IVY - Virtual training for interpreters

“Second Life“ technology for training purposes

IVY (Interpreting in Virtual Reality) is a joint project funded by the European Commission in which experts are developing a virtual training environment for business and community interpreters, as well as for clients of interpreter services. The Constance-based Steinbeis Transfer Center for Language Learning Media is a partner in the project.

Although English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca, in business most people still prefer speaking in their native language, especially when it comes to important business transactions. This calls for professional interpreter services. In various areas of the municipal sector, socalled community interpreters are in high demand as well. These interpreters work to bridge the language and culture gap between e.g. immigrants on the one hand and social workers or medical staff on the other. For interpreters, this means it is important to have access to training facilities with a wide variety of authentic practice opportunities.

To meet this increasingly demanded need for training options for business and community interpreters, an online training environment was created as part of the IVY project. The three dimensional world of “Second Life” offers great possibilities for creating environments and situations in which users, represented by avatars, can easily interact and communicate in a real-life fashion. This functionality was used to design IVY training rooms, with realistic virtual scenarios for various modes of practice and exploration.

In Exploration Mode, interpreter trainees are introduced to the subtasks, requirements and work processes related to interpreting. This mode is also intended for clients of interpreter services, giving them an idea of the kinds of things they should consider when working with interpreters.

Examples are given to familiarize users with the particularities of interpreted communications and to prepare them for their work with the interpreters. Interpreting is a highly specialized and extremely demanding activity and requires intensive training. With its prefabricated scene-based monologs and dialogs, the Interpreting Mode is thus the core of the virtual training environment offered by IVY. Interpreter trainees can select an interpreting task in their respective working languages. They are then given exercises to help them prepare for the actual interpreting activity. This includes tasks for analyzing the interpreting assignment and, in particular, ways to familiarize themselves with the topic and its unique specialist vocabulary. After this preparation phase, the interpreter trainees can select an interpreting situation of their own choice and enter a corresponding Second Life room via their avatar. Once inside, they are run through a simulation of the selected interpreting situation. Users can activate recorded communication samples such as interviews or presentations, and practice to develop their interpreting skills. Afterwards, they are given follow-up assignments for a critical analysis and evaluation of their interpreting performance.

Another realistic training option is offered by the Live Interaction Mode for simulating interpreting situations with potential clients. In this mode, Second Life scenarios are provided for various professional or everyday situations relevant to interpreting, e.g. a courtroom, an office, or a conference room. In this mode, the interpreter trainee gets to “meet” real people represented by avatars, who act as speakers or discussion participants in the chosen situation, and whose utterances are to be interpreted in real time. The set-up could be a simulation with instructors or other students. However, it could also be used for interpreting contacts with unknown “clients.” In this way, interpreting trainees can benefit from a variety of exercises of varying difficulty levels which reflect authentic interpreting situations and help them gain relevant practical experience.

The results of the IVY project will be made public through presentations and workshops at the symposium "Exploiting Emerging Technologies to Prepare Interpreters and their Clients for Professional Practice" set for 23 November 2012 in London.


Dr. Petra Hoffstaedter
Steinbeis Transfer Center for Language Learning Media (Constance)

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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