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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY

UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES


FACULTY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHER EDUCATION

ĐẶNG HỮU CHỈNH

A Study of Mistakes and Errors in Consecutive


Interpretation from Vietnamese to English

SUPERVISOR: NGUYỄN NINH BẮC, MA

Hanoi, May, 2010


Table of content

1. Introduction............................................................................................................ 1

1.1 Rationale ........................................................................................................ 1

1.1 The aim of the research and research questions ........................................ 2

1.2 Scope of the reseach ...................................................................................... 2

1.3 Methodology .................................................................................................. 3

2. Literature Review .................................................................................................. 5

2.1 Defintion of interpretation ........................................................................... 5

2.2 Definition of consecutive interpretation ..................................................... 5

2.3 Speaking in intrepretation ........................................................................... 5

2.4 Mistakes and errors in interpretation ......................................................... 6

3. Data and methodology ........................................................................................... 8

3.1 Data ................................................................................................................ 8

3.2 Methodology .................................................................................................. 8

4. Fingdings and discussion ....................................................................................... 9

4.1 Pronunciation mistakes ................................................................................ 9

4.1.1 Lack of ending sounds .................................................................... 10

4.1.2 Mispronunciation ............................................................................ 10

4.2 Grammatical mistakes ................................................................................ 11

4.2.1 Subject – verb agreement ............................................................... 11

4.2.2 Relative pronouns........................................................................... 13

4.2.3 Other mistakes ................................................................................ 14


4.3 Lexical errors .............................................................................................. 15

4.3.1 Incomplete sentence ......................................................................... 15

4.3.2 Repeated words or phrases............................................................. 17

4.3.3 Unclear sentence .............................................................................. 17

4.3.4 Unneeded self-correction ................................................................ 20

4.4 Biggest factors leading to making mistakes.............................................. 21

4.4.1 Lack of practice ................................................................................ 23

4.4.2 Time pressure ................................................................................... 23

4.4.3 Speaking skill.................................................................................... 24

4.4.4 Nervosity ........................................................................................... 24

4.4.5 The rest ............................................................................................. 24

4.5 Suggestions for dealing with these mistakes ............................................. 25

5. Conclusion and future development .................................................................. 27

Reference ....................................................................................................................... 30

Appendix ........................................................................................................................ 31
ABSTRACT

Interpretation is a beloved yet challeging subject for third-year students in


translation and interpretation because it, on the one hand, requires a
combination of different skills which students have learned, i.e. speaking,
listening, memory, aprroximation and generalisation. On the other hand, the
risks of making mistakes and errors are so high that students are sometimes
afraid of facing it. This research aims firstly at finding out some types of
mistakes and errors in Vietnamese - English consecutive interpretation,
secondly at analyzing main factors causing students to make these types of
errors. Finally, some workable solutions are suggested to not only students but
also teachers who teach interpreting. To do so, several previous works related to
the topic have been studied to set background for the findings of this research.
Data collected from recorded cassettes in the final exam of fifth term are then
analyzed and classified into two groups including mistakes in pronunciation and
grammar and lexical errors which contain incomplete sentence, repeated words
or phrases, unclear sentence, and unneeded self-correction. Before some
suggestions are given from the findings, factors leading to these errors have
been specifically and logically analyzed.
ACKNOWLEDMENT

I would first and foremost thank my supervisor, Nguyen Ninh Bac, MA for
supervising me through this rewarding but hard-working process. I am grateful
to you for your support, guidance, feedback and encouragement. I would also
love to thank my dear classmate, Vuong Thi Thanh Nhan who allows me to
adapt her questionnaire and helps me during the time I spend doing this work.
Finally, I would like to thank my classmates, my family, and my old teacher,
Mrs. Phuong, for offering such kind help motivating me to finish this research.
1. INTRODUCTION
1.1 Rationale
In ULIS (University of Languages and International Studies), interpreting
students get started with interpretation in year 3 when they are competent in
English, especially speaking and listening. However, between listening as well
as speaking lesson and interpreting there is still a gap which needs time and
attention to be filled by third year students. Specifically, in listening students
are required to pay more focus on details and skills of using English while
interpretation requires them to give more priorities to main ideas and convey
the message in their way of understanding. Similarly, speaking lessons ask
students to speak out what they think or prepare in advance, whereas speaking
in interpretation means reproducing a spoken message or expression from a
source language to a target language based on the help of notes and short term
memory. Moreover, manners of interpreting are little focused because third year
students rarely have chance to access to professional interpretation
environment; consequently manners are often ignored. Therefore, they often
make mistakes in doing their interpreting during first step of getting acquainted
with the subject, mainly consecutive interpretation. For this reason, the
researcher decides to choose the thesis studying common speaking mistakes and
errors in consecutive interpretation often made by third-year students in ULIS.
In accordance with previous research, the thesis suggests some solutions to
these errors from findings of the research.

