Noting lists & working memory

The following is taken from Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting Andrew Gillies

In this extract Gillies explains how noting elements of a list in an order different to the order they are spoken can relieve the strain on working memory capacity.

Noting lists

You will hear a list in order: 1, 2, 3. You will find, however, that it is possible to relieve the strain on your short-term memory by noting 132. This is because, if you note 1 and 3 the moment you hear them, they never make it into your work- ing memory and therefore never burden it. All you have to do is remember 2 for a couple of seconds. This works with longer lists as well, of course, but the exact order is something you will have to practise and work out for yourself. At the same time, the elements of the list remain vertically aligned to one another, as described in Chapter 5 of Part I.

Example (McCulley)
temperatures could rise by nine degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.

The effects on agriculture, water sources and energy would be disastrous if this were to happen.

This example could have been noted in the order shown the following notes. I have marked the chronological order in which these elements are noted like this – 1. The change in the order of noting elements in the list ( 1–3 ), as compared to the order in which they were spoken, is minor but is very effective in relieving excess strain on your memory.

Book review / Note-taking for Consecutive

The following review of Andrew Gillies’ book, Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting, was written for this site by Martin Wooding. Martin is a staff interpeter at the European Parliament with 20 years experience in the job and is editor of the EP’s interpreter bulletin, LINGUA FRANCA. He has also been involved in interpreter training for, and at, the EP for many years, most recently with young Bulgarian interpreters.

Reviewed by Martin Wooding

Having gone through the dismal experience of evaluating many a student insufficiently trained in the art of proper consecutive note-taking, I would be relieved if Andrew Gillies’ handy guide to the subject were made compulsory reading in the class-room. Clearly organised, attractively presented and written (refreshingly) in English, it provides welcome support for professional standards. 

Whilst it is true (and the author readily concedes this point) that every interpreter has his own manner of noting a speech, it is also true that some manners are superior to others. The natural tendency of the uninitiated is to note keywords as one would compose an ordinary text, line after line. Maybe in places where the paper supply is a major constraint this method has some primitive virtue to it, and if your memory is sound you may additionally manage to preserve the details of the original in the right order. However, I have yet to see an interpreter reproduce a speech on this basis, rather than regurgitate lifeless words. 

The key to a good consecutive rendering is structure. No interpreted speech stands up without the backbone of a structure. In fact, as Mr Gillies intimates, an interpreter is almost forced by his profession to structure his output more rigorously than the original speaker. The speaker chooses words intuitively, and as long as he sticks to his own experience his discourse is going to carry some conviction, with or without a formal structure. The interpreter is not choosing words to fit an experience of his own, but doing his best to imitate someone else’s. Here is all the difference between nature and art. The firm structure of the artefact has to make up for what nature cannot supply. 

Structure is the reason why the well-advised interpreter notes his link-words in the left-hand margin and writes diagonally across the page. Structure is why he separates each idea with a horizontal stroke. Structure is why he makes a vertical stack of conceptually similar items (parallel values in Mr Gillies’ terminology). The good consecutive interpreter is an efficient sorter. As each part of the jigsaw is handed to him he diligently places it in its category: the edge bits here, the other bits there according to colour. He knows that’s the only way to rebuild the picture when his turn comes. 

After progressing through the classical approach to structure in his section on the ‘Basics’, Mr Gillies adds a ‘Fine-tuning’ section with a wealth of valuable little tips from which I daresay even seasoned practitioners may learn a thing or two. Browsing this section is rather like visiting a professional cookery store and discovering there is actually some clever little implement which copes elegantly with a task you had previously deemed irksome. I certainly came away with a couple of new tools I look forward to using. 

