Peter Kornakov (Dr)
University Teacher in Conference Interpreting
University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK

PAPER:
The place of grammar (syntax and verbal government) within a self-training interpreting course.
Pilot manual "the grammar of interpretation"

Abstract
Training interpreters for the 21st century poses many practical problems both for teaching institutions and future interpreters themselves.

For any student it is a matter of developing all the necessary skills, it is a matter of hard work, and indeed, it is a matter of discipline. Discipline implies a lot of self-training outside the laboratory, and designing specific training in order to overcome specific problems.

One of the fundamental aims of any language learning, in any of its applied aspects, is grammar: either Morphology or Syntax. Interpreting from and into both Russian and German presents an extra difficulty because of the differences between Grammar systems.

As a professional Russian Grammar teacher with extensive experience of working as an interpreter and translator, I have designed a pilot manual for an interpreter's self-training course, based on specific grammar exercises aimed at improving interpreting skills.

The Model Unit contains: 1) a number of small but condensed texts with the relevant vocabulary organised as synonymical and antonymical chains and rows; 2) "mutilated" texts for clozing exercises aimed at developing forecasting skills; 3) specially re-designed texts for the so called "frozen" interpretation. This is especially useful for the training of conference interpreters; 4) small blocks aimed at syntactical training, taking into account the length of the unit of meaning and its "borders"; 5) small texts for reformulating aimed at syntactical training; 6) larger texts aimed at prepositions and conjunctions; 7) verbal government training and drills on the syntagmatic level.

Training interpreters for the 21st century, who are well educated, well informed linguists with a narrow specialisation, poses many practical problems both for teaching institutions and future interpreters themselves.

For the teaching institution it is a matter of designing programmes and finding an adequate balance between theoretical knowledge and the practical skills to be offered to the students. For any student it is a matter of developing all the necessary skills, it is a matter of hard work, of establishing priorities, and indeed, it is a matter of discipline. Discipline implies a lot of self-training outside the laboratory, the ability to listen to oneself critically but impartially, finding difficulties and problems, and designing specific training in order to overcome those problems.

One of the fundamental aspects of any language learning in any of its applied aspects is grammar, either Morphology or Syntax. With regard to European languages, interpreting from Russian and German into other European languages presents an extra difficulty because of differences, for example between Spanish and Russian or German and English Grammar systems, and broadly speaking, between their syntactical systems.

The syntax of a Russian sentence is a minefield, which the interpreter must hope to cross unscathed: "As you start a sentence you are taking a leap in the dark, you are mortgaging your grammatical future. Great nimbleness is called for to guide the mind through this syntactical maze". 1)

As a professional Russian Grammar teacher with extensive experience of working as an interpreter and translator, I have designed a pilot manual for an interpreter's self-training course, based on specific grammar exercises aimed at improving interpreting skills or, less broadly speaking, those skills that any interpreter working from Russian has to develop.

"While the translator can calmly rearrange the components of a sentence, since the interpreter must start without knowing where the speaker's syntax may take him, he should exercise maximum restraint before jumping in. He needs to attempt to 'see ahead' and plan out the sentence insofar as possible".2)

Before I present for the discussion the Model Unit, I would like to summarise the wide range of exercises typically used for training interpreters, and present them in the form of tables grouped by their aim, their input and output, and the possible language combination in order to illustrate the importance of the placing of exercises aimed specifically at syntactical training.

