The Linguist

The Linguist 52,2

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES In a virtual world What advantages do virtual scenarios have for interpreter training, ask Nicholas Botfield and Catherine Slater ith the professional interpreting landscape changing rapidly and its future becoming increasingly difficult to predict, institutions offering interpreter training programmes are facing a double challenge. They need to cover a broad range of skills to prepare students for a volatile market – but within a tighter budget that means reduced contact hours and a shortage of suitable training resources. There is also a need for clients of interpreting services to understand more about the challenges of working with an interpreter. If this is the situation in the real world, how then can the opportunities offered by virtual worlds be harnessed for interpreter training purposes? 3D virtual worlds are online environments in which users can interact with each other. Far from being the preserve of videogame creators and gamers, they are already being used in many educational contexts, including language learning. Interpreting in Virtual Reality (IVY)1 is an EU-funded project, coordinated by the University of Surrey, which aims to use virtual W 14 The Linguist APRIL/MAY worlds to explore new avenues in interpreter training (see 'The effective integration of information and communication technologies [ICTs] into everyday learning and teaching is often still a hurdle. But, at the same time, a new generation of ICTs, including 3D virtual environments, has the potential to provide very dynamic and comprehensive support for learning and teaching,' says IVY Coordinator Dr Sabine Braun, of the Centre for Translation Studies at Surrey. 'Equally important, the use of ICTs in training situations will prepare interpreting students for future ways of working, especially for remote interpreting.' Using ICTs in interpreter training is, of course, not a new phenomenon. They are already being used successfully in interpreter training programmes as a supplement to faceto-face teaching. CAIT (computer-assisted interpreter training) refers to tools and programmes that have been developed for the specific purpose of developing interpreting skills.2 Other examples of ICTs used in interpreter training include speech repositories such as the EU Speech Repository; platforms for creating and exchanging teaching materials (eg, SIMON and; online and video-based training resources such as; and so-called 'DIY' corpora (ELISA,3 BACKBONE4 and the video material developed at the Copenhagen Business School5). Online course management systems, including Moodle and BlackBoard, have also been applied to interpreter training courses. So what advantages do virtual worlds have for interpreter training? One of the key advantages is the sense of presence they can give the user. Instead of simply watching a video and listening to the audio, the user's avatar is situated in a credible interpreting scenario, such as a business meeting room, doctor's surgery or tourist site. The user can thus gain experience of what it would be like to interpret in settings that can be difficult or, indeed, impossible to get access to as a trainee. Moreover, the 3D nature of the environment means that users can move around in the various interpreting scenarios and take up different viewpoints, accurately simulating a real-world environment. Another main benefit is that virtual worlds are interactive: users can meet and talk there, either by text or voice chat, thereby opening up possibilities for shared learning and collaboration. This is of particular interest in the context of a project that aims to address the training needs of both interpreting students and clients of interpreting services. The IVY environment was developed in a virtual world called Second Life (SL). It is essentially a set of buildings containing a suite of customised rooms, which can be used by trainees to practise their interpreting skills,

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