Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

The development of coherence and quality of performance in conference interpreter training

By Kuei-Chuan Peng


Conference interpreters are made not born, as Herbert (1978) and Mackintosh (1999) point out. The increase in the number of interpreting schools worldwide not only demonstrates the demand for qualified interpreters but also\ud highlights the significance of training for ensuring quality service from conference interpreters. The purpose of training, ultimately, is to make competent interpreters\ud who can deliver quality performance. Research on conference interpreting has tended to focus on issues of quality in professional circumstances (Buhler, 1986; Kahane, 2000; Kurz, 1993; Moser, 1996). Training is also one of the most explored fields in the world of conference interpreting research (Gile, 2000). Yet only limited work has been done to investigate quality standards for pedagogical purposes (Gile, 2001).\ud \ud To produce quality interpretations, practice alone is not enough. Being reflective is of prime importance. Trainees' awareness of quality is vital for them to become reflective, yet this issue has not been properly addressed in the literature. In addition, in the trainer-centred approach, trainees acquire not only interpreting skills\ud from their trainers, they also inherit the way trainers describe quality. Yet it is often observed that trainers do not share a common meta-language to discuss quality\ud attributes of interpretations. Such confusion is inevitably passed on to the trainees. To address these situations, I gathered quality standards and criteria from professional, training and linguistic fields and devised a feedback tool which spells out those attributes explicitly. This feedback tool is adopted to raise trainees' awareness of quality and ultimately, help them progress in their interpretations.\ud \ud Talking about quality of interpreting, `making sense' is generally held to be one of the most important criteria for judging the success of a given interpretation, in both consecutive interpreting (CI) and simultaneous interpreting (SI) (Hatim & Mason, 1997; Kahane, 2000; Kopczynski, 1994; Kurz, 1993; Moser, 1996). For CI in particular, Hatim and Mason (2002: 262) state that the coherence and structure of\ud the rendition are especially important (Peng & Hartley, 2005). Therefore, the significance of coherence should not be overlooked by trainees. Moreover, the development of coherence in their interpretations is a useful measure of their progress.\ud \ud Building awareness of quality attributes of interpreting, such as coherence, is a process of evolution for trainees, and systematic guidance can facilitate this process (Peng, 2004). In this study, we address the question of how to observe and investigate the development of coherence in interpreting. I propose that Rhetorical Structure Theory (RST) (1986) is a suitably rich discourse structure framework for exploring how coherence is realised in interpretations. RST has been widely used for\ud describing the hierarchical organisation of natural texts in terms of some 30 functional relations holding between text chunks, thereby characterising the coherence of the whole text. It has also proven to be useful in describing the structure of spoken discourse (Tappe & Schilder, 1998). Its use by Marcu (2000) in automatic text summarisation - which introduces the notions of relevance and\ud salience, and thereby a principled basis for progressively compressing a message -provides further inspiration for the analysis of my data.\ud \ud My data consist of 66 consecutive interpretations, by eight trainees and three professional interpreters, of three Chinese and three English speeches. Each speech and interpreted discourse is transcribed, segmented into functional units, and mapped into a tree-like RST description. I compare these RST trees using three\ud variables:\ud \ud 1) implicit/explicit discourse marking;\ud 2) the structure (width and depth) of the tree;\ud 3) and the nature of the summary yielded by Marcu's summarisation algorithm\ud \ud RST also allows me to account for the occurrence of repair/self-correction to explore whether disfluency would impede the coherence of a discourse. The results\ud from the comparison of trainee and professional performances reveal differing approaches to handling the coherence of a discourse. Trainees tend to focus on local\ud cohesion while professionals tend to emphasise the global structure of the discourse. Furthermore, by observing the RST trees of trainee interpretations over time, I\ud witness the development of their capacity for dealing with complex rhetorical structures by using more diverse and more specific connectives. In addition, I observe that a high frequency of self-correction definitely affects coherence, but few repairs do not guarantee good coherence. It is also noted that clear understanding of quality attributes, such as coherence, helps trainees to develop capacities in giving judgements of interpretations (Peng & Hartley, 2005). My evidence suggests this awareness also contributes to the improvement of their own performances.\ud \ud I believe that RST offers a very useful framework to describe the abstract concept of coherence. It is also worth introducing RST analysis (or at least an RSTaware\ud analysis) to interpreters during their training. Such analysis enables them to capture the structure of coherence better and to give more coherent renditions in ivtheir\ud interpreting as a result. This thesis demonstrates that my exploratory approach offers interesting findings and implications for interpreter training, as well as\ud directions for further research in both the conference interpreting and RST communities