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1.2 The aim of the study and research questions
1.2.1 The aims of the research
First and foremost, the research aims to give more insights to consecutive
interpretation and find out common speaking mistakes and errors often made by
third-year students. The primary aim of this research is to deal with mistakes
because they have been taught in year one and year two of students’ curriculum;
thus making mistakes in year three can be considered to be serious. Moreover,
the researcher tries to find out factors causing these errors. The researcher hopes
to figure out common patterns of errors as well as mistakes so that next
generation of students will be better prepared and aware of what difficulties
they may encounter and what types of mistakes and errors they often make.
Finally, tips and suggestions will be provided based on findings from the
research so that interpreting teachers will be able to use these errors patterns as
diagnostic tool for the design of instructions and constructions in curriculum.
1.2.2 Research questions:

1. What types of speaking mistakes and errors do third-year students


often make when doing their consecutive interpretation?
2. What are the factors causing these mistakes and errors to third-year
students?
3. What are workable solutions based on the research findings in efforts
to cure these errors?
1.3. Scope of the research

Due to the limitation of time and capability, doing research on all groups of
students in translation and interpretation division in year three would be
difficult. Thus, a group, namely 071E19, was chosen as the subject of the
research.

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1.4. Methodology

Sampling

The cassettes in the fifth-semester final examination of group 071E19 were


chosen to be analyzed in this study for 2 reasons. Firstly, the examination was
the time students apply what they learned in class. Secondly, students were in a
real environment of interpretation because in class they often had time to
prepare or with the helps from teachers.

Data collection instrument

21 cassettes recording the products of Vietnamese – English interpretation of 21


students in 071E19 were collected. Each cassette was listened carefully to
identify speaking errors. Also, a questionnaire of 9 questions was passed out
and then collected to gain response from students.

Data collection process

There are three main steps:

First of all, 21 cassettes were borrowed from the department library.

Secondly, each of them was analyzed thoroughly to identify common


errors.

Finally, questionnaires were given to targeted students to find out reasons


for making these errors.

Data analysis

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To answer the three research questions, data analysis was done. Errors, after
being identified, would be categorized in sample patterns. Some calculations
were made to find out the most common errors made by the students.

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2. LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Definition of Interpretation

Understanding the concept of interpretation would obviously set a sound


background for this study.

Interpretation can be generally understood as a process of conveying


message in which a speaker’s meaning is best expressed in his or her mother
tongue but is best understood in the languages of the listeners (Nolan 2005: 2).
He also emphasized that as a bridge-builder between languages, an interpreter
helps speakers make them understood and satisfy the need of understanding
what is being said from the listeners.

2.2 Definition of Consecutive Interpretation (CI)

In the article “Consecutive Interpretation: A Brief Preview”, Santiago, R. gave


the definition of CI. According to him, CI in its purest form is a mode in which
the interpreter begins his interpretation of a complete message after the speaker
has stopped making the source utterance. At the moment the interpretation is
done, the interpreter is the only person involved in the communication
environment.

2.3 Speaking in Interpretation

For Vietnamese – English interpretation, speaking plays the key role in


conveying the message. Moreover, speaking is one of the criteria to assess
whether one is a qualified interpreter.

Public speaking is an important part for one to become an interpreter


(Nolan 2005: 8). He stated that there exists difference between speaking in daily

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life and speaking in interpretation, in which speaking in daily life is primarily
for exchanging information and expressing feelings, whereas the main functions
of language used by public speakers such as diplomats, president candidates is
persuasion or gaining people’s trust. Therefore, an interpreter needs not only to
use skills at descriptive speech but also to master power of persuasion.

2.4 Mistakes and Errors in interpretation

So far, mistakes and errors remain unable to differ. A mistake is a wrong


response towards a topic that a student has known about. An error is also a
wrong response made by students because they have no knowledge about what
is the right answer. A student, if given a second chance, has the potential to
correct a mistake, whereas a student has no potential to correct an error until he
or she learns what is correct.
Barik (1973: 237) examined simultaneous interpretation and categorized
the results into temporal and quantitative data. He focused on the effect of time
lag, articulation and speed of interpretation. In another study by Barik (1975:
272), the same subject was treated but this time using qualitative and linguistic
data. Barik categorized translation departures into omissions, additions and
substitutions or errors of translation. Barik’s papers are informative as to how
texts of interpretation can be categorized and how data can be grouped.
However, the barrier between what is considered a mild error and what is
considered a serious error can sometimes difficult to distinguish.
Parks (1982: 131) defines mistakes as something which violates the
norms of standard usage; however, these may be defined. The concept of
“mistake” is relative to the principles of a particular speech community. He
gives some guidelines to the seriousness of various types of mistakes.
Phonological, intonational, and structural errors are not serious and can be

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ignored provided that they do not interfere with the listeners’ understanding of
the text. If the correct intonation is not used when asking a question, the listener
can become confused and therefore it would be considered a mistake. Short
omissions are of little importance because most texts are sufficiently repeated to
render them in a neutral way. Semantic errors can be considered quite serious.
For example, the insertion of a negative in a sentence will distort the meaning
of the message to be conveyed. Paraphrasing and approximation may be
accepted provided that they convey the meaning of the text. Though not
recommended, they can be a handy tool to use, especially when the speaker is
speaking too quickly. Lexical errors are considered to be extremely serious
because the wrong choice of vocabulary can change the meaning significantly.
Knowing the right word can greatly determine to what extent the listener will
trust the interpreter.
In this research, the researcher attempts to apply Park’s ideas of
categorizing different types of errors and mistakes but the names of these
patterns are given and suggested by the researcher himself. Specifically, two
categories of incorrect interpretation will be used: one which students have
known but still made, namely mistakes, and one that students have not had
knowledge about – errors (lexical errors).

