The previous post described a translator training program I learned about during a lecture at Swansea University. There was also another interesting lecture at my school last week. Professor Gloria Sampaio from the Catholic University of São Paulo in Brazil spoke about sight translation.
Sight translation is something I had never thought much about and it is not one of the more researched areas of translation studies, so I appreciated her talk. Basically, sight translation is doing a translation on the spot orally from a written text. Sometimes a translator or interpreter might have a couple of minutes to prepare, but often she or he simply gets a text and has to read and translate it aloud at once. In other words, it is oral translation, a combination of translation and interpretation, of the visual and the vocal. Professor Sampaio said that it should sound as though the translator is just reading aloud something in the target language.
Historically, she explained, it was used a pedagogical tool for teaching classic languages. Some language courses still do use this technique. Now, it can frequently be part of an interpretation assignment, such as during a court case when there are documents being discussed, or if an interpreter is doing a simultaneous conference interpretation and someone is reading aloud from an essay (so the interpreter has the paper and also has to listen in case the speaker deviates from the text in some way). In other situations, an interpreter or translator might be handed a text and asked to summarize or analyze it, rather than perform a straight translation.
Professor Sampaio made it clear that sight translation is a challenging activity, since it requires so many different skills at once (reading comprehension, analysis, terminology, quick-thinking, memory, speech production, and so on), and that it could be a useful part of interpreter training programs. She also thought it was a good way of testing and assessing translation/interpretation/language students or applicants for language-related jobs.