Ivana ČEŇKOVÁ, conference interpreting before and after the Velvet Revolution

European Masters in Conference Interpreting    Captura de pantalla 2014-09-16 a la(s) 14.07.08

EMCI Core Curriculum


  1. Preamble
  2. Aims of the Programme
  3. Core Curriculum
  4. Course structure and workload
  5. Admission to the programme
  6. The final examinations
  7. Mobility
  8. Joint programmes

1. Preamble

In early 1997 the European Commission’s Joint Interpreting and Conference Service (SCIC) and DGXXII approached the Thematic Network Project in the Area of Languages (SOCRATES-ERASMUS Programme) about the possibility of launching a European pilot project for the joint development of a university programme at advanced level (Masters type) in Conference Interpreting to remedy the shortage of highly qualified conference interpreters, particularly with language combinations which include less widely used and less taught languages.

As a result of this initiative, in late April, the TNP Coordinator circulated a pilot project proposal amongst higher education institutions specialising in the training of conference interpreters, inviting them to submit expressions of interest. The proposal and expression of interest form were also publicised on the SCIC and TNP Web sites. In a further development, the Interpreting Service of the European Parliament also became involved in the initiative.
Out of a total of 30 institutions that had come forward by early June, seven were invited to form a working group to develop a core curriculum for a ‘European Masters’ in Conference Interpreting, with an eighth joining subsequently. The selection was made on the basis of such principles as geographical spread and pooling of expertise. The project partners met in Brussels on 20 June 1997. At that meeting the coordination of the pilot project was entrusted to the University of Westminster and at the request of the other members. Financial support was pledged by the SCIC and the European Parliament.
Between September 1997 and February 1998 the members of the working group, who were assisted in their deliberations by representatives of the SCIC, DGXXII, the European Parliament and the TNP, held a total of five meetings at which they identified a number of key issues, reviewed current programmes and agreed a number of elements regarded as being essential to a programme of this kind.
They drew up a draft core curriculum which was circulated amongst all institutions that had expressed their interest in the project and all participants in the second SCIC-Universities Conference in December 1997; it was also publicised on the SCIC Web site. All interested organisations were invited to comment on the working draft.

After careful analysis of the comments received the group produced a revised draft which is found under item II below.
An agreement to formally establish the EMCI Consortium was signed on May 9, 2001, at a signing ceremony hosted by the European Parliament. Work on transforming the EMCI Consortium into an international Consortium began in 2010 and concluded in 2012 with the signing of the new EMCI Consortium Constitution.
The basic format of the core curriculum is that of a curricular framework rather than a detailed syllabus

2. Aims of the Programme

Within the framework of the European Union’s drive towards the promotion of knowledge through wider access to specialist education and of the objective of improved employability through the acquisition of specialist competence, this programme is designed to equip young graduates with the professional skills and knowledge required for conference interpreting. It seeks to meet the demand for highly-qualified conference interpreters, in the area of both widely and the less widely-used and less-taught  languages and in view of the expansion of the Union and of the Union’s increasing dialogue with its non-European partners. The curriculum was developed in consultation with the European Institutions and continuation of this cooperation is an integral part of the programme.
In developing the programme, the participating institutions combined their individual expertise, and it is their aim to optimise their use of resources through transnational cooperation in the delivery of the programme.
In order to honour their commitment to quality maintenance as laid down in the EMCI Quality Assurance Standards, the participating institutions shall regularly review changing needs and new developments and permanently update the programme. The Programme shall make use of new technologies where appropriate and shall contribute to the dissemination of their application.
The partner institutions shall pursue a common policy on student recruitment and assessment, based on the aims of the programme and on the Quality Assurance criteria, as laid down in the Quality Assurance Standards, which underpin the core curriculum. The participants aim to contribute to spreading good practice across Europe.

3. Core Curriculum

This curriculum sets out those elements agreed by participating institutions as being essential to a post-graduate university programme in Conference Interpreting.
The content of the programme shall comprise the following:

  • the theory of interpretation
  • the practice of interpretation
  • consecutive interpretation
  • simultaneous interpretation
  • the EU and international organisations

These need not be discrete modules.
In addition, a range of optional courses may also be offered.

3.1 The theory of interpretation
Students shall be made aware of the distinctions between translation and interpretation; theoretical aspects of interpretation; aspects of research findings in disciplines that have a bearing on interpretation, for example, the language and cognitive sciences.

3.2 The practice of interpretation
In order to prepare the students for their future professional careers, the programme shall include elements such as  communication skills, e.g. voice coaching, public speaking; conference preparation techniques such as terminology, information retrieval and other uses of information technology; professional ethics; conference procedures; working practices and conditions.
A study visit to the European Commission, the European Parliament and/or international organisations will be organised by the universities in order to familiarise students with the working environment of conference interpreters.

