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Selection of Interpreters Report
How did we select interpreters for the London ESF
(Date: 14 April 2005)
The selection of interpreters is the most decentralised aspect of Babels preparation for the ESF. Each language/linguistic coordination is responsible for the selection of interpreters for that A1 language. So Babels-es is responsible for the selection of A1 Spanish interpreters, Babels-it for A1 Italian interpreters, Babels-de for A1 German interpreters, Babels-fr for A1 French interpreters, etc. For the London ESF, Babels-uk was tasked with selecting A1 English interpreters and all other interpreters without a language coordination (e.g. Turkish, Kurdish, Romanian, Greek, etc).
2. Selection process in the UK
Stage 1: Agreement was reached on the definitions of A, B and C languages for simultaneous interpretation and the interpreters’ level of experience.
To recap, A language(s) is your mother tongue (A1, A2 - it is possible to have more than one mother tongue); B languages are foreign languages in which the interpreter is very fluent, in terms of both comprehension and expression. C languages are foreign languages in which the interpreter has a high level of comprehension but does not necessarily speak very fluently.
As for levels of interpretation (experience): FIRST EXPERIENCE is when the interpreter does not have training in simultaneous interpretation nor any interpreting experience BUT (s)he is bilingual or has a high level of proficiency in a foreign language ; OCCASIONAL is when the interpreter has a basic training in simultaneous interpretation and/or some experience in a booth of simultaneous interpretation, either with Babels or in other circumstances; EXPERIENCED is an interpreter who has received a complete or nearly complete training in simultaneous interpretation and/or has already done simultaneous interpretation on quite a few occasions, either with Babels or in other circumstances. (S)he feels confident working in the booth; and PROFESSIONAL is when the interpreter makes a living from simultaneous interpretation.
Stage 2: An email was sent out to all interpreters on the Babels database asking about their availability to participate in the ESF and asking them to update their personal registration files if necessary in relation to the new A/B/C definitions.
Stage 3: Selection took place of all professional and experienced interpreters coming from the UK and the rest of Europe.
Stage 4: Selection took place of occasional and first experience interpreters based in the UK through the SitPrep process, see Situational Preparation Report.
Stages 3 and 4 were distributed among Babels-uk coordinators as follows:
John Street: professionals and experienced based in Europe
3. Selection protocol
Initially, at an early stage of the ESF process, Babels was working along the following principles:
3 interpreters per booth
The linguistic quotas for the selection of interpreters were set as follows:
160 from the English booth
However, at the end of September, Babels ESF coordinators meeting in London decided to reduce the number of interpreters per booth from 3 to 2, and reduce the quota of English interpreters to 100.
The territory quotas set as follows:
The high London and UK territory quotas had both a budgetary and a political logic, designed to reduce travel costs in the budget and involve local people in Babels and the ESF.
4. Outcomes of Selection
Selection London rest of UK rest of Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the global South
Number of interpreters per booth
All interpreters English booth Other booth selected by Babels-uk
The figures show that Babels linguistic coordinations did really well in respecting the budgetary constraints (territory quotas) and enhancing the quality of the booths (quality quotas).
For Babels-uk, while the amount of inexperienced interpreters selected was slightly above the average, all of these interpreters participated in SitPrep. For the selection of interpreters working in so-called ’minority’ languages, Babels-uk was faced with a real lack of experienced interpreters meaning that we had to select the experienced from far away and then inexperienced interpreters from the UK or Northern Europe (again through SitPrep). The exceptions were Turkish and Kurdish interpreters who were mainly inexperienced. This was because out of 12 professional interpreters selected for London ESF based in Turkey, only 3 got visas.
5. Difficulties experienced in the selection process
1. Due to the political climate of the London ESF, the selection of interpreters started late and this had a negative cumulative impact on the rest of the coordination process (transport, accommodation, planification).
2. One week before the event, a lot of interpreters were denied visas to enter the UK. As well as being politically scandalous, this made it more difficult to cover specific communication needs like Turkish, Kurdish and Romanian.
3. Babels never received any information from the ESF process about the delegations coming to the event from different countries. This deprived us of vital information about potential languages of participants and their country of origin. Information about speaker nationality and language also arrived too late in the process which made it impossible to take into account for a targeted selection. In the end, selection had to be done exclusively on the basis of estimates of the linguistic needs of both the audience and the speakers.
4. Deciding a priority order in the selection protocol (e.g. selecting first of all professionals and experienced, then occasional and first experience) on the basis of the information in the interpreters’ personal registration files (level of experience, A, B, C languages) proved problematic. This was because the interpreters’ information does not always reflect reality and not all coordinations interpret this information the same way.
5. Because the database did not enable us to store information on first-time interpreters of the fse-esf list, we had to download a spreadsheet every week and compare manually with the last spreadsheet.
6. Conclusions and Recommendations
6-1 Interpreters registration help in the database
There is a pressing need to get widespread understanding and agreement on the definitions of A, B, C languages and the level of experience.
6-2 Creating a Greek coordination:
In the run up to the next Social Forum, the barrier between the coordinator and interpreter needs to be overcome by a more participatory selection process. By selection, we do not just mean the process of a coordinator selecting the 60 interpreters needed for a given event in a particular A1 language, but the whole process that leads to the final selection of the booth: outreach strategy; self-assessment; SitPrep; and final selection.
For Athens 2006, it is crucial that these tasks contribute to a far more participatory process: after the implementation of outreach strategies, every new interpreter should be convened to a SitPrep and then given the choice to participate as either an interpreter (if the SitPrep is positive) or as a coordinator (if the SitPrep is negative) so that the self-organisation of interpreters, information-sharing, and debates and dialogues can be enhanced. The challenge following the London experience is to expand this practice across the entire geo-territory of coordination in order to decentralize the organisation of the Social Forum even further, a major weakness of Babels-uk participation in the London ESF.
6-3 Creating a Quality Project
A team of volunteers is needed to follow the quality of interpretation at each Social Forum. The team could be composed of coordinators / interpreters from different coordinations and would be responsible for the assessment of the booth during the whole event, generating data on the interpreters, the session, etc. This needs further discussion between the coordinations.
6-4 Working closely with Babels-tech
Implementing such practices will create new ICT needs and thus require close collaboration with Babels-tech. For example, we need the possibility of identifying new interpreters in the database; we need to create email lists for Babels organisers of the Social Forum, etc.
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