The following text is taken from Conference Interpreting – A Student’s Practice Book by Andrew Gillies (p11-14) Routledge, 2013
How to Practice
One cannot achieve a high level of competence in interpreting only by attending time-tabled interpreting classes. That’s why students have to practise outside class time
A.1 Practise often
Practise often. 5 days per week is a reasonable timetable. That’s often enough to mean you never get out of practise, and you continue getting better. But practising a lot doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to some rest time.
A.2 Practise in short sessions
Be aware that practising twice for thirty minutes in one day, morning and then afternoon, may be better than one session of 1 hour. And that one hour per day for a week is definitely better than 7 hours practice on one day and nothing for the rest of the week.
A.3 Don’t only interpret
If you are a student interpreter, you probably love interpreting. And if you have the choice between any type of course work or practice and actually interpreting, you will choose interpreting every time. But practice does not have to be interpreting to be useful. So treat yourself to non-interpreting practice activities on a regular basis. You’ll find plenty of them in this book.
A.4 Practise skills in isolation
It is possible to break interpreting down into its component skills and practise them in isolation, or some but not all of them at the same time. This is the concept underlying much of this book. So read on!
Source: Van Dam 1989: 170, Weber 1989:164, Seleskovitch and Lederer (1989: 133), Moser Mercer 1994:66, Gillies 2001:66
A.5 Practise with an aim
Set yourself an aim for each practise session. For example, ‘Today (or this week) I’m going to concentrate on good delivery.” Early in the course the skills your practice should probably reflect the content of your lessons. Many courses, for example, teach delivery and memory skills first and, say, note-taking later. You can practise a new skill in each practise session or for a few days or weeks at a time. This has the advantage also of giving you interim goals to aim at, and achieve. This allows us to see progress being made. And this is likely to increase your motivation levels. Not least of all because progress in interpreting as a whole is very difficult to see over short periods. We might notice an improvement between January and April, but it is unlikely that you’ll see a tangible improvement in your work from one week to the next. If you practise delivery skills, for example, in isolation, you can make significant and visible progress in a matter of days or weeks.
Source: Gillies 2001:66
A.6 Think about your work
Take time out to think about your interpreting performance, and discuss it with others. Learning comes not only from doing, but from thinking about what you’ve done. Only you can actually learn, noone else can learn for you.
A.7 Take a break
Stop practising if you are getting tired. If you recognise that you are tiring, then your interpreting has probably already been less than your best for 10-15 minutes. So stop!
This doesn’t apply to class and exam situations of course, where you will just have to battle through. That’s also part of interpreting. But if you’re practising, it’s best to stop and come back to it when you’ve had a break.
A.8 Don’t force yourself
Interpreting requires all your effort and motivation. Anything less than 100% and you will not produce your best performance. So don’t practise if you don’t want to. And if you find that an you don’t want to practise all that often, then you know that interpreting isn’t for you.
A.9 Start interpreting into your best language
Begin by learning to interpret into your best active language#. Later, when you are comfortable with that, and if you have a second active language, start practising interpreting into that language. Practise all of your language combinations.
Source: Déjean le Féal, EMCI 2002:28
A.10 Practise in groups
For most people working in groups is also more fun than working alone or in class. Groups should be of 2-4 people for consecutive: you’ll need at least one speaker and one interpreter, the speaker can double as the audience in consecutive. For simultaneous groups should be of 3-6 people. You need more people for simultaneous because the speaker cannot listen to the interpreting as they can in consecutive. That means you’ll need one speaker, one interpreter and one listener to make a group.
There are a number of advantages to practising in groups rather than alone or only in class time. Working with other students and preparing speeches for one another means that you will have plenty of practise material (speeches) to interpret and that they will be pitched at the right level of difficulty. Speeches student interpreters give tend to be simpler in structure, logic and vocabulary than authentic speeches and this is as it should be for the first part of your course. Start simple and work up. Preparing and giving the speeches is also useful and shouldn’t be considered an exercise in altruism. As you’ll see in the exercises below, creating speeches is an exercise in understanding speech structure and note-taking while giving a speech trains note-reading and public speaking skills in isolation.
A.11 Shake it up
Don’t always work with the same people when practising. Work with a variety of other students, not only your best friend on the course. That way you are also less likely to develop bad habits or get too used to the same speaker and speech type.
A.12 Listen to each other
One of the simplest ways to train your ability to listen to, and monitor, your own interpreting performance is to listen to and assess those of your fellow students. It’s easier because when you are interpreting and trying to listen to yourself you’re doing several things at once, including monitoring your performance, here you are only listening and assessing, not interpreting as well.
Always listen with particular criteria in mind, for example, is the delivery good, do the main points make sense, is the language register appropriate. And try to listen only for one or two of these criteria, and not always all of them at once.
It’s also useful because most students make similar, and a limited number of types of, mistakes. So the person you’re listening to probably has some of the same interpreting problems as you.
Obviously simultaneous interpreting can and should also be practised alone from recorded material (and with a dictaphone to record yourself), consecutive also if needs must, but the reactions of others, and the opportunity to listen to their work yourself are invaluable.
Source: Heine 2000: 223
A.13 Be a listener
The temptation with simultaneous is for lots of people to interpret the same speech, and noone to listen to the interpreting. Resist it! Don’t everyone go into the booths and interpret just because booths are free. Listeners may listen to only the interpreter, or to the interpreter and original speech simultaneously, both are valid and useful exercises.
A.14 Work with listeners who need interpretation
Very often we practise with people who have the same language combination as we do. And that means that their assessment of your interpreted version of a speech is influenced by their knowledge of the source language and/or their understanding of the original speech. That’s often very useful of course, but you need not always work with a listener who understands the source language.
It is very useful to have a ‘real” listener who ‘needs” the interpreter to understand the speech. Afterwards ask them simply, if they understood what was being said. Their questions about what was not clear are often extremely helpful in highlighting the major problem areas, as opposed to minor errors that listeners who understand both the source and the target languages tend to highlight.
A.15 Get non-interpreters involved
You needn’t work only with your classmates. Other people, family, friends, anyone who can be roped into listen will do. These listeners will often be more demanding and perhaps perceptive in their analysis of your work than you. At the very least they will offer a different point of view on it. Whether it’s fellow students or other people who are listening, the fact of having someone listen to you is important. Interpreting is about communicating between people, something one can forget when practising from recorded speech after recorded speech alone.