“Interpreting is a creative act”

Dr Carol Patrie shared an intriguing contrast between two studies of interpreters. In one study (Horovath 2010), Hungarian spoken language interpreters define creativity as a product; in her study, ASL interpreters define creativity as a process (Patrie 2012). I’m curious who in the field is talking about creativity as a practice?

Cultural practices comprise the ways people do particular things, such as watching television or eating out, in a given culture. In any given practice, people use various objects (such as iPods or crucifixes). Hence, this field studies the meanings and uses peoples attributes to various objects and practices. (wikipedia: cultural studies, see also “Culture and Society” by Raymond Williams)

Intriguingly, Dr Patrie suggested the book, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, as a resource for interpreter-trainers. Her workshop was on the relationship between expertise and creativity in interpreting, particularly the challenge facing most of the attendees at CIT, which is actually pedagogical: how does the field perform better as teachers so that students go out into the world prepared to become creative experts?

You learn how to make your work by making your work

While Dr Patrie was talking about what it takes to become an expert, I recalled Dr Mark Taylor’s sample performance from the keynote when he was modeling an introductory lecture on preparation expectations for beginning interpreting students. It went something like this:

Welcome to this class! I know you’ve already looked at the syllabus, and you’ve already figured out the expectations for this class….. you wouldn’t buy something without knowing what it will do for you and what it will require to function – there will be preparation for every class, something measurable, that you turn in…. I will know if you have done the preparation – make a video, answer these questions, list these steps, compare/contrast, translate,   I will know either before class starts or as soon as class starts whether or not you are prepared… this is not old-fashioned homework where I give you homework afterwards, this is prep before, if you want to read the book, talk with each other, chant in a drumming circle, do it – just bring it to class/do it before class starts…. That preparation, which is really all the CONTENT of the class….. needs to be done in advance, and then I can cover more content and we can develop skills and values together in class.  25% of your grade is prep. 25% is in-class activity, if you’re not prepared you can’t do the activity…. I won’t send you away, you’ll sit in the corner and do the homework while others do the activity… you cannot earn back the activity points but you can recoup ½ of the prep points…..

A complementary lecture on the expectations of the profession seems possible based on Dr Patrie’s summary:

If you’ve enrolled in this class (e.g., Interpreting 101), it must be because you have the ambition to become a professional interpreter. Professionals are experts, but expertise does not come easily. Expertise is acquired by long hard hours of study and practice. People who become experts are recognized by a series of traits including consistently high levels of proficiency, mastery of complex skills, and the reliable production of a high level of performance – even if one is ‘having a bad day.’ Experts do not rely on talent; nor do they assume their individual brilliance is sufficient. Experts practice on purpose, deliberately, with focus and attention to detail. If you want a successful career as an interpreter, you will need to begin to develop and demonstrate these traits in this course.

Getting students involved in the messy business of their own learning

Dr Mark Taylor’s graph of the generations

Dr Mark Taylor told us a lot about intergenerational differences. Specifically he explained how the Boomer generation rejected the parenting model of the Traditionals, more-or-less skipped having kids during the 1970s and ’80s – noting the correlation with the Hollywood era of Rosemary’s Baby – yielding Generation X, and then instituted a kind of reactionary parenting in the 1990s when having babies became popular again (hinting at a media effect: Look Who’s Talking). This “big experiment,” as Dr Taylor calls the social investment in self-esteem parenting, led to Generation NeXt.
After explaining how Boomers created the challenges being experienced by interpreter-trainers who are trying to teach complex skills and values to a generation of youth who have been conditioned to believe in their own specialness, Dr Taylor explains that one of the ways to reach these youth is to tap into their digital brains. It is not, he emphasized, that youth have essentially shorter attention spans, it’s that not enough is happening in content-based teaching to keep their attention. Watch this 4 minute video to see what students experience in a large lecture classroom. Using a scientific study comparing traditional lecture-based teaching with  research-based instruction, Dr Taylor explained what A Pedagogy for Today’s Learners involves.

It’s Time To Get Online!

The sample lectures provided above are examples of priming Generation NeXt students to understand that what worked in high school is not going to work in college.
Dr Taylor also emphasized the necessity of moving content out of the classroom: Don’t explain the content, lecture-style, during class, move it out there – by which he meant out “here” into the digital realm of the internet. For instance, I would argue that every interpreter-trainer attending CIT could have created an assignment for their students to follow the conference action on Twitter and at this blog, possibly involving credit for asking questions, contributing resource links, and/or identifying and summarizing what seem to be the important issues as reflected through these media. (Yes, this would mean more conference attendees would need to learn how to use Twitter and incorporate checking in and tracking social media along with all the face-to-face interaction. Yes, this would change the culture of the conference somewhat – perhaps less than one fears, or perhaps more, but it could be for the better, couldn’t it, if it led to greater student success?)
The live streaming provided this year is a fantastic beginning. By institutionalizing more interactive online activities of CIT, the current corps of interpreter-trainers could begin to develop capacity to reach today’s youth on the terms they’re familiar with, hooking them more effectively into the necessity of preparing for class in advance, which will enable the crucial skills practice and values enculturation necessary for improving professional accountability and future creatively-expert performances of interpretation.

Expanding the Dialogue: Another benefit of going online and using social media

A CIT  Member sporting her Civility: Pass It On t-shirt.

I only caught the beginning of the Dialogic Group Process workshop with Betty Colonomos and a group of nearly a dozen interpreters who have been pushing the envelope on mentoring within the field. (David Evans, btw, was sharply dressed, as usual.) They’re working on a very intensive, face-t0-face model of interaction that engages deep growth processes at both the individual and collegial/team level. My support for this model is unequivocal. And — somehow, someway, someday, the profession has to extend the dialogue beyond the intragroup of interpreters to the inter-group dynamics involving deaf and hearing interlocutors.
Social media and new tools of data collection and analysis are now capable of handling such a large and complicated conversation. The question is how soon will the profession be ready and willing to engage all stakeholders in intentional dialogue to improve the experience of interpreting for everyone.

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