The stream of books about interpretation is sluggish at best. Professional interpreters don’t write about their job, and students don’t read. This would be fine if there were enough of the first category to impart their skills by personal example to the second. With the rapid development of the market for interpretation and the appearance of many new languages on the conference scene, this condition is very far from being fulfilled. Interpreting is taught by non-interpreters to students who have no exposure to the real thing. Moreover, the eastward infiltration of the ‘extended’ mode of consecutive interpretation has disoriented even professional teaching methods in Central Europe. Andrew Gillies’ book therefore spreads the Gospel at a time when aspiring interpreters sorely need to hear it.

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

A step-by-step introduction to consecutive interpreting for students and trainers.  Available here.

Read a review at AIIC.org here

Conference Interpreting Explained.

Jones, Roderick. 1998 Routledge.

Conference Interpreting – A Complete Course

Robin Setton and Andrew Dawrant

“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

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. 

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.

TOMA DE NOTAS EN INTERPRETACION CONSECUTIVA

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

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.

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! http://interpreters.free.fr/misc/preparationmonacelli.htm

La Terzia Lingua

Garzone, Santulli, Damiani

TÉCNICAS DE INTERPRETACIÓN CONSECUTIVA: LA TOMA DE NOTAS
Bosch 2003

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

Reviewed here

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.

Articles

Reading about practice

On this page you will find a brief introduction to some of the more useful texts published on consecutive interpreting. This page is work in progress, so if you have found something you think should be here drop us a line.

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

Lesen Sie ein Rezension dieses Buches bei der MDÜ – Fachzeitschrift für Dolmetscher und Übersetzer

Put together by senior UN intepreter James Nolan, offers some good strategies for simultaneous interpreting and interesting exercises to practise the same strategies. You will need Fr, En and Es in your combination to use all the examples though. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 are most useful.

Interpreting: From Preparation to Performance. Recipes for practitioners and Teachers, Compiled by

Csilla Szabó et al, British Council, Budapest. ISBN963 20 6409 7

Being a successful interpreter

Jonathan Downie

A practical guide to improving your work and professional life.

Read a review by the American Translators’ Association

Read a review at AIIC

Articles

Effektives Selbststudium – Schlüssel zum Erfolg in der Dolmetscherausbildung

Heine, Manfred (2000) In: Kalina, Sylvia et al. (eds) Dolmetschen: Theorie, Praxis, Didaktik. St. Ingberg: Röhrig, 213-229.

Reading about language

On this page you will a selection of texts that will help you to understand and improve your use of language as an interpreter. This is just a small selection of the books available about any of the languages below and is meant to encourage you to go out and find more rather than be an exhaustive list. There are also plenty of books worth reading in the hundreds of languages that are not listed here.

This page is also work in progress, so if you have found something you think should be here drop us a line.

Language acquisition

Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator training

Gile, Daniel, 1995, Benjamins.

Quite technical and aimed at teachers. Students will still find the book very useful – particulary the chapters on Fidelity and Language Acquisition

Read a review of this book in The International Journal of Interpreter Education

Polyglot: How I learn languages

Kato Lomb

This book was originally written in Hungarian by this pioneer of the interpreting profession in Hungary. It is a mixture of extremely useful ideas, homespun linguistics and entertaining, if outdated, anecdote.

The Art and Science of Learning Languages

Gethin & Gunnemark

A polygot (40+ languages) explains how to go about language learning effectively

 One of the 3 parts of this book is devoted to high-level language acquisition for conference interpreters.

Read a review of this book by The Interpreter Diaries

Lesen Sie ein Rezension dieses Buches bei der MDÜ – Fachzeitschrift für Dolmetscher und Übersetzer

English

Metaphors we live by

Lakoff and Johnson.

A standard text in linguistics this is a great insight into the metaphor of the English language. Time is not money….until you say it is.

The English Verb

Michael Lewis. LTP Brighton.

English grammar and that of its verbs has always been described using the structures and terminology of Latin, which is totally unsuited to the task. Lewis takes an empirical look at how verbs are used and rewrites the rules so we can understand what verbs actually mean. Brilliant.

Mother Tongue

Bill Bryson

A jovial wander through the language and its vagaries.

