Analysis exercises

“The first rule of consecutive interpreting is that the real work must already have been done when you start reading back your notes: the text, its meaning and the links within it, must have been perfectly understood.”  Jean-Francois Rozan

Extract from Conference Interpreting – A New Students’ Companion, Tertium Cracow 2004.

3 Active listening / analysis (is often overlooked in practice) 

3.1 Concentration. When listening to a speech or news broadcast in the foreign language concentrate on “hearing out” every single word / syllable without allowing your attention to wander to, say, your plans for the weekend. 

It is difficult to concentrate as intensely as the interpreter does and requires some practice. It is all too easy to listen inattentively to a language when we understand it well. This exercise should help us balance that out. This is useful at an early stage in the course. 

3.2 Make summaries of speeches. How many ideas did a speech contain? Summarise in your own words, first very briefly and later in more detail.(p212 Gile).  In doing this you are training yourself to listen for message and meaning, the essence, rather than the individual words used. 

3.3 Analyse written texts – highlight keywords (ideas) and links between them. › Annex 1.2 + 1.3 “Note-taking”. 

3.4 Practice notetaking from articles, noting only the link words in the margin (or only link words plus one word per paragraph). Reproduce as speech. › Annex 1.2. › Annex 1.3. 

It is worth consulting with other students and teachers to see whether they agree with your choices as to the key/ link words. This will help develop your analytical skills as you are forced to justify your choices to others and they offer you their viewpoint.. 

3.5 One student prepares a short speech containing say 5 clear ideas – listeners agree to note only five words while listening to the speech and interpret on the basis of those notes. 

Students must listen and analyse in order to decide which 5 words best represent the core ideas of the speech. 

All reformulation exercises, to a greater or lesser extent, force the interpreter to analyse the text more carefully. See also Exercises for Simultaneous Interpretation – Reformulation.

3.7 When note-taking try to maximize the time-lag between hearing the original and noting anything. 

This exercise will allow and indeed enforce a more thorough analyse of the text. If we simply write what we hear when we hear it we are not “listening” in the analytical sense of the word. N.B. Staying along way behind the speaker is not a goal in itself, it merely facilitates, by stealth if you like, analysis of the original speech. 

3.8 One student reads part of a text or speech aloud and stops mid paragraph. The remaining students must offer possible conclusions to the passage in question. 

Only if one is paying attention to the message of the speech as a whole and not listening to the individual words will one be able to make an intelligent guess at what comes next.

3.9 Create structure diagrams of given texts, breaking the text of a speech down into its component structural parts, regardless of content. 

1. An analytical brealkdown of the speech might look like this… 

Mr Speaker! Ladies and Gentlemen of the House! The subject of today’s debate, Poland’s integration with the European Union, should and will be the most important political topic of the next 12 and more months. This is clear from : the timetable for the current negociations; the urgent tasks of introducing and implementing legislation and of exploiting assistance funds, but above all from the setting of 1st January 2003 as the date for Poland’s entry into the European Union.
It has been almost six months since this House debated european integration in September. Since then there have been a number of significants events that may affect our path to the European Union, for example the Summit in Helsinki. Work was undertaken to adapt to the demands of union membership; negociations continued; discussions were held between the subsequent Presidencies of the Union, Finland and Portugal, the Foreign Minister and myself personally. We also sought to further our cause through diplomatic channels. It is time therefore that we in this House took stock of how far down road to the European Union we are and where we go from here as a continuation of the debate on Europe begun here in September, a debate on the return of Europe to Poland and Poland to Europe. 

What are we talking about?

Why? (list of 3)       

Events preceding this debate….. (list of 5)    

We conclude from this that we must….

3.10 On a word processor remove the paragraph divisions from a text. Read through the unbroken text and hit return twice every time you get to a logical break in the text. The sections of speech you now have should represent what you note one “section” of your notes (or in between the horizontal lines across your page if you use them). Note about 2 sections on a page. › Annex 4.2 

Practising the analysis of texts without the time pressure of interpreting isolates the activity interpreters complete as one of many and can help students to automize the task before the go into the booth. 

3.11 Listen to a speech without taking notes. When the speech has been completed, make some notes that will help in reproducing the speech. Reproduce the speech.[1] (Weber) 

By hearing the whole speech first and only then making notes we have a picture of the entire speech which we must analyse in order to make the most useful notes possible. Our notes are therefore much more likely to reflect structure and ideas than the individual words that we often get hung up on.

3.12 Have the speaker of speeches used in practice mumble a few words incomprehensibly at certain stages in the speech. On the basis of logical analysis and extension the listeners must fill in the gaps and offer plausible interpretations. (Van Dam) 

3.13 While listening to a speech take notes as per usual. At the end of the speech put your notes to one side and try to reproduce the speech from memory. 

The fact that this is difficult will demonstrate very clearly how much attention we devote to our notes when in fact we should be listiening to the speaker more carefully.Repeat, listening more carefully to the speaker. 

3.14 Read a text once through. Highlight the most important ideas (and only these) with a marker pen. Now cover the entire text and try to recreate it from memory. As a continuation of this exercise now sight translate the same part of the text. Finally sight translate a further as yet unread part of the text. (Kalina, 2000. p179) 

In the first part of this set of exercises Kalina offers a very interesting combination of analysis and memory skills. The continuation exercises are a useful and gradual progression towards fuller sight translation and therefore eventually interpreting.

3.15 Take a text or an Overhead Projection of a text with all but the first sentence covered. Uncover sections of the text (initially whole sentences then ever smaller segments) as sight translation is already underway. (Kalina, 2000. p180) 

Here we train our ability to anticipate and infer.