Creating assignments for developing students’ memory in written translation
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013
Author: Oskolkova Anna, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Within the development of human history the process of interpreting
has spread all over the world. The variety of national languages caused the
need for interpreters who provided communication of native and non-native
speakers of the target language. There is a tendency not to differentiate
interpreters and translators, but, originally, interpretation is done verbally
(e.g. conference interpreters for the UN) and translation is a written process
(e.g. company translators or book editors).
Interpretation is classified into simultaneous (the most complicated
kind which requires a lot of mental and physical strength) and consecutive
interpretation (when there are fragments to interpret and enough time to do
it). The quality of interpretation depends on the range of factors:
interpreter’s professional and personal competence, his/her listening skills
(or listening comprehension), memory, an ability to speak in public (eloquence)
and effective work of interpreter and his/her client (employer). All these
qualities or factors are blended (inborn and required) and they can be improved.
Language practice and proficiency rely on person’s memory, long-term and
“Healthy body-healthy mind”, such words of wisdom reason the need
for memory (mind) training together with the care of your body (as even simple
physical exercises supply the brain with oxygen which makes our memory work
better). Person’s short term memory gives little time to take the advantage
over the process of interpreting. The first pieces of information are kept for
half a minute. Regular drilling, repetition and revision send the informative
messages into the long-term memory (but we should not confuse it with permanent
memory). Our brain can be compared with a huge processor which can remember
impressive/exciting information and forget/erase the negative one.
Daniel Gile offers the very effort model for consecutive and
simultaneous interpreters. This model shows interpreter’s capacity to receive
process and produce the information required. It consists of listening and
analysis, memory, production and coordination. Listening implies hearing the
speech sounds, utterance and analyzing the meaning. Memory serves as an
information store for its future use. Production refers to interpreter’s performance
and feedback, his/her output. The knowledge of the language and interpretation
proficiency is not complete without interpreter’s ability to manage and adapt
to the communicative situation. Together with the knowledge of the speech an
interpreter must know the whole agenda of the conference. Big things start
small. Every detail is important. Interpreter’s illiteracy and misunderstanding
of the situation can spoil the effect.
Both consecutive and simultaneous interpretations contain all the
above mentioned elements of the effort model (listening, analysis, memory,
production and coordination). Long consecutive interpretation (with
note-taking) also requires reconstruction of the speech made by interpreter’s
encoded writing and reading of the notes before their production.
Acoustic, visual and semantic perception of the speech checks an
interpreter’s aptitude. Visual aids help to hear triads or pairs of words and
fit them in the context. In fact, the words with similar sound (e.g. cap-cat)
unlike the words with similar meaning (e.g. large-big) can be confused.
We can suggest 6 types of exercises that can help the beginning
interpreters improve their memory. These are mnemonics, the link method,
note-taking, imagination-association-location, telling a story and general
physical exercises. Mnemonics can be described as an individual helping tool
for memorizing the audio text in order to reproduce it in the written form.
There is no universal way/type of mnemonics. A student can create algorithms,
tables, poems or combined words which come from the first letters of the
words/terms to remember. The most important thing here is to create a colorful
picture in your mind. The brighter the simpler the better.
The link method increases the pace of the task. It is more difficult
to remember separate words in the list, so it will be much easier to connect
them and put them in one context. Even if the picture becomes non-sense,
abstract images are good for visual learners.
Another practical advice is taking notes. There is a separate
discipline for future interpreters how to take notes while listening to the
original text. Before becoming a conference member an interpreter can practice
note-taking with simple texts, poems, fairy-tales, starting with easy texts and
ending up with texts of policy and economics.
The forth method (i.e. imagination-association-location) can be
compared with a wish map. First of all, you imagine a picture, then connect it
with your previous experience combining appropriate feelings, smells and
sounds; then we add relevant background – locate it in the context. Such
techniques help to remember the information to render and revise the topical
The fifth way is to tell a story without putting anything down.
Learners should reproduce the words, terms and formulas in the target language.
Telling a story also develops your listening skills and public speaking
Finally, the last but not the least is a general physical exercise
together with healthy food. Being absorbed with work of interpreting we may
easily forget about nourishing food, regular exercise and proper sleep. Good
health is a fine contribution to efficient and satisfactory work of an
Assessment is a necessary part of the teaching and learning process,
helping us measure whether our students have really learned what we want them
to learn. While exams and quizzes are certainly favorite and useful methods of
assessment, out of class assignments (written or otherwise) can offer similar
insights into our students’ learning. And just as creating a reliable test
takes thoughtfulness and skill, so does creating meaningful and effective assignments.
Undoubtedly, many instructors have been on the receiving end of disappointing
student work, left wondering what went wrong… and often, those problems can be
remedied in the future by some simple fine-tuning of the original assignment.
This paper will take a look at some important elements to consider when
developing assignments, and offer some easy approaches to creating a valuable assessment
experience for all involved.
Before assigning any major tasks to students, it is imperative that
you first define a few things for yourself as the instructor: Your goals for
the assignment. Why are you assigning this project, and what do you hope your
students will gain from completing it? What knowledge, skills, and abilities do
you aim to measure with this assignment? Creating assignments is a major part
of overall course design, and every project you assign should clearly align
with your goals for the course in general.
