The first key to understanding a speech is the identification of the main ideas; the second is an analysis of the links between those ideas. A speech is not just a sequence of juxtaposed sentences. The sentences are related to one another in a particular way, and it is this relationship that determines the overall meaning of a speech.
The number of ways in which ideas may be linked is in fact fairly limited. First, there may be a logical consequence: The import duties imposed on Korean cars are excessive and discriminatory. Therefore, they must be reduced. Consequence may be expressed very clearly, as in this example, or with words such as consequently or as a result; it may also be expressed more casually and by sometimes ambiguous words such as so.
Second, there may be a logical cause, as in The American government has been exerting greater pressure on the Colombian authorities, because the illegal import and consumption of cocaine from that country is again on the increase. The interpreter must likewise register all words like as, since or due to.
Third, ideas may be sequential, following on from one another, but without logical cause or consequence. In such cases sentences may be simply juxtaposed or the ideas linked with the little word and. Here it must be noted that when ideas are simply juxtaposed – where the link is what we might call a `zero link’ -the interpreter must not fall into the trap of creating another link artificially. Although key words such as because and therefore should not be omitted, to create a link where there is none in the original is an equally serious mistake. Nor should the interpreter abuse the word and. A series of sentences strung together by and …and…and… is poor style, which may irritate the audience; worse, the resulting formlessness of the interpreter’s output may actually make the overall sense of a speech difficult to follow.
The third type of link-sequential-is particularly important to note in comparison to the fourth type, namely links which actually oppose two ideas. In this set of links there are different sub-sets that the interpreter should also be aware of Such an opposition may be simply offering an alternative or casting a different light on a question: The strong Mark may not be good for our exports, but is has contributed to holding down inflation. It may also be a flat contradiction: you claim that you have been unable to fulfill your export quotas,- but our figures show that imports from your country are actually double the quotas. On the other hand, the opposition need not imply a logical contradiction but may contrast two situations: Certain countries have attempted to apply strict monetary and fiscal discipline, whereas others have felt it more important to stimulate the economy. Lastly, an opposition may simply attenuate a previous idea: This is a very useful proposal. However, I don’t think we should get too excited about it…. In all of these cases it is important for the interpreter to reflect the right form of opposition expressed by the speaker.
Apart from these four basic types of links-logical consequence, logical cause, sequential ideas, opposition-ideas may be linked by certain forms of speech that the interpreter should exploit. For example, the speaker may put rhetorical questions. If the speaker asks `Why?’ and then goes on to answer their own question, the interpreter, depending on the target language, may choose to translate the rhetorical question literally, but may also choose to omit it for stylistic reasons and reproduce the idea by beginning This is because…. Alternatively, a speaker coming to the conclusion of their remarks may signal this by beginning a peroration with Chairman, ladies and gentlemen…. Again, it is up to the interpreter to exploit this structuring element in the speech, even though it does not have much intrinsic meaning, to make the interpretation more clearly structured and therefore easier to follow for the audience.
Christopher Thiéry, L’enseignement de la prise de notes en interpretation consecutive : un faux probleme? In Delisle, Jean (ed) L’enseignement de l’interpretation et de la traduction – de la theorie a la pedagogie. Cahiers de traductologie 4. Ottawa 1981. 99-112.
Chistopher Thiéry is a legend of the profession. A member of AIIC from its beginnings, Chief Interpreter at the French Foreign Ministry and Director of ESIT for many years. This article contains the following very useful tips about consecutive note-taking and interpreting.
1 Write the thing that comes most quickly to your pen
2 Don’t look for equivalences while listening, now is not the time (unless the speaker pauses for some reason)
3 If you are not understanding, STOP taking notes and LISTEN!
4 Note legibly
5 Abbreviate long words
6 Use the space available to portray the heirarchy of ideas and…
7 …to place those ideas relative to one another
8 Separate the different parts of the message (which often correspond to sentences), using horizontal lines
9 The structure of the page should be visible from 3 feet away
10 Use signs and symbols which already exist
11 Use individual letters as symbols if they are clear in a given meeting or context
12 Make sure that the colour of the pen (or pencil) and paper that you use are such that the former clearly stands out against the latter
13 Number the pages if they are not bound
14 Cross out each passage in your notes as you complete reading it back
15 Glance at each section of your notes BEFORE speaking
The following is taken from Roderick Jones’ fantastic book, Conference Interpreting Explained. It is the best little bit of text about presentation in consecutive interpreting that you will find and is reprinted without the kind permission of St Jeromepublishers. You should buy the book and then I may be let off posting bits of it to this site.
