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Dear all,

after my bachelor diploma in legal and public service interpreting, I enrolled this year at Marie Haps in Brussels for the CI master. Last week, the school organised a "test d'aptitude" in order to recommend to students either to continue interpreting or switch to translation.

Although I was one of the only two students to receive an unconditional "yes" to continue, I still wonder about a question that I have been asking myself throughout the whole of my studies:

When you are enrolled in an interpreting course and your interpreting trainers listen to you and see you performing on a very regular basis, wouldn't it be possible that their opinion differs very much from the opinion of an "unbiased" third party?

Let me briefly explain: the jury in our test consisted of our interpreting trainers PLUS some of the trainers we will be having classes with next year and who have never heard us interpreting before. I know that our trainers were very pleased with our performance, but then again they have been there to witness you develop your interpreting skills.

So I was wondering what the "new" trainers thought of us and whether it would be a good idea to ask them their opinion about our performance and whether then this opinion might be the only "true" and real assessment of your interpreting skills...

I'd be happy to read your thoughts on these (admittedly, rather uncoordinated) thoughts of mine! ;-)

asked 14 Jan '13, 08:13

KaPe's gravatar image


edited 14 Jan '13, 08:18

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck
3.9k203350 idea how Marie Haps organizes tests, but in theory the jury's considered opinion will have included both groups': insofar as any human opinion can be unbiased, I'm sure your previous trainers did their level best to assess only what y'all produced then and there, on an equal footing with the non-trainers....and would actually not have accepted to sit on that jury, had they judged themselves incapable of so doing.

If relevant, they may thereafter have shared with the latter group the added value of their previous experience with your good selves, which may or may not have been taken into account... somewhat like extenuating or aggravating circumstances may be taken on board when sentencing, after facts have been determined :-).

A professional CI, moreover if also a trainer, will always be able to assess performance on merits, irrespective of previous acquaintance or personal feelings and, all in all, previous knowledge is not a bad thing inasmuch as it offsets (in the terms I described earlier) the inevitable fact that not all candidates, irrespective of their merits, are "bêtes à concours"

As to whether you should enquire as to what the opinion of the incoming trainers was, if that's kosher under local regulations (some schools stipulate confidentiality, only the final agreed decision being made public) why not, perhaps reserving your opinion as to the possible bias of the previous trainers :-)... if for no other reason because they're colleagues all, and the "new" trainers now will be the "old" trainers in future tests :-), presumably along with non-trainers...

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answered 14 Jan '13, 16:52

msr's gravatar image


edited 15 Jan '13, 09:16

Karolin - I would take the unconditional "yes" and run with it. I have doubts about searching for that "true" or "real" assessment - it is elusive, not more than a snapshot, especially in regard to a qualifying exam. Personally I think the mix of teachers and external examiners is a good combination because it can provide a balanced view.

Feedback is necessary and will help you, but more is not necessarily better at any given moment. Take things one step at a time. From what you say it would seem you are progressing. Great! Feel good about it... more learning and feedback will be coming your way soon enough.

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answered 17 Jan '13, 15:41

Luigi's gravatar image


I would beg to disagree with msr in that I do not think it's altogether possible for a conference interpreter/trainer to judge somebody else's performance on merits alone and cut off all personal feelings. We cannot completely shut off our feelings, and certain regional and social accents can evoke rather strong reactions in some people. What in my view is important is to be aware of those feelings and then offset their possible effect, or take it into account - which is not possible if the existence of those feelings is denied. I had always thought this is why there is a panel consisting of a number of people, to offset the effect of personal feelings and stylistic preferences and other questions of taste.

In my experience, a jury is rarely in great disagreement as to whether a candidate's performance is a pass or a fail - assuming members of the jury are applying clear criteria and understand them more or less in the same way. Since interpreting tests are often pass/fail systems, that's ultimately what matters.

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answered 16 Jan '13, 18:12

Sirpa's gravatar image



Sirpa I did not imply we have no feelings, quite the contrary as I am sure you will find if you read again what I wrote, we do but we should be and are able to assess nevertheless...or else we should not be assessing at all... so we do agree :-).

(17 Jan '13, 09:52) msr

Personally I do not think any opinion can be "unbiased". Take journalism - it is inevitably biased, but I don't criticize it for that; it's the nature of the beast. So I tend to think that looking for an unbiased assessment is not realistic, and perhaps Karolin agrees - she did after all put the word in quotes. For me it's a question of offering a balanced and fair assessment. I think teachers and examiners do their best to do that.

(18 Jan '13, 19:04) Luigi
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question asked: 14 Jan '13, 08:13

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