Active Listening: aids to memory

The following is taken from p.87 of the excellent…

Conference Interpreting – A Complete Course by

Robin Setton and Andrew Dawrant

Active Listening: aids to memory

* Maximise concentration.

* Mobilize knowledge of subject matter and communication situation.

* Squeeze as much meaning as possible from the input: analyse what the speaker means and how it fits into the speech

* Mentally process the information using different modes of experience, for rich encoding. 

  • visual: visualising a mental scene of what the speaker is describing, using spatial representation where possible and appropriate;
  • verbal: tagging each point (idea sequence, “paragraph”) with a short label, word or phrase – a pre-cursor to note-taking. This can be powerfully combined with spatializing, by assigning each tag to one finger, or to a location in a mind-map of the speech (cf. Yates 1966; Spence 1984);
  • predictive: trying to anticipate where the speaker is going and what s/he will say next;
  • cognitive: linking what the speaker is saying to your own knowledge;
  • perceptual and emotional: trying to experience what the speaker is saying through different senses (“smelling” a croissant baking; or when hearing “feminization of poverty” picturing and empathizing with women left behind in rural villages);
  • critical: registering your own reaction to what the speaker is saying (agree? disagree? is it logical?)
  • projective: imagining how the audience will react

* Chunk/segment the speech passage into blocks, or points, and note connections and links.

* Create a mental map/outline of the speech

The result should be a structured, coherent mental model, with rich encoding of speaker meaning, details and desired communicative effects. 

Ground rules of Interpreting

The following is taken from p.108 of the excellent…

Conference Interpreting – A Complete Course by

Robin Setton and Andrew Dawrant

Dos and don’ts: ground rules of interpreting

These first realistic exercises with afford an opportunity to get across some very basic dos and don’ts of interpreting for beginners:

  1. DO NOT react overtly when listening to the speaker. Don’t nod enthusiastically (at most an initial neutral nod of acknowledgement is acceptable). Don’t mumble “uh huh” in agreement, shake your head, frown in amazement or disagreement, or laugh out loud at the speaker’s jokes.
  2. DO speak in the first person, as if you were the speaker.
  3. Do project the speaker’s tone and energy, but at an appropriate level of intensity; DO NOT “ham it up”, or mimic, upstage or outshine the speaker.
  4. DO NOT embellish or over-interpret; if uncertain, be cautious and wait for more context (or ask the speaker to clarify).
  5. DO state ideas clearly for your audience – “make sense”; DO NOT blindly “translate” what you have not understood.
  6. DO finish your sentences, and avoid backtracking
  7. DO follow the basic rules of good delivery: project your voice, make eye contact, eliminate fillers.

Reading about consecutive

On this page you will find a brief introduction to some of the more useful texts published on consecutive interpreting.

Pedagogie Raisonnee De L’interpretation (Traductologie) (Volume 4) (French Edition) (9782864606406): Lederer, M., Seleskovitch, , D. 1989.

Originally for trainers this distillation and practical explanation of Seleskovitch’s teaching theory and practice is still fantastically useful.

Download the full work as a pdf

Consecutive Interpreting – a short course

Gillies, Andrew, 2019, Routledge

Conference Interpreting Explained.

Jones, Roderick. 1998 Routledge.

Conference Interpreting – A Complete Course

Robin Setton and Andrew Dawrant

Read a review in the journal Interpreting here

“This comprehensive coursebook sets out an updated step-by-step programme of training, designed to meet the increasingly challenging conditions of the 21st century, and adaptable by instructors with the appropriate specializations to cover all these different applications in contemporary practice “

A compilation of tried and tested practical exercises which hone the sub-skills that make up successful conference interpreting. Includes section on how to organise practice sessions out of class.

Read a review of this book at the Interpreter Diaries

Langues, Langages et Memoire

Danica Seleskovitch, 1973

The book version of Seleskovitch’s doctoral thesis, one of the first on interpreting.

To find out about the matriarch of the profession click here…

Conference Interpreting – A Complete Course

Robin Setton and Andrew Dawrant

There’s a very good section on Consec in this book.

“This comprehensive coursebook sets out an updated step-by-step programme of training, designed to meet the increasingly challenging conditions of the 21st century, and adaptable by instructors with the appropriate specializations to cover all these different applications in contemporary practice “

Consecutive Note-taking and Interpreter Training

Yasumasa Someya

Includes very interesting history of training in Japan (a system that is agency-run with graduates tied to the agency and yet a system that is very successful – imagine suggesting that in Europe!) and a summary in English of Michaela Albl-Mikasa’s very important PhD on Note-taking as an inter-language.

On note-taking

Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting – A Short Course

Gillies, Andrew

Aimed at students of conference interpreting, whether on university and professional training courses or self-learners, Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting – A Short Course offers future interpreters a step-by-step guide to the skill of note-taking, which forms an essential part of consecutive interpreting.

La prise de notes en interprétation consécutive

Rozan, Jean Francois, 1956 Geneve . Georg.