It may seem strange to even mention how to read back notes. However, interpreter should be aware of the risk of communicating less well because of looking too much at their notes and not enough at their audience. This risk is particularly great if the intepreter takes relatively complete notes. Interpreters, like public speakers, must learn the art of glancing down at their notes to remind them of what they are to say next and then delivering that part of the text while looking at the audience. The clearer the notes, both in content and lay-out, the easier this will be.. And the clearer the ideas in the interpreter’s mind, the more cursory the glances down at the notes can be.
There is a specific technique that interpreters can try to develop, and which can be compared to a pianist reading music while playing but not sight-reading. The pianist who has practised a piece is in a similar situation to the consecutive interpreter: essentially they know what they want to play but the sheet-music is there to remind them. the pianist looks at the opening bars and then starts playing, and continues reading ahead of the notes they are playing, their eyes on the music always being a little ahead of their fingers on the keyboard. Similarly the interpreter should look at the first page of their notes then start speaking while looking up at their audience. As the interpreter moves towards the end of the passage they have looked at, they glance down at their notes again to read the next passage. In other words they do not wait until they finished one passage to look again at their notes, which would mean that the interpretation would become jerky, reading then speaking, reading then speaking. Rather the interpreter, while still talking, is already reading ahead, preparing the next passage, thus providing for a smooth, uninterrupted and efficient interpretation.
“The consecutive interpreter has to speak in public. They must therefore have some speaking skills.” Thiéry 1981:102
Any posture you take up should be chosen to make us appear professional; facilitate our interpreting; and promote the audience’s confidence in our interpreting. That means: being able to: read your notes; look up at your audience while speaking; hide your nerves by limiting any unintended body language; and eliminate physical tics.
When standing separate your feet from one another, both side-ways and front-to-back, you will be more firmly rooted in the ground and you will feel more stable. Stand with your weight equally on both feet. Try it out. This stability will give more confidence to attack the interpreting task.
Keep your hands still and out of the way. Occasional hand gestures which reinforce what you are saying are welcome but beware of waving your hands around all the time.
When sitting…sit slightly forwards on the chair so that you are not leaning back into the backrest. You are far enough forward to have some of your weight on your feet. This will create a solid base. This will also stop you from slouching.
Your feet should be flat on the ground and slightly apart. This will stop you fidgeting.
I recommend grounding your arms in the same way as we ground our feet. To do this rest the mid-point of your fore-arm on the edge of the table. If you are using a note-pad I would hold it with both hands. This will stop you waving the free hand about. It also helps you improve your eye-contact with the audience when reading back your notes (because the note-pad is higher up than if it was lying on the table. Whether or not you are holding a note-pad put your pen down. You won’t need it once you start speaking and it can only get up to mischief – like being twiddled or dropped.
This suggestion for what to do with your hands does not mean that your hands absolutely have to remain stuck to the note-pad or the table all the time throughout the speech. It will be a good thing to occasionally make an appropriate hand gesture to underline a point made in the speech. A gesture that reinfoces what you are saying can add something valuable to your presentation.
Eye contact with the audience is an essential part of speaking in public and therefore also of consecutive interpreting. Looking at your audience tells them that you are engaging with them, that you are talking to them and not to yourself! Eye contact also gives the speaker or interpreter immediate feedback about how the audience is reacting to what is being said. Here’s a little trick that will help – instead of looking at the audience members’ eyes, look at a space on their foreheads, between and just above the eyes. For them, you will appear to be looking directly at them, but you will avoid actually catching anyone’s eye.
Your voice should be clearly audible to those in the room with you. This will be easier if you are sitting as described above and looking at your audience – because then your mouth will project your voice at them and not downwards at the table. Learn to speak loudly without shouting so that you can speak to larger audiences if required. Learn also to vary your volume so it’s appropriate to the space your in and the size of the audience you’re speaking to.
Enunciate and articulate. All of the words you say should be comprehensible to your audience.