List of exercises by their aim, input-output and language combination
 
Aim
Possible exercises
Input, output

language combination

1) Warming up exercises (written, aural and oral)
  • Translation, shadowing in L2, L1, listening
Texts, tapes, radio
  • L1; L2
Written, Oral
  • L2; L1
2) Two way Vocabulary activation exercises
  • Two way vocabulary dictation
Audio
  • L2; L1
Oral
  • L1; L2
3) Building vocabulary on synonimical and antonymical level (chains and rows) Written
  • L1; L2
Written
  • L1; L2
4) Training on numbers, names, acronyms
  • Dictations
Aural
  • L2; L1
Oral
  • L1; L2
5) Training paraphrasing skills 1
  • Key-words paraphrasing exercises
Written
  • L2
Oral
  • L1
6) Training paraphrasing skills 2
  • Finish unfinished sentences exercises
Written
  • L2; L1
Oral
  • L2; L1
7) Training paraphrasing skills 3
  • Taboo key-words exercise
Written
  • L2; L1
Oral
  • L2; L1
8) Training predicting skills 1
  • Count Monte-Cristo ("scissors") exercise combined with Sight Interpretation)
Written
  • L2; L1
Oral
  • L1; L2
9) Training predicting skills 2
  • Clozing
Written
  • L2; L1
Written, Oral
  • L2; L1
10) Training split attention skills
  • Shadowing with texts (scripts)
  • Working with two texts
Written

Aural

  • L1; L2
Written, 

Oral

  • L1; L2
11) Training SI interpreting skills 1
  • Frozen translation
Aural, written
  • L2
Written
  • L1
12) Training SI interpreting skills 2
  • Frozen interpretation
a) from printed text
    • up – down
    • down – up
b) from audio tape
Written Aural
  • L2
Oral
  • L1
13) PRACTICE of SI SI + self-recording Aural
  • L2
Oral
  • L1
14) ANALYSIS (de)briefing

The exercises written in bold (3, 9, 11, 12) are aimed at overcoming syntactical problems between languages: L2-L1 (L2 being, for example, Russian or German, and L1, English.)

Clozing Exercise

Traditionally, Clozing implies a printed text where every tenth word is taken out. By this I mean a preposition, an article, a noun, a verb, an adverb or an adjective, regardless of its function within the sentence. The task is to reconstruct the whole text. This kind of "mutilated" text has been used mainly as an Aptitude Test for MA or PG courses in Interpreting and Translating in many schools.

For teaching purposes it is advisable to take out not only every tenth word, but any word or even part of the word (especially prefixes and endings), that is considered "predictable" and suitable for the main purpose of the exercise; namely to develop anticipating skills.

Sample 1 Traditional Clozing (testing)
Sample 2 Clozing B1 (training)

These "clozingly mutilated" texts have as their primary aim a very important grammatical syntactical task: to train in the student the immediate response to such powerful indicators like Russian prefixes and prepositions; in other words there is a direct dependence between certain prefixes and certain prepositions. These exercises are aimed at students' self and home training, and should be provided with keys or solutions at the end of the Manual.

Frozen Translation and Frozen Interpretation is another powerful tool for training conference interpreters on a syntactical level.

The big advantage of Frozen forms of training is that the student has one very important factor less to worry about, this being time pressure, while all the remaining difficulties stay unchanged. As far as I understand the value of these two exercises, they provide what is needed for a trainee working from word order "flexible" languages with highly developed preposition-prefix-ending dependence and verbal government, into less "flexible" languages.

Firstly, why Frozen? And secondly, how do these two exercises differ? I've already answered the first question: for me Frozen means that there is no time pressure, the exercise can be performed as a slow motion movie. The main difference between Frozen Translation and Interpretation lies in the form of their output: the first is done in a written form, the second in oral. Here I remind my students that all the oral exercises have to be recorded and the tape should be played back for self-(de)briefing.

Sample 3: Frozen Translation (top to bottom).
Sample 4: Frozen Translation (bottom to top) + Editing
Sample 5: Frozen Interpretation 1 (Sight Interpretation)
Sample 6: Delayed Frozen Interpretation
Sample 7: Frozen Interpretation 2 (using tape recorders and the pause button)

So, after this detailed description of Clozingly "mutilated" and Frozen exercises, I would like to present to you my vision of the Model Unit.