The original and seminal work on consecutive. Has aged well. To see an extract click here. To our knowledge now out of print. 


Rozan, Jean Francois, Elkar
ISBN: 978-84-8373-994-5

Teaching Consecutive interpreting

Gerard Ilg & Sylvie Lambert

A history of approaches to teaching consecutive note-taking

Bosch 2003

A new (May 2013) book on consec note-taking in Spanish.

Reviewed here

Konsekutivdolmetschen und Notation

Doerte Andres, Peter Lang 2002.

Broad empirical study of note-taking by professionals and students. Very useful to see what causes problems and what solves them. 

Summary conclusions here.

Schlussfolgerungen in der originalfassung

Consecutive Interpreting

Hiromi ITO-BERGEROT (Professor at ESIT), Chikako TSURUTA and Minoru NAITO (Tokyo Gaigo Daigaku)

Zhu-bu kou-yi yu bi-ji 
[Consecutive interpretation and note-taking]. 

Liu, Minhua. (2008).Taipei: Bookman

One of the very few books in Chinese that we have seen. This was originally published in 1993 and has recently been revised and republished.

Take it or leave it? Notations­technik beim konsekutiv­dolmetschen chinesisch–deutsch

Yafen Zhao

In German

“Die in Europa etablierte Notationstechnik ist entsprechend gut erforscht. Auch die Praxis zeigt, dass sie offenbar für zahlreiche Sprachen funktioniert. Doch wie steht es um das Sprachenpaar Chinesisch–Deutsch? Yafen Zhao vergleicht Notation und Notationstechnik beim Dolmetschen im Deutschen und im Chinesischen.”

A Coursebook of Consecutive Interpreting

Wen Ren

In Chinese

Zapisi v posledovatel’nom perevode. Minjar-Beloručev, P.K. (1997)  Moskva: Stella

Миньяр-Белоручев, Р. К. (1997) Записи в последовательном переводе. Москва: Стелла

A Russian classic but not easy to get hold of!

Д.И. Красовский, А.П. Чужакин

Конференц-ПеревоД теорИя И ПрАКтИКА

Interprétation consécutive et prise de notes

Chuzkakin, Delizée, Godart, Lenglet

Messaggi in codice

Claudia Monacelli, Analisi del discorso e strategie per prenderne appunti, Forli

Great ideas to liven up learning consecutive. Practical and learner friendly. 

Read an extract here!

La Terzia Lingua

Garzone, Santulli, Damiani

Handbuch der Notizentechnik fuer Dolmetscher

Heinz Matyssek

For many years the standard teaching book in Germany. It’s full of good ideas, but rather goes into overkill on the symbols, suggesting thousands. Chapters on technique are useful.

Read an extract (in EN translation) here
Note-taking basics by Matyssek

Between the signs

Judith Farwick

This book looks at the use of symbols in consecutive interpreting. Read a review (in Spanish) here.


Timing and tactical choices

The following passage from Robin Setton and Andrew Dawrant’s excellent Conference Interpreting – a complete course is reproduced without the publisher’s permission.

Simultaneous interpreting timing and tactical choices (1)

We have seen that timing and optimal ‘entry points’ in SI depend on three main factors:

1. A viable production base: Have I got enough sense to start saying something? Since sense comes from both incoming words and context, this base can consist of

a. EITHER, a ‘unit of sense’ (Lederer 1990:115 ff.) that fully expreses or completes an idea, or – more typically, at the beginning of sentences – a self-contained unit that can be translated with little or no risk, eg. ‘Furthermore, …’, ‘Next point…’, ‘A better example…’, as well as most adjuncts specifying time, place or circumstance (‘Since our last meeting…’);

b. OR, enough context and general sense of the direction of the speech to stall by padding, guessing or anticipating even without much evidence from the actual words heard so far. For example, to avoid a long and uncomfortable pause when a speaker starts off hesitant and confused, and syntax or word meaning is stilll unclear: ‘Erm, I think we can run, er… well, at least, just, at this point, …’, the interpreter can say ‘ Ensuite,… enfin je vous propose la chose suivante…’ . (‘Next let me suggest this…’)

2. Memory: Do I risk forgetting if I try to hold it in memory and delay expresing it? The answer depends on the density and newness of the information, especially for the interpreter, and on certain attested facts about short-term memory, such as (i) primacy and recency effects: the first and last items of a list may be remembered first, the others later; and (ii) the ‘solubility’ in memory of different items; numbers and unfamiliar names cannot always be associated with the surrounding meaning, so memory for them is very short. Finally expressing the content rehearses the memory of it and ‘renews’ it in the target language.

3. TL Availability: Which part of the input do I have TL words most ready to express, lexcially (a viable equivalent) and/or syntactically: can I continue or finish the current sentence, start a new one, produce a meaningful link? In either case, the first words uttered can either be definitive (if you find the perfect phrase…) or, if meaning is still vague, a placeholder, adjustable later (8.4.3 above)