlation indicated significant relationships between certain aspects. Through these it was evident that the more negative a respondent was towards the T-option, the more positive the response tended to be towards interpreting and vice versa. It also showed that the bigger the difference in language proficiency between first and second languages, the more positive interpreting is experienced.

Qualitative results

The qualitative results brought highly valuable insights into the true experiences of students and lecturers. While students have both positive and negative views on the T-option, there is a strong view that this option is time consuming, that there is too much repetition and that information is lost in the case of poor academic proficiency in the second language. Lecturers reported a frustration with the T-option.  Their experience of the interpreting was positive. They did not find it to be a nuisance at all. Students reported that notes were more extensive and largely expressed relief on the availability of interpreting in their class. There was a marked improvement in time management both inside the classroom and during self-study. Among the users of the interpreting, the negative experiences were mainly reported by the Afrikaans-speaking students who feel that they have a sufficient understanding of English and that they do not need the interpreting service.

Valuable data was gathered through observation of T-option classes and brought insights into the most effective application of interpreting in the various modes of language delivery. It was evident that interpreting optimally takes place in a monolingual context and that quality interpreting is a pre-requisite for effective interpreting in a tertiary teaching and learning environment. Interpreters should ideally have knowledge of the subject content and of classroom discourse. Good co-operation between interpreters, lecturers and students is imperative. Interpreters should have the confidence to “intervene” in the communication and play an active role if this is required for optimal communication. They should furthermore be treated as communication participants with full status. The article closes with a quote from Courtney Cazden’s seminal work Classroom Discourse (2001): “One condition essential to learning must remain the same: to communicate, to understand and to be understood – this condition has to be kept constant despite differences.” 


Keywords


tolking, onderrig, leer, akademiese geletterdheid, opvoedkundige, interpreting, educational interpreting, classroom interpreting, teaching and learning, academic literacy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5842/45-0-206

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