The Model Unit within the same topic contains:

Conclusions

Training professional interpreters for the 21st century poses many practical problems. One of the major problems for syntactically "distant" languages, like Russian-English, is the necessity for specific training aimed at "syntactical" differences between languages. This is due to Russian's highly developed prefix-ending-preposition system, accompanied by the supposedly "free" word order. Practical exercises like Clozing, "clozingly mutilated" texts in the source language (e.g Russian) can help to improve a trainee's immediate response to such powerful indicators, like prefixes and prepositions, while performing those exercises from Russian into Russian.

Exercises like Frozen Interpretation/Translation can become one of the major tools for an interpreter's self-training. They are easily self-"designable" and can be used both in the written and oral form. They can also be used to train or to teach how to solve syntactical problems on a Unit of Meaning level (short, medium and large units of meaning) setting aside only one difficulty: the time pressure. Short-term memory is also trained and the trainee undergoes an almost full-flavoured experience.

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Sample 1 (Testing: every tenth word is taken out):
"TRADITIONAL" CLOZING A: 1/10

Just Say "No" to the Single Currency
DOMINIC CUMMINGS, 29 British anti-euro activist

By J.F.O. McALLISTER London

As a child, he lived three years in Poland. _________ (He) has worked in Russia and has a Russian girlfriend. ___________ (His) favourite European city? Naples. ("It's beautiful, chaotic, no tourists.") _______ (But) Dominic Cummings, natural born European, spends most waking hours ___________ (trying) to keep Britain from joining the euro.

He's good at ______ (it), too. The tiny lobby group Business for Sterling, of _____________ (which) he is campaign director, has repeatedly derailed Labour's fearsome _____________ (public) relations machine in its efforts to make euro membership ____________ (look) desirable and inevitable. Polls show that two-thirds of British _____________ (voters) now want to retain the pound.

Of course, Cummings ___________ (has) had rich soil to cultivate.

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Sample 2
"PREPOSITIONAL" CLOZING

Just Say "No" to the Single Currency
DOMINIC CUMMINGS, 29 British anti-euro activist

By J.F.O. McALLISTER London

As a child, he lived three years --(in)-- Poland. He has worked in Russia and has a Russian girlfriend. His favourite European city? Naples. ("It's beautiful, chaotic, no tourists.") But Dominic Cummings, natural born European, spends most waking hours trying --(to)--- keep Britain ---(from)---- joining the euro.

He's good at it, too. The tiny lobby group Business for Sterling, --(of)-- which he is campaign director, has repeatedly derailed Labour's fearsome public relations machine -- (in) -- its efforts to make euro membership look desirable and inevitable. Polls show that two-thirds -- (of) -- British voters now want to retain the pound.

Of course, Cummings has had rich soil -- (to) -- cultivate…

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Sample 3
FROZEN TRANSLATION 1 (top to bottom)
In the coming information age, 
access to documents, 
broadly defined, 
will be done electronically, 
just by travelling across a network 
that people now call 
an information highway. 

I'm quite happy 
this will happen. 
I could be wrong 
about how quickly.

Instructions:

The source text is given to the trainee already divided into units of meaning. Each UofM is disclosed, one line at a time. The task is then to write down the translation of each UofM in the free space provided on the right hand side, next to each UofM. The main limitation: the trainee can't change anything already written, but can take as much time as is needed in order to think about the best way of dealing with those structures.

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Sample 4
FROZEN TRANSLATION 2 (bottom to top) + Editing
Instead of using keys 
to enter your house, 
the Wallet PC 
identifies that 
you're allowed to go into a certain door 
and it happens electronically. 

Instead of having tickets to the theatre, 

your Wallet PC will digitally prove 
that you paid. 

When you want to board a plane, 
instead of showing your tickets 
to 29 people, 
you just use this. 

Instructions:

The source text is given to the trainee already divided into UofM. Each UofM is disclosed one line at a time from the bottom to the top (while still covering the remaining part of the source text.) Each UofM is "translated" using "initial forms", ie infinitives, nominative, etc., in the free space provided on the right hand side. The main aim of this training is to edit the text, searching for best strategies to link separate units of meaning.

