How do notes help? Andres

In the second part of her book, Konsekutivdolmetschen und Notation, (2002, Peter Lang), Doerte Andres offers probably the most thorough and systematic analysis of different interpreters’ note-taking techniques yet undertaken. A summary of the conclusions is offered here. Hier in Originalfassung (auf Deutsch)

Doerte Andres describes a study in which 14 students and 14 professional interpreters were asked to interpret the same speech, Jacques Chirac’s New Year address 1996/7, (Part 1 & 2 here) consecutively. Each was filmed taking notes and giving back the speech and Andres has painstakingly noted the exact second at which each element was spoken in the original, appeared in the note-pad, and also was spoken by the interpreter. Large sections of the notes are also recreated in printed and thus legible form for the purposes of the analyses she them makes. Much has been written about consecutive, but we interpreters tend to say what we think rather than what we see and herein lies the beauty of this large empirical study. We can see what really goes on. 

For TEACHERS and interpreting researchers this body of work is the single most valuable resource available for the analysis of consecutive notes and the problems they pose. And it is available, albeit in its rawest form, at the following web address.

For STUDENTS it represents an excellent opportunity to see that other students have the same problems in consecutive, and why they have them. There is also the invaluable possibility of seeing how professionals solve the same problems. 

The conclusions Andres draws from this exceptional study are extremely interesting and as follows, 

1. A clear system for notation which includes fixed rules for abbreviation and a core of unambiguous symbols can help save time, which can then be used for other operations. 

2. Verbs and expressions of time are significant in reproducing what was said. 

3. According different weights to and structuring the layout of elements within the notes serve to intensify the operation ‘comprehension’ and facililitate the reproduction of the [source] text. 

4. The segmentation and arrangement of the notes on the page can facilitate assignation [of meaning] and have a positive effect on oral reproduction. 

5. Noting link words is an important part of ensuring cohesion. 

6. The time lag [between hearing and writing] is dependent on and can be allowed to vary according to how quickly something has been understood. 

7. Everyone has to discover their own [ideal] time lag 

8. A continued time lag of more than 7 seconds causes gaps to appear in the comprehension or notation [of the original]. 

9. discontinuous noting [noting elements in a different order to the order they are presented by the speaker – or in practice, going back and adding something to your notes from a previous section] can be helpful in structuring and completing the information [noted]. 

10. Rhetorical components are more easily reproduced if they have been noted down. 

11. Gaps in the comprehension or notation processes among students reappear in the production phase. 

These observations show clearly, how important and helpful it is for students to deal in some detail with note-taking and how important a component skill [Teiloperation] an in-grained, reliable and efficient system for taking notes is. [It is] a skill which aids and intensifies the comprehension process and thus has a decisive influence on the target langauage output. (Andres p250, Translation into English ITR) 

( Note on the website. Students are numbered Ger, SB and HD, representing the different schools they were attending. The speech itself can be found under the first two links (Part 1, Part 2).