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How to build a screening test for interpreting students?

There is no golden standard on preparing a screening test for interpreting students. You are supposed to find your own way. In this article I would like to share my approach.

  1. Screening test is a must: For one, not every student can become a simultaneous interpreter. Giving false hopes to young minds will only increase their desperation before your realize it is too late. Second, interpreter trainers are usually professional interpreters and they do not have the time and energy needed to train 30 attendees. And last but not the least, mass training does not work for interpreting. It is long term nurturing with peer review and eventually a master- apprentice relationship, which I will discuss in future articles.
  2. Add an ‘Introduction to interpreting’ class to the university curriculum – not an elective – and make sure every student attains a general idea on the requirements for a) passing a screening test b) becoming an A-class conference interpreter.
  3. Identify and announce your screening criteria: Inviting students to a test without setting clear rules is simply wrong. As I said in article 3, ideally students should take an introductory  course on conference interpreting and have a general idea about next year’s screening test. I also recommend to publish short descriptions of each screening criteria on university / department portal. Sharing quick reminders for each criteria a few weeks before the test day might also be a good idea. Make sure that candidates are given adequate opportunities to prep themselves.
  4. Raise awareness on other forms of interpreting: Not everybody can become a conference interpreter and few can advance upto a star simultaneous interpreter capacity which is driven, shaped and reshaped by aptitude, discipline, hardwork and an unfailing commitment for excellence. Community interpreting is a huge avenue not well-nurtured by translation departments. Corporate translator or diplomatic liaison positions are also lesser explored areas by academicians. Some of your students may not meet simultaneous interpreting criteria but they can become community interpreters.

 

Following is a short-list of screening criteria for conference interpreting students (year 3 or 4, depending on the school):

  • Memory skills
  • Pronunciation, accent, articulation (for both A and B languages)
  • Accuracy during consecutive interpreting
  • Completeness during consecutive interpreting
  • Accuracy during simultaneous interpreting
  • Completeness during simultaneous interpreting
  • Length of interpreting (for both consec and simul)

Some trainers may prefer to give an interview to the candidates in order to assess their true motivations for taking the course. Students may simply choose interpreting class because less paper submissions & home assignments are involved.