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Sample 5
Frozen Interpretation 1a (Sight Interpretation)
First of all, 
what do people mean 
when they use the term "euthanasia".

The term was originally used to indicate 
that death was easy and painless. 

But in later times 
it was translated by most people 
as "mercy killing" 
and this has sparked a major controversy 
in the medical and legal world 
internationally and locally, 
of course.

Instructions:

The source text is given to the trainee already divided into UofM. Each UofM is disclosed one line at a time. The task is then to record the interpretation on tape. 

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Sample 6
Delayed Frozen Interpretation 
Does everyone understand 
the term "euthanasia" 
in the same way, 
or are there perhaps 
different interpretations of it?

It is a bit of a technical term, 
so let me explain 
that we distinguish 
four different forms of euthanasia. 

We talk about "voluntary", 
"involuntary", 
"active" and 
"passive" euthanasia. 

Instructions:

The source text is given to the trainee already divided into units of meaning. Each UofM is disclosed one line at a time. The task is then for the trainee to retain in his/her short-term memory the previous UofM. The interpretation begins only when next UofM is disclosed. The exercise is recorded on tape. 

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Sample 7
Frozen Interpretation 2 
First of all, 
what do people mean 
when they use the term "euthanasia".

The term was originally used to indicate 
that death was easy and painless. 

But in later times 
it was translated by most people 
as "mercy killing" 
and this has sparked a major controversy 
in the medical and legal world 
internationally and locally, 
of course.

Instructions:

The source text is given to the trainee recorded on tape, already divided into units of meaning, leaving pauses between them. The task is then to record the interpretation onto cassette. In the case when the trainee works on his/her own, the source text can be divided into UofM using the pause button.

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Sample 8 
"NET" exercise

Source text: If there is a lack of clear focus, it is because of these mandates…

word
synonym
antonym
If  Should it be the case
Where it is proven that
In the event that
Although
Despite the fact
there is there exists
a situation prevails
a situation has come about
none exists
there is an absence of
no
a lack of insufficient
inadequate
a dearth of
not enough 
less than a desirable amount of
too much
an excess of
a plethora
an abundance of
clear  precise
well-defined
obvious
visible 
vague
imprecise
woolly
lacking clarity
focus  concentration on essentials
attention to detail
goal-oriented
targeting of effort
dissipation of effort
wide range of preoccupations
dissipated
lacking concentration
because of due to
the result of
a consequence of
derives from
flows from
independently of
despite of
unrelated to
bearing no relationship with
these mandates demands
missions
obligations
terms of reference
tasks
Instructions: From the given source text the trainee should find synonyms and antonyms for almost every word and present the "net" as given above.

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End notes:
1) John Glemet, quoted in David Gerver, Empirical Studies of SI: A Review and a Model, in: Translation: Applications and Research, ed. Richard W.Brislin, NY: Gardner Press, 1976: 168 - a very accurate and fair description indeed.

2) Lynn Visson, From Russian into English: An Introduction to Simultaneous Interpretation, Second Edition, Focus Publishing, R.Pullins and Company, Newburyport MA, 1999: 89

3) "Russian word order is generally described as fairly free and English word order as fixed. Russian syntax, however, is governed by a set of rules which allow for considerable variation depending on the emphasis, emotion, tone, and style of the speaker. English fixed word order has less possibilities for the kinds of inversion allowed by Russian case endings, for Russian often begins a sentence with a complement, verb, or object, revealing the subject only several words –or from the interpreter's point of view, minutes– later.

Case forms also erect syntactic hurdles. How is the interpreter to handle a sentence which begins with a dative, accusative or prepositional rather than a nominative subject?" (Lynn Visson, From Russian into English: An Introduction to Simultaneous Interpretation, Second Edition, Focus Publishing, R.Pullins and Company, Newburyport MA, 1999: 90)

copyright: Peter Kornakov (2001)

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