Section 5 - Sight Translation

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Sight translation transforms a written message into a spoken message. It involves reading a text silently in the source language, and then speaking it in the target language.

When an interpreter is asked to sight translate in court, it will likely involve a witness statement or other document written in a language not spoken in court proceedings. The court interpreter is asked to read it in English "for the record," and the translation will be recorded.

When the document is an English document, it is usually a court document to be read to the accused. It could be a sentencing order, bail conditions, conditions of probation, etc. It is vital that the court interpreter provide a complete and accurate sight translation of the document so the accused can understand the conditions imposed by the judge.

When do you sight translate in court?

You may be required to sight translate documents such as informations, indictments, peace bonds, bail and probation conditions, conditional and suspended sentences, etc. either in court or after court.

What will be tested?

Sight Translation English to Test Language

The English text chosen for the sight translation exercise is about 250 words long. It is taken from a text that is typically used in or by the court, such as an indictment, a pre-sentence report, a court form, etc.

You will be allowed 3 minutes to familiarize yourself with the text. When the three minutes are up, you will be asked to begin sight translating the text, for which you will be allowed 4 minutes. Your sight translation will be recorded for grading.

The total time necessary to complete this first exercise is 7 minutes.

Sight Translation Test Language to English

The text chosen for the sight translation exercise is about 250 words long. It involves the type of texts that are sometimes "read" in English for the record and include victim's impact statements, a note from a doctor sent from the person's former country, etc.

You will be allowed 3 minutes to familiarize yourself with the text. When the three minutes are up, you will be asked to begin sight translating the text, for which you will be allowed 4 minutes. Your sight translation will be recorded for grading.

The total time necessary to complete this first exercise is 7 minutes.

Practicing sight translation

This manual contains six practice texts for sight translation, along with a list of scoring units for two of the texts.

The first three texts are typical texts that may be sight translated from English into the test language in court. The last three are typical texts that may be sight translated from the test language into English, although they are provided to you in English.

For additional practice in sight translation from English into the test language, you should look for short English newspaper articles (about 250 words), preferably having to do with a court case.

For specific practice in sight translation from the test language into English, you will need short articles or stories in your language. They can be on legal issues or short stories of general interest.

To make the most of your practice sessions, you will need a recording device (a cassette recorder or a hand held digital recorder) to record your sight translations.

To practice sight translating, follow the seven stages (each including several steps) identified below.

Stage 1: Preparation for sight translation

  • Take a maximum of three minutes to read the text. You will not have the time to translate the whole text at this point. What you should do at this stage is:
    • get a general idea of the type and content of the text,
    • identify the main points,
    • pinpoint potential problems,
    • write down any equivalents that come to mind for key words, and
    • try to segment the text into chunks that are large enough for analysis and comprehension, but short enough for oral translation. The segments can be
      • sentences - if they are short and simple,
      • clauses - if the sentence contains more than one clause, or
      • phrases - if the sentence contains a number of specific details.

Stage 2: Initial sight translation

  • Start the voice recorder at the end of three minutes.
  • Start translating segment 1 and read ahead to identify segment 2.
  • Repeat this step with the following segments, until you come to the last segment, which you translate.
  • Stop the voice recorder and check the time to ensure that you have taken no more than 4 minutes to sight translate 250 words.

Stage 3: Comparison of initial sight translation with source text

  • With the source text in hand, listen to your recorded sight translation segment by segment.
  • Pause the recording after each segment and underline in the source text the words, expressions or entire segments that appear to be wrong.

Note:
You may repeat these steps as often as you like.

Stage 4: Analysis and resolution of problems

  • Analyse the words, expressions and segments that you have marked as wrong after Stage 3. Try to determine why they caused you problems. Was it because:
    • you did not understand the word or expression?
    • you did not know the equivalent in the target language?
    • you lost track of the beginning of a long sentence?
  • Think of ways you can resolve these problems. Do any basic research required.

Stage 5: Checking scoring units

  • If you are working on a sight translation text with scoring provided, review the scoring units at this stage. Listen again to your recorded sight translation, paying particular attention to the scoring units. Note the units you got correct. Determine how to correct those you got wrong.
  • If you are working on a sight translation text where scoring units are not provided, examine the text and underline words and phrases that could be considered scoring units. Then listen again to your recorded sight translation, paying particular attention to those words and phrases. Note the units you got correct. Determine how to correct those you got wrong.

Stage 6: Final sight translation

  • Redo the sight translation - following the steps of Stage 2 - and try to perform a more accurate and smoother sight translation than you did before.

Stage 7: Comparison of final sight translation with source text

  • Repeat all the steps of Stage 3.
  • Note improvements in comparison with the initial sight translation.

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