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1 Choose a source text, not too difficult, and mark it off in increasing

increments, 10 words more each time: at word 10, word 30 (20-word

interval), word 60 (30-word interval), etc. These intervals will be very

artificial, of course; sometimes you will have to include a single word from a

sentence, or a larger segment of a sentence. An example from this chapter:

These are the questions we'll be exploring throughout the book [A: 10

words]; but briefly, yes, translators and (especially) interpreters do all

have something of the actor in them, the mimic, the impersonator [B: 20

words], and they do develop remarkable recall skills that will enable them

to remember a word (often in a foreign language) that they have heard only

once. Translators and interpreters are [C: 30 words] voracious and

omnivorous readers, people who are typically in the middle of four books

at once, in several languages, fiction and nonfiction, technical and

humanistic subjects, anything and everything. They are hungry for realworld

experience as well, through travel, living [D: 40 words] abroad for

extended periods, learning foreign languages and cultures, and above all

paying attention to how people use language all around them: the plumber,

the kids' teachers, the convenience store clerk, the doctor, the bartender,

friends and colleagues from this or that region or social class, and so on.

Translation [E: 50 words] is often called a profession of second choice:

many translators were first professionals in other fields, sometimes several

other fields in succession, and only turned to translation when they lost or

quit those jobs or moved to a country where they were unable to practice

them; as translators they often mediate between former colleagues in two

or more different language [F: 60 words] communities. Any gathering of

translators is certain to be a diverse group, not only because well over half

of the people there will be from different countries, and almost all will

have lived abroad, and all will shift effortlessly in conversation from

language to language, but because by necessity translators and interpreters

carry a wealth of different "selves" or "personalities" around inside them,

ready to be reconstructed on the computer [G: 70 words] screen

whenever a new text arrives, or out into the airwaves whenever a new

speaker steps up to the podium. A crowd of translators always seems much

bigger than the actual bodies present.

Hand the text out to the students with the segments marked, so they can

glance at the next or previous segment briefly; this will enable them to figure

out the best way to translate partial sentences in a given segment.

Insist that they use the full five minutes each time: when they are translating

segment A (10 words), this will mean working hard to generate enough "work"

to be doing for the entire five-minute period. As the segments get longer, they

may feel pressured to squeeze a few more words into the five-minute period;

insist that they stop immediately when you tell them to stop.

Help them pace themselves through the translation. Call off the minutes,

saying "First minute's up, move on to the next two words; second minute's

up, etc." (In the second segment, you will be giving them four words per

minute; then six, then eight, etc.) As you increase the speed, insist that they

stay with it. Have people pay attention to their feelings as they stick with a

certain speed: are they bored? As the speed increases, do they feel their stress

levels rising?

As each person begins to hit intolerable stress levels, they should quit

translating and wait until everyone is done.

When everyone is finished, take ten or fifteen minutes to let the whole

group discuss what happened, what people felt as they proceeded; whether

the slower translators felt guilt or shame as they dropped out; whether the

faster translators felt a competitive need to be better than everyone else, and

so suppressed feelings of stress in order to "win the race."

Be sure and stress that there is no one "optimum" speed for translators; it

would be all too easy to turn this exercise into an opportunity for gloating

and humiliation. Nor is it a good idea to collect the students' translations, or

to compare "error rates" in class. The idea here is not competition, but

experience: each student should be able to explore his or her own speed and

attitudes about rapid translation in a safe environment.

2 Either bring in a source text or have the students themselves bring one in from

a translation seminar or actual translation task. Then set up the situation:

They are to imagine themselves as simultaneously "here" and somewhere

else. The "here" is the classroom; the somewhere else is a place or time when

they experienced burnout, or were very close to burning out. Talk them

through it: have them remember an experience of burnout or near-burnout;

have them summon up the feelings they felt then. As they begin to relive the

desperation of that time, begin to shift them imaginatively "back" into the

classroom as well, so that while they imagine themselves in that other place

and time they are also in front of you, where they are required to translate

the text in front of them. They don't actually have to do the translation; but

they have to try to convince themselves that they have to, and perhaps even

put pencil to paper in the first attempt to do the translation. Create as much

realistic pressure as you can: they must finish the translation by the end of the

class period; they will be graded on their performance, and their grade on

this "test" will constitute 50 percent of their grade for the term; errors will

not be tolerated; no distinction will be made between minor and major errors;

two errors will constitute failure. All errors will be read aloud to the class,

and the other students will be encouraged to ridicule the "bad" translator.

All through this experience they should be monitoring their feelings

about this pressure with one part of their mind while feeling them with


After fifteen to twenty minutes of the "desperate" part of the exercise,

move to the "happy" or "hopeful" part. Tell them to stand up, shake themselves,

stretch, jog in place, walk around, get a drink of water, etc. Then have

them sit back down and work in groups — except that this time all the pressure

is off, no deadlines, no grades. Also, they are to come up with the funniest

"wrong" translation — an assignment that will guarantee a good deal of fun.

Leave ten to fifteen minutes at the end of class to discuss their feelings about

the two different translation experiences. Have them ponder whether either

situation is a "realistic" one — and whether, even if they are never actually

required to translate in this or that exact way, it might be possible for them

to put themselves into one of the two mental states they experienced in the

exercise, by worrying too much, or by sharing difficult translation experiences

with coworkers or friends.

This exercise can also be done entirely in small groups; in this case the

students themselves will be expected to "inflict" the symbolic burnout on each

other, each student pushing the others to remember and feel as much burnout

as possible, threatening them with terrible things if they fail, and then focusing

those desperate feelings on the text, as if they were required to translate it by

the end of class. Once again, leave time at the end of class to discuss the

experience with the whole group.

Students can also be asked to explore their experience through other

channels: by drawing or diagraming it, acting it out in their small groups,

telling stories, etc.