A Trip to Korea: The 8th Asian Interpreting Symposium

Edited by 孔德晴(Rachel Kung)/編輯整理

        The 8th Asian Interpreting Symposium (亞洲口譯論壇) was held by the Language and Intercultural Studies Institute of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul on the 21st of September this year. On this occasion, we had the wonderful opportunity not only to attend the event, but also to visit two interpreting schools in the city.

        The Asian Interpreting Symposium gathers distinguished interpreting practitioners-researchers-trainers from Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan. Our very own Professor Michelle Min-Chia Wu was also a keynote speaker at the event. Earlier this year, GPTI also had the honor of hosting the 7th edition of the symposium.

[Visit to the Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation, Ewha Womans University]

September 20th 2019
吳映萱Amy Wu & 施雅婷Sarah Shih (口譯組 碩三)

Our gazes were immediately drawn to the white wall pear blossom relief sculptures upon arriving at the front gate of Ewha Womans University. Another glance at the campus and we were immediately impressed by the Gothic style buildings and the verdant, manicured gardens. Ewha certainly lives up to its name of being one of the most elegant campuses in Seoul.

Shortly after our arrival, we were greeted warmly by four students from the Graduate School of Translation and Interpretation (GSTI). These students volunteered to meet with us before their afternoon class, which we also had the honor to sit in for an hour. Treated to coffee in a quiet part of campus, we sat around a long table at the café’s terrace and had a long conversation with the four students. There could not have been a more pleasant arrangement, and we were most grateful for their hospitality.

During our two-hour exchange, we learned quite a few things about Ewha’s GSTI. It is one of the most sought-after graduate schools of Interpretation in Seoul. Apart from the Korean-English track, Ewha also accommodates language pairings between Korean and Chinese, French, or Japanese. The students we met are from the Korean-English track. Every year twenty students are admitted to the Korean-English track, and split into two classes during interpreting training. The classes they take are mostly similar to the ones we have at NTU. The most striking difference, however, is that students have to take turns preparing class materials each week on the topics assigned by the instructors. For example, in consecutive interpreting (CI) classes, the students responsible for the week will have to write a script from which they will present in class as speakers, and prepare a handout with some background information of their talks and a glossary for their classmates. Astonished by the heavy workload before each class, we told them that our instructors prepare materials for us, while we compile our own glossaries. They were shocked and expressed envy upon hearing this, since they spend a lot of time preparing class materials. Knowing just how much burden we are relieved from, we had nothing but the utmost gratitude for our instructors.

At Ewha, more than half of the interpreting students have had some years of work experience before enrolling in the program. Many of them worked as teachers at English language institutes, including one of the four students who met with us in the morning. The other two of the four came respectively from the fields of business and the arts. When asked about whether they would like to become professional interpreters in the future, their responses were a unanimous, resounding yes. All of them were most determined to go on this path. At Ewha, students are not required to write a thesis to graduate. Instead, they must pass their graduation examination. Few students pass the final examination on their first attempt, but they are allowed to retake it up to five times. Those who passed are then eligible for the conference interpretation certification exam. Passing this certification exam is proof that the student possesses the required skills to work as a professional conference interpreter, and students are then contracted as simultaneous interpreters by the Ewha Research Institute for Translation Studies (ERITS).

Time flew by as the two sides exchanged thoughts and experiences on the practicalities of interpreting. After a quick lunch at the university’s student cafeteria, the students accompanied us to the classroom for their CI into English course.

Shortly after we entered the classroom, students sitting in pairs came into view. Some nodded at us while others said hi, but overall a nervous silence filled the classroom. The classroom had five simultaneous interpreting (SI) booths at the back.  On the podium, the student in charge of conducting the class for the week held a stack of handouts, which were later distributed to the whole class. After Professor Lami Lee came in, the campus bell rang and the class commenced. Before the student speaker gave her speech, she went through the titles of the four pieces of source texts from which her presentation was adapted. Then she picked a few fellow classmates to read a short summary of her speech aloud. A glossary was also provided in the handout.

Since the topic of the week was “IoT/ Cloud Computing/ Deep Learning”, the student responsible gave a speech on blockchain technology. Her presentation was similar to what we interpret in class during technology weeks. The professor picked a student to go forth onto the podium and interpret for the whole class each time the student speaker finished reading one segment. Other students would then give feedback before the professor made her comments. It was a pity that none of us knew Korean, so we did not have the opportunity to get a feel of what it may be like for the students to interpret the speech into Korean. We did get a chance though, to feel the same excitement for the uncertain when Ms. Lee asked us to share our observations of the similarities and differences between Ewha’s and NTU’s programs.

Overall, students in the class that we sat in were very calm and collected on stage and delivered their rendition fluently. Students who were not picked to interpret also actively gave feedback. When Professor Lee also expressed surprise to hear that our professors prepare class materials for students, we were again full of gratitude for our professors and the efforts they have put into course design and for their guidance. We also felt most blessed to have professors demonstrate in class how interpreting strategies should be employed and how flexible language really can be.