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3. DATA AND METHODOLOGY
3.1 Data
The data for this research is from cassettes borrowed from the library of the
English Department. There are 21 cassettes which are the products of
interpretation in the fifth-term final exam of 071E19. This group was chosen
because (1) the number of its students can represent the whole number of K41
in translation and interpretation division; (2) the timetable of this group was
convenient for the researcher to observe and carry out the research plan.
The questionnaire was passed out on April 20th 2010 and then collected.
There are 21 sheets of questionnaires passed out to students and also 21 sheets
gained back. Each questionnaire contains 9 questions about reasons why
students make the mentioned mistakes (Appendix 1).
3.2 Methodology
The mistakes presented in this study are categorized into 3 groups, namely (1)
pronunciation, (2) grammar, and (3) lexical mistakes. These mistakes are
chosen because students repetitively make them with high frequency and great
number (about 15 students make the same pattern of mistakes).
The results from questionnaires are calculated to see which reason has
the greatest impact on the quality of students’ interpretation. It should be noted
that the questionnaire in this research is adapted from Vuong Thi Thanh Nhan’s
research which is about factors influencing the quality of interpretation in
061E19 in their seventh term. Also, bar charts are used to represent clearly the
number of students encounter the same reason for making these mistakes.
In this research, CI means consecutive interpretation, SL means source
language, and TL means target language.

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4. FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
As mentioned in 2.4, mistakes and errors in interpretation could be categorized
in terms of seriousness, from incorrect intonation to lexical mistakes or errors.
Although possible presumptions can be made about some types of errors, it is
important to have more insights into interpretation errors, i.e. what they are,
why students often make them, then more importantly how to minimize the risk
of encountering them. Moreover, speaking plays an important role in
Vietnamese – English interpretation; thus studying the common mistakes in
speaking would be significant to help third year students enhance the quality of
their interpretation products because they have known about mistakes already.
In terms of errors, they are quite broad and out of students’ understanding, so
correcting them would not be feasible and applicable. In part 1, popular
mistakes will be discussed and analyzed.
Identified errors in this study are categorized in terms of the level of
seriousness, specifically from pronunciation mistakes to wrong choice of words
or expressions – lexical mistakes. Before suggestions are given, mistakes are
listed in tables so that comparison can be seen clearly.
Some mistakes can belong to different categories, but they are placed in
the most appropriate and relevant group so that they really fit and make the
mistakes clear.
4.1 Pronunciation mistakes
In this part, there are two main types of mistakes, namely lack of ending sounds
and mispronunciation. Although pronunciation mistakes are not really serious,
they can somewhat affect the quality of an interpretation. Surprisingly, 100% of
the students made this mistake, which shows that students really have problem
with their speaking skill.

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4.1.1 Lack of ending sounds
The most common ending sounds which students did not pronounce are /s/ in
gifts, /t/ in ‘gift’, /S/ in ‘cash’, /θ/ in ‘their’, and /id/ in ‘developed’. Certainly,
there are more endings that students either did not pronounce or added in
unnecessarily, but these presented are the most typical ones. Surprisingly, 18
out of 21 students made mistakes in pronouncing these endings. These words
are all key words which carry the meaning of the whole message; so
mispronouncing them can obviously affect the quality of students’
interpretation. It shows the low competence in English of students.
Not only did students lack these endings, 2 students also often added /s/
ending unnecessarily in each word of their speech. For example, “…In Asians
countries, people has a common practice thats they usuallys gives gifts to
others…” This may be due to the habit of some students who always add /s/
ending in each word of their speech, especially after explosions (/t/, /k/, /p/).
4.1.2 Mispronunciations
Some words tend to be mispronounced and so they turned into a totally
different word. These words are shown as follow:
Bargain [bə'gi:n] beguine
Tax [t ks] à tucks
Service [sə'vaiv] à survive
Present ['prizn] à prison
Cash [k:d] card
If listeners do not know Vietnamese and have no access to original text,
they may understand the message in a completely different meaning such as in
the case …“in Asian countries, people often have a habit of giving prisons to

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others”… Therefore, mispronunciation these key words have affected seriously
the meaning of the message.
4.2 Grammatical mistakes
Although students are required to master grammar when they enter year three,
the frequency of making grammatical mistakes is still really high. In this part,
common grammatical mistakes are presented in order of popularity. Although
students specialized in English should master grammar with high proficiency,
they failed to use it correctly in speaking. Different from translation in which
students have time to look for the best words and grammatical structures to
express the idea, interpretation asks them to quickly response to the message by
using short-term memory, notes and grasping gist. So instead of paying
attention to grammar students really focused on the idea to be interpreted.
Despite an understandable speech, poor grammar shows lack of accuracy in
English and leads to the fact that the audiences lose their trust on the interpreter.
4.2.1 Subject – verb agreement
It can be said that this is a quite serious and common mistake that students
made (all of students in this group made them in their interpretation). It varies
from lack of linking verb, i.e. “to be” to wrong form of main verbs, either
singular or plural. For this type of mistake, all of the students in E19 contained
it in their interpretation. So they really need to focus on analysing some patterns
as presented below so that they can find possible solutions to correct and then
enhance their interpretation.
First of all, “there + to be” pattern should be mentioned. Surprisingly,
for this simple and popularly used structure, students were often confused and
felt hesitant to use them. With the model structure that the verb “to be” is
determined either singular or plural by the objects followed, students may know

