Corps de l’article

Efforts and Models in Interpreting and Translation Research is a collection of fourteen articles written in honour of Daniel Gile, interpreting and translation researcher and teacher, conference interpreter and technical translator, and “former mathematician,” as Gile puts it. The contributions to this Festschrift, by eminent colleagues and collaborators of Gile, genuinely honour him by responding more or less directly to his ideas, methodologies and diverse research concerns, thereby testifying to his wide-reaching influence in the field.

The articles are arranged into four sections: “Scientometrics and history,” “Conceptual analysis,” “Research skills” and “Empirical studies,” with the latter (consisting of six articles) being the largest, mirroring Gile’s own passion for empirical work, especially on the subject of conference interpreting. The two articles in the first section lead us appropriately into the Festschrift by underlining Gile’s contribution to Interpreting and Translation Studies in very concrete ways. Nadja Grbić and Sonja Pöllabauer deploy the tools of scientometric analysis to document the quantity, thematic breadth, and impact of Gile’s publications. Franz Pöchhacker outlines the history of the discipline through discussing its “turns,” “traditions,” “shifts” and “paradigms” and drawing attention to the way in which individual scholars like Gile have determined the trajectory of the field. Invoking Mary Snell-Hornby’s taxonomy of scholarly roles (Snell-Hornby 2006), he crowns Gile the “master” of the field of Interpreting Studies.

Other articles engage, sometimes quite critically, with theories and methods with which Gile has come to be associated. Andrew Chesterman’s discussion of “The status of interpretive hypotheses,” for instance, starts by gently contesting a claim Gile made in 2005 that research in Translation Studies draws on two main paradigms: that of the liberal arts tradition and that of empirical science. Chesterman argues that the paradigms “might not be so different after all” (p. 49), in that both of them have a place and need for interpretive hypotheses.

Unsurprisingly, given the book’s title, one of Gile’s innovations that receives particular attention is his Effort Models (Gile 1995), which are subject to a powerful and well-grounded yet even-handed critique by Anthony Pym. Pym concedes the overall usefulness of Gile’s theory, concluding that – in an era when translators are having to work to ever tighter time constraints – the Effort Models might be more salient to written translation than even Gile himself had assumed. What he takes issue with, though, is the assumption behind the Effort Models that the apparent failures of simultaneous interpreters can be explained principally as a reflection of their incapacity to ensure that the sum-total of their four Efforts (Listening and Analysis, Short-term Memory, Speech Production, and Coordination of the four Efforts) does not exceed their overall processing resources. Pym argues that contextual factors also need to be considered when analysing interpreted output and, with delightful chutzpah, makes his point by reinterpreting data from the very experiment that Gile had used to substantiate an aspect of his Effort Models (p. 90).

A less critical view of the Effort Models is evident in Ingrid Kurz’s “The impact of non-native English on students’ interpreting performance,” which reports on a pilot study conducted by one of Kurz’s MA students at the University of Vienna (Kodrnja 2001). Dominika Kodrnja’s thesis had furnished empirical evidence in support of Gile’s hypothesis that “a higher processing capacity is required for comprehension when the speaker has a strong foreign accent” (p. 180). Although Kodrnja’s rigorous methodology is admirable, one wonders whether the findings of the experiment might have been more interesting and more indicative of simultaneous interpreting in general had different participants been chosen. Kodrnja compared the way two groups of five students interpreted the same speech read out in part by an English native speaker and in part by a non-native speaker with a marked foreign accent, and she concluded that both of the groups interpreted much more effectively when their source was the native-speaker. Kurz explains this in Gilean terms as follows: “Too much mental capacity was needed for comprehension (listening and analysis), so that the capacities required for speech processing and speech production were insufficient” (p. 190). This certainly makes good sense. However, a more complex and interesting picture of the relationship between the accent of a speaker and the performance of interpreters might have been obtained if the subjects had been experienced interpreters instead of novices with merely “at least two semesters’ experience with simultaneous interpreting” (p. 185), whom one would expect to falter when faced with a challenge such as a strong accent. Heike Lamberger-Felber and Julia Schneider’s case study “Linguistic interference in simultaneous interpreting with text” is a good contrasting example of the benefits that can be derived from studying the performance of seasoned interpreters.

Apart from Kurz and Lamberger-Felber and Schneider, two other authors – Ángela Collados Aís and Miriam Shlesinger – respond with their articles to Gile’s call for more empirical research into simultaneous interpreting. In her fascinating piece “Towards a definition of Interpretese: An intermodal, corpus-based study,” which gives a taste of the kinds of insights that Corpus Interpreting Studies can provide, Shlesinger takes up issues that have preoccupied Gile and that several other authors address in their articles, namely the relationship between written and oral translation and the ways in which research methodologies for investigating one modality can be used for studying the other.