Be aware of how your voice is received by listeners. Some people speak too loud or shout. Some people may have a monotone drone. Others have a higher pitched voice. Over long periods all of these can grate with listeners. Ask your teacher if your voice is audience-friendly and if not get some help changing it.
Your intonation should be natural and fluent. This will inspire confidence in your listerners. Try not to sound nervous and uncertain which has the opposite effect. One simple way to achieve this is to try to be communicative!
Remember to pause. Pausing in the right places is essential for both you and for your audience to understand the structure of the speech.
Get the pace right. For many students, but not all, that means slowing down.
Knowing what you are talking about, and knowing what you are about to say are also two very important factors in speaking fluently and naturally (and therefore not sounding nervous and uncertain).
It’s normal to be nervous when you speak in public. It’s a sign that you still think the activity is out of the ordinary and requires extra concentration. That’s a good thing. If speaking in public makes you unhappy and/or unwell then interpreting may not be the job for you.
Usually your nerves will stop playing a role once you get going with the speech, so practice beginnings. Nerves can also be defeated by knowing what you’re talking about. Preparing and even practising your speeches will help.
The postures described above will minimise the external manifestations of your nervousness – involuntary movements etc – and that in itself will calm you down.
Memory techniques are based on universally applicable principles governing what we can and cannot remember. It has very little to do with intelligence and a lot to do with practice and technique.
The text that follows is an excerpt and edited version of a chapter taken from „How to develop a super powered memory” Harry Lorayne. A Thomas and co. Preston 1958. This method of enhancing one’s ability to memorize items in sequence can be applied to both consecutive interpreting and vocabulary learning.
To read more about similar techniques just search Google or have a look at this article in the Guardian newspaper. The day I met the memory man. Instead of rooms in a building you can also use a familiar route, like home to work, but you will see that both are based on the memory’s preference for the visual.
For Language Acquisition….
It is a fact that images can be more easily remembered than words…try out the technique below. Take 4 or 5 sections of a technical picture dictionary from which you wish to learn terminology…pick successive words for the list from different sections of the dictionary and apply the link technique below to the words. It is possible to get 20 technical terms into your ACTIVE vocabulary in just 10 minutes each day.
This is a slightly unusual approach to consecutive and should probably only be uses as a complement to other memory aids, like notes. You will see here though that the human brain recalls images more easily that words and this can be usefully applied during consecutive interpreting.
There are many memory techniques out there and whether they can be used in consecutive will depend to some extent on the individual interpreter. Try out the technique below..linking images ideas within your consec speech.
The fundamental principles of how we remember apply and one of those is and will always be that if you understand what has been said it will be easier to remember!
The Link method of memory
I want to show you now that you can start immediately to remember as you’ve never remembered before. I don’t believe anyone with an untrained memory can possibly remember twenty unassociated items, in sequence, after hearing or seeing them only once. Even though you don’t believe it either, you will accomplish just that if you read and study this chapter.
Here are the twenty items you will be able to remember.
The link method of memory is based on the combination of mental images. The images must be as ridiculous as possible. Let’s learn by doing. I shall explain no more about the method rather let’s try it out by creating twenty ridiculous images for these items.
The first thing you have to do is get a picture of the first item, “carpet”, in your mind. Don’t see the word carpet but see a carpet, any carpet, perhaps own from your home. In order to remember the objects we are going to associate them with things you already know. Here the other items.
To remember the second item, “paper”, you must associate or link it with paper. The association must be as ridiculous as possible. For example you might picture a carpet in your home made out of paper. See yourself walking on it and hear the paper crinkle underfoot. Alternatively you could picture yourself writing on a piece of carpet. Either of these will do. A piece of paper lying on a carpet, though, is not ridiculous enough and you will not remember it.
You must see this ridiculous picture in you mind. Close your eyes for a fraction of a second, as soon as you have seen the picture you can move on. Do not see the words.
So now the thing you already know or remember is “paper”, the next step then is to link paper to the next item, “bottle”. You can stop thinking about carpet entirely know. Make an entirely new ridiculous link between bottle and paper. You might see yourself reading an enormous bottle or writing on a gigantic bottle instead of paper. You could see a bottle pouring paper not liquid. Pick whichever seems most ridiculous to you and see it in your mind’s eye.