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it clearly in grammar but they do not master the practice of this structure. The
table below shows the model of incorrect use of the structure “there + to be”.
Wrong sentences Suggestion for correction
…in China there are a situation …in China there is a situation that…
that…
There is also TV, souvenirs… There are also TV, souvenirs…
There are rarely seldom bargainness There is rarely any bargain of
of service… service…
Among these gifts, there is also Among these gifts, there are also a
many wine, tobacco… lot of wine, tobaccos…

Secondly, wrong form of main verbs should also be taken into account.
Within this mistake, students unconsciously used the main verbs in the wrong
form. When a singular subject needs to be followed by a singular verb, the verb
is placed in the plural form and vice versa. The fact that students put too much
focus on the meaning of the text makes them fail to render the interpretation
correctly in term of grammar. The evidence is clearly depicted in the table
below.
Incorrect sentences Suggestion for correction
…because seller don’t have to put …because sellers don’t have to use
their money to buy these gifts… their money to buy these gifts…
…the gift are exchange become The gifts are exchanged for/into
money… money…
Officers has been given a lot of gifts Officers have been given so many
that they hasn’t used them much… gifts that they haven’t used them
all…

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Asian people has tradition is gift Asian people have a tradition of
giving … giving gifts…
…many shop which buy these gifts …many shops which buy these gifts
is very small and the bargain look very small and the situation of
situation don’t often happen… bargain doesn’t often happen…
…the person who want to sell new The person who wants to sell new
year gifts seem not to make year gift seems not to make
bargain… bargain…
It can be seen that though the idea is possibly understood, wrong form of
main verbs shows the low level of using English of students. From the table, it
can be concluded that the level in English of students lies in pre-intermediate or
so. But the context of the time limitation some can be acceptable.
4.2.2 Relative pronouns
The representative of this mistake is indicated in this table:

Unfinished sentences using relative correction


pronouns
…the people who sell their presents, The people who sell their presents
they don’t have to spend money… don’t have to spend their money…
…Chinese government concern Chinese government is concerned
about the issue because the people about the issue because people give
who give the present under the the present illegally…
world…
…Asian people have a tradition is …Asian people have a tradition that
giving gifts to others when the Tet they give gifts to others when the Tet
holiday comes… holiday comes…

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The use of relative pronouns shows the competence of students to be
capable of making complex sentences or structures. However, wrong use of this
grammatical issue can lead to a run-on sentence or a meaningless sentence. To
some extents, students sometimes forgot that they were using relative pronouns
in their speech, so they kept running on an unfinished sentence or idea. Four
students commited this mistake in their products.
4.2.3 Other mistakes
The first one should be listed in this group is wrong use of double
comparative. The double comparative is known as “the + a short adjective –er
… the + a short adjective –er” and “the more… the more…” in which a long
adjective follows “the more” or both of the two mixes. However, students put a
noun after “the more”, which makes a confused sentence. In this case, “the
more position they are, the more expensive they have”, certainly it is a nonsense
sentence. It must be turned into “the higher position they are, the more
expensive gifts they have”.
Secondly, incorrect use of reduced subjects is worth being noticed. A
subject of a sentence is only reduced when two clauses inside share the same
subjects. However, students, in fact, reduced subject even when the subjects of
two clauses are totally different. Two examples are shown to represent this
type:
1. After collecting, they will be buy with high price à After being collected,
they will be bought at high price. (they refer to gifts)
2. After bought from junior officials, senior officials sells them to the markets
à after receiving gifts from junior officials, senior ones sell them to the market.

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4.3 Lexical errors
Regarding errors in interpretation, they are unknown to third year students
because fifth term is the first hand experience in interpretation for them.
Therefore, some types of errors which they have no ideas about are obviously
encountered. From this part, more insights into lexical errors will come into
play, especially ones distorting the meaning of the original message. These
errors are categorized into different groups each of which is put a name
suggested by the researcher.

As discussed in 2.4, lexical errors are the most serious type which
directly distort the meaning of a sentence and can lead to misunderstanding.
The samples followed are only the most typical ones which many a student
encounter the same problems namely incomplete sentence, repeated words or
phrase and unclear sentence.
4.3.1 Incomplete sentence
Incomplete sentences occur in speech because students lacked needed time for
interpretation segments or their ideas have not been fulfilled, or their
vocabulary was not enough for them to express the ideas. More seriously, all 21
students’ cassettes contain this mistake, which means their time management is
not good enough due to lack of regular practice. This result is understandable
because third year students in their fifth term are completely fresh men to be
accessible to interpretation. 15 week contact in class can be enough for them to
handle some principles of interpretation, but from theory to practice, there is
still a gap to be fulfilled, i.e. regular practice is necessary for students to be
acquainted with time pressure.
The following table shows incomplete sentences and reasons why they
occur, either for running out of time or for poor vocabulary.

