A Week at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS)

At the end of May, Judy attended a five-day course titled "Advanced Techniques for Court Interpreters" at the venerable Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Read on for her report on what she learned, what she didn't learn, and all the fun she had.
Graduation day with Prof. Mikkelson and Prof. Navarro-Hall.
One of my goals for this year was to attend a training course by a premier interpreting institution, namely Germersheim in Germany, which offers cutting-edge online interpreting classes. However, I decided to do something even better and chose to attend an in-person course at perhaps the best translation and interpreting university in the United States: MIIS.


Sightseeing with Patty (center) and Vero.
The idea behind attending “Advanced Techniques for Court Interpreters” was to learn from two true court interpreting legends: Prof. Holly Mikkelson and Prof. Esther Navarro-Hall. I really enjoy both of their teaching styles and knew I had a lot to learn about simultaneous interpreting. Plus, even though I really enjoy talking and writing about studying, the reality is that I don’t study much on my own, which, as my twin correctly points out, is a bit out of character. I have been known to interpret TED talks that I really enjoy or work with Speechpool recordings, but none of these are court-specific nor are they recorded at 160 words per minute, which is what I need to practice to prepare to take the federal court interpreting exam. I decided that this course would be a worthwhile investment, but since I believe in reasonable priced educational opportunities that are accessible to all colleagues, I balked at the $1,200 price tag (for 30 hours). Nonetheless, I sent in my payment, booked a hotel, looked for some warmer clothes and cleared my calendar.


Vero, Patty and I with the fabulous Esther Navarro-Hall (center).
Overall, I had a fantastic time in Monterey and at MIIS at the end of May and would gladly repeat the experience. It was an honor to spend five full days with Holly and Esther, and my group of 12 was fantastic. I really appreciate Holly and Esther’s laid-back and approachable style. They are not purists, but yet deeply knowledgeable about court interpreting in general and the exam in particular. I particularly treasured the actual time in the interpreting booth with recordings for simultaneous exercises – that’s exactly what I needed. Esther gave me some much-needed feedback on my shortcomings. I did confirm that the consecutive mode is my strength, and would have loved to share my strategies with fellow students, except I sadly have none: I just have good memory and take limited notes that I usually can’t read. I also slowly overcame my fear of sight translation into English. I have not really practiced sight translation, and I was surprised that I did better than I had feared. We took a mock exam on the last day, which was a great opportunity to experience an (almost real) exam.
Picture by my colleague Francisco Montes.

However, as with every class, there is always some room for improvement – albeit very little. In general, I was surprised that the MIIS facilities were quite basic – I’ve seen nicer buildings, booths and better equipped rooms at much humbler universities. The room with the booths had a center table at which we spent hours a day, but it didn’t have seating for the 12 people in our group. Even though there was some skill disparity between students, the instructors did a fine job at selecting a group of strong students who are already state court-certified so we could learn from each other. I do think we could have benefited from a smaller group and from more time in the booth, as we did consecutive in person by reading the texts out loud and going around the table (scary!) rather than in the individual booths, which would have greatly increased the practice time.


That's Vero in the middle and Patty on the right.
Monterey is a gorgeous little town, and we had several group dinners and lunches. In addition to the fantastic learning and the opportunity to get feedback from such legendary instructors, I was delighted by the collegial atmosphere and by the opportunity to spend time with my Nevada group: Patty Sánchez-Gastelum (who is single, BTW, in case you were wondering), Verónica Ramírez Santana and I went to MIIS as colleagues, as I had not had the chance to spend much time with them, and came back as great friends. We are now practicing together and serving as each other’s cheerleading team for the exam. Since coming back from Monterey, we've already done two intense study sessions at my house, which I've found to be tremendously beneficial.

After the workshop, I volunteered to give MIIS a testimonial about the course. No word about whether I will get a discount on a future workshop, though! And finally, after two months of waiting, I received my exam date: July 16 in Denver, Colorado. That's my mom's birthday, so perhaps that's a good sign. Wish me luck -- I bet I will need it.


3 comments:

Anabella on June 17, 2013 at 8:41 PM said...

Fantastic report on the workshop! I bet it gave you the momentum and inspiration we need at this point (4 weeks away from the exam).
Thank you for sharing a thorough and balanced feedback on the course, I have considered taking the plunge and making the investment in one of those one-week courses in MIIS, and now I have a better idea on what to expect.

You will nail those two simultaneous segments!

Anabella on June 17, 2013 at 8:42 PM said...

Fantastic report on the workshop! I bet it gave you the momentum and inspiration we need at this point (4 weeks away from the exam).
Thank you for sharing a thorough and balanced feedback on the course, I have considered taking the plunge and making the investment in one of those one-week courses in MIIS, and now I have a better idea on what to expect.

I'm sure you'll nail those two simultaneous segments!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on June 18, 2013 at 7:42 PM said...

@Anabella: My pleasure -- I am glad you enjoyed it. Scary, scary, I know: 4 weeks to go and so much to do. I do think the course is a worthwhile, if expensive, commitment and experience.

I hope you are right about nailing those simul segments -- I am a bit shaky on the 160 words per minute. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

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