Derived from the work of Danica Seleskovitch [1] the Integrated Model of Interpreting (IMI), previously known as the Colonomos Model, was developed by Betty Colonomos in the early 1980’s. Colonomos was first introduced to the work of Seleskovitch while teaching interpreting at Gallaudet University (then Gallaudet College) in 1979. Through her teachings she realized that Seleskovitch’s work, focused on spoken language interpreters, was also applicable to the work of sign language interpreters. Colonomos recognized the need to expand on Seleskovitch’s work as the differences between spoken language interpreters, who are in large part native bilinguals working into dominant languages, and signed language interpreters was stark. Colonomos’ goal was to frame the process sign language interpreters experience explicitly while outlining the factors that influence the work [2]. The IMI focuses on the cognitive processes and decision making an interpreter experiences while interpreting.

“[IMI] . . . holds as its core the belief that interpreting is a cognitive task comprised of countless decisions that are affected by factors within and outside of the interpreter. The IMI makes possible and encourages the unpacking of these decisions to understand why interpreters say/sign what they do or don’t. The emphasis is on the process, the “why” of what happened, rather than the “what.” IMI practitioners understand that the key to improving interpreting skills is examining decisions and decision-making. [3]”

While the model does take into account the external factors (i.e. environment, context, and setting specific norms) that influence the internal decision making within the interpreting process, the crux of the model focuses on the intangible and most challenging portion of the interpreting task:. The interpreters mind.

IMI practitioners have the understanding that the product of their work is based on the decisions made via their process. When striving for message equivalence each interpreter’s process is fundamentally the same. The IMI gives us the tools and clarity to parse out the sequence of such decisions, why they are decision points in the interpreting process and ways to have shared language about the work we do.

Since the inception of IMI, the model has been revised and refined by Colonomos via her experience teaching the model to thousands of interpreters across the country. Colonomos’ pedagogy of the inner workings of IMI are based on the philosophy and theories of learning from Lev Vygotsky [4].

The primary ways of exposure to the model is via a series of trainings developed by Colonomos, Foundations of Interpreting [7]. This series is comprised of eight modules where participants are first introduced to the model by ways of text analyses and identifying patterns in the product (the interpretation) to infer process. From this introduction participants continue to delve deeper into the understanding of the model, their decisions and ways in which we, as interpreters, talk and identify the why behind the what. The discussion and discovery amongst participants is key to the Vygotskian idea of Self-Regulation (independent problem solving). We are often able to infer process (executive functioning) via discussions of tangible product (interpretations).

These participant driven dialogues, once framed and modeled by Colonomos throughout the Foundations modules, are critical to the learner’s understanding and future application of the IMI.

“The approach used is grounded in Lev S. Vygotsky’s theories about learning that does not identify interpreters by their ‘level of skill’, but by the degree of cognitive control of specific tasks. Thus, each person (student, novice, certified, and highly competent) may be self-regulated in some cognitive tasks and be object-regulated in others. [2]”

“Vygotsky views learning from a socio-cultural context where the learner is embedded and engaged with others. The learner moves through stages of not knowing how to solve a problem on their own, to interaction with another in a reflective dialogue, and, finally, to independent problem solving [3].”

A full explanation of the philosophies from Vygotsky and the pedagogy used by Colonomos are limited due to the confines of this writing. If interested, we recommend that you further your studies of this learning based theory via the resources we have cited here and by attending Foundations.

Works Cited

[1] Seleskovitch, D (1978). Interpreting for International Conferences. Penn and Booth, Washington, DC

[2] Colonomos, B. (2016) The Integrated Model of Interpreting: Theory and Methodology (In preparation), Unpublished manuscript.

[3] Colonomos, B., & Moccia, L. (2013). Process Mediation as Mentoring. Mentorship in Sign Language Interpreting (pp. 85-93). Alexandria, VA: RID.

[4] L. S. Vygotsky (Author), Michael Cole (Editor), Vera John-Steiner (Editor), Sylvia Scribner (Editor), Ellen Souberman (Editor). (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press; 14th edition

[7] Colonomos, B. “Foundations of Interpreting.” 2016. Web. 27 November 2016.

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The Deaf Foundations of Interpreting Seminar Series is offered for Deaf Interpreters. This specialized series is for Deaf Interpreters only.

Donations from the larger interpreting community and elsewhere help to defray the cost of providing these seminars to our Deaf Interpreter colleagues.

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Foundations of Interpreting

The Foundations of Interpreting Seminar Series provides insights into The Integrated Model of Interpreting and the processes we engage in while interpreting. More information on the series as well as a schedule of current seminars being offered: click here.

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