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Incomplete sentences Reasons
Although this service can earn a lot Poor vocabulary. In fact, this student
of money, the shop looks very… is trying to say “the shop look very
how to say… small and poor-equiped”
Hope that this custom giving gifts in Running out of time. The full
Tet will… sentence is “it is hoped that the
custom of gift giving in Tet will
remain its original beauty”
In official, they forbid to receive gift Poor vocabulary. This idea should be
in material, but they can receive the “officially, officers are forbidden
gift in… from receiving money, but they can
receive material gifts”
…but the gifts are so expensive and Poor vocabulary and lack of time.
they were given so many gifts, so “…but the gifts are so expensive and
they did not use it… they were given so many gift that
they did not use them all…” (they
refer to Chinese state officers)
Hope that our neighboring country, Running out of time. It should be
Vietnam, can … “we hope that/it is hoped that our
neighbouring, Vietnam, can find
effective measures to prevent red
tape/corruption.
…many of them do not use the Running out of time.
given…

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4.3.2 Repeated words or phrases
On account of time limitation for each interpreted segment, repetition of words
of phrases can certainly shorten the time for students to carry out their ideas.
This reason is closely related to the mistake of incomplete sentence. Moreover,
too many repeated words make a speech sound messy and confused.
In terms of words, “and” and “but” are the two to be repeated the most
frequent. Students did this because they wanted to find a suitable word to
express their ideas. Instead of keeping silent, they made fillers in their speech
too many times.
Regarding phrases, the following list presents common repeated
expressions.
1. Many shops which buy this gift is very small and the bargain situation (often
happen)3 … do not often happen…
2. (Chinese government)3 is very worried (because)2…. (not only this student
repeat too much but she also has an unfinished sentence)
3. There is a situation which occur in Chinese. (It is that)4 many bosses in
Chinese bought their gifts which they have just received. (in this case, “it is
that” can be omitted. Likewise, this sentence conveys wrong meaning as
compared to the original one which is “in China, there is a situation in which
many bosses sell their gifts which they have just received”.)
4.3.3 Unclear sentence
This type of mistake is the most serious one because students used wrong words
to speak out their ideas. In some cases, students used a noun as a subject such as
“they”, “the + noun” without enough evidence to identify who or what the
subject really is. Misunderstanding or even incapability to understand certainly
occurs. The students themselves were not clear and did not understand

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thoroughly the message so they make a completely new and different sentence.
The typical one can be seen in this table:

Unclear sentence correction


These presents is too big to use. So These presents are too many in
they can bring it to sell to… quantity for the managers to use. So
they can sell it to the market
The managers receives many of The managers receive so many
things of presents so they…sell presents that they do not take all
it/them because they do not take advantage of them; so they sell them.
advantage of them.
Chinese authority is hard to solve It is hard for Chinese authority to
these problems to these stores solve these problem of these stores
because they do not work officially because they are doing this business
illegally
Those selling people, they do not For people selling these gifts, they do
have the money to buy those thing… not have to spend money buying
those things. (“they” refers to state
officers; “things” means gifts which
officers receive)
Common gifts they are received on Common gifts they receive on Tet
Tet are… are…
It is interesting that a few people It is interesting that some people
who bring their presents they do not selling their presents do not have to
have to use their money to buy that spend money buying these presents;
presents; so they do not have to so bargain does not happen/they sell

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debate the best price. these gifts without bargaining.
These activities is support for These activities are supporting for
traficial… red tape/bribery/trafficking
To collect new year gifts, many To collect new year gifts, many
shops which be set to meet the shops which are being operated
demand that the boss want to illegally/without legal license are set
exchange gifts to money are act up to meet the demand that the boss
illegally without license wants to exchange gifts into money
In China, the government prevents… In China, the government prevents
and many managers of company do red tapes, and so many managers of
not receive money but they can company are not allowed to received
receive gifts money but they can receive gifts
So many shops have a successful Although many shops have a
enterprise but they are very poor successful business, they look very
poor-equipped
One interesting thing about the shop One interesting thing about these
there is no bargain to buy the gifts shops is that there is no bargain in
because many sellers do not put selling because many sellers do not
money to buy the gifts have to spend money buying these
gifts
…because they are not allowed …because they do not have legal
license and evade paying tax… license and they evade paying tax…
As can be seen from the table, unclear sentence is the combination of all
previously mentioned mistakes; thus it can be considered the most serious one.
Also, the frequency that students made this kind of mistake is high, i.e. it is
shown via the number of unclear sentences and the number of students

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producing such mistake. It is surprising that all of 21 students contain wrong
meaning sentences in their interpretation.
4.3.4 Unneeded self-correction
For this type of error, students spoke a word, but they did not satisfy with this
word then they attempted to try a new one which did not surely make their
interpretation better and more importantly was a waste of time. This type occurs
because students are not yet familiar with instant response or reaction in
interpretation, which requires interpreter to give the most satisfactory
expression in the quickest amount of time possible. In addition, lack of
vocabulary in general and related to the topic of corruption in particular causes
students to produce this kind of error. When students looked for another
alternative of the previous word, they waste their time and consequently, they
did not finish the segment which needed interpreting.
The following examples clearly give students away when they tried to
find for a not-yet better choice.