The English Language

David Crystal

English in its many guises, where it comes from, where its going. Fun pop-linguistics

The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English

An absolute masterpiece of a dictionary of collocations in English.

English & Français

La Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais

Vinay et Darbelnet

One of the definitive texts of French-English translation for over 50 years.

Also available in English

Français

A Linguistic Handbook of French for Translators and Language Students


Paul Boucher

“in-depth contrastive study of French and English based on recent theories of linguistics and discourse analysis.”

Ainsi parlent les Français

Julie BARLOW (Auteur, Traducteur), Jean-Benoît Nadeau

An English woman (who learnt French) and her francophone Canadian husband offer an incredibly insightful look at French… as only someone outside looking in could!

Tu parles bien la France

Julien Barret

“Il n’est pas question de se lancer dans un énième livre pour stigmatiser les usages de l’époque, il s’agit de décrire la langue d’un point de vue de linguiste et de faire entendre qu’elle doit servir sans asservir. “

Petite histoire de la langue française

Karin Ueltschi,

“Aujourd hui, dit-on… le bon usage se meurt, le respect n’est plus, le cancre se rebiffe et fait école, la décadence est à nos portes… Mais, nous rappelle Karin Ueltschi, notre prestigieux français…. n’a jamais cessé d’engendrer inquiétudes et polémiques. et constamment, les disputes … ont resurgi au gré des modes et des générations qui se sont succédé durant des siècles.”

Deutsch

Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod

Bastian Sick

“…Doch es geht nicht nur um Genitiv oder Dativ, sondern noch um viele andere Zweifelsfälle im Gebrauch der deutschen Gegenwartssprache; denn das Büchlein versammelt die Sprachglossen der wöchentlich erscheinenden SPIEGEL-ONLINE-Kolumne »Zwiebelfisch«.

Was ist deutsch?

Hans-Dieter Geleert

 “Hans-Dieter Gelfert geht in diesem Buch den Formkräften der deutschen Mentalität nach, die sich in der deutschen Sprache und der kulturellen Überlieferung über lange Zeiträume hinweg niedergeschlagen haben”

Polski

Successful Polish-English Translation: Tricks of the Trade

Aniela Korzeniowska, Piotr Kuhiwczak

“Niezastapiony podrecznik dla wszystkich osób, pragnacych rozwijac swe umiejetnosci translatoryczne.”

O przekładzie na przykładzie : rozprawa tłumacza z “Europą” Normana Daviesa

Elżbieta Tabakowska

“Autorka omawia po kolei poszczególne kategorie trudności, jakie napotykała jako tłumaczka; z zadziwiającą dbałością o szczegół wyjaśnia, w jaki sposób roztrząsano i rozwiązywano liczne językowe zagadki”

Jezyk Trzeciego Tysiaclecia

Zbior referatow o wspolczesnym stanie jezyka polskiego. (Np jezyk w reklamach)

Ojczyna Polszczyzna

Jan Miodek

Rozbawia i informuje uczacych sie polskiego cudcoziemcow, przestrasza polskie dzieci. 

Ciekawostki gramatyczne i ich wyjasnienia z jezyka Mickiewicza.

What is an idea?

The following is taken from Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting by Andrew Gillies, Routledge, 2017, and explains something about what interpreters mean when they talk about “ideas”.

The most oft repeated thing you will hear as a student interpreter is “note the ideas and not the words!”
But what is an idea? And how can we recognize them so that we can reproduce them properly in interpretation? You might say that a whole speech boils down to one idea, but will that help us in our note-taking? Each word might seem like an idea, but they won’t all be as important as each other.

The first thing to understand is that when interpreters or your teachers use the word “idea” they may be referring to any one of three  different things. For the purposes of this book and in order to be clear and consistent, I wish to keep them separate.

First of all there are the “ideas” that we are going to deal with in this chapter, that is “parts of the message” (Thiéry, 1981), those which tell us “who did what to whom”. These “ideas” we will carry on calling “ideas”.

