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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Advances in Teaching Sign Language Interpreters

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TABLE 1. Stages of the Cokely Model

Cokely’s stage

Short description Reminder
Message reception The act of physically receiving the source message through the appropriate channel Perceive
Preliminary processing The act of recognizing the source message as a linguistic signal Recognize
Short-term message retention The act of storing enough of the source signal to achieve an understanding of the message Chunk
Semantic intent realized The act of understanding the source message (Importantly, as Cokely states, “Ideally, of course, the semantic intent of the message realized by the interpreter is that originally intended by the speaker” (Cokely 1992, 127) Understand
Semantic equivalent determined The act of finding equivalents in the target language for the concepts expressed in the source message Analyze
Syntactic message formulation The act of (mentally) fashioning an equivalent target message Formulate
Message production The act of articulating the target message Produce

successes in some stages is quite helpful. Often students perceive their own work in a binary fashion: as either all good or (more often, unfortunately) all bad. Having the ability to look for success (or lack thereof) in stages of the process is empowering to students; they can see where they are using strategies that are successful and where they need to improve.

Table 1 provides a brief outline of the Cokely model. The reader is referred to Cokely (1992) for a more complete discussion. I have provided a description of each stage in terms of acts in order to underscore to students that interpreters are actively engaged in the work at all stages of the process. In addition, I have added a one-word reminder that captures the essential focus of each stage.

Discussion of the model is sometimes helpful in having the students grasp what the model is capturing. I begin with the idea that every day, almost automatically, students receive messages from other people, decode them, and understand them. In addition, students every day have ideas, encode them, and express them. Therefore, individual components of the interpreting process are already a part of the skill set that the student brings to the classroom (of course, students vary in their ability to deal with the languages they work with). Students begin to realize that when perceiving and understanding a message, they are going through the first four stages of the model (message reception through semantic intent realized). When expressing their own ideas, they go through the last four stages of the model (semantic intent realized through message production). Semantic intent realized is the stage when one understands what someone has said and also formulates what to say to another.

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