3.3 Consecutive interpretation
At the end of the programme students shall be capable of giving a fluent and effective consecutive interpretation of a speech lasting at least 10 minutes, accurately reproducing the content of the original and using appropriate terminology and register.
Training in these skills will require a variety of exercises, such as content analysis and memory exercises, consecutive  interpretation without notes, summarisation, sight translation and note taking techniques. Speeches used shall confront the students with a diversity of subject areas, styles, and registers, and their length, information density and degree of technicality and specificity will increase as the programme progresses.

3.4 Simultaneous interpretation
At the end of the programme students shall be able to provide a fluent and effective simultaneous interpretation of speeches of at least 20 minutes, accurately reproducing the content of the original and using appropriate terminology and register.
While training in these skills will build on the same kind as those used to practise consecutive interpretation, additional exercises specifically designed to establish and consolidate the SI skills will be required. Furthermore, students shall be trained in booth techniques and team interaction. Speeches used shall confront the students with a diversity of subject areas, styles, and registers, and their length, information density and degree of technicality and specificity will increase as the programme progresses.
Once they have acquired simultaneous interpreting skills, students shall also be taught how to interpret with the text in front of them.

In studying the EU and International organisations the focus shall be placed on how these institutions operate in order to  familiarise students with institutional processes and procedures.

4. Course structure and workload

This full time post-graduate university programme is designed to correspond to between 60 and 120 ECTS (i.e. the equivalent of one to two years of full time study) under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
The programme shall normally offer no fewer than 400 class contact hours, of which a minimum of 75% shall be devoted to interpreting practice. In addition, students shall devote time to group practice of simultaneous and consecutive interpreting and other self-directed learning (i.e. background reading; use of information sources, e.g. radio, TV, Internet; preparation of glossaries). The programme is based on the expectation that the number of class contact hours, group work hours and  self-directed study shall total no less than 800 hours.
Interpreting sessions shall be conducted by  practising/experienced conference interpreters with teaching skills. Where simultaneous interpreting is taught into B, the
class shall be conducted by an interpreter with an ‘A’ in the target language. 

5. Admission to the programme

5.1 Candidate profile
In order to be eligible for admission to the programme candidates must:

  • hold a recognised University degree or equivalent (in any subject);
  • have an excellent command of their mother tongue (A language) over a wide range of topics and registers;
  • have an in-depth knowledge of their working languages (B and C);
  • offer at least one of the following language combinations1:
    • A-CC or A-BC or A-A (where the language combination is offered by the University concerned),
    • A-B(sim) may be offered for less widely used languages and in the light of market requirements;
  • have a good overall knowledge of international affairs and be well-informed of the economic, social and cultural background of the countries in which their working languages are used.

In addition, candidates shall be expected to have:

  • good powers of concentration, analysis and synthesis
  • good communication skills
  • a high degree of motivation
  • the ability to work under pressure
  • and a readiness to accept feedback during training

5.2 Admission Tests
Admission to the course is subject to success in an aptitude test which is designed to assess suitability for training in conference interpreting.
The test panel shall:

  • include a majority of professional interpreters and interpreter trainers
  • represent all the languages for which a candidate is to be tested and include at least one assessor with the candidate’s A-language
  • arrive at a decision by consensus

One member of the panel shall normally be present throughout to ensure consistency in decision-making.
The complete admission test shall include:

  • the oral reproduction of short and structured speeches (2-3 minutes) from the candidates C and B languages into A and, where appropriate, A into B
  • a general knowledge test
  • an interview with the candidate

Additionally the test may include:

  • sight translation
  • a brief oral presentation by the candidate on a subject chosen by the panel
  • written tests

6. The final examinations

The students shall be assessed at the final examination in both consecutive and simultaneous modes of interpreting into their A language(s) from all the other languages in their combination. Candidates offering a B language in an A-B-C combination shall also be assessed in consecutive interpretation from their A language into their B language. Candidates who offer an A-B combination shall pass both consecutive and simultaneous examinations in that combination.

In order to be awarded the EMCI certificate, candidates shall be required to pass all examinations for each language pair at one and the same session.
However, candidates who do not achieve a pass in interpretation from additional C languages or into their B language in an A-B-C combination may be awarded a degree with an A – C – C combination. The degree certificate shall clearly state the language combination for which it has been awarded.

6.1 Assessment
The examinations shall comprise speeches on a variety of subjects in different registers. The speeches shall be prepared to a standard commonly encountered by professional interpreters and delivered as if impromptu by practised speakers.
Speeches will be approximately 5-8 minutes for consecutive interpretation and 10-15 minutes for simultaneous; their length shall be consistent for all candidates within one and the same training programme and examination session.
Candidates shall be assessed on the mastery of their interpreting skills, using the criteria defined in the present Core Curriculum (sections II.3 and II.4). They shall demonstrate sufficient competence to be able to join a team of professional conference interpreters.
Recordings of the final examinations shall be kept for one year.

