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Home > Long-term > SitPrep didactic DVDs
Technical Guide to Working With Ecos Babels DVDs
(Date: 9 September 2005)
The educational DVDs created by Ecos for Babels are the result of a joint effort which came about within the academic context of the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Granada, beginning at the end of the ‘90’s and reaching a peak in the year 2002. This work is part of a project on interpreter education methodology based on the use of audiovisual recordings. The principal objective of these DVDs is the teaching and learning of interpreting approximating as nearly as possible that which professionals actually do in the booth. Interpreters are faced daily with speakers with different accents (native and non-native) and who speak at very different speeds (from 80 to 200 words per minute), with different ways of vocalizing, improvising or reading their contributions. They also find themselves in various situations and communicative contexts (scientific congresses, thematic forums, press conferences, gatherings of international organizations, special guest conferences, and work or business sessions and workshops, according to classifications set by Franz Pöchhacker, professor of interpreting at the University of Vienna).
The objective of this learning method and the educational philosophy surrounding it is to familiarize future interpreters with this enormous diversity of oral language and communicative situations in order to avoid professionals having to discover it themselves in the execution of their work, with the implied risk of having to continually search for improvised responses to unexpected work conditions. For this purpose, a set of video recordings of local conferences in Granada and the social forums has been made from both satellite TV (U.S.A.’s EbS channel) and by digital camera.
What the ECOS association (translators and interpreters for solidarity) has done within the framework of its work with and for Babels is to apply this method in two DVDs with a collection of recordings from the 3rd World Social Forum (Porto Alegre, January, 2003) and the 2nd European Social Forum (Paris, November, 2003), as well as other thematic conferences held in Granada, with speakers similar to those of the social forums, and European Parliament press conferences selected with the same criteria. Unfortunately, the number of languages is still limited and for now only speeches recorded in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese are available, though there are no transcriptions available for Portuguese. The purpose of this effort is to make available material with which Babels volunteers can test their technical abilities (for those who do not have a degree in interpreting) and their specialized knowledge (for those educated as interpreters but who are not familiar with the subject matter or focus of the social forums, which is quite different from the “single-minded thinking” with which the mass media and educational institutions bombard us).
We know that the more than 20 hours of recordings in these first two DVDs (we promise there will be more in the future) and their corresponding transcriptions cannot substitute for a formal education in interpreting or a long history of activism. However, we hope that they will serve a useful purpose in both these aspects, knowing as we do that the profile of the volunteer professional interpreter experienced in social commitment is not so prevalent as to cover the necessities of Babels; and at any rate, everything can be learned. To be discerning and responsible citizens as well as simultaneous interpreters in a booth. If institutionalized education has not sufficiently covered these two bases, someone will have to start doing it.
2.1. Recording and compression formats
The recordings contained on DVD III and DVD didáctico II have been recorded by means of digital cameras. After that, info was captured and compressed so as not to take up a lot of space on the disc, but at the same time an attempt was made to keep minimum quality image and sound levels (DivX,880 kbps / MP3, 56 kbps to 22 khz). Thanks to these formats (around 6.2 Mb per minute) a 12-hour video may be recorded on each DVD (4.5 Gb) which is the same amount of data which can be recorded on 7 CDs (around 1h 40 min) So as to reproduce DVDs a DVD player is required . If the user has no DVD player then , the video files can be recorded on CD end then they can be copied to the hard disk.
2.2 Image quality
The sound was recorded through different methods according to the circumstances. Although the “camera operators” were not professional technicians, a great effort was made in order to obtain a higher image and sound quality and to create , in this way pseudo realistic conditions. However, those who work in this area may notice that the expected goals quality wise were not achieved on certain occasions. Firstly, we’d like to point out that we are well aware of this situation. Although these technical problems may affect the whole speech and so they may be regarded as unsuitable for simultaneous interpreting, we have included them due to the following :
Under the heading “Observations” found in the data base on the first DVD (III WSF, v.3.1) indications concerning sound and transcription problems are mentioned.
