Key Words: Sight translation, interpreter training, teaching methods,
simultaneous interpretation, consecutive interpretation.
Abstract: Sight translation has been considered as a part of simultaneous
and consecutive interpretation. However, due to recent developments in the
fields of business, finance, international trade, science and technology and due
to changing market demands, sight translation has gained an extra place beyond
consecutive and simultaneous interpretation. This paper aims at laying a
groundwork for teaching sight translation, based on concepts and strategies of
ecent developments in many fields such as international relations, business,
trade, social sciences, and technology and the need for accessing information in
the shortest possible time necessitate an active and effective communication medium.
Translation, notably interpretation, is one of those communication media.
The term "interpretation" generally brings simultaneous,
consecutive or liaison interpretation to mind. Sight translation has mostly
been considered as a supportive interpretation method for simultaneous and
consecutive interpretation. Jean Herbert (1952) characterized sight translation
as a type of simultaneous interpreting. For many scholars, sight translation is
just a pedagogical exercise for getting started in the techniques of consecutive
interpreting and simultaneous interpreting, an exercise by which interpreter
trainees can learn to react quickly and improve their oral skills (Spilka 1966;
Curvers et al. 1986; Weber 1990; Falbo 1995; Viaggio 1995). However, sight
translation, consecutive interpreting and simultaneous interpreting are
performed under different conditions. Even though there are similarities in the
mental process, the overall process is different. In sight translation, the
translator reads a written text, whereas the interpreter, in both consecutive and
the simultaneous modes, listens to a speaker. Due to the differences in the
process, the methods and strategies that an interpreter trainee uses in sight
translation will change.
This paper will present some suggestions for sight translation teaching.
However, sight translation will not be considered as a supportive method for
simultaneous and consecutive interpretation but a sole interpretation method
that can be used by the interpreter trainees in various fields.
Sight Translation (ST) is generally taught in the second semester of the
second year or in the first semester of the third year in the departments of
translation and interpretation in Turkey. The main reason is that general skills
such as reading, writing, textual analysis and vocabulary are taught in the
first two years. The first exercises to be used in a sight translation course will
be directly related with those basic skills.
The first two weeks of the semester can be devoted to fast reading, skimming,
scanning and reading comprehension activities. Those activities will enable
students to speed up their reading and get the gist of the text that they are
working on in the shortest possible time.
In the beginning, the students are given a text (250-300 words) in their
native language and are asked to read the whole text in 20-30 seconds. Then,
they are asked general questions about the subject of the text. In the second
phase, they are asked more specific questions (such as names, dates, places,
etc.) before they are asked to read the text for the second time. This time,
they are given 10-15 seconds to find the specific information. Lastly, the
students are given enough time to read the text thoroughly. This time, they are
asked comprehension questions. The same exercise is repeated with the texts
written in L2. The aim of this exercise is to develop reading comprehension and
fast reading skills.
In the following weeks, the instructor chooses texts from various fields and
gives only the titles of the texts and asks students to use their passive
knowledge on the subject. For example, the instructor asks students what they
expect from a text entitled "Painful changeover to Euro". The students
produce key words by brainstorming on the subject. In the beginning they may
wander from the subject and produce irrelevant keywords. However, as they begin
to use their passive knowledge and make logical connections they will come to
the point. Then, the instructor randomly chooses keywords from the text and asks
students to make logical connections between those keywords and form a bold outline
of the text. The aim of this exercise is to enable the students to use their
passive knowledge and make logical connections between the facts. Following this
exercise, the students are handed out the original text and are asked to check
if their outline and assumptions are correct. Then they read the text one more
time by using fast reading techniques and mark the unknown words. However, the
instructor does not explain those unknown words at this stage.
The same text used in the previous exercise will be used in this exercise.
This time, the students are asked to analyze the text in detail. What is the
type of the text? Is it informative? Is it vocative? How is the form of the
text? Does it include titles, subtitles, articles, tables, graphs, etc? What is
the message of the text? Does the text include technical words, jargon,
abbreviations, etc? Are the sentences complex? Those questions will prepare the
student for the translation process. The following exercises will enable students to
develop their own strategies to deal with language-specific problems.
One of the problems that perplex students is the presence of unknown words. This problem also
slows down the reading speed of students and disables them to deal with other
problems they face in sight translation. In fast reading process, when the
student encounters an unknown word, or a word that is difficult to pronounce,
his/her reading speed will slow down. However, in a slow and meaningful reading
process, he/she either will be able to guess the meaning of the unknown word by
using contextual clues or will realize that the word is not crucial for
understanding the message of the whole text. In some cases, however, the word
may be directly related to the message and it may cause problems in
translation if the word is omitted or ignored. Bearing this in mind, the
lecturer may choose texts that may help students to deal with unknown words. The
following strategies can be applied on the sample texts:
- To focus on the message of the sentence/paragraph rather than the meaning
of the word.
