by George W. Gage, M.A.
The Second Annual Meeting of Interpreter Trainers was held on March 31, 2011 at the University of Riverside, California. In attendance were interpreter trainers, court administrators, and interpreters from inside and outside of California. A sequel to last year’s event in San Francisco, the meeting focused on distance education and on techniques for training interpreters in OTS languages. The agenda also allowed time for interpreter trainers to share ideas on program and course design, student preparation and current practices in interpreter training.
Organized by Ann Marx of the Court Interpreters Program, the meeting was hosted at the UCR Extension. The support of Olivia Johnston, a Riverside area interpreter, educator and agency owner, was instrumental in bringing the event to the Inland Empire.
The first of the two main speakers at the event was Anna Witter-Merithew, Assistant Director for the UNC DO-IT Center. Witter-Merithew has extensive experience in ASL instruction and distance learning in for-credit university settings. She stressed the need in distance learning for synchronous and asynchronous interaction between students and teachers. In the synchronous mode of delivery, students and educators interact in real time. In asynchronous interactions, students work online with materials prepared beforehand.
Witter-Merithew underscored the importance of program quality in student retention. “Build it and they will come,” she stated, “only applies to getting students in the door.” If the online learning experience isn’t valuable, a program won’t retain students. Witter-Merithew believes that taking good care of students and teachers is one of the secrets to long term program success.
Agustin de la Mora, President of the Florida Institute of Interpretation and Translation, was the second of the two main speakers. He first covered tools for use in distance learning and then moved to an interactive presentation on teaching interpreters in language neutral settings. Focused mainly on teaching the skills of consecutive interpreting, this segment drew enthusiastic participation from the group. De la Mora commented, “The training for an activity does not always look like the activity that one is training for.”
The last hour of the day’s meeting was dedicated to workgroups that broke out and discussed topics of interest to the individuals present. This provided the opportunity for interpreter educators and program directors to share experiences and ideas but also allowed for networking with court administrators, some of whom expressed interest in internship opportunities for student interpreters.
An offer was made by the Monterey Institute for International Studies to host next year’s meeting. Trainers and organizers of this year’s event expressed an interest in securing funding to ensure that the group continues to meet.
George Gage teaches interpreting at Moreno Valley College in Southern California. He is a Spanish language interpreter certified in California, New Mexico and the Federal Courts.