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The 2006 Interpreter Training Course—
A Case Study
The first sign language interpreter training course in Fiji ran for approximately 6 months. Classes were held once a week for 2 hours from March to August 2006. Nelson and Spencer were the principal teachers for the weekly classes, with a guest lecture from Hayley Best, a visiting New Zealand interpreter. Toward the end of the course, Della Goswell and Jemina Napier, interpreter trainers from Australia, taught a 6-day intensive component. The course had two assessments, and the graduation was held in September. Of the 25 students who enrolled, 17 graduated.
Most of the funding for the training came from AusAID (the Australian government’s international development agency) and NZAID (New Zealand’s international aid and development agency). This funding enabled the students to attend without cost.
As with any first-time course, it was important to determine the needs of the group as a starting point. For a program taught by kaivalagis, it was even more critical to try and frame the content and process of teaching to the local context: linguistically, culturally, and politically. Nelson, living and working in Fiji for a year prior to the start of the course, had time to observe the situation in Fiji with regard to interpreter competencies and practice. She liaised with Goswell and Napier on the needs analysis, to ensure that the intensive stage of the course would also be tailored to meet the needs of the Fiji context.
The initiative for the course came from FAD, rather than from interpreters themselves; FAD felt that the interpreters needed more skills development. This externally driven approach to training can produce a defensive response, so Nelson took time to talk with the interpreters and get them onboard, to ensure that the training was something they wanted to do. The majority agreed and expressed interest, however, there was some resistance from the interpreters working at the high school, who were compelled to attend as part of their employment contracts. The class demographic profile was as follows:
The Weekly Classes
Nelson and Spencer conducted the course predominantly in English with some FJSL instruction. They focused on topics that Nelson had seen as gaps in the current knowledge base, so the course content included: