Testing aptitude for interpreting

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This longitudinal study on the predictive value of ‘simultaneous’ Italian-to-Italian oral paraphrasing as an aptitude test for interpreting was conducted on 64 conference interpreting students at the University of Bologna (Forlì). All students completed their course with Italian as their ‘A’ language, having passed the entrance examination (which included a paraphrase test, recorded for evaluation) during the period 2004–2006. Using paraphrase as a pre-interpreting aptitude test in a smaller sample, Russo and Pippa (2004) found a significant correlation between course outcome measures (average interpreting exam mark and number of exam sessions needed to pass all interpreting exams) and two of the evaluation parameters for paraphrasing: ‘synonymic substitution’ (use of synonyms and equivalent expressions) and ‘loss of coherence’. The present study examined whether, in a different setting, these two parameters and the students’ actual admission test mark for paraphrase/recall testing correlated with the same outcome measures. Ability to use synonyms showed the highest validity in relation to the number of interpreting exam sessions, correctly classifying 48 out of 64 students (75%) as ‘slow’ (> 6 sessions: test sensitivity = 80%) or ‘fast’ (≤ 6 sessions: test specificity = 71%). Results thus indicate that an oral ‘real time’ paraphrasing test can help identify such prerequisites of effective interpreting as mental flexibility and expressive ability.


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