Sample text: "If anyone is asked to rate a person, whom he
knows sufficiently well, on a number of personality variables, he will tend to
be influenced by his general opinion of the person. If he has a high
opinion of the person he will tend to rate him high on all desirable
qualities, and vice versa if he has a low opinion. (C.J. Adcock:
Fundamentals of Psychology)
To guess the meaning of the word by using contextual clues
Sample text: If you were to place a human brain on a table in
front of you, you would notice that it is divided neatly into two halves
vertically from front to back: these are the right and left cerebral
hemispheres. And each hemisphere is further divided into four
so-called lobes: the one at the front (the frontal lobe) is responsible
for controlling movement and for some aspects of emotions; the occipital
lobe (at the back) deals with sight, the lobe at the side (the
temporal lobe) is an important memory store; and the parietal lobe
(at the top) has a vital role in comparing and integrating information
that flows into the brain through the sensory channels of vision,
hearing, smell and touch. (Richard Leakey and Robert Lewin: People of
Another language-specific problem that may cause problems in the process of
sight translation is complex sentence structures. Long, complex and compound
sentence structures generally slow down the reading speed and increase the
risk of wrong interpretation. Using "parsing" and
"chunking" methods may eliminate this problem.
For this exercise, the students are handed out texts, which are written in
complex sentence structures. The students are asked to parse each sentence in
order to work out to what grammatical type each word and clause belong. Then,
they are asked to determine the smallest semantic units in each sentence.
Depending on the sentence structure of the language they are translating into,
they restructure their sentences. However, it should be noted that the aim of
this exercise is to analyze the sentence structure and to re-formulate it in the
target language. The aim is not to use the same grammatical structure but to
give the same message in the target language.
This exercise will help students to focus on the meaning rather than the
structure and the words of a given text. The students are given texts written
in their native language and they are asked to "paraphrase" each
sentence. They are expected to use their own words to give the same message.
They try to re-express each sentence in 2-3 different ways without changing
the meaning. They are allowed to make additions and omissions, to break a long
sentence into smaller sentences, to combine short sentences and make a longer
sentence and to change the sentence structure (e.g. active sentences to
passive, passive sentences to active sentences). The only rule is not to
change the meaning.
The above-mentioned exercises aim at enabling students to produce correct,
coherent and fluent translations. However, all those exercises are in-class
activities. It is obvious that real-life conditions will be different and
sometimes more difficult. Therefore, the students should be prepared to solve
various problems before they work in real-world conditions. For example:
The text to be sight translated may be handwritten. Hence, in order to
familiarize the student with various handwritings, in-class activities
should include handwritten texts.
The text to be sight translated may involve ungrammatical sentence
structures and poor punctuation. Therefore, texts written by
non-native-speakers who are unfamiliar with the rules of grammar and
punctuation should also be included in the exercises to make students
familiarize with that kind of texts.
The text to be sight translated may be incoherent, or poorly organized.
In such a case, the student should be able to detect shortcomings and correct
them in the shortest time.
The text to be sight translated may involve graphs, tables, pictures or
diagrams. The students should be able to read and interpret those
In order to expose the students to different styles of writing and document
structures, texts of considerable difficulty and complexity should be chosen.
Though text types and topics may vary according to market demand, a sight
translation course syllabus design should include the following text types:
Commercial and economic texts, e.g. real-world texts on current world economic
and financial issues, international trade and business, scientific and
technical texts, e.g. medicine, environment, computer science, journal
articles, manuals, patents, political and legal texts.
In conclusion, it should be noted that training time is the time to
introduce students to the real-life process of translation. They should be made
aware of the fact that there are many factors which may act as constraints on
the process. Their role is to make certain decisions in order to
maneuver among those factors.
Curvers, P., Klein, J., Riva, N. & Wuilmart, C. (1986). La traduction à
vue comme exercice préparatoire et complémentaire à l'interprétation de conférence. Cuadernos
de Traducció e Interpretació no. 7, 97-116.
Doğan, A. (1996). Yazılı Metinden
Sözlü Çeviri ve İlgili Eğitim Programı İçin Bazı
öneriler. Çeviribilim ve Uygulamaları
no. 6, 25-34.
Falbo, C. (1995). Interprétation consécutive et exercices préparatoires. The
Interpreters' Newsletter no. 6, 87-91.
Gile, D. (1995). Basic Concepts and Models For Interpreter and Translator
Training. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Herbert, J. (1952). Manuel de l'interprète. Comment on devient
interprète de conférence. Geneva: Georg.
Spilka, I. (1966). La traduction à vue: instrument de formation. Meta 11
Viaggio, S. (1995). The praise of sight translation (and squeezing the last
drop thereout of).