Sara Bown (UK) and Kristiaan Dekesel (BE)

Saturday September 13th 2014

11:15 – 11:55      Sarah Bown (UK) and Kristiaan Dekesel (BE)

“Cooking without recipes” – The cognitive processes and strategies applied by trainee sign language interpreters

There is an understandable obsession towards the end product created by interpreters, especially given that a tangible error analysis can be conducted to indicate the flaws. From an educational and developmental perspective, however, we are more interested in the choices that lead to this product, as its overall quality can be enhanced by‘manipulating’ the thoughts behind the choices made (Bown & Dekesel, 2012), in order to achieve the ultimate goal which Nord defines as “what should be going on in a translator’s mind” (1991:234).

Interpreter educators have long been fascinated by the interpreter’s mind, but their thought processes are not easily demonstrated, as these can only be retrieved by embarking on a process oriented approach. In their attempts to access the ‘black box’ (make the invisible visible) researchers utilised Ericsson & Simon’s think aloud protocols (Krings, 1986; Tirkkonen-Condit & Jääskeläinen, 2000) and, even embarked upon electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring (Kurz, 1992), in their realisation that access to this box “could afford exciting insights” (Anderson, 1994:118).

This paper explores the documenting of thought processes, via the use of on-line forums (WOLF, 1996), which in turn enables educators to create a taxonomy of the strategies employed. Participants accessed the cognitive processes of their peers and provided feedback. This supports the idea of a social learning community (Vygotsky, 1978) and the co-construction of knowledge (Network Learning Manifesto, 2002).

Access to this collective mind was monitored through a tracking system, which facilitated the categorization of visible thoughts and also provided insight into an individual’s potential training needs. Interviews with participants established the motivation behind accessing the minds of others, and the perceived benefits that access granted. The end aim was to equip interpreters with a diagnostic tool to visualise their own thoughts and help them evaluate possible developmental needs.