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 Home > Long-term > SitPrep didactic DVDs

[ de el en es pt ]

Technical Guide to Working With Ecos Babels DVDs

(Date: 9 September 2005)

1. Introduction

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.Technical guide

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 :
- a) Sound and image problems only affected the speech partially, which did not hamper the interpreting task per se for this could be solved by resorting to the corresponding Word transcript.
- b) Although the problems may affect the whole speech to the point of making it quite unsuitable for interpreting, these type of speeches might be used as “parallel speeches” (i.e. to pave the way for prospective interpreting work).That is to say, these “bad” recordings are kept to provide terminology data or just for the sake of on sight translation from their transcriptions made out of them.

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:
- a) DivX Palyer 2.0. Alpha: top left tab. Click on it. A menu with the option “Open”will appear. Then, the user has to open the corresponding folder and file where the clip is stored.
- b) Windows Media Player (Windows XP version).Go to “ File”tab select “Open” and follow the same procedures aforementioned.
- c) From “File explorer” (My PC) look for the clip in its corresponding folder and click on the right button of the mouse. The menu will open, which will include the options “Reproduce” “Open” “Open with”. If we select “Reproduce” or “Open” the multimedia player will start running , and at the same time it will open the predetermined option. If we select “Open with” a list will scroll down with each and every multimedia player installed in our PC . The user can select any of them.

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”.
Amongst others, in this database you’ll find the following information for every speech or contribution:
- reference of the archive file
- title or description of the communication context (conference, seminar, round-table, press conference, etc.) in which it was delivered
- Name and quality of the speaker (for example: spokesman for a social organization, professor, member of the assistance, etc.)
- Language (we use the official EU abbreviations: EN-English, FR-French, ES-Spanish, PT-Portuguese, etc.)
- Learning phase to which it refers (for example, in case of simultaneous interpretation –si-: si basic, si intermediate, si advanced, si with text notwithstanding sight translation)
- Date, length, number of words, speed (wrds/min), subject, level of specialization, difficulty, speaker’s accent, delivery mode (spontaneous or read), and comments.
In this last section we mention recording particulars or anything that should be taken into account before beginning to interpret a specific speech.
From the database of the III WSF of Porto Alegre you will be able to access the literal transcription of the speeches. In the “Edited transcription’ section, just double-click on the buttons with the “Microsoft Word” mention and the corresponding document will open.

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:
- 90-120 wrds/min: easy
- 120-150 wrds/min: intermediate
- over 150 wrds/min: expert

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).

3.2. Transcriptions

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:
- a) Transcriptions include everything that is processed by the interpreter in his cabin, including “wrong starts” (unfinished sentences or groups) or any lexical or syntactic incoherence that the interpreter may have uttered as a consequence of the spontaneous nature of speech. In both cases, the corresponding text is italicised for clarity so that the reader may distinguish between correct and incorrect language or coherent and incoherent speech.
- b) Transcriptions do not include elements of speech that are unimportant to the interpretation process. That is to say: redundant words or phrases unless they serve an emphatic purpose, or pauses unless they are prolonged, in which case they will appear in the form of suspension points directly following the word preceding the pause.

The following colour code has been implemented to facilitate working with transcriptions:
- specialized term pertaining to the main subject realm(s) of the speech, whether or not they are complex to transfer
- specialized term pertaining to other subject fields ;
- words/expressions seldom used which could be difficult to transfer even if they are not specialized terms
- recorded fragments with sound problems
- Names of people or institutions
- Wrong starts or misuse of the language
- Uncertain transcription of words or fragments: due to sound problems, unverifiable spelling of proper nouns, etc.

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.

3.3. Self-editing

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:
- a) Errors in meaning (in decreasing order of importance)
— Mistranslation: opposite meaning to that of the original
— Nonsense: if you have said something without meaning in itself (in the margin of the original document)
— Inaccurate meaning: if the meaning is different from that in the original (but not opposite)
— Omitted word, sentence or phrase relevant to meaning
— different from the original digit
— use of opposite gender from that of the original (masculine instead of feminine and vice-versa)
— use of other number from that of the original (singular instead of plural and vice-versa)
- b) Errors in the use of expressions
— SENT: error that affects more than one word (sentence or phrase: no change in meaning, but use of a more idiomatic or appropriate form)
— LEX: error that affects a specialized term or a word of common usage (same criterion as in “SENT”)

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.
You can mark an error as more or less important either by writing the corresponding abbreviation in CAPITAL/small letters, underlining it, etc.

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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