What do we know about interpreting, and how do we know it?

AIIC Canada member Gillian Misener travelled to Washington, D.C. in October to learn more about interpreter research and training

Photo credits: Photos courtesy of the organisers

The training seminar “AIIC Interpreting: What We Know and How We Know It” took place the weekend of October 5-7 2018 in Washington, DC. Designed for interpreter trainers and practicing interpreters wishing to learn more about interpreter research and training, it attracted participants from all over the world.

The trainer, Franz Pöchhacker, is Associate Professor of Interpreting Studies at the University of Vienna, and has published the textbook Introducing Interpreting Studies, co-edited the International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting, and edited the Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies. Despite these impressive credentials, he is a humble and fun-loving colleague with whom we spent an enjoyable and instructive weekend.

Participants met up in the “classroom”—the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ swanky digs in the heart of DC, just a stone’s throw from the White House. Barry Olsen Slaughter was our trusty logistician and all-round fixer, looking after the technical aspects and keeping the seminar on track.

A tireless researcher and talented pedagogue, Franz had clearly invested hours preparing to answer the question raised by the workshop title:  “What do we know about interpreting, and how do we know it?”. He provided us with an overview of the evolution of research on interpreting, and we looked at Sawyer’s 2004 affirmation that “interpreter training has never truly left the realm of apprenticeship”.


Interestingly, participants provided a number of real-life examples from their own background proving that this is changing more and more. Interpreter training programs, while still including internships or practical components, are increasingly built on skills development. This is true for degrees in conference, community, court/medical, and sign-language interpreting. These are taught through classroom exercises that also take theory into account, rather than just putting trainees into the booth or other interpreting settings and saying “do as I do.”

Furthermore, the interpreters who are training the next generation have an appetite to perfect their pedagogical approaches. Examples among the attendees included Nada, a Ph.D student at University of Geneva (Unige) who is conducting a curriculum analysis of Arabic interpreting training programs; my Canadian colleague Thel Morgan, who completed the Masters in Interpreter Training, also at Unige, and is now an instructor at the University of Ottawa MCI; and Kelli, who has a Masters in Adult Learning, specializing in Interpreter Pedagogy, and teaches ASL-English interpreting at a number of colleges in the US.

In addition to being a wonderful learning opportunity, this seminar brought home the fact that so many of our colleagues are dedicated to giving the next generation of interpreters the tools they need to succeed.

Hats off to AIIC for another successful ToT session!

This article was originally published in the AIIC Canada March 2019 Newsletter.

Photos courtesy of the event organisers.

Recommended citation format:
Gillian Misener. "What do we know about interpreting, and how do we know it?". aiic.net May 10, 2019. Accessed July 9, 2020. <http://aiic.net/p/8802>.

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