PROSODIC FEATURE AWARENESS TRAINING IN INTERPRETING: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY
This study was done to investigate the effect of prosodic feature awareness training on the quality of (consecutive) interpreting by interpreter trainees. Moreover, the role of gender in the quality of interpreting was studied as well. Two groups of student interpreters were formed. All were native speakers of Farsi who studied English translation and interpreting at the BA level at the State University of Arak. Members were assigned to groups at random, but with equal division between genders (7 female and 8 male students in each group). No significant differences in English language skill (TOEFL scores) could be established between the groups. One group, which functioned as the control group, was then taught interpreting skills by the routine curriculum, while the other, experimental group, spent part of the time on theoretical explanation and practical exercises emphasizing prosodic differences between Farsi and English. The total instruction time was the same for both groups, i.e. 36 hours. Students then took a post-test in which they interpreted a number of passages spoken in British English into Farsi.
Three raters assessed quality measures of accuracy, omissions, overall coherence, grammar, expression, word choice, terminology, accent, pace and voice of interpreter trainees in post-test performance. The scores given by the three raters were in high agreement for each of the ten performance rating scales (all Cronbach alphas > .9).The results show that prosodic feature awareness training did have a statistically significant effect on the quality measures of performance in interpreter trainees: the overall assessment of the experimental group was 13.9 points better (on a scale between 0 and 100) than that of the control group. Not all performance aspects were affected by prosodic training to the same degree. In fact, most rating scales did not show any marked improvement due to the experimental treatment. Crucially, however, all rating scales that pertain to prosodic aspects in the trainees’ interpreting performance, proved highly susceptible to prosodic feature awareness training: large and significant effects due to training were found for accent (improvement of 2.9 points on a scale between 0 and 7, t(28) = 6.7 (p << .001)), clarity of voice (improvement by 2.1 points on a similar scale, t(28) = 3.2 (p = .002, one-tailed) and on pace (speed of delivery, improvement of 2.1 points on a similar scale, t(28) = 3.8 (p < .001, one-tailed)). In addition, the results show that prosodic feature awareness training did not interact with the gender of the trainee. Moreover, no main effect of gender was found at all, neither in the pre-test nor on any scale in the post-test.
These results have pedagogical implications for curriculum designers, interpreting programs for training future interpreters, material producers and all who are involved in language study and pedagogy.