Last edited by MariaBrander
Mon, 27 Oct 2008 21:48 CET [diff]

Self-assessment report on TRAINING for the Malmö 2008 ESF

by María (with input from Graziella, Julie, Rodrigo and Yan)

1. Introduction.

This is a very short summary of what happened training-wise in the months preceding the Malmö ESF 2008. I plan to write a longer report, including the results of the questionnaires and a transcription of the discussion group with Margareta in the near future. The longer report will be thorough and comprehensive. The forthcoming transcription of the discussion group is especially important when self-assessing my own performance as a teacher or trainer, as it contains anonymous answers given by the trainees to Margareta when I was not in the room. Thus, this report is simply a preliminary report (although I have already listened to the recording of the discussion group and I already know what the trainees said about my performance as a teacher, which I will share in the longer document I plan to write and which, by the way, is positive and critical at the same time- thanks trainees :-).

I would like to thank Jesús de Manuel for so many things they wouldn't fit this entire wiki if I attempted to put them together. Eva A. and Margareta for their help with individual Swedish-speaking and German-speaking trainees respectively, as well as Elisabeth (French), Luis (Greek), María, Ali, Barish and the Turkish professional interpreters who listened to the trainees in their target language. Without them, it would not have been possible to give a taster course to beginners of specific language combinations. Eileen and Camila took care of the Lexicons and the Abstracts, so important for the trainees. Thank you, Julie, for making sure the speakers sent their abstracts and the info. David and Greg copied dozens of sitprep DVDs for everyone. Thank you also Lina, Barunka, Yan, Sophie, Rodrigo, Anna, Eva S. and many others, for your hard work which, in turn, helped support the DidactiBels project. Thank you Pietro, Irma and Giulia for selecting Forli-and-Trieste-qualified Italians who did not need to train at all ;-)

Special thanks to all the trainees, who believed it could be done and who made such an effort in the months and weeks preceding the Forum: Camila, Eileen, Albi, David, Gunilla, Emmy, Sofia, Doris, Anna N., Giuliano, Anna H., Eva S., Emilie, Kim, Catherine, Gustav, Marta, Florencia, Fiona, Adriana, Ekaterina, Hilde, Patricia, Christophe, Alex, Amalia and the Stockholm Group, who translated my e-mails into Swedish, the Göteburg group and all those who arrived two days before the Forum and also did their best.

Special thanks to the trainees who attended the action-research discussion group. Your answers will help me to improve as a teacher and to develop DidactiBels. Thank you, Iuri, for having returned to the lab, be it full or not, day after day; however forcefully I kept telling you the taster course was only for beginners. You reminded me with your ineludible presence that DidactiBels should be open to anyone who wants to learn ;-)

Thanks to everyone who believed it could be Made Possible.

2. The plan

There were various plans... Plan a) plan b), plan c)...

a) Plan A was to have found enough volunteer professional interpreters into Swedish, and then perhaps some students in interpreting from Uni in Stockhölm willing to volunteer too. But plan A went wrong very soon during mobilisation. I insisted upon this in the coordinators list, but I did not do it myself. (see mobilisation report)

b) Plan B was for me NOT to have gone to Malmö at all. The plan was to find a nice Lecturer in Interpreting in Stockholm who would voluntarily give a taster course for bilingual beginners. Ideally, this Swedish teacher would speak Swedish ;-) I insisted upon this a few thousand times. But I did not do it myself either. (see mobilisation report)

c) When Plan B did not result, emergency Plan C was put into practice. Sophie, Amalia and others created emergency sitprep groups, who started doing pre-interpreting exercises and consecutive in Malmö, Stockholm and Goteburg. I was very soon asked during a skype meeting to think of a Plan D. (see mobilisation report)

rod: I think we should get Sophie to add comments to this report, as she was also organising trainings well before Maria arrived to Malmö. Some interesting points here, where there trainings in Stockolm and Gotemburg? Were people reimbursed finally for the expenses incurred while going to the training site? how can we do in the future to hold trainings in other locations and not only in the forum venue? Are Sitprep dvds easyly reachable?

d) Plan D included dealing with the (sometimes painful) reality. Plan D also included doing our best in an emergency situation, where there was no way we could find so many Swedish interpreters (be they professional volunteers or ad hoc volunteers, or just volunteers or professionals at all).
Plan D included: (see skype meeting minutes)

Basically, I agreed only to
  1. write an e-mail to be sent to ad hoc volunteers every week for two months (I'm talking about 5-page e-mails here) and
  2. give a taster intensive course in Malmö for 10 days.

I told Sophie what I needed (a lab with computers, etc. access to a booth before the Forum) and she found a solution in the ABF headquarters. Logistically, the setting for Training in Malmö at ABF was ideal, and it could be done in conditions similar to those found at any computer lab at University. We only lacked a few headphones during the last two days of training, but only because during those days too many people arrived. We did not have an interpreting lab, of course, but I don't think one existed in Malmö at all anyhow...

3. The (sometimes painful) reality

I had written a very long document on how DidactiBels could work in theory, which is available in the DidactiBels website. DidactiBels means Didactic Issues in Babels. It is not the same as a sit-prep. A sit-prep is a DVD with videos and transcriptions that can be used for assessing whether someone can interpret or not, and to practice before a Forum, whereas DidactiBels is a project that was born in the 2006 Babels meeting on Training, and it aims to create a new framework (in which the sit-preps are also used) for Didactic Issues in Babels.

