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An Introduction

Keeping Your Eye On the Ball

An interpreted message is a message at risk.  Discourse might be flowing fast and furious or from several sources at once and may involve terminology or full topics unfamiliar to the interpreter.  Interpretations resulting from challenging or chaotic situations or discourse can suffer a little, or a lot.  

Interpretation outcomes are the result of many, many factors.  Several of these factors are influenced by interpreter knowledge, choice, and use of processing models.  

For this discussion, the word model is used to mean paradigm.  But, what does paradigm mean?

"A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices
that constitutes a way of viewing reality
for the community that shares them."

                                                                                   - Yahoo Education definition of paradigm

Over the years, interpreters, their process and production, have been observed, recorded, studied, and analyzed by concerned and informed people, not the least influential of whom have been [listed here in no particular order]: speech pathologist, educator, and counselor Dr. Betty Colonomos; educator Ms. Sandra Gish; and educator and linguist Dr. Dennis Cokely.

On this page is a bulleted overview of the processing models put forth by these renowned professionals.  Look it over.  Find the differences and similarities.  Then, obtain the books, take the workshops, study, practice, and study some more.  

The extent to which you internalize models is the extent to which they are available for use at a moment's notice and can save you and your product from going down the drain.  Think of them as theoretical scaffolding; use them to crawl around and through your thoughts while interpreting.  Processing models offer structure.  Use them to organize what you are doing.  Having access to a paradigm is like having access to a map.  Interpreters are encouraged to ask for directions.

1987; 1992

Interpreting, from the viewpoint of its being mental activity, involves three basic steps.  Each mental activity step requires specific skills.  Under the Colonomos model, the extent to which an interpreter is able to acquire the requisite skills and use them to perform the mental activities will immeasurably impact his/her production.

Step 1: Concentrate


Step 2: Represent


          strip the source message of language
          experience the message, not the language
          retain the essence feelings, fragrances, images, etc.

Step 3: Plan


          organize message concepts into the structure of the target language and culture
          how best is the message conveyed via the target language and culture
          as needed, seek any required additional information or clarification


Interpreting a source message into a dynamically equivalent target message requires efficient organization and re-organization of data.  Ms. Gish has given interpreters an eloquently effective discourse organization tool to use within the framework of a speaker's goal. 

Here's a little graphic we put together to help illustrate organization of the conceptual hierarchy.


Gish Model of Interpreting


Speaker's Goal

       To teach?  To embarrass?  To unite?  To persuade?  To entertain?

Speaker's Theme

       What's the topic or trend?  What's the communication about?

Speaker's Objectives

       Main ideas to be covered.  Categories within the theme.

Speaker's Units

       Points that support an objective.

Speaker's Details

       Expanded or deeper information supporting a unit.

Speaker's Data

       Factual or statistical information, such as telephone numbers, percentages, URLs.


Interpretation errors (Cokely calls them miscues) can be minimized when an interpreter understands which mistakes s/he most often makes and where they occur during the process.


Miscues can be grouped as:

Omissions (O)

 Information did not make it into the interpretation

 Morphological: tiny elements that change meaning (ex: "s" shows more than one)
Lexical: word/phrase left completely out
Cohesive: not organizing message parts into contextual relationships

Additions (ADD)

 Interpretation contains input of the interpreter

 Non-manual: grammatically incorrect
Lexical: word/phrase to contextualize or explain, but incorrect
Cohesive: incorrectly organizing the message; making relationships where none exist

Substitutions (S)

Restrictive: making the message less than it was
Expansive: making the message more than it was
Unrelated: produced the wrong sign/word/concept

Intrusions (I)

 Source language feature appeared in the interpretation

 Could be words/signs (lexical) or grammar (syntax)

Anomalies (A)

  Interpretation is inexplicably meaningless

Minimize Miscues

Interpreting, from the viewpoint of cognitive processing, involves seven major stages.  Interpreters can minimize the occurrence of a particularly challenging miscue by identifying at which stage it happens in the cognitive process, and then analyzing why it occurs and how to stop doing it.

Stage 1: Message Reception

Interpreter must be able to perceive the message
If unable to perceive, the rest of the process cannot succeed

  sensory register (can see/hear it and can start to process it)
  recognition (comprehending the message)
  attention (avoiding distraction and interference)

Stage 2: Preliminary Processing

Attention is given to the form of the source message
Does the
message make sense?  Is it understandable?

  it fits: where we are, who is present, why we are doing what we are doing
  message is taking shape within a meaningful context
  interpreter has language and culture knowledge required for comprehension
  interpreter can begin to make
predictions about the message
  interpreter's cumulative knowledge supports the present effort

Stage 3: Short-term Message Retention

  Information is "chunked" for holding then organizing along with other chunked information
  Accuracy in understanding each chunk depends upon how deeply it is analyzed
  Interpreter appropriately uses "
lag-time" to await idea completion and understanding
Stage 4: Semantic Intent Realized

  Interpreter is understanding meaningful portions of the chunked information

Stage 5: Semantic Equivalence Determination 

  Source language form is dropped
  Interpreter focuses on conceptual meaning
  Target language and cultural elements are considered

Stage 6: Syntactic Message Formulation 

  Interpreter mentally formulates the message into the target language
  Interpreter mentally rehearses the message for effectiveness and accuracy 

Stage 7: Message Production 

  Interpreter delivers the interpreted message
monitors consumers for comprehension and feedback

... to be continued.

This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: October 2008.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.






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BOOK: How Language Works

BOOK: Interpreting In Legal Settings

BOOK: Interpreting As A Discourse Process

BOOK/DVD: So You Want To Be An Interpreter?

Sign Language Interpreting and Perspectives on Deafness

BOOK: Interpretation: A Sociolinguistic Model

BOOK: Introducing Interpreting