Review of current situation in teaching interpretation course in the Republic of Kazakhstan

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

Authors:
Mechsheryakova Tatyana, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Novitskaya Yuliya, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

To study and when the time has come apply everything you learned in practice – isn’t it great!

Confucius

Foreign languages play an extremely important role in our society due to widespread globalization and growing relationships between different countries in fields of trade, politics, cultural exchange, tourism, and others. In order to run successful business and communicate with people from different countries for other reasons, a person is required to speak foreign languages. However, not everyone today has enough knowledge to communicate with people of interest, moreover achieve the goal of such communication.

In this regard, a demand for professional and experienced interpreters had shown itself in a number of societies around the world in the past several decades. We now have a need for people trained to help us communicate with our partners, friends, colleagues who speak different language rather than we do. The key attribute to such people is professional. Quite frequently the way interaction between people of different languages go depends on the way the interpreters do their job. Having poor knowledge of professional terms for the specific field of business may cause misunderstanding, mutual limitations, and even termination of cooperation. Without any exaggeration, if one does not pay attention to the way the interpreter is working and where the conversation is going, there can be unfavorable consequences.

The good news is that it is our job to train great interpreters who can perform well in front of the audience, in small meetings, and in one-to-one conversations. Technologies are constantly developing and today we have a lot of opportunities for professional growth: Web information resources, tools for long-distance communication, media, computers, and others. There is great potential in this world’s achievements we must apply to educate students and help them become successful in their occupation.

Higher education is the first step one needs to go through to become a professional, right before constant practice and experience. It is the highest level of the system of education and includes systematical knowledge and skills that allow solving theoretical and practical tasks within the specific field of study [1]. As a system, education is based on certain principles, rules, and standards; these components are the foundation of it.

Education in the Republic of Kazakhstan is regulated by the Government regardless of the form of educational institution, age of students, and field of study. Main principles and most important aspects of education are covered in the Law of Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan, adopted in 1999 and amended in 2007. Changes to the Law provided basis for toughening rules and requirements in higher education and postgraduate studies. It largely concerned faculty members who are allowed to teach in higher education institution [2].

In March, 2010, Kazakhstan officially joined Bologna Process and became a full member of European higher education zone. Thus, the country transferred to three-level model of professional training: Bachelor – Masters – Doctor Ph.D. Signing “Magna Charta Universitatum”, or Bologna Declaration, which was previously signed by more than 650 countries around the world, will help to come closer to European standards in education or fully adopt them in the future. The transfer resulted in implementation of modern technologies and systems in education: 135 higher education institutions are now using credit system, 38 apply two-diploma system, and 42 provide distance learning [1]. All that naturally helped our professional training system grow stronger, which means out graduates have a great opportunity today to become more competitive in the market.

To estimate the level of professional training that is available to our students majoring in Interpretation Science, we reviewed curricula and description of the course provided by several major universities in the Republic of Kazakhstan on the Internet. One of them was based on National Educational Standard (ГОСО РК 3.08.277-2006) and general educational program of 2007 [3]. All universities have to develop their curricula based on those documents, as well as taking into consideration overall policy of the Republic in terms of education. Our job here was not to estimate the quality of suggested curricula, but to analyze and distinguish positive and negative aspects of education process as it is.

If we speak about advantages of the curricula, one of them is accuracy and detailed representation: It contains description of the subject, which helps students understand what they are about to study; main definitions used throughout the course. It also enumerates the subjects students have to finish before taking Interpretation class, which helps identify whether the student is ready to take the course or not. However, this very aspect is driving us to one of fundamental disadvantages of our educational system, which ultimately affects results of studying specific subjects: Even though students know what classes they have to take before diving into Interpretation course, they do not have a freedom of choosing the subjects as they study in a university. The Ministry of Education and Faculty still make the decision for students by creating a plan for each year, which is not subject to changes. The problem is that there are real people working with such plans, who may be overloaded with work or overwhelmed by other factors. This results in switching the subjects sometimes. Therefore, students may end up studying quite important subject after the one that should have come later. For example, if prerequisites for Interpretation course are Artistic Translation, Theoretical Basis of Translation, and others, but students for some reason were switched to study Artistic Translation next semester, they will not be able to employ important aspects of artistic translation in their practicing [3]. We consider this a crucial weak point, because certain skills and knowledge should be acquired before taking the Interpretation course.

According to evaluated curricula, students are expected to have a number of skills and knowledge after completing the Interpretation course, such as be aware of qualities and professional level, which is required to be manifested by professional interpreter, understand communication psychology, know theoretical material of native and foreign languages, apply methods and features of interpretation process (various methods used to interpret well, ways to interpret terms, and others), overcome psychological and emotional stress when working with the audience, and many others [3]. All that demonstrate how important and well-thought the course is. However, all the targets concern professional qualities and performance of interpreters, while neglecting another important aspect of interpretation process: Public speaking. Interpreters always work with the audience, be it a one-to-one meeting or a speech given at a conference. In revised curricula this aspect was only touched briefly, while the ability to work in front of the audience determines how well the interpreter does the job, and how well the message is perceived by the audience. If more attention was given to training students to overcome stage freight, to speak confidently, provide such delivery that draws attention of the listener to the message and helps pursue people, than our graduates would be more competitive in the market and easily adapted to their professional environment.

