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International Journal of Social Inquiry

Yıl 2011 , Cilt 4 , Sayı 1

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Training interpreters in rare and emerging

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University, Melbourne, Australia1
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Due to the changing humanitarian intake patterns in Australia, there has been an increasing need for interpreter training in a number of rare and emerging languages in order to facilitate communication concerning the provision of government and community services. In order to reflect this need, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) in Australia has been offering, since 2002, a Diploma of Interpreting program in these languages. The Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC), a State Government statutory authority, has provided scholarships as an incentive to entrants in the program, which has been approved by the Australian National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). Students in these rare and emerging language streams have for the most part arrived as refugees, have lived in Australia for only a relatively short period of time, and have varying educational backgrounds. Their languages are characteristically orally based in that language resources such as dictionaries, glossaries and literature on common topics such as medicine, politics, law are largely unavailable. This paper seeks to identify the sociolinguistic, socio-political and socio-economic factors that impact on the adjustment of these students to an interpreter training course in an Australian dual-sector education (Vocational Education and Training and Tertiary education) setting. It also seeks to identify the factors affecting the teaching and learning aspects of the program. The sources of data for the study are two specifically designed questionnaires and data from the university's Course Experience Surveys, as well as interviews with the teaching staff and participant observation by the authors. The subjects of the study are students of the 2009 RMIT Diploma of Interpreting program in the Karen (an ethnic language of Myanmar) and Nuer (a language spoken mainly in Southern Sudan and parts of Ethiopia) language streams. The findings of this study have policy implications for not only the continuation of such education endeavours, but also the provision of and access to public funding of interpreter training programs in rare and emerging languages. With the identification of the underlying factors affecting the students' adjustment and learning outcome, this study will contribute to the development of more specific learning and teaching strategies for future similar courses, maximising academic and professional outcomes under confining human, material and financial input, which will, in turn, add to the social capital to society at large.

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