To recap so far, while some articles in Efforts and Models in Interpreting and Translation Research concentrate on documenting Gile’s important place within our discipline, others are more focussed on engaging with his ideas, and still others heed his plea for empirical research. A fourth category in which one could place certain contributions – notwithstanding the fact that many texts fulfil multiple functions at once – is that of articles that echo Gile’s concern for rigour and thoroughness in scholarly thinking, research and writing. As a prime example of this, Heidrun Gerzymisch-Arbogast addresses the topic of the writing of abstracts, drawing on her own experience of collaborating with Gile on a one-day course in research paper writing and reading. In demonstrating the need for abstracts to communicate effectively to their readers and evaluators, she makes fruitful use of Schulz von Thun’s “Four Tongues-Four Ears” model. My one objection to this very instructive article is the author’s advice “Before writing an abstract for a conference or a journal publication, it […] saves time and effort to check what the conveners of a conference or the editors of a journal stand for – and as a result refrain from even applying when it is clear that our own stance proposes a thesis that is outside the group’s scope and positions” (p. 135). It is difficult to argue with the advice not to submit an abstract on a subject beyond the boundaries proposed by the initiators of the conference or publication. However, maintaining that scholars should avoid raising a challenge to the “positions” of the organisers seems remarkably defeatist, since it denies the need for discussion between different and even opposing views and could legitimate meetings, books and journals in which every author is preaching to the converted.

Another accessible and practicable article is Barbara Moser-Mercer’s “Constructing quality.” In view of the widespread use of surveys as a means for researching the quality of interpreting, the author emphasises the need for more thoughtful and careful application of this methodology. In addition to explaining some of the basic concepts and procedures in surveying, she makes some invaluable concrete recommendations to those interested in researching perceptions of the construct “quality” with regards to simultaneous interpreting.

Something that any new student of Translation Studies is immediately struck by is the proliferation of terms: many scholars seem to invent new terms to refer to a phenomenon which other scholars have already named, and often we find the same term used in quite different ways by different writers. In his article (in French), Yves Gambier demonstrates this problem with respect to the term “strategy.” He ends with an appeal for a more assured and stable metalanguage (p. 79), proposing the use of “strategy” to refer to global and macro-strategies and “tactic” to denote a conscious or automatic way of dealing with a specific kind of problem within a translation.

As should be evident from the above, Efforts and Models in Interpreting and Translation Research is a rather eclectic collection in terms of the subject-matter of its individual contents. The glue that holds the latter together is their relevance to the research interests, ideas and scholarly and pedagogic principles of Daniel Gile. From the perspective of readers, the range of issues covered may prove a strength or a weakness. A reader relatively new to the field will get a sense of the vigour and meticulousness with which seasoned experts in Interpreting and Translation Studies approach their subject and will have their eyes opened to the diverse topics and methodologies available to interpreting researchers in particular. He or she is sure to derive benefit from the eminently practicable contributions on “research skills.” It is debatable, though, how useful articles such as those by Gerzymisch-Arbogast and Moser-Mercer, which appear to be pitched at researchers at the beginning of their academic careers, will be for more experienced readers, who would perhaps derive greater pleasure from the contributions related to new research or to ongoing debates on concepts and methodologies. Furthermore, whereas most of the authors seem to have striven to make their articles easily readable and accessible to a wide range of readers, through techniques such as the explanation of field-specific terminology and concepts, an interpersonal style, preference for verbalisation over nominalisation, “signposting,” and the occasional mid-text recap, a small number of articles in the book are conspicuously challenging and imply a reader with greater pre-knowledge than is the case elsewhere. The clearest example of this is Minhua Liu’s “How do experts interpret? Implications from research in Interpreting Studies and cognitive science.” Although this is an impressive survey of the state of research on expertise in interpreting, the uninitiated reader will find themselves confronted with a plethora of technical terms (largely from the cognitive sciences) like “subvocalization” and “digit span tests,” which are not always defined or illustrated and thus render the article rather difficult to digest.

As one would expect from a book edited by three such prolific veterans of Translation and Interpreting Studies and published by John Benjamins, there are minimal typos, the articles are formatted in a consistent manner, and the various tables and figures are visually attractive and easy to decipher. Helpful name and subject indexes have been added, as well as a chronologically-ordered list of Gile’s publications. The editors’ preface contains a potted summary of each article which, combined with the finely-tuned abstracts, should enable readers of all levels of expertise to appreciate at least the general issues at stake.

In the introduction to his article for a Festschrift, the Canadian neuroscientist Endel Tulving quips that, besides honouring a scholar, “a Festschrift frequently enough also serves as a convenient place in which those who are invited to contribute find a permanent resting place for their otherwise unpublishable or at least difficult-to-publish papers” (Tulving 2007: 39). Tulving’s contention undoubtedly holds true for some Festschriften but certainly not for Efforts and Models in Interpreting and Translation Research which contains for the most part fascinating and inspiring contributions and which does justice to its dedicatee in a number of ways.