Sunday, January 29, 2012

Expanding the Abilities of Bilingual Youngsters

Recently, Lionel Dersot posted a whole collection of interesting videos on his Liaison Interpreter website. To access them, click on the Liaison Interpreter in Japan link in the right-hand column of this page and scroll back a few posts.

One of them waxes enthusiastic about a programme that describes itself as Liaison Interpreting. And so it is, sort of (see Term below), but a particular kind of liaison interpreting that is usually called community interpreting or public service interpreting; or, since it involves immigrants in the United States, language brokering. But let’s ignore the misnomer and consider what it does.

The organisation behind the video and the programme is Cross Cultural Communication Institute (CCCI) of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. CCCI is very serious about standards and the training for them: see their website referenced below. It gives courses and issues diplomas. The interpreters it turns out therefore qualify as Expert Interpreters.

What interests us particularly here is where they recruit their budding interpreters. They say (my emphasis):
"We have taken a futuristic approach to building a bilingual workforce by consulting and providing trainings to middle and high schools. At the high school level, we have developed highly acclaimed programs that encourage young ones to view their bilingualism as a tool in the ever changing and evolving marketplace. In order to meet the linguistic needs of an increasingly diverse population, we supply organizations with the trainings and tools necessary to educate and assess their bilingual workforce.

"CCCS, Inc. created the Cross Cultural Communication Institute (CCCI) in order to meet the needs of interpreters. CCCI was the first accredited post secondary school for interpreters in New Hampshire and is in the process of applying for the same status in Massachusetts. We offer trainings, workshops, and presentations geared towards students at the Middle School, High School, and College levels. We can also offer customized trainings for healthcare professional institutions."
The age range can therefore be summed up as adolescents and young adults. The credits on the video indicate that the ones shown are mostly students from MIT. The video is full of their enthusiasm (see photo).

The emphasis in the recruitment material is on job satisfaction and not remuneration:
"Have you ever wondered what it is like to work as an interpreter? Many bilingual individuals find this work to be truly rewarding... The majority of us at one time or another has had difficulty communicating with someone else due to a language barrier. An interpreter bridges that gap, and, as a result, many times the other parties are very grateful and appreciative of your services. If you choose to become an interpreter you are choosing a career that is very challenging and always changing. Many interpreters state that every day is different and that they are always learning and perfecting their skills. Lastly, if you are fully bilingual you probably already interpret on occasions for family and friends, so why not receive the training so that you can take the next step."
From an educational viewpoint, this work is part of a movement to encourage and apply what are seen as special gifts of bilingual children:
"For immigrant youth still learning English or for others who are fully bilingual, their lack of English fluency is often seen only as a deficit: their bilingualism seldom encouraged... LIPS helps bilingual youth catalyze the use of their unique skills to promote their own development while also supporting the engagement of immigrant families in the civic life of the city."
This is a view that has been promoted for a long time by Claudia Angelelli of San Diego State University and is backed up by a comprehensive paper with a curriculum outline that she published recently (see References).

Liaison interpreters (LI). They facilitate communication (hence they liaise) between individuals or small groups and normally work in the consecutive or whispering mode. They translate in both directions between the two languages. They often move around with their clients and even go on journeys with them; hence one of the synonyms for LI is escort interpreters. There are specialities within LI, notably business interpreters (who, like Lionel, interpret for businessmen) and diplomatic interpreters (as members of diplomatic missions). It can be very intensive work. I once met French President Mitterand’s liaison interpreter in Canada, and he told me he was worn out from being on call from eight in the morning till past midnight.

References and Links
Cross Cultural Communication Institute. Click this link.

Liaison Interpreter Program of Somerville. Click this link.

Claudia V. Angelelli. Expanding the abilities of bilingual youngsters: can translation and interpreting help? In M. J. Blasco Mayor and M. A. Jimenez Ivars (eds.), Interpreting Naturally, Berne, Peter Lang, 2011, pp. 103-122.

LIPS interpreters at the Immigrant Health Fair and Flu Clinic. Source: Welcome Project.


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