Theorising from Scratch: Technology-based Interpreter Education in Vietnam

Year: 2019

Author: Nguyen, Linh, Do, Hoang

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Conference interpreting is a newly-emerged profession in Vietnam as the country has thrived to integrate itself into the global playing field, and neoliberal flows have changed the nature of the domestic market and conceptualisation of employability skills. Such phenomena have given rise to international events and communication that require qualified interpreters working in Vietnamese and other languages. Interpreter education is on demand in the national context, but it faces the challenges of under-developed training programmes, and under-theorisation of pedagogy and practices.

This paper gives a historical account of interpreter education in Vietnam, mostly focusing on technology-aided conference interpreting since the early 1990s to date. It then provides the authors’ critical reflections on localising European technology-based pedagogy of interpreter education in Vietnamese technologically under-facilitated universities. From a sociological perspective, the authors base themselves on Pierre Bourdieu’s practice theory, particularly habitus and field, to analyse individual and contextual influences on interpreter training programmes that they have designed for undergraduates at a well-established university in Vietnam. They examine related technical conditions from supporting software to customised devices for teaching, learning and assessment. They take a closer look at the agency of academic staff in the process of curriculum design, social aspects of technology, and the inter-relation between technology and pedagogy.

In so doing, the authors reveal challenges of theorising from scratch when little prior research into technology uses in Vietnamese interpreter education has been found, and tensions arisen when standards-based reform has been explicitly promoted in the national education system. It may be problematic to impose standards-based requirements on an infant subject area of interpreter education, of which the paradigm, conceptual framework and curriculum design have been more experiential and anecdotal rather than systematic and theoretically informed.

Given such challenges and tensions, it is argued that academics’ habitus and agency play a crucial role in designing and delivering interpreter training programmes. Interpreter educators need to be mindful of their institutional conditions to decide appropriate degrees of technology uses. More importantly, with their pedagogical understanding, they need to contribute more to theorising their field, and speaking back to their institutional and national narratives in order to accommodate more technologically favourable conditions for interpreter education. The paper concludes by projecting some pedagogical constants in the age of rapid technological advancement.