The list of topics that are covered during the course is multifarious and includes all important aspects that a graduate needs to be aware of to perform the task of interpreting well. For instance, Consecutive and Simultaneous translation, International relations, Two-way translation, Summary translation, International organization, and others [3]. These topics provide wide knowledge on a variety of topics, which are all extremely useful to someone who wants to be adept in his or her field. Nevertheless, the theme of struggle in front of the audience is again omitted. Basic rules for overcoming psychological stress are provided, but this is not enough taking into account how important and challenging the process of public speaking is. When a graduate, or even more experienced interpreters, has to perform in front of a big audience, and he or she did not receive enough knowledge or proper training on Public Speaking, everything that has been taught during the Interpretation course fades away the instant the interpreter is in front of people.

The list of suggested reading is determined by each university, but several fundamental works have been used for many years now. Each teacher should choose the best set of resources for students, keeping in mind great works by old-school professors, such as Komissarov, Retsker, Minyar-Beloruchev, and others, but also giving enough attention to modern works, because they represent current events, phenomena, trends, and people, which are highly important to interpreters. Apart from suggested reading, the list of materials that will be used during the course has to be chosen carefully. It is difficult to statistically track what type of materials and what topics are used in classrooms, because every teacher makes the choice based on students’ needs and skills, as well as peculiarities of the specific location. We can only hope that teachers apply different types of techniques, while helping students practice interpretation; use various kinds of materials (written texts, dialogues, role-plays, video recordings of speeches, etc.); and tries to diversify classroom activities as much as possible to keep students engaged, motivated, and hard-working.

We believe that having a variety of resources to work with helps students develop many-sided personality with large knowledge of different fields. According to Komissarov (2002), translation competency formation allows all-round development of interpreter’s personality: It builds in sense of responsibility and attentions; teaches them to use reference documents and additional information resources; shows how to make correct decisions, identify and match numerous extralinguistic data [4].

Among explicit and well developed curriculum, one of the largest universities of the Republic of Kazakhstan also offers faculty members a chance to grow professionally. They can attend a number of workshops aimed at optimizing process of teaching students: “Cognitive - communicative approach to teaching English”, “Innovative methods in ELT”, “CNN, Caspionet: Translation and level of ease of the translator in relation to the original source”, and others [5]. This factor also plays an important role, because, after all, professional qualities of a teacher is one of the factors that determines success of educational process, along with student’s motivation and adequate resources. There are many other opportunities that are presented to faculty members, such as international educational programs and internships. Unfortunately, not every higher education institution practices this. Some of them lack funding, others do not understand the importance of constant professional development of faculty members, or teachers themselves are not motivated enough to spend their valuable time on studying instead of teaching.

On the other hand, if a teacher was well trained and had a lot of experience with speaking a foreign language and interpret different kinds of speeches, the process of training professional interpreters would be easier and much more reliable. That leads us to one more disadvantage of current educational program for Interpretation course – lack of practice. Everyone who has ever dealt with foreign languages knows that practice is the most important in languages. The same is valid for interpretation. If a person is merely studying theoretical foundations of translation and interpretation without enough opportunities to practice the skills, the course can be considered useless in terms of future application. Unfortunately, our reality proves that students have very few opportunities to speak a foreign language and interpret. Luckily, due to globalization and many international exchange programs, students today can practice their language skills more often. Even so, providing even more occasions for students has to be a priority for a higher education institution that is aimed at sending professional workers into the market.

Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, based on evaluation of educational process and curricula developed for Interpretation class, we suggest the following:

- Control distribution of courses throughout the entire educational period and make sure that they come in order, without some of them happening later than they are supposed to;

- Pay more attention to public speaking aspects in interpretation. It is useful to keep that in mind at the point of designing curriculum, when it is decided what topics to cover, what resources to use, and what the course targets are;

- Try to diversify activities students are involved into in a classroom and when doing their home tasks, i.e. suggest different exercises that engage everyone, use modern technologies that are very interesting to many students today, and think about other ways to keep students involved in the topic;

- Use up-to-date materials to practice translation on: Current news, texts about recent events, short videos about famous people that could be interesting to the class, and others;

- Encourage faculty members to grow professionally, and most importantly provide opportunities for them through international education and internship programs, as well as various workshops and conferences that may be helpful in a classroom;

- Seek for more opportunities for students to practice their language skills with native speakers: Involve them in different programs, facilitate foreigners coming to the university and talk to students, and others.

To sum up, the situation with teaching future interpreters is not as bad as it may seem. The fact that Kazakhstan is actively moving towards European standards of education proves that we are on our way to a greater form of enlightenment. Students majoring in Interpretation science get to work with great professors today, both local and from different countries; they have access to modern technologies, that allow them to talk to people thousands of kilometers away; abundant information is available on any given topic; and employment in this field is prospering, because more and more people have this need of talking to foreigners emerged. It is now up to several changes and improvement in the system of education, and naturally, in students’ motivation to become professionals.

REFERENCES

1. Молодежный образовательный портал (2012). Система высшего образования в Республике Казахстан. Ya-student. kz. Retrieved December 25, 2013 from http:// ya-student. kz/

2. European Commission Tempus (2010). Высшее образование в Казахстане. Tempuskaz.kz. Retrieved December 23, 2013 from http:// www. tempuskaz. kz/

3. УМК (2013). Практика устного перевода. E-kitaptar.kz. Retrieved on December 23, 2013 from http: // e-kitaptar. com/. Москва: ЭТС.

4. Казахстанский университет международных отношений и мировых языков имени Абылай Хана. Кафедра синхронного перевода. Ablaikhan. kz. Retrieved January 7, 2013 from http:// www. ablaikhan. kz/



Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013

  
Main
About journal
About KAFU
News
FAQ

   © 2017 - KAFU Academic Journal