Training the trainers of interpreting studies: a collaborative experiential approach

    (Photo: participants to the ToT in 2017)

July is approaching; it will soon be time to teach my favourite course of the year: a whole week of
training the trainers for interpreting studies at London Met.

You may think I am getting mad to look forward to yet more work.

What is this special intensive teaching week all about? Why do people from Europe and outside
Europe come all the way to join us? What is the rationale behind the program? Is it worth it?

The Training of Trainers (ToT) for Interpreting Studies is a one week intensive program that runs once
a year, from the 8th to the 12th July. Groups include 10 to 12 participants.
The course is open to interpreting staff at London Met, teaching either on the conference interpreting
Master’s programs or the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) course. For them,
it is an opportunity to collaborate further, debrief their teaching experience and review their
teaching approach.

The course is open to external applicants who teach or are about to teach interpreting. The mix of
conference interpreting and public service interpreting experience generates a rich inspiring
Furthermore, an international dimension adds great value to the experience of participants.
In the past, attendees joined from Saudi Arabia, Spain, the USA, Italy and Germany. Every education
system is different. As a result, diversity opens our mind to new ideas and brings us together to share
our teaching experience in a trusted non-threatening environment.

The diversity of the group, the willingness to share, the strong interest in teaching and interpreting
are outstanding ingredients to create a dedicated space to interact, discuss, reflect and create new
knowledge. This non-threatening teaching and learning environment is what I try to create even
before the course starts. In fact, we start interacting online to initiate conversations and connect.
My main objective when I create this virtual and face to face space is to bring all participants
together to shape a Community of Practice (CoP) mindset. The term ‘Community of Practice (CoP)’ is a
technical term that comes under the umbrella of the Social Learning theory (Bandura, 1977). It was
coined by Social Learning theorist Etienne Wenger and anthropologist Jean Lave. Wenger-Trayner (2011)
defines CoP as follows:

“Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a passion for something that they know
how to do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better.”

A community of practice is a unique combination of three fundamental elements: a domain of
knowledge, which defines a set of issues; a community of people who care about this domain;
and the shared practice that they are developing to be effective in their domain. (Wenger, 2002).

The community of practice mindset is essential to the success of the teaching and learning
experience of the group. As colleagues, we all embrace the same purpose which is a passion
for teaching interpreting. I strongly believe that a CoP mindset allows us all to interact,
push boundaries, embrace new experience and grow. A great illustration is the different
roles participants embrace during the course.
For example, at times, participants will have to teach the group and demonstrate their approach
to giving feedback, preparing an interpreting tutorial, giving clear instructions to set up a
pre-interpreting task. Then, the same participants could step into the shoes of students and
challenge the teaching and learning approach. Even though it is not easy, one needs to step
out of one’s comfort zone and embrace every opportunity to evolve.

This also applies to me who organises the course. During the course, I wear different hats:

  • the person in charge who guides and facilitates the group to learn, reflect and practise.
  • the colleague listening to peers, and learning from their experience
  • the teaching peer that shares an insight on the “behind of the scene strategies” I use to teach the group.

This is a collaborative horizontal approach based on mutual trust. Whatever decision I make
when I design the course, organise an activity or think of the learning outcome is based on
nurturing this dedicated non-threatening learning space with trust. Then, colleagues can come
together, think out loud together, reflect, ask questions and express their frustration with honesty.
This element of togetherness forms the glue that allows mutual reflection and new knowledge to
emerge. Every year, the course is different even though the program for the course remains the

Day 1: My students and I
Day 2: Preparing an interpreting tutorial
Day 3: Creating teaching and learning materials
Day 4: Formative assessment
Day 5: Summative assessment

The focus on one theme per day is essential as it shapes our journey through our teaching and
learning experience as tutors with our students. This structure allows flexibility to our reflective
discussions during the day.

Very often, practitioners tend to feel that teaching what they do should be straight forward as
hey are experts in their practice. It is common belief that to teach interpreting, one has to
interpret at professional level. However, many excellent interpreters are not perceived as the
most suited teachers by students. This may come as a surprise to interpreting tutors who may
feel tempted to embrace the “do as I do” approach.

In the same way interpreters feel that knowing languages does not make you an interpreter,
I would argue that knowing how to interpret does not make you a tutor of interpreting.
Teaching is a profession. Teaching interpreting is a profession too. Like interpreting, teaching is
informed by a body of knowledge, research, theories, trends, and professional practitioners in the field.
Learning may happen in class, but it also happens informally (Cross, 2015), in a visible or invisible
manner (Hattie, 2014), in an individual or connected world (Siemens, 2004; Cormier, 2008).
Enhancing learning requires a creative student centered approach that may integrate a mixture
of new interactive teaching and learning environments such as social media, virtual spaces,
social events, formal mock conferences and personal study time.
Teaching is fun, interactive and calls upon new energy to generate new experiences. I like to use
balloons with messages that capture key ideas. They are fun, you can feel them, remember them and
visualise abstract concepts.
I enjoy using the whole space to move and engage sensorial channels to see, hear, feel and do.
One of my favourite activities is to pair up colleagues. One person is blindfolded. The other is not.
The challenge is for the person who is blindfolded to cross the room to collect a number of
balloons and ring a bell when arrived. However, colleagues have placed a number of obstacles in
the way and it is the task of the colleague who is not blindfolded to give clear instructions on how to
get to the balloons, collect them and ring the bell when reaching the final destination. During this
exercise, we see the importance between the person who can see the whole journey full of
obstacles on the way (tutor) and the person who is blindfolded (student). This special experiential
activity offers a direct insight on the vital relationship between the tutor and the student. The tutor has to
provide clear and measured instructions, understand the impact on the confidence and progress of
the student, review the approach, encourage, motivate and be patient. The person who is blindfolded
understands what learning something new feels like, what students feel like when facing the unknown,
unable to see what the full journey is like. I remember a colleague on the course who later went back
to teach their students and reported: “I was teaching the class and could see that one of my students
was heading right into the wall and I then knew what to do”. Finally, the role of the crowd is important
too as the tutor and student at work will feel supported by the positive energy of others cheering and
encouraging. I am sure you now understand why a heavy workload does not dampen my enthusiasm for teaching this very special course.

Hattie (2014) states that learning occurs when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and
help them become their own teachers. This strongly encapsulates my enthusiasm for teaching
this very special week of training the trainers of interpreting studies.

Please note: this article was partially published in The Linguist June/July 2019. This is the full version.

Training the Trainers for Interpreting Studies: at London Met:
(Accessed on 11 March 2019) and (the same course exists for
translation studies)
Bandura, A. (1977) Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger-Trayner (2011) What is a Community of Practice? Available at: (Accessed: 11 March 2019)
Wenger, E., McDermott R., Snyder W. (2002): Cultivating  Communities of Practice. Harvard Business School press.
Cross, J. (2015) Informal Learning vs Formal Training. Available at:
(Accessed: 11 March 2019).
Hattie, J. (2014) Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn. Routledge. Oxon.
Siemens, G. (2004) ‘Connectivism: A learning Theory for the Digital Age’. Available at:
(Accessed:11 March 2019).
Cormier, D. (2008) ‘Rhizomatic knowledge communities: Edtechtalk, Webcast Academy’. 29 February 29. Dave’s Educational Blog.
Available at:
(Accessed 27 May 2008). Archived at: 11 March 2019).


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