Assessing spoken-language educational interpreting: Measuring up and measuring right

Lenelle Foster, Adriaan Cupido


This article, primarily, presents a critical evaluation of the development and refinement of the assessment instrument used to assess formally the spoken-language educational interpreters at Stellenbosch University (SU). Research on interpreting quality has tended to produce varying perspectives on what quality might entail (cf. Pöchhacker 1994, 2001; Kurz 2001; Kalina 2002; Pradas Marcías 2006; Grbić 2008; Moser-Mercer 2008; Alonso Bacigalupe 2013). Consequently, there is no ready-made, universally accepted or applicable mechanism for assessing quality. The need for both an effective assessment instrument and regular assessments at SU is driven by two factors: Firstly, a link exists between the quality of the service provided and the extent to which that service remains sustainable. Plainly put, if the educational interpreting service wishes to remain viable, the quality of the interpreting product needs to be more than merely acceptable. Secondly, and more important, educational interpreters play an integral role in students’ learning experience at SU by relaying the content of lectures. Interpreting quality could potentially have serious ramifications for students, and therefore quality assessment is imperative. Two assessment formats are used within the interpreting service, each with a different focus. The development and refinement of the assessment instrument for formal assessments discussed in this article have been ongoing since 2011. The main aim has been to devise an instrument that could be used to assess spoken-language interpreting in the university classroom. Complicating factors have included the various ways in which communication occurs in the classroom and the different sociocultural backgrounds and levels of linguistic proficiency of users. The secondary focus is on the nascent system of peer assessment. This system and the various incarnations of the peer assessment instrument are discussed. Linkages (and the lack thereof) between the two systems are briefly described.


assessment; assessment instrument; educational interpreting; peer assessment; quality

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

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