2.3 How to reproduce a video.
The first DVD contains the executable programme DivX Pro5GainBundle, freely available on the Internet. So as to reproduce the video clips this programme or its updated version should be installed on the hard disk. Once this is carried out, the conventional operational system Windows can be used (Windows Media Player, the very same users resort to when it comes to listening to a CD)or DivX player which should appear on the desktop once installed. This programme is usually identified as DivX Player 2.0. Alpha. Once this programme starts running we can reproduce clips following the next steps:
Multimedia players have commands to carry out the following: play, pause/stop, and it also has one indicator which will allow the user to fast forward or rewind and a timing marker to show the minutes and seconds while the clip is being played. The latest Windows Media Player versions have also an equalizer which can be useful when the user wants to get higher sound quality (e.g. when the speech sound is too low as is the case of Ignacio Ramonet’s speech at WSF)
Usually a clip is recorded (file) separately for each and every speech (5-30min) or at least part of it. Clips are easily identified as they have the name of the speaker on it. If the conference is long, so as to facilitate transcription this is to be divided in different clips (30 min each)
In order to carry out the interpreting practice successfully, the use of headphones is advisable (connected to loudspeakers ) as well as the recording of the interpreting with a conventional recorder (tape) or through a sound recording programme that can be installed in the computer. Apart from the volume regulator a device for volume control can also be used (double click on the megaphone icon at the bottom of Windows task bar)This device allows users to listen to just one channel (left or right) in case any of two makes the sound distorted . (e.g. Arcadi Oliveres’ clip on DVD didactico II)
3. Tutoring handbook
3.1. The Marius database
The Marius database was created in view of filing the recordings by order of difficulty, using Microsoft Office Access (we’re sorry to mention so many of Bill Gate’s products, but as of today we still haven’t found a way to get around his monopoly). There is a query section for this database in the WSF 03 DVD. Double-click on the “WSF POA 03” folder to open it, and then on “III-WSF-03”.
It is essential that you proceed by order of difficulty when you practise, especially if you are not familiar with interpretation techniques and/or with the subjects that are dealt with during social forums. The speed at which the speech is delivered – information which appears in the heading of every speech or contribution – is not the only difficulty you will encounter, nor is it the most important (Also relevant are: level of expertise, accent, register, word-phrasing, intonation – more or less stressed, humorous or ironical utterances, etc.) but it is already a fair indication of what awaits you because it determines the quantity of information that the interpreter must process per time unit. The following criteria may be of use:
However, sometimes a speech delivered slowly (less than 90 wrds/min) may be more difficult to interpret if it requires greater memorization skills from the interpreter (complex sentences: subject/verb sequence).
The videos are filed in folders that correspond to the session during which the speeches were delivered. The names of the video clips are preceded by a number that indicates the chronological order of each contribution. Moreover, in each folder you’ll find a subfolder of texts, in addition to the transcription of the speeches – one file per specific contribution - which should help you for your groundwork (terminology, subject & context), especially if you’re not familiar with the subject.
Transcriptions are literal, according to the following criteria:
The following colour code has been implemented to facilitate working with transcriptions:
When you are dealing with subjects that are unfamiliar to you, it is particularly recommended you take some time looking over the lexical or syntactic difficulties indicated in the transcriptions in order to solve them before you start interpreting.
Furthermore, you will find footnotes in the transcriptions that will help you solve some of the recurrent difficulties in the texts. In general, only a monolingual definition of the term is given, with examples taken from online dictionaries, encyclopaedias, web sites, etc. Thus, linguistic explanations will be useful regardless of your target language. Additionally, a single lexical difficulty may have various valid solutions. It is up to you to find them.
You should proceed to listening to your recordings twice. The first time you should concentrate – regardless of the original – on the general impression a possible listener would have of your interpretation (intonation, delivery, voice, assurance, vocalization). The second time, refer constantly to the transcription of the speech – if possible with a printout - while you are listening. Texts are typed double-space to facilitate annotations. We recommend you mark mistranslations and erroneous expressions in the target language on the top of the page. We also highly recommend that you take advantage of the transcription and look up (web resources, dictionaries, etc.) words or expressions of uncertain meaning to you. This will help you enrich your vocabulary in both languages and develop the mental agility which is essential for an interpreter (in a cabin you will not have time to look up words in a dictionary).
Here are a list of error codes to write in the margin of the transcription and that may help you assess your work:
The importance of anyone of the above mentioned errors is proportionate to the deviation from meaning and its repercussion on the whole speech in context.
A good incentive is also to point out when you’ve successfully dealt with a problem: write an exclamation mark in the margin.
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