Rudvin, Mette and Elena Tomassini (2011). Interpreting in the Community and Workplace. A Practical Teaching Guide.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 237, £60 hardback/ £20.99 paperback. ISBN: 978-0-230-28515-6.
This useful and encouraging book concisely sets out the pedagogical and resource needs as well as the approaches required for training interpreters to work in practice. Mette Rudvin and Elena Tomassini are to be congratulated on bringing such a wealth of material together in an accessible way.
The first two chapters go into sufficient detail about the theoretical underpinnings of interpreting to enable an inexperienced trainer to teach them. The rich bibliography will be of considerable support in preparing students for professional practice. The authors distinguish between community or public service interpreting and conference interpreting in the simultaneous mode. They discuss various broad aspects of the work of interpreters in general. This is followed by discussion of more specific ideas related to communication with and within institutions, and the effect of institutions and their hierarchies on interpreters' performance. Lack of mutual knowledge regarding one another's professional goals, role boundaries and constraints is often the cause of misunderstandings and less than optimal communication.
Chapter three gives details of the three interpreting strands that are the focus of this book: health services, legal institutions and the business sector. It has long been my own view that interpreters could helpfully be trained in basic concepts and skills as well as ethics and techniques for all these three areas at the same time. For example, student doctors study at medical school for five years, all together, before they begin to think about specialising. The profession of interpreting lends itself to a similar structure, though the training time need not be as long. The innovative aspect of this book is that it brings us an exploration of the similarities and differences between three major work domains. This allows one to see that in-depth basic training, followed by developing a specialty, could become reality as a general model in the future.
Chapters four and five refine the focus by providing a practical guide on teaching methods. This includes a skeleton program for a sixty-hour course, and a selection of annotated dialogues. These sample role-play situations offer classroom practice in the various work domains represented. In the book they are scripted in English and Italian, but as the authors point out there is no reason not to develop similar role-plays in any other language pair. The only shortcoming of this section is an assumption that the students being trained will already speak both their languages at professional level. It may be that the rest of the world is in that situation, but in the United Kingdom it is almost always necessary to provide uplift in language skills, sometimes prior to and always during the training course.
The book provides a broad range of materials and sufficient information for organisations to create training curricula and courses within any culture-and-language pair. Indeed, as the authors remark: "Because the techniques are so similar, the strategies we describe in this book could be applied to many other sectors too: interpreting in diplomacy, tourism, the media, indeed any interlingual oral translation situation in a face-to-face, or conversational, context" (1). This statement has huge implications for the organisation and delivery of interpreter education and training. I recommend it not only to educational institutions but to anyone attempting to embed competent public service interpreting within their healthcare, legal, and social institutions. This is a thorough guide for the design of truly useful professional training for tomorrow's professional interpreters.
Jan Cambridge, University of Warwick