You must see the picture. Don’t think long about which picture, the first idea is usually the best one.
We have linked carpet to paper, and then paper to bottle. We now come to the next item, which is “bed”. Make a ridiculous association between bottle and bed. A bottle lying on bed would be too logical. So picture yourself yourself sleeping in a large bottle instead of a bed, or perhaps taking a drink from a bed instead of a bottle. See either of these pictures and then stop thinking of it.
You realize that we are linking one object to the next of course. The next item is fish. See a giant fish sleeping in your bed or a bed made out of a giant fish. See the picture you think is most ridiculous.
Now “fish” and “chair”. See a gigantic fish sitting on a chair. Or you are catching chairs instead of fish while fishing.
Chair and window – see yourself sitting on a pane of glass, which is painful, instead of a chair or see yourself throwing chairs through a closed window. See the picture and move on.
Window and Telephone – see yourself answering the phone, but when you put it to your ear, it’s not a phone you’re holding but a window. Or, you might see your window as a large telephone dial. See the one you think is most ridiculous and move on.
Telephone and Cigarette – you’re smoking a telephone instead of a cigarette; or you’re holding a large cigarette to your ear and talking to it instead of a phone. Alternatively you might see yourself picking up the phone and cigarettes flying out of the ear-piece.
Cigarette and nail – you’re smoking a nail; or hammering a lit cigarette into the wall instead of a nail.
Nail and Typewriter – you’re hammering a gigantic nail through your typewriter, or all the keys are nails, pricking your fingers as you type.
Typewriter and shoe – see yourself wearing typewriters instead of shoes or see a large shoe with keys on that you’re typing on.
Shoe and microphone – you’re wearing microphones instead of shoes or you’re broadcasting into a large shoe.
Microphone and pen – you’re writing with a microphone or you’re talking into a giant pen.
Pen and TV – see a million pens gushing out of the TV or there’s a screen in an enormous pen you’re watching TV on it.
TV and plate – picture your TV as one of your kitchen plates or see yourself eating out of the TV instead of a plate, or you’re watching a TV show on your plate as you eat.
Plate and doughnut – see yourself biting into a doughnut, but it cracks in your mouth because it’s a plate. Or, picture being served dinner in a doughnut instead of on a plate.
Doughnut and car – you might see a large doughnut driving a car or you are driving a doughnut instead of a car.
Car and coffee pot – a large coffee pot is driving a car or you’re driving a coffee pot instead of a car. Alternatively picture a car on your sideboard with coffee percolating in it.
Coffee pot and brick – see yourself pouring coffee from a brick or see bricks pouring out of the spout of the coffee pot.
That’s it. If you have actually “seen” these mental pictures in your mind’s eye then you will have no trouble remembering the twenty items in sequence, from “carpet” to “brick”. Of course it takes much longer to explain this than to do it – each picture
Now starting with carpet go through the list without the help of the book.
Unbelievable? Yes but it works as you can see. Try making your own list and memorizing them in the same way.
Of course we are brought up to think logically and I am asking you to think illogically which may be a problem at first, however after just a little practice you will have no problem at all in creating ridiculous pictures. Until then here are some simple rules to help……
1. Picture items out of proportion. In other words too large. This is why I used the word “gigantic” often above – to get you to imagine the items out of proportion. 2. Picture you items in action whenever possible. Unfortunately it is the violent and embarrassing things we all remember rather than the pleasant ones. Anyone who has been in an accident or been acutely embarrassed doesn’t need memory training to recall it so try to get violent action into you images. 3.Exaggerate the amount of items. For example above I talked about “millions” of cigarettes flying out of the telephone. If you had also seen them lit and burning your face you would have had action and exaggeration. 4. Substitute your items. This is the one I use most often. It is simply picturing one item instead of another i.e. smoking a nail instead of a cigarette.
That’s it. The link method boils down to this: associate the first item with the second, the second to the third, the third to the fourth and so on. Make your association as ridiculous and/or as illogical as possible and most important SEE the pictures in your mind’s eye.
You can now try out the technique on friends or with shopping lists. If you have trouble recalling the first item then associate with a the friend testing your skills, if you have trouble recalling other items then the link was not illogical enough.
What you have memorized will be easily retrievable for hours or days. Also you will be able to recall the list backwards with no extra effort.