Unneeded self-correction Analysis


Because the anti-red tape in China is “The big one” is unknown in this
very restricted so the high-ranking … case because it has not ever
the big one can not receive cash mentioned before in this student’s
directly speech. “high-ranking” is obviously
a better choice.
Among these expensive gifts are TV, “Pictures” is a wrong choice, but
mobile phones, precious pictures … “paints” can not be a better alternate.
precious paints, … It should be “precious paintings”.
Oriented … oriental …orientation The student tried to mean “Asian

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people have a custom of giving gift people”, but none of these words
when new year comes. could be a possible choice.
There is a strange thing … In this case, “thing” and
phenomenon in China that senior “phenomenon” have the same
officers are often received expensive meaning which refers to “red tape”
gifts from junior officers or “bribery”
The sellers … the selling people … “the sellers” is the best choice, but
the people who sell these gifts do not this students may want to look for a
have to put their money to buy these longer expression so he thought
gifts about “the selling people” and
“people who sell gifts”

4.4 Biggest factors leading to making mistakes


In the questionnaire, there are 8 different reasons namely (1) nervosity, (2) bad
health condition, (3) tape-recorder’s quality, (4) speaking skill, (5) lack of
practice, (6) time pressure, (7) classmates, (8) others (see appendix 1). Based on
responses from students, the most chosen mistake is found. Furthermore,
specific reasons within these big categories come into light, which later helps to
find out workable solutions to cure the latter mentioned types of mistakes.
The chart below shows the number of students choosing different reasons
for their making mistakes.

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the number of students choosing different reasons for making mistakes
20

15
numbers of students

10

0
reasons

nervosity bad health tape-recorder's quality


speaking skill lack of practice time pressure
classmates others

The bar chart shows the number of students choosing different reasons
for their making mistakes. Generally, lack of practice ranks the first position in
terms of the number of students whereas classmates and others are the least
influential factors on students.
Firstly, there are four factors, namely lack of practice, time pressure,
speaking skill, and nervosity, which are chosen to be the greatest impacts on
students respectively. 18 and 17 students think that they made mistakes due to
they did not practice well enough and they did not have enough time to finish
their interpretation. Also, poor speaking skill together with being nervous
accounted for a significant amount of undergraduates for just over 10.
Regarding the rest, classmates and other factors are not thought to be the
main reasons because they share the same number of choice, exactly 2 students.
Similarly, the quality of recorder and bad health condition respectively
accounted for 3 and 4 students out of 21.

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From the chart, it can be seen that there is a big difference in
contributions of the factors.
4.4.1 Lack of practice
18 students out of 21 (86%) chose it to be the main factor for their mistakes in
the interpretation. It is noted that 17 out of 18 (94% students in this group)
students said they needed time to work more on short term memory, specifically
they wrote that they could not remember the information due to the length of
each interpreting segment. So this means that because students could not
remember the main idea, they were hesitant to speak up and tend to repeat
unnecessary words to have time to think. Other 7 choices (38%) were made to
note that they had problem with note-taking skill. In fact, students have a great
advantage in Vietnamese – English interpretation because they do not have
problem with listening skill and moreover, if they can use notes well,
interpretation is not a big deal. In Vietnamese – English interpretation,
Vietnamese is the mother tongue of students so they rarely note down.
Moreover, the speaker often makes a fast speech so students mainly base on
their short term memory. However, because fifth term is the first time students
have access to interpretation so problem with short term memory is
understandable.
4.4.2 Time pressure
Related to time pressure, there were 17 responses (81%) choosing this reason.
Among these 17 choices, 14 noted that the time given for them to render their
interpretation was too short. Combined with repeated words and sentences in
part 4.3.2, it can be concluded that maybe the time is enough for students to
finish interpreting, but they repeated words too much; consequently they could
not complete the whole segment. Other 4 students in this group thought that the

23
segment which they needed to interpret into English was too long. So both of
the information is relevant to each other.
4.4.3 Speaking skill
In terms of speaking skill, 10 out 12 students assumed that their poor
vocabulary caused them to perform badly in their interpretation. For this reason,
students could not find suitable words or phrases to express their ideas. It is
concluded that poor vocabulary is the main reason why students make lexical
mistakes, specifically making unclear sentences. In the mean time, 5 responses
revealed they did not have good grammar and pronunciation. This number
explains why there are quite many mistakes relating to grammar and
pronunciation. Finally, 4 students noted that they made too many types of filler
in their parts. For example, they made too many uhm…, ahh…, or they repeated
“and” and “but” too many times. This information is related to 4.3.2 which
discussed the mistake of repeated words.
4.4.4 Nervosity
Nervosity is the fourth biggest factors which caused students to make mistakes
in the interpretation. 10 choices were the number of students who thought
nervousness was the cause of poor performance. 8 students revealed that they
were not well-prepared about the topic, which made them feel nervous and lose
their confidence. Although topics related to interpretation often were informed
to students in advance in the website www.lopdich.tk students may not know
about this. Just one student informed that she was always nervous before any
exams.
4.4.5 The rest
The rest includes bad health condition, the quality of the recorder, classmates
and other reasons. First of all, 4 students blamed poor quality of recorder for
their mistakes. The sound of the recording was good, so no students chose it as