6.2 Assessors
The panel shall be composed of a majority of experienced interpreters of whom at least two must have the A-language of the candidate in their combination, including one who is a native speaker of the target language of the examination.
The panel shall also include at least one external examiner. The European Institutions, other international organisations, and other member institutions of the EMCI-Consortium shall be invited to send a representative.
If necessary, the panel may invite speakers or observers who are entitled to take part in the deliberations without voting rights.
The final decision on the candidates’ performance shall be taken by consensus.

7. Mobility

In order to foster exchange of information and experience and also the dissemination of good practice participating universities welcome visits from staff and students from member institutions of the EMCI Consortium.

8. Joint programmes

Partner institutions propose to organise joint intensive and/or degree programmes bringing together students and staff of different member institutions of the EMCI-Consortium.

Note 1 : Definition of working languages

A: The interpreter’s native language (or another language strictly equivalent to a native language), into which the interpreter works from all her or his other languages in both modes of interpretation, simultaneous and consecutive.
B: A language other than the interpreter’s native language, of which she or he has perfect command and into which they work from one or more of their languages.
Some interpreters work into a ‘B’ language in only one of the two modes of interpretation.

C: Languages, of which the Interpreter has a complete understanding and from which she works.

Information downloded from: www.emcinterpreting.org

One thought on “Ivana ČEŇKOVÁ, conference interpreting before and after the Velvet Revolution

  1. Je suis contente de voir qu’il y a encore des professionnels qui se réfèrent à Danica Seleskovitch et Marianne Lederer, je finissais par croire que j’avais dérivé vers un autre espace temps perdue dans un mouvement intergalactique incessant entre signifiant et signifié…La perte de sens que nous craignons tous n’est-elle pas induite par l’involution de nos sociétés, sidérées par le laxisme et la médiocrité ambiants? Je m’interroge sur le bien fondé d’une standardisation certaine du métier d interprète. Interpréter n’est pas une activité technique, c’est une activité intellectuelle. Les interprètes, et les traducteurs, sont des intellectuels. Lorsque qu’un pays, puisqu’on essaie encore de nous faire croire que l’Europe est un pays, au mépris de 3000 ans d’histoire, envisage “formater” les intellectuels, le spectre de la dictature n’est pas loin. L’intellectuel-Interprète est un curieux qui s’est donné la peine de plonger dans d’autres cultures, d’en assimiler la langue, les us et les coutumes, pour dans une étape ultérieure participer au rapprochement des peuples. Suite à l’arrivée dans les foyers des postes de télévision, des ordinateurs, des antennes paraboliques et à l’abandon d’une étude sérieuse de la langue maternelle dans les écoles publiques, l’Europe a engendré diverses générations d’invertébrés délicieusement “aux normes”, qui se tournent vers des machines pour trouver la solution de leurs problèmes plutôt que de chercher en eux même une nouvelle façon d’être, renonçant à exprimer un nouvel aspect d’eux mêmes. L’hyper-stimulation répétitive et systématique de l’épiphyse, hypophyse, hypothalamus, amygdales et autres organes cérébraux, par les innombrables appareils nous entourant, génère des niveaux de tension importants auxquels l’être humain s’adapte tant bien que mal, mettant en jeu son équilibre psychique et sa santé. L’introduction d’écran dans les cabines, qu’ils soient petits ou grands, met en péril l’exercice de l’Interprète-Intellectuel. En effet, la pénombre propice aux états de modifiés de conscience aide l’individu à se concentrer et a dépasser les limites et hésitations habituelles de l’expression pour passer d’une langue à l’autre “le plus naturellement du monde”. Le cerveau est en mode “hyperespace”, l’individu a accès à une autre dimension de ses capacités. Les seuls choses utiles dans une cabine d’interprète sont la chaise, les écouteurs et le micro, le reste, tout le reste, me semble un reliquat des doudous et autres tétines de l’enfance.
    Former des interprètes, c’est aider de jeunes intellectuels à devenir pleinement adultes, autonomes, doués d’une pensé propre, indépendante, libres de se mettre ou non en concurrence, curieux du monde qui les entoure, ouverts, hardis, au service de la communauté.
    Quelle est l’intention des divers appareils d’état qui cherchent à banaliser les capacités intellectuelles des uns et des autres, tolérant des pertes de sens au grès de leurs humeurs et de leurs intérêts?
    L’Interprète-Intellectuel est-il encore un travailleur indépendant ou simplement l’acteur d’une nouvelle mise en scène du Faust de Goethe???
    Lorsque vous pénétrerez dans la cabine, oubliez votre quotidien, laissez les joujoux.2 au vestiaire, et renoncez aux textes-béquilles qui vous déconcentrent; entrez d’un pas décidé, interpellez la totalité de votre être car l’instant est précieux, car là bas, dans la salle, ils sont suspendus à vos lèvres.


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