Interpreter Training Resources

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Cracow Interpreting Workshops

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The Conference Interpreting Upgrade Workshops held at the School of Interpretation and Translation of the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland in July and August 2001-2004




Special thanks are due to the School of Interpretation in Cracow, and particularly Prof. Elzbieta Tabakowska and Monika Curylo without whom the workshops would not have been possible. A big thank you to, in order of appearance, David Walker, Brian Huebner, Ann Green, Krystyna Baran, Michael Short, Katharina Bauer, Suzanne Altenberg, Gabriele Guerrini and Fanny Bousquet. Thanks are also due to Patrick Twidle and Ken Cleary of the European Parliament and to all the participants who are what made it all work.


In July and August of 2001 a series of interpreting workshops were organised in response to the lack of high level interpreter training courses for colleagues preparing for EU accreditation tests in candidate country languages. By popular demand the workshops returned in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Below I will describe a format for interpreter training that has been very well received in the four years it has run and to offer a guide to any trainers wishing to reproduce a similar format.


Specifically the workshops were designed to and/or achieved the following,

1. offer further training to young interpreters from the candidate countries who have already graduated from interpreting school but who have little professional experience and who are not familiar with the demands and preferences of the EU institutions.

2. give the same colleagues an opportunity to see experienced colleagues work...

3. ...and get native speaker feedback on their retour interpreting.

4. ...and feedback from experienced colleagues on their interpreting technique.

5. Offer English (and German) colleagues adding Polish useful exposure to the language...

6. ...and the chance to interpret (possibly for the first time) from Polish.

7. give the EU institutions (who sponsor, or are considering sponsoring, the Polish participants) feedback from colleagues participating, and the course organiser, on the performance of young Polish colleagues. Being based on a whole week’s work together this feedback will be less arbitrary than one-off tests etc. .

8. foster collegiality between the few colleagues with Polish in their combination. This has so far lead to many ideas being circulated more widely – i.e. what to read, what dictionaries to buy, where to surf the net for what language material etc.

9. offer an intensive and constructive format for learning based on established pedagogical principles and techniques for people management.


In a total of 19 one week workshops, in July and August of 2001-2003, 11 EU accredited[1] freelance and official interpreters worked together with 51 young graduates of Polish interpreting schools. EU colleagues stayed for between 1 and 5 weeks. Polish colleagues came only for 1 one-week workshop in a given year (but 9 came in both of the first 2 years. Since then, and due to oversubscription participation has been limited to one time).

Number of week long workshops
EU accredited colleagues
Polish graduates
Other graduates
2001 6 x EN 5 19  
2002 6 x EN, 1 x DE 8 21  
2003 5 x EN, 2 x FR 8 18 3 EN
2004 4 x EN, 1 x ES, 1 x IT 6 18 4 EN, 2 ES

The size and composition of the groups was established as a function of the aims set and the means of achieving them described here. The basic set up was that each group, which met for 5 days comprised 3 Polish native speakers and 2 English native speakers. The Poles had English B and had recently graduated from interpreting school and their performance in the the final exams had warranted their recommendation for further sponsorship by the European Parliament. The English native speakers had Polish C and were preparing for or had recently passed the EU accreditation tests (for Polish C) but had considerable professional experience (between 5 and 20 years) interpreting from their other languages. In 2002, by way of an experiment, one of the groups was made up of German colleagues and Polish colleagues with German ‘B’. The idea was to see if the format worked as well for other languages than English. The results were very positive and suggest that the format will work with any combination of two languages. Indeed colleagues from the Poznan school of Interpreting at UAM, Elzbieta Marszalek and Piotr Danielewicz, came as observers to this German workshop in 2002 and ran 6 German workshops in Poznan in 2003. In Krakow in 2003 2 French weeks were organised and run by Teresa Bonneau, and in 2004 Spanish and Italian workshops were organised.

The principle underlying the workshops was that the participants exchange their own expertise with each other – the trainer creating the environment and activities to make this possible (see Role of Trainer below). The small groups make organising relatively simple, they allow the maximum number of people to engage in useful activity[2] for the maximum amount of time in any given session and they are conducive to an excellent working atmosphere within the groups.

Around 70% of the interpreting was PL into EN. Firstly because all participants worked from PL into EN (while only the 3 Poles worked into PL) and to allow the Polish particpants the opportunity to benefiit from native speaker feedback on their retours. (For the week of German workshops, of course, 70% of interpreting was into DE etc.

There were some slight variations on the format, for example, one more or fewer EU native speakers, an additional German colleague in an English group or English colleague in a German group, but this did not affect the plans described below. Similarly there was also some ‘C’ language interpretation into Polish when German colleagues sat in on an English group and vice versa).

Speeches were recorded onto minidisk (2001) and directly into a computer (2002 + 2003). All 6 weeks of speeches from each year were then converted to MP3 format, burned to a single CD each year distributed to participants as practice material at cost price. Each week of workshops generated around 5 hours of speeches for interpretation and after allowing for technical hitches each CD held around 18 hours of material.


If you would like to know something about the methodology underlying the workshops click here and scroll down the page.



NB This format will also work in the absence of conference interpretation equipment (booths etc) - - because of the size of the groups chuchotage is equally effective. Indeed for reasons I won’t go into here we did this for one week in Krakow and the sessions were equally well received and effective.


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