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Discussion: Selection protocol for the ESF 2006
(Date: 11 September 2005)
Text to start the discussion on the Forum: Selection protocol for the ESF 2006 to be held in Athens
The team of Babels coordinators for the next ESF 2006 has decided to hold an open discussion on the way volunteer interpreters should be selected to participate to the ESF 06. We welcome all the contributions and suggestions from potential volunteer interpreters interested in the project. The idea is to increase the possibility of participation of all volunteers and gather new ideas from all of you. A clear and transparent selection protocol will allow us to increase the quality of interpretation by applying common methods. It is also important to ensure that wherever they come form, whatever their languages, volunteer interpreters are selected according to the same rules for a given project. The aim of this discussion is therefore to define those rules of selection together.
Please also note that if you are interested in joining the team of coordinators, whether you are a professional or an occasional interpreter, your help will be most welcome. Please send an email to fsesf@ for any questions. We are looking in particular for new coordinators in Central and Eastern European countries.
The selection of volunteer interpreters for a social forum depends on many criteria, some of which need to be discussed now and others will come at a later stage. The selection of interpreters depends on:
The languages needed for the debates to take place during the forum. This depends partly on the expected audience and on the languages of the speakers. We do not have yet much information regarding this criteria but another open discussion will be held on this forum at a later date when we have more information from the ESF organisers.
The budget allocated to the organisation of interpretation for the social forum, for a given number of interpreters needed. Again, the budget has not yet be negotiated, but the discussion on the selection protocol will feed into budget negotiations and further information on this topic will be communicated at a later stage.
There are other criteria regarding interpreters’ selection protocol that are either more technical or more political and that are the object of this discussion now.
We would therefore welcome your feedback and suggestions on the following questions:
1. Professional interpreters and non-professional interpreters: what ratio? What type of collaboration and what pre-conditions for the selection of non-experienced interpreters? (Forum)
2. Geographical diversity: beside budget constraints and language needs, how should we decide where interpreters should come from? How to increase participation from Central and Eastern European countries? (Forum)
3. The role of B languages as an active language for professional interpreters? (Forum)
4. What role for volunteers who have already participated to Social Forums with Babels and what is the place of new comers? How to ensure a good balance between those two groups? (Forum)
1. Professional and non professional interpreters:
Babels as a network has always functioned with both professional and non-professional interpreters, for both political and practical reasons. The practical reason is that our aim is to facilitate the participation of most in social forums, by organising interpretation in as many languages as possible (thereby allowing the participation of people coming from a variety of linguistic background) AND by allowing many volunteers to participate actively to social forums. The politicial reason is that we consider languages no only as an hidden tool in the back of a room but as a way for cultures to be fully involved in global discussions and to defend the right for all to participate in a language of his/her choice. The mixity inside a booth is a chance more for many to exchange experiences, to understand and learn from a very diverse range of "expertises" by participating together.
The involvement of professional interpreters has increased drastically from the first ESF in Florence to the third in London last year and it is essential that we continue on this trend to improve the quality of interpretation at the social forum. However non-professional will keep on having their space as Babels volunteers and we would like to gather a number of ideas on how to best select those non-professionals to ensure a good quality of interpretation.
Babels coordinators have developed a number of tools in the past to ensure that non-professionals can actually perform in a booth. In Sao Paulo or in Monte Video (and Montevideo), volunteers came once a week for several months in a room equipped with simultaneous interpretation equipment to ensure that they would be able to interpret at the WSF. For the London ESF, all non-professional volunteers based in London had to do a ‘sit-prep’ before being selected: a sit-prep is a simultaneous interpretation exercise developed by ECOS in Granada and now used by many Babels coordinators. A volunteer watches videos of conferences filmed at previous social forums and records his/her simultaneous interpretation with a special software downloaded on the computer. The volunteer and coordinators can then check the quality of the interpretation with the transcript of the original speech. This permits to detect volunteers who can and those who cannot perform simultaneous interpretation. However, it requires technical equipment not always available to everyone, everywhere.
Other coordinators have very detailed and long discussion by phone or face to face, and in several languages with volunteer interpreters before selecting them.
What do you think? Do you have other methods to suggest? Do you have any comments on the methods suggested above? Should any of those methods be a pre-condition for the selection of non-professional interpreters?
2. Geographic diversity
The community of ESF organisers have decided this year to help by all means the further participation of Central and Eastern European countries to the next ESF. It is Babels’ aim to follow this objective, first of all by increasing the number of debates interpreted into Eastern or Central European languages. This will be the topic of future debate on this forum. Are there other ways (beside meeting language needs) of increasing participation of interpreters from Eastern and Central Europe?
We also know that, for a given budget, the more volunteer interpreters coming from Athens or around, the more interpreters coming from further away will be able to participate. For the London ESF about 20% of interpreters came from London, 15% for the rest of the UK and 65% from the rest of Europe. Around half of the debates were interpreted in at least one eastern or European language.
For the coming ESF, should we draw a ‘selection map’ and set quotas for the provenance of interpreters? What would such a map look like? How to ensure that beside quotas, the quality of interpreters is ensured?
Please tell us what you think about this issue.
3. The role of B languages as an active language for professional interpreters?
This is a technical discussion that may have political implication concerning the provenance of selected interpreters.
A, B and C languages are defined on the website in the following way:
Language A is your mother tongue, the one into which you interpret from all the other languages you work with. You can have two languages A if you are perfectly bilingual, i.e. if you speak two languages as if they were your mother tongue.
Language C is a language that you understand fully and from which you can interpret into your languages A and B.
The question we are currently asking ourselves is whether professional interpreters should be considered as able to interpret from their C language to their B language. In some interpreting tradition this is something done on a regular basis. In other interpreting traditions, professionals only interpret from their A language to their B language (that is to say, the B language only becomes a target language when the passive language is A and never when it is C).
We welcome the feedback of professionals from all traditions and linguistic background on this issue.
4. What role for volunteers who have already participated to Social Forums with Babels and what is the place of new comers?
This is now the 4th ESF project where Babels organise interpretation. Already a large number of volunteer interpreters have participated with Babels (between 1,000 and 1,500 persons). Some of those volunteers, including many professionals, have participated several times to those projects and we value very highly their commitment.
How to ensure a good balance between ‘old’ and ‘new’ volunteers? Do we need to set up a quota for this criterion? And if so which type of quota?
Or should we consider that our aim to increase the proportion of professional interpreters and the new linguistic characteristic of the next ESF (Greek as a dominant language and the increase of Eastern and Central European languages) are enough to ensure a correct balance between volunteers with previous experience of Babels and new comers?
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