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a cause of making mistakes. In regard to bad health condition, 3 students
responded that on the day of examination their health condition was not good,
which directly affected their performance. Last but not least, 2 choices were the
number circling classmates and others as their answer. It should be noticed that
both of the students wrote they needed to widen their background knowledge to
be well-prepared in terms of ideas, vocabulary and confidence. 1 student
believed when he was confident about the topic he could perform better.
4.5 Suggestions for dealing with these mistakes
Suggestions will aim at three subjects, namely students, teachers in speaking
skill, and teachers in interpretation. The suggestions are given based on the
findings of this study; consultation from teachers and professional interpreters
is not yet done.
4.5.1 For students
From the analyzed reasons, the first and foremost thing third year students
should do is to practice more regularly. By practice frequently under the
instruction of teachers, students can be familiar to time pressure, taking
advantage of their notes, training their short term memory, and most
importantly sharpening their speaking skill in term of grammar and expression.
Firstly, to train short term memory and be familiar with time pressure,
students need to do more interpretation. A suggestion for them is that they
should surf the website www.ted.com in which there are tons of videos about
familiar academic topics such as education, business, environment, humanity.
By downloading them, both in original language and interpreted Vietnamese
subtitle, students can do their own interpretation and then compare to the
interpreted for self-correction. Furthermore, students should record their
interpretation, after that they can either listen again to correct or give them to

25
their teachers in order to receive comments. Some useful soft wares which help
record are Jet audio, Nero version 7.0.
Secondly, to strengthen students’ note-taking skill, they need to take
notes in the form of an outline of a speech, then give this outline to their
classmates or teachers to check whether they can understand or not. By doing
this, students can develop their note-taking skill in terms of a system of symbol
and writing in shorthand.
More importantly, sharpening speaking skill is really necessary. Related
to recording their interpretation, students should pay more attention to
grammatical and pronunciation mistakes by noting often made mistakes then
speaking them again. Also, forming a group to practice speaking could help. By
speaking in front of a group of friends who take note a student’s performance
and then give feedbacks, students can certainly improve not only their speaking
skill but also their confidence as well.
4.5.2 For teachers who teach speaking skill
Teachers in speaking skill should pay more attention to pronunciation and
grammar in students’ presentation. It may take time and not be necessary, but if
they do not correct these mistakes students will form a habit of making and
repeating the mistakes without notice that they have problems with grammar.
Also, public speaking should be given more tasks to the students to enhance
their confidence.
4.5.3 For teachers who teach interpretation
First, they need to give more tasks not only in class but also at home for
students and recording students’ interpretation should be required. This would
help student have more practice and be close to time pressure and taking notes.
Similarly, teachers need to take students’ notes to check whether they take notes
in a right and sensible way.

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5. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT
A study of common mistakes and errors in consecutive interpretation made by
third-year students revealed that in most cases, the mistakes and errors are very
similar to the results found by Parks. Mistakes in terms of pronunciation and
grammar and lexical errors all appeared in the interpretation performed by
students.
The errors can also be classified into omissions, additions, substitutions,
grammar, pronunciation, pronunciation, meaning and others. In numerous
cases, the grammatical mistakes were rooted due to the inability of the students
to apply their knowledge of grammar to actual situation. Therefore, it is not a
matter of the lack of knowledge but rather a matter of the lack of application.
Depending on how a text is viewed, all errors can fall into the meaning category
because in consecutive interpretation as long as the interpreter can understand
the message, he/she will not have any difficulty delivering it to the audience.
Provided that the original text is properly understood, the audience will be able
to understand the message despite a few grammatical mistakes. Moreover, in
some cases, errors occur due to pressure of time to perform. When students are
pressed for time they will not be able to perform all their knowledge. This can
be proved by the fact that when students are given chance to listen to their
interpretation again, they can correct the mistakes or errors they made.
From the analysis above, it can be concluded that there are three main
types of mistakes in terms of speaking skill made by third year students in their
fifth term. First, although pronunciation is not a big problem in speaking, it can
distort the meaning of the message, especially when key words of a message are
mispronounced. Secondly, grammatical mistake is a major problem among third
year students. The most outstanding one is subject – verb agreement. Wrong
forms of main verbs followed subject of a sentence show low competence of

