Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module MELA44915: Introduction to Interpreting Theories and Models

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA44915: Introduction to Interpreting Theories and Models

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap
Tied to R9K107
Tied to


  • None.


  • MELA44615 Research Skills for Translation Studies

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop students' familiarity with the complexity of Interpreting and the variety of theoretical perspectives and models. To introduce students to the variety of interpreting practice defined in the literature as simultaneous, consecutive, conference and liaison/dialogue interpreting. To develop students' familiarity with the complexity of Interpreting as a discipline and as a profession by evaluating and contrasting disjunctions and contradictory elements of theory and practice and descriptive versus prescriptive positions in research and debate.


  • This module intends to serve both as an introduction to the theoretical issues relevant to Interpreting Studies as it reflects on professional practice and as an advanced insight on complex notions of interpreting as a form of intercultural mediation embedded in orality and often ephemeral.
  • The syllabus will include a brief introduction to the historical debates on interpreting so as to link evidence of historical existence of use to attitudes toward and position of interpreters in society up to today.
  • The syllabus will include presentations of seminal articles and those of well known authors in the field of Interpreting Studies to introduce concepts relevant to, and from the perspective of, the discipline of Interpreting Studies.
  • The syllabus will discuss models of simultaneous interpreting: Process Models, the ‘Effort Model’, cognitive-pragmatic models of discourse processing. It will look at the relationship between language and memory. Notions such as time lag, ear-voice span, chunking, units of ‘sense’ will be introduced. It will look at research into effects of redundancy / prediction and source language presentation rate.
  • The syllabus will look at notions of text complexity and type, source-target correspondence. Lexical similarity / dissimilarity in source texts against target texts in consecutive interpreting and contrastive comparison between ‘form-based’ (‘transcoding’/) vs ‘meaning-based’ interpreting, Product-oriented, text-linguistic approaches which focus on context / texture / structure, are related with Typologies of Interpreter-Mediated Events. Politeness theory is discussed in relation to Interpreting and socio-pragmatic effects on listeners. The syllabus will look into models of community interpreting that bring in sociological perspectives and introduce concepts associated with interactive discourse and cross-cultural communication.
  • The syllabus will finally focus on norms and social roles regulating professional activity: translational norms in interpreting, notions of ‘quality’ and expectations of different audiences, ways in which language is used to conceptualize the interpreting act, the double role of Dialogue Interpreter in terms of relaying translated utterances and coordinating interaction.
  • An introduction to IT skills necessary to undertake advanced work in Interpreting Studies.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will develop and demonstrate their knowledge of essential models of interpreting;
  • Students will demonstrate a deep understanding of the complex differences between forms of consecutive, simultanous, and community interpreting;
  • Students will develop basic knowledge of research methodologies appropriate to working in Interpreting Studies;
  • Students will engage with ethical and business-oriented approaches to the interpreters' activity.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • the ability to deal with the models, notions, concepts, and terminology of interpreting in a sophisticated way;
  • the ability to engage with appropriate methodology (and thus show an understanding and grasp of existing methodologies) in discussing the different research approaches to study professional behaviour in interpreting;
  • the ability to plan a research-based essay;
  • the ability to find, study, and use relevant literature effectively whilst working independently for the essay.
Key Skills:
  • effective use of libraries and IT resources;
  • the ability to evaluate in writing and orally complex systems and notions of interpreting;
  • the ability to engage in independent learning by applying complex methodologies of research and study;
  • the ability to engage in the debates concerning the professional and disciplinary boundaries and norms in relation to community and conference interpreting;
  • the ability to express and argue complex notions in a terminologically-accurate and sophisticated academic-level writing.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module runs in Michaelmas Term.
  • Teaching methods will include a combination of 6 lectures and 3 research-led seminars consisting of presentations, debates, and discussion of the core topics presented in the lectures. Seminar components of the module are designed to engage students with connecting theoretical perspectives and research evidence with professional interpreting practice.
  • Lectures will introduce key issues in the current debates in Intepreting Studies but also the essential theories and core terminology that anyone interested in interpreting needs to master.
  • For every seminar the students will be asked to do preparation work independently; readings, topics for debate, or presentation will be set out and organized by the students on core topics suggested by the lecturer. The seminars will allow students to ask questions, clarifications, and pose theoretical issues to both peers and the lecturer; seminars are student-driven and the lecturer is a facilitator and, only when essential, a guide.
  • The module will be assessed by means of one 3,000-word research-based essay dealing with questions set by the lecturer early in the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 6 fortnightly 2 hours 12
Seminars 3 monthly 2 hours 6
Student Preparation and Reading Time associated with Contact hours 32
General Background Reading; Revision for essay preparation 100
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Interpreting Studies essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3,000 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Group feedback in seminar activities.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University