Frequently asked questions

On this page two interpreters and interpreter-trainers, Daniel Gile and Mikołaj Sekrecki, answer your questions. For details of who they are have a look at the contributors page. In the meantime, a big thank you to Mikołaj and Daniel.

Daniel Gile

Mikołaj Sekrecki

Is it possible to be a good translator and a good interpreter at the same time ?

The skills are not exactly the same, and some authors in the literature have claimed that it is not possible, but there is no incompatibility between the skills of translators and interpreters, and many people do both, especially, but not only, in countries where there is little interpreting work.

Yes but in this job juggling moderation is strongly advised; one must have priorities and strive for a balance between the two. Translation no doubt makes an interpreter more versatile as for subject matters and more assured in handling a given language.

What language should one take notes (in consecutive) ?

The essential point to remember is that note-taking takes up attention and time at the expense of listening. One should therefore take notes in the language in which the notes come to the mind most easily, be it the source language, the target language or a third language. If it takes a fraction of a second more to find the appropriate target-language word or idiom when reformulating the speech in the target language, it does not really matter, because at that stage, you pace yourself, and do not run the risk of “losing” anything.

No pattern. As long as they are a boon and not a beast to an interpreter, they may be in any language or no language at all but cognitive representations (symbols). Key concepts, though, should be noted down in atarget language, even in full words, so that they stand out, as they are bound to appear in the interpretation

Is it useful to learn consecutive, while there is less and less work in consecutive ?

Firstly, it is not quite true that consecutive is disappearing from the market. Not only is it still strong in many areas, but it may become stronger as budgets shrink, and people become unwilling to pay for two or three interpreters plus a booth. Secondly, mastering consecutive is a good way of acquiring the proper approach to interpreting, including analysis of the source speech and separation between the two languages. While all consecutive-interpreting skills are not directly useful in simultaneous, some are, and are very important.

Yes, the big way. It keeps the brain working, facilitates text analysis, which is vital also outside interpreting (e.g. preparation for meetings often requires extensive reading), and is an intellectual challenge, which is always welcome. There are few better kicks out there than that stemming from an interpreter’s satisfaction with a good performance in long consecutive.

Must interpreters have a good memory ?

Not in the usual sense of the word. This is the myth. What they do is listen very carefully and very analytically, and can thus recall much more than people with the same memory abilities, but who listen in a less intense way.

That is highly recommended but a lack of it may be compensated by reliable notes. However, interpreters must be acutely aware of where they are, for whom they are doing a job, as well as what the purpose of communication is here and there. All this calls for remembering, for example, names of people and institutions. Generally, good memory also helps immensely in preparation for meetings, which is less time-consuming.

My interpreting performances vary greatly and am not sure that I am really improving. Is there something wrong with me ?

These fluctuations are experienced by many students, and probably have to do with the fact that interpreting stretches your cognitive abilities to the limit, so that any transitional weakness shows. Nevertheless, over time, with practice, you will find that your skills have improved.

Not necessarily, you are only human. However, if interpreting is your trade, you are supposed to be professional, i.e., among other things, good, so you should regularly take stock of your non-improvement and revise your strategies, which might have to be attuned to your individual profile. You will improve with true dedication and practice in place