27
third year students who first time access to interpretation. Similarly, relative
pronouns can be a two-face risk which either help to make a speech more
complex and advanced or worsen the quality of the speech. Thirdly, lexical
mistakes are the most serious case, which directly leads to misunderstanding of
the message. In this type of mistake, unclear sentences and unfinished sentences
should be paid a special attention because they occur with very high frequency
and in large quantity. If so, a message can be understood in a totally different
meaning.
For reasons which cause these mistakes, lack of practice is the biggest
one with 86% of students takes it into account. It is noticeable that students
really have problem with their notes and short term memory both of which
cause students to make unfinished sentences and make too many fillers. The
second one should be noticed is time pressure. Failing to be acquainted with
time pressure, students often have incomplete sentences in their interpretation.
Speaking skill and nervousness are the other main causes. Especially speaking
skill, 51% (12 out of 21 students) of the students in 071E19 responded that their
vocabulary and grammar are not good enough to perform well in the exam. This
information needs to be paid attention by teachers because in third year,
students are required to master these things. Finally, poor preparation and lack
of background knowledge make students nervous, which directly or indirectly
lose students confidence and impoverish the quality of the interpreatation.
In the future, the researcher hopes that more researches will be done
about suggestions to minimize the risk of making these mentioned mistakes.
Also, more researches should be carried out to analyze deeply the process in
which students do their interpretation, specifically input or encoding –
comprehension or analysis – decoding – interpretation or output. Analyzing
each stage will help to find out in which stage students often have trouble with

28
and which stage directly lead to causing mistakes or errors. Moreover, due to
small scope of study so the findings may not represent the general situation of
all third-year students in translating and interpreting division. Finally, data in
this study was taken in the final exam, i.e. the fifth term final exam in
interpretation, therefore, more serious or common mistakes and errors may not
have been found. Hopefully, future studies can address these limitations so as to
make a quite perfect study on mistakes and errors in English – Vietnamese
consecutive interpreting.

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Reference
Books:
Barik, H.C. (1973). Simultaneous interpretation: Temporal and quantitative
data. Language and Speech, 16, 237-270.
Barik, H.C. (1975). Simultaneous interpretation: qualitative and linguistic data.
Language and Speech, 18, 272-292.
Ngo, H.T. (2005). Common Errors in Vietnamese – English Translation of
Heritage in Interpretive Signage in Some Beauty Spots in Hanoi. BA
thesis, University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam.
Nolan, J. (2005). Interpretation Techniques and Exercises. Multilingual Matters
Ltd. Toronto
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2005). Oxford University Press.
Parks, G.B. (1982). What language do interpreters speak? Rassegna Italian di
Linguistica Apllicata, 14, 121-135.
Websites:
Santiago, R. 2004. Consecutive Interpreting: A Brief Review. 21 April 2010.
<http://home.earthlink.net/~terperto/id16.html>.

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APPENDIX
SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE

Dear 07.1.E19’s students,


I am Dang Huu Chinh, a fourth year student. I am doing a research on “A Study on Mistakes
and Errors in Vietnamese – English Interpretation by Third Year Students in Fifth Term”.
The aim of my study is find out common errors made by third year students, and then gain
information about different factors that affect the quality of each student’s interpretation.
Finally, some solutions will be given for students to improve their interpretations, not only in
exams but also in their future career. This survey is not a test, so there are no “right” or
“wrong” answers and you do not have to write your name on it. I am interested in your
personal opinions. Please give your answers sincerely as only this will guarantee the success
of the investigation. Thank you very much for your help.
1. Circle the factors that affected the quality of your interpretation in the 5th final-term
test.
A. Nervosity => Move to question 2
B. Bad health-condition => Move to question 3
C. Tape-recorder’s quality => Move to question 4
D. Speaking skill => Move to question 5
E. Lack of practice => Move to question 6
F. Time pressure => Move to question 7
G. Classmates => Move to question 8
H. Others => Move to question 9

2. What made you feel nervous when you took your interpreting exam?
A. You are always nervous in every exam.
B. You were not well-prepared enough (you did not search for information about
given topics, you did not practice interpreting frequently, etc)
C. Other reasons (please specify )
…………………………………………………………………………………………
……

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3. Please specify how your bad-health condition affected your interpretation?
…………………………………………………………………………………………
……

4. Please specify how the tape-recorder’s quality affected your interpretation?


…………………………………………………………………………………………
……

5. Of the following cases, which one were you in? You can choose more than one
option.
A. You made too many fillers such as “ohh”, “uhm”, etc.
B. You got stuck in choosing appropriate words.
C. Others (specify your answer)
…………………………………………………………………………………………
……

6. Which skills that you think you should have practiced more before the interpreting
exam?
A. Listening& speaking
B. Note-taking & memorizing
C. Others (please specify your answer)
…………………………………………………………………………………………
…..

7. Why did time pressure affect your interpretation?


A. The time for each segment was too short.
B. The time for each segment was too long.
C. Others (please specify your answer).
………………………………………………………………………………………......
.....

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8. Why did your classmates affect your interpretation?
A. Due to the lack of sound-proof equipment, you could hear your classmates’ voice
when you were interpreting.
B. Sometimes, you could not finish your interpretation at the same time as your
friends, which made you worried.
C. Others ( please specify your answer)
…………………………………………………………………………………………
……

9. Besides those 8 factors mentioned above, are there any others? If the answer is Yes,
please specify it with details. Then rank the factors from 1 in order of their influence
on the quality of your interpretation.
…………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………
……………………….…………………………………………..……………………
……………….
…………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………
………............

THANK YOU FOR YOUR


YOUR COOPERATION.

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