This visit to Ewha was most certainly unforgettable. By observing others’ experiences, we can reflect on our own strengths and weaknesses, be grateful for what we have, and consider what we can do for further improvement. We can reflect on what we have and don’t have, thereby learning what to be grateful and how to improve. It was inspiring to observe how interpreting students in other countries learn and what their career prospects are in the interpreting market.

[Visit to the Language and Intercultural Studies Institute, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies]

September 21st 2019

盧作珩Lillian & 湯立婷Angela (口譯組 碩二)

We visited Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) to attend the 8th Asian Interpreting Symposium, in which Professor Michelle Min-Chia Wu was one of the keynote speakers on the day following our visit to Ewha Woman’s University. Professor Wu delivered a presentation on her experiences of incorporating authentic conference materials in the classroom. While still a graduate student at Fu Jen Catholic University’s Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation Studies, she was trained by her teachers using authentic conference materials. Being an interpreter trainer herself now, she still prefers using such materials, because in her opinion, that method is most ideal and realistic to prepare students for the challenges to come after graduation. Professor Wu also elaborated on the “conference observation form” that she designed with Professor Chia-Chien Chang, and how the observation form was utilized as a complement to effectively incorporate authentic conference material in her classes. Professor Wu won the hearts of the audience with her humorous and relatable presentation.

Other keynote speakers also shared their experiences using different types of teaching materials in their respective interpreting programs. Dr. Sohhee Lee from HUFS mentioned that some Korean enterprises would upload their conference minutes and recordings online, and how she attempted to incorporate these authentic materials in her CI classes. Another HUFS professor, Dr. Sei-inn Im talked about how she prepared her students with fast speakers and non-native English speakers, and that students struggled the most with speakers with an Indian accent. Still, she encouraged us to expose ourselves to as diverse a range of speakers as possible so that we would not be so intimidated in the future. Ms. Keiko Murata-Misawa, a keynote speaker from Japan,  introduced the professional association for conference interpreters in Japan – the Japan Association of Conference Interpreting (JACI). JACI holds interpreting contests, giving newly graduated interpreting students with limited experience a chance to work for major interpreting agencies. Professor Jiang Hong from the Chinese University of Hong Kong talked about her idea of establishing a rubric to rate the level of difficulty of interpreting practice materials. The speeches and the following panel discussions were informative and thought provoking. After the Symposium ended at noon, we were warmly welcomed to a lunch gathering in a cozy restaurant near the university campus.

There was also a translation seminar in the afternoon. Darcy Parquet, the English-language translator of the 2019 Palme d’Or-winning “Parasite”, shared his experiences translating the subtitles of the film, and further elaborated on his thoughts on the process. Another speaker, a doctoral student of translation at HUFS talked about how a “full-localization” approach should be considered when translating “webtoons” (a type of digital comics that originated in South Korea). Localization teams in the country used to localize every element in the comics. For example, if they were to localize a Korean webtoon into Japanese, they would change the Korean kimchi into a Japanese side dish, or they would change the exteriors of Korean ambulances or police cars to that of their respective Japanese counterparts. However, “content tourism” is now popular among comic book fans, and therefore localization strategies should be adapted and reconsidered in order to satisfy consumer demands, bringing the speaker to believe the “full-localization” approach may need to be reconsidered.

Most of the speeches at the seminar in the afternoon were in Korean, so most of us had to rely completely on the interpretation provided by the student interpreters at HUFS. Their interpretations were quite impressive considering that they are currently in their last semester of the graduate program. One of their greatest strengths was their pacing, which allowed the audience to comprehend the speakers’ messages almost effortlessly. Such smooth delivery can only be achieved after hours of the strictest training and practice sessions. Their performance was also that of a well-trained interpreter—a professional communicator bridging the gap between people of different tongues. As listeners, we were not only amazed by their performance, but more importantly we were also inspired and motivated to refine our crafts and skills. Despite being of different nationalities, our commitments to the ideals of the profession are the same.

After the afternoon event, we were treated to a banquet with the keynote speakers of the Interpreting Symposium and the students interpreters. At the banquet, we shared with the student interpreters our thoughts on their performances, and exchanged ideas on the teaching styles and learning atmospheres in our respective schools. All of us agreed that this Asian Interpreting Symposium is a great opportunity to network and learn from experienced interpreters and our contemporaries. During our conversations we noticed the relatively small class size of the GPTI program at NTU. This is one of our most important advantages, because in a smaller class each student can enjoy more opportunity to interpret in class and receive more in-depth feedback. This is one of GPTI’s greatest assets. Oftentimes, interpreting classes are much like visits to the doctor; the instructors’ comments being critical diagnoses most urgently needed by every student.

The symposium was a lens with which to probe into the trends in the industry, and the exchanges with peer student interpreters allowed us to reflect on our training here at GPTI. We should be proud of our choice of a path less traveled, have the courage to pursue our ideal selves, and, most importantly, be grateful for all that we have been offered.