Jun 2, 2013

How I did interpretration for TDD workshop by James Grenning at #agilejapan

I did interpretation for TDD workshop by James Grenning, the author of "Test Driven Development for Embedded C" at Agile Japan 2013 on May 24th. This was first time for me to be interpreter at a conference.

This time was good lesson for me. I summarized my experience so that this entry also become good lesson for some other people.

Why did I become one of interpreters for the workshop?

Let me tell you about history that I became interpreter fot the workshop.

I am an organizer of study group for "Test Driven Development for Embedded C" in Tokyo, Japan and I also was a reviewer for Japanese translation of the book. When translation was going to an end, I proposed to Akiyuki Takoshima, a supervisor for translation, that we invited James to Japan for publication party for translation. We thought Agile Japan was the best for it because it was planed to held after publication and organizers of Agile Japan usually invite keynote speaker from foreign country, mostly US. 

I expected that it would be difficult negotiation but the answer from Kenji Hiranabe, one of organizers, was very good. He said "Oh, that's nice idea. I have wanted to invite him to discuss about importance of quality in agile software development". Then Agile Japan organizer started negotiation and I and Akiyuki started preparetion for TDD workshop.

Basics of technical interpretation

Next, I want to tell you about technical interpretation.

You may think interpretation is just word exchange of different languages. I think real interpretation is more than that. In my opinion, we do interpretation as follows:

Maybe this is almost same as what non-native English speaker do when they talk in English...

  1. Understand what speaker said
  2. Understand its intention and digest result of step 1
    • If we don't understand its intention, we have to ask speaker
  3. Just exchange result of step 2 from original language to target language
  4. Change result of step 3 in natural and simplified expression and talk to other people 
    • We do step 3 and step 4 at a time

I think you think that step 3, automatic language exchange, is interpretation but I have to do more because we want to avoid loosing original speaker's intention and to tell it people in an easy-to-understand way.

To do this, we need both language skill and specialized knowledge for target area because we have different terminology each area. If we don't care about that, attendee don't understand what speaker say.

For example, in the case of translation, we often found that reviewers on amazon.co.jp write comment for translation of technical book that quality of translation is very bad.This is because there are problems on either step above.

  • Problem on step 1: translator don't understand original text 
  • Problem on step 2: translator don't have enough knowledge for target area
  • Problem on step 3: translator don't improve quality of translation

Then what do interpreter do during workshop?

It depends on workshop. I basically think that interpreter there are two tasks.
  • Tell trainer's explanation to attendee
  • Help question and answer
No big deal. That's it.

Tell trainer's explanation to attendee

For this, interpreter see trainer carefully and waits good time to interpret. Then good time come, interpreter tells it to attendee. Trainer sometimes tell us about timing for interpretation but he/she usually want to focus on what he/she say and attendee's reaction . So interpreter should     manipulate timing.

Help question and answer

For this, it is easy. We just hear question from attendee, check its intention and tell it to trainer. When trainer answer then we do opposite.

What do interpreter should prepare? 

(1) acquisition of specialized knowledge for target area

As I wrote above, we need specialized knowledge for target area to interpret. we have to read whole workshop material. We also should read trainer's blog, interview article or movie to understand content of workshop, trainer's way of speaking/pronunciation.. If we do, we can understand what trainer say easily. 

(2) Practice of interpretation

I think shadowing is easy and best for practice of interpretation. There are good books for interpretation. If you are interesting in practice, please refer the books.

Retrospective for this time

Keep(Good point, what I want to continue)

(1) I had enought time to aquire specialized knowledge for target area
Before workshop, I held study group, wrote interview article, reviewed translation of the book and   translated workshop material. I knew everything. No worries about that :)

(2) I had meeting with trainer twice before workshop

I had meeting with trainer 1 week before and 2 hour before workshop. I could solve our question such as timing for Q&A, laptop for demo, etc. 

(3) I could do interpretation without any eye contact

In this time, interpreter manipluated timing for interpretation so that trainer can focus on what he/she say. We sometimes made mistakes but we did good job in general.


(1) We translated workshop material then trainer couldn't read it

In this time, we are not professional interpreter. So we thought we should show Japanese translation of workshop material so that attendees can understand it easily. But trainer couldn't read it and sometimes didn't know what to speak next. This is not big problem because he had original version of material and we can tell. But this was not good for trainer's cognitive load.

(2) We couldn't interpret jokes

Trainer often said jokes because he want attendees to be relaxed. But joke is difficult to interpret. Sorry James :(

Try(What to improve)

(1) Keep original text on material and add Japanese subtitle

This is good for both of trainer and attendee. Kenji Hiranabe, interpreter of keynote, did this.

(2) Interpret jokes

We need sens of humor? ummm :(

In the End

Thank you Agile Japan organizer for giving me a chance to interpret. It was very good lesson for both of TDD and interpretation. This chance must improve my interpretation skill. It was good experience for my life :)

Thank you Akiyuki-san, supervisor for translation. We did translation of material and interpretation at workshop. He gave me lots of advice. I could do it because he helped me.

Thanks you James. My interpretation was not like professional interpreter. James helped me : ) I have to say thank him for his open mind for my proposal.

If I will have next chance for interpretation, I will do better. I have confidence now :)