Publisher: School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds)
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2005). A contrastive comparison of the use of major English conjunctions by American and Hong Kong university students (Using the HKUST corpus, HKBU corpus and the ICLE corpus of American English). Unpublished Bachelor thesis,
  2. (1994). A corpus-based study of repair cues in spontaneous speech. doi
  3. (2004). A metacognitive approach to evaluating consecutive interpretation for novice learners. Conference Interpretation and Translation. doi
  4. (2000). A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education. Empowerment ftom Theory to Practice. doi
  5. (1992). Approaches to the teaching of interpreting: mnemonic and analytic strategies.
  6. (2004). Aptitude to Interpreting: Preliminary Results of a Testing Methodology Based on Paraphrase. doi
  7. (1995). Aspects of coherence in written language: a psychological perspective. doi
  8. (1993). Assessment issues in higher education. London: Employment Department, Future &
  9. (1996). Assessment of Simultaneous Interpreting. In doi
  10. (2002). Can short interpreter training be effective? The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission experience. doi
  11. (1995). Cognitive Psychology and its Implications.
  12. (1976). Cohesion in English. doi
  13. (1964). Comparison and translation.
  14. (2001). Conference Interpreting: Quality in the Ears of the Users. doi
  15. (2003). Correction of Disfluencies in Spontaneous Speech using a Noisy-Channel Approach. Available: http:
  16. (2001). Discourse Theory and Performance-Based Assessment: Two Tools for Professional Interpreting. doi
  17. (2004). Emergence of Notions of Expertise: Novice Interpreters' Perceptions of Interpreting Quality.
  18. (2005). Evidence of repair mechanisms in simultaneous interpreting: A corpus-based analysis. doi
  19. (1994). Experiments in the Application of Discourse Studies to Interpreter Training. doi
  20. (2000). Expertise in interpreting: An expert-performance perspective. doi
  21. (1994). Expressing Procedural Relationships in Multilingual Instructions, doi
  22. (1993). From Knowledge to Text: Coherence in Simultaneous Interpreting.
  23. (2004). Fundamental aspects of interpreter education: curriculum and assessment. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. doi
  24. (1990). Getting the Message Across in RST-based Text Generation. In
  25. (1984). Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie. doi
  26. (1978). How Conference Interpretation Grew. In doi
  27. (2001). How Listeners Compensate for Disfluencies in Spontaneous Speech. doi
  28. (1999). Interpretation at the Nuremberg Trial. doi
  29. (1986). Interpreter pour traduire. Paris: Didier Erudition. doi
  30. (1999). Interpreters are Made not Born. doi
  31. (2002). Interpreters as Professionals. doi
  32. (1978). Interpreting for International Conferences.
  33. (2001). Interpreting Research: What you never wanted to ask but may like to know. Available: http: //www.
  34. (2002). Interpreting: A Text Linguistics Approach.
  35. (2004). Introducing Interpreting Studies. London and doi
  36. (1981). Introduction to Text Linguistics. doi
  37. (1978). Language and Cognition. In Gerver and Sinaiko (Eds. doi
  38. (1995). Language Understanding: Current Issues. Buckingham & Philadelphia: doi
  39. (1999). Learning consecutive interpretation: An empirical study and an autonomous approach. doi
  40. (1998). Lexical Similarity vs. Lexical Dissimilarity in Consecutive Interpreting. The Translator, doi
  41. (1986). Linguistic (semantic) and extralinguistic (pragmatic) criteria for the evaluation of conference interpretation and interpreters.
  42. (1983). Monitoring and self-repair in speech. doi
  43. (2003). Note-Taking In
  44. (2005). Pedagogical Considerations of Perspective Coherence Problems in Simultaneous Interpreting as a Result of Linguistic Structure. Illustrated by German-Korean Examples. doi
  45. (2004). Peer and self-assessment in conference interpreter training.
  46. (2002). Quality Assessment in Simultaneous Interpreting: The Importance of Nonverbal Communication.
  47. (1994). Quality in Conference Interpreting: Some Pragmatic Problems. In doi
  48. (1997). Quality in Simultaneous Interpreting.
  49. (1999). Recognising coherence: the use of a text game to measure and reinforce awareness of coherence in text. doi
  50. (2004). Report: European Masters Project Group: Teaching simultaneous interpretation into aB language: Preliminary findings. doi
  51. (1986). Rhetorical Structure Theory: A Theory of Text Organization. doi
  52. (2000). Searching to Define Expertise in Interpreting. doi
  53. (2005). Self and peer assessment - does it make a difference to student group work? Nurse Education in Practice. doi
  54. (2004). Self and Peer-Feedback for Simultaneous Interpreter Training. Paper presented at the European Society for Translation Studies 4th Congress,
  55. (2004). Setting up a Conference Interpreting Training Programme.
  56. (2000). Shifts of Cohesion and Coherence in Translation. In
  57. (2004). Sight translation and interpreting: A comparative analysis of constraints and failures. doi
  58. (2004). Simultaneous interpreting A-B vs. B-A from the interpreters' standpoint. In doi
  59. (1997). Skill Components in Simultaneous Interpreting. In doi
  60. (1989). Speaking: From Intention to Articulation. doi
  61. (1991). Speech Disfluency and the Structure of Knowledge. doi
  62. (2005). Teaching conference interpreting. In doi
  63. (1992). Teaching interpreting: a Canadian experience.
  64. (1999). Text Linguistic Models for the Study of Simultaneous Interpreting.
  65. (1999). The effect of speaker variables on the self-correction behaviour of L2 learners. doi
  66. (1999). The evolution of the social roletaking and guided reflection framework in teacher education: recent theory and quantitative synthesis of research. doi
  67. (2000). The History of Research into Conference Interpreting: A Scientometric Approach. doi
  68. (1999). The Other Three Eights and the Four F's. Finiteness, Fallibility. Freedom of Speech and Fair Competition in the simultaneous interpretation environment. The Interpreters'
  69. (2000). The rocky road to expertise in interpreting: Eliciting knowledge from learners.
  70. (2001). The Role of Consecutive in Interpreter Training: A Cognitive View.
  71. (2000). The Theory and Practice of Discourse Parsing and Summarization: doi
  72. (2003). The Tribulations of a Chief Interpreter.
  73. (2000). Thoughts on the Quality of Interpretation.
  74. (1997). Toward a procedural approach of the meaning of connectives.
  75. (2003). Training Workshop for Simultaneous Interpreting Trainers.
  76. (2005). Translation Evaluation- a State of the Art Survey, eCoLoRe/MeLLANGE Workshop (pp.
  77. (1990). Unresolved Issues in Paragraph Planning. In
  78. (1992). Using Linguistic Phenomena to Motivate a Set of Coherence Relations. doi
  79. (1977). Why interpreting is not tantamount to translating languages.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.