The levels of your students. What do your students already know, and
what can they do when they enter your class? Knowing what your students are (or
are NOT) bringing to the table can help you tailor the assignment appropriately
for their skill levels, for an assignment that is too challenging can frustrate
students or cause them to shut down, while an assignment that is not
challenging enough can lead to a lack of motivation. Knowing your students’
levels will help you determine how much direction to provide for them as well.
Once you have determined your own goals for the assignment and the
levels of your students, you can begin creating your assignment. However, when
introducing your assignment to your students, there are several things you will
need to clearly outline for them in order to ensure the most successful
First, you will need to articulate the purpose of the assignment.
Even though you know why the assignment is important and what it is meant to
accomplish, you cannot assume that your students will intuit that purpose. Your
students will appreciate an understanding of how the assignment fits into the
larger goals of the course and what they will learn from the process (Hass
& Osborn, 2007). Being transparent with your students and explaining why
you are asking them to complete a given assignment can ultimately help motivate
them to complete the assignment more thoughtfully.
It is also a good idea to define the audience you want your students
to address with their assignment, if possible – especially with writing
assignments. Otherwise, students will address only the instructor, often
assuming little requires explanation or development (Hedengren, 2004; MIT,
1999). Further, asking students to address the instructor, who typically knows
more about the topic than the student, places the student in an unnatural
rhetorical position. Instead, you might consider asking your students to
prepare their assignments for alternative audiences such as other students who
missed last week’s classes, a group that opposes their position, or people
reading a popular magazine or newspaper. In fact, a study by Bean (1996)
indicated the students often appreciate and enjoy assignments that vary
elements such as audience or rhetorical context, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
Finally, you should clarify your evaluation criteria for the
assignment. What elements of content are most important? Will you grade
holistically or weight features separately? How much weight will be given to
individual elements, etc? Another precaution to take when defining
requirements for your students is to take care that your instructions and
rubric also do not overshadow the content; prescribing too rigidly each element
of an assignment can limit students’ freedom to explore and discover. According
to Beth Finch Hedengren, “A good assignment provides the purpose and
guidelines… without dictating exactly what to say” (2004, p. 27). If you decide
to utilize a grading rubric, be sure to provide that to the students along with
the assignment description, prior to their completion of the assignment.
Determining your goals for the assignment and its essential
logistics is a good start to creating an effective assignment. However, there
are a few more simple factors to consider in your final design.
Research has shown that students frequently prefer some guiding
constraints when completing assignments (Bean, 1996), and that more detail
(within reason) can lead to more successful student responses. One idea is to
provide students with physical assignment handouts, in addition to or instead
of a simple description in a syllabus. This can meet the needs of concrete
learners and give them something tangible to refer to. Likewise, it is often
beneficial to make explicit for students the process or steps necessary to
complete an assignment, given that students – especially younger ones – might
need guidance in planning and time management (MIT, 1999).
The most effective and challenging assignments focus on questions
that lead students to thinking and explaining, rather than simple yes or no
answers, whether explicitly part of the assignment description or in the
brainstorming heuristics (Gardner, 2005).
Giving students pointers about other venues for assistance can help
them get started on the right track independently. These kinds of suggestions
might include information about campus resources such as the University Writing Center or discipline-specific librarians, suggesting specific journals or
books, or even sections of their textbook, or providing them with lists of
research ideas or links to acceptable websites.
In their study, Hass and Osborn (2007) confirmed the importance of
personal engagement for students when completing an assignment. Indeed,
students will be more engaged in an assignment if it is personally meaningful,
practical, or purposeful beyond the classroom. You might think of ways to
encourage students to tap into their own experiences or curiosities, to solve
or explore a real problem, or connect to the larger community. Offering variety
in assignment selection can also help students feel more individualized,
creative, and in control.
Ultimately, the success of student responses to an assignment often
rests on the instructor’s deliberate design of the assignment. By being
purposeful and thoughtful from the beginning, you can ensure that your
assignments will not only serve as effective assessment methods, but also
engage and delight your students. If you would like further help in
constructing or revising an assignment, the Teaching, Learning, and Professional Development Center is glad to offer individual consultations. In addition,
look into some of the resources provided below.
1. Eysenck, W. M. 2005. Psychology
for AS Level, New York: Psychology Press Inc.
2. Gillies, A. 2005. Note-taking
for Consecutive Interpreting, Manchester, St Jerome Publishing
3. Hopper, H. C. 2010. Practicing
College. Learning Strategies, Belmont: Wadsworth
4. Kellogg, R.T. 2003. Cognitive
Psychology. London: Sage Publications
5. Leeson, L. 2005. “Making the
Effort in Simultaneous Interpreting” in Topics in Signed Language Interpreting:
Theory and Practice, ed. by Terry Janzen, Benjamins, Philadelphia
6. Soanes, C., Stevenson, A, and
Hawker, S.(eds.) 2006 Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Computer Software)
(11th ed.).Oxford, Oxford University Press.
7. Zhong, W., 2003. “Memory
Training in Interpreting” in Translation Journal, available at: http:// translationjournal.
net/ journal/ 25 interpret. htm [accessed March 2011]
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №5 - 2013