As Julie said (thanks) the sitprep project emerges from a pedagogical project within a University and that it was never separated from the pedagogy and didactics. Evidence of this can be found on the sitprep material in the Babels website, and in London debriefing reports. The pedagogical sit-preps gave birth to the collective work without which Didactibels would not exist today. This is also linked to previous training experiences like the one Graziela (thanks) tells us about in São Paulo in 2004 for about 3 or 4 months before poa05, and different experiences in other Forums.

To cut a long story short, I did my best to put it into practice. I will develop this in further documents, because this is a non-specialised summary. Some things worked, some didn't.

a) What worked

The logistics worked. The lab. The people. The trainees took it very seriously and gave all they had, they spent hours practising. Some volunteered as lexicon coordinators, which is essential for them to acquire the necessary vocabulary.

I was surprised at how difficult it was to have so many different language combinations and levels in the same class. In fact, I thought this would be a main impediment. But as soon as the professionals started to arrive to Malmö the week before, I found everyone was willing to help the beginners in their target language. This made it work.

b) What didn't work

4. Lessons derived from the difference between plan/reality, or theory/praxis.

I think I have been clear on what I wanted to do (see plan a). Also, on what I wanted to do in theory...

What I DID do I am NOT happy with (too bad, sometimes one just cannot say one's happy, not even "naturally" happy, that I usually am). I would have needed more time to do what I wanted. I know putting theory into practice, in the case of DidactiBEls, will take years, and the efforts of many different lecturers in many different languages... But I cannot help feeling the frustration of having provided only emergency training to all these hard-working ad-hoc volunteer interpreters.

What I did not do, and perhaps I should have done, is:

You can imagine my frustration at having trained people for simultaneous interpreting and NOT consecutive, when the booths didn't work. A photo of my face at that point would be priceless. No comment.

5. The future

Wow. Where shall I start?

I have SO MANY ideas! Please read the DidactiBels website for specifics on training ;-)

I'm trying to make it as generic as possible (that is, non-language specific). Although I have to write in SOME language, and to this purpose I use English. The idea is that when the main platform is finished we can translate it into any other language. "We" are many lecturers that I still have to find ;-) Apart from those involved already, form the 2006 meeting in Paris (namely Jesús de Manuel, but many others).

I have been asking the Open Learning Office for ideas and solutions for DidactiBels. We will very soon be putting DidactiBels in an interactive Moodle platform that can be seen around the world via the Internet. This will of course be all open, free software, copyleft and respecting the principles of the Open Learning Model, hacker ethics, etc. If any of you have used Moodle at Uni, you will understand why this is all so cool ;-)

This is something else that I did wrong: by the last day, the trainees did not know what the Open Learning Model was, nor anything about the principles behind DidactiBels. This is included in the discussion group and the questions they replied. And I have to find a way to solve this.

Some suggestions by Julie (thanks); ideas for the future:
a) the flexibility issue in terms of training schedule is very important. In London, it was the same and that's why we produced some key introductory documents so that people could be fairly independent and we would just help them in some key moments.
b) It would be great to liaise with ALIS to compile an introduction to interpreters on the technical equipment that is understandable.
c) it would be good to have all first timers and only first timers a week before the forum to allow them to train.

I have also been thinking about how new coordinators can be told about Babels and our principles (horizontality, transparency, etc.) in the most efficient way and in a short time. We do need more coordinators (not only because there are few, but also because we need to start rotating, otherwise a factual hierarchy is created), so it is essential that not only we invite those who wish to improve things in the future to join the team of coordinators, but that we also make it EASIER for them to do so.

I am pretty tired of seeing "old" coordinators not wanting to do calls for coordinators before selection, or not making efforts in mobilising people months before a Forum because "they already have their pool of friend volunteer interpreters". Or selecting people before we have even reached a consensus on who is going to select. Or selecting people from other booths, or deselecting people who have already been selected. This is not only unfair but ethically wrong. Perhaps I am being too harsh...

The solution, in my opinion, is, as always, education ;-) Let's teach new coordinators what we have learned. Let's not make the same mistakes again.

But, in order to do this, we have to be prepared to a) not be selected ourselves (thanks Marta), b) accept our mistakes and c) loose the "grip"...

And, we have to preach with the example.

6. Final comments

My basic self-evaluation is that I did not do all I would have wanted to do, but that I did do what I engaged myself to do, which was 1. writing a looong e-mail once a week during the summer and 2. giving a taster in Malmö starting on Sept 6th. Whether the looong e-mails were good or not, and whether the taster was up to everyone's expectations, including mine, I will talk about in the next document (including the transcription of the trainee's answers -mostly positive and always critical- and the questionnaires).

If I had planned it 2 years before, I would have done it differently. In two years, people can really learn to interpret. If I had had 2 years, the first thing I would have done would have been to find lecturers of interpreting across Sweden, not only one, but as many as possible... (see mobilisation report).

So, I suppose what I can do starting tomorrow is 1. Keep working on DidactiBels 2. Work on finding more lecturers everywhere (I already contacted three more lecturers in Spain before the selection of the Spanish booth, but only one agreed to participate in the selection in the end) and 3. Add coordinator-learning to DidactiBels somehow (thanks Graziela).

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