Secondly there are “ideas” described by Rozan (1956), meaning the underlying meaning of a word or expression as being more important than the actual word(s) chosen to represent that meaning. For example the words declare, say, tell and express, can be considered synonymous: they have the same underlying meaning and would all be noted with the same symbol as a result. These underlying meanings we are going to call ‘concepts’.

Thirdly there are many interpreters who consider ‘ideas’ to be what we called ‘sections’ in the previous chapter.

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’ CompanionTertium 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.

Contributors

Webmaster at Interpreter Training Resources, Andy is a freelance interpreter, member of AIIC, who works EU and European institutions as well as for private market clients. Based in Paris he has been involved in training interpreters in Poland, France, Canada and Germany, at the European Parliament and has written a number books for student interpreters. He teaches at ISIT in Paris.

A big thank you to colleagues who have offered material for the site so far, and in alphabetical order…..

Benoit Cliquet aka Clic!

Munich based colleague Benoit Cliquet, aka Clic!, has created a book of entertaining cartoons, lampooning some of the traits that working interpreters will recognize in themselves and their colleagues. He’s kindly allowed ITR to use some of the cartoons here. Proceeds from Clic!’s book go to the AIIC Solidarity Fund.

Alex is half of the excellent TechforWord team and a founding member of the Troublesome Terps and can also be found in several training films from the EU Commission. He’s lending his technical and training know-how to ITR as an admin.

Chris Guichot de Fortis

…is senior staff interpreter at NATO and teaches interpreting at several Belgian interpreting schools. He is also one of the organisers of the renowned Cambridge interpreting course for interpreters. He has volunteered a number of excellent guides, in FR and EN:  acquiring and maintaining a B language;  shadowing for delivery skills ; a guide to practising; and difficultés psychiques de l’apprentissage. You’ll also find more of Chris’ training material at CCIConline.

Leading light in the world of interpreting research, curator of the CIRIN research network prolific author and experienced trainer of student interpreters Daniel offers some answers to students most frequently asked questions. You can also find an extract from Daniel’s excellent “…Concepts and Models” book here: The Gravitational Model of linguistic availability

Former head of the Polish booth at the European Parliament and senior member of the European Parlament’s interpreting Directorate General Anna is an experienced member of test juries at the EU institutions and she has offered a few pointers on getting through exams on the EXAM TIPS page

Guy Laycock

Guy is a staff interpreter at the EU Commission and has offered help and advice on a number of parts of the site but is too modest to claim the fame. Guy is a regular member of test juries at the EU institutions, so it is well worth checking out his very useful EXAM TIPS

Claudia Monacelli

Author of scientific papers but also a couple of very user friendly books on interpreting Claudia has volunteered a very useful set of questions aimed a getting to know your speaker

A teacher in a former incarnation, Jean-Jacques has taught at ESIT in Paris and is currently a staff interpreter at the Council of Europe. Jean-Jacques has compiled a list of tips for improving your knowledge of your working languages, loosely based on the Paris school, ESIT’s, well known booklet, Perfectionnement linguistique.

Lou is the brains and energy behind the fabulous A Word in your Ear interpreting vlog. She’s kindly donated some of the better photos that you’ll find on the ITR site.

Mikołaj Sekrecki

Mikołaj is based in Cracow Poland and has also taught at the Jagiellonian University’s interpreting school. He works from English and offers some answers to frequently asked questions.

Valerie worked for the UN and other international institutions from her base in Geneva before she moved to Australia where she has become a leading figure on the interpreting market there. 
She has written a book for student interpreters, Conference Interpreting – Practice and Principles”, extracts of which she has contributed to this site.
They deal with Booth Etiquette, a subject not always addressed on training courses, and Preparation. You can also visit Valerie’s home page.
Valerie has also offered a range of Tips for novice interpreters.

David Walker

David has been a staff interpreter at the European Parliament for the best part of 40 years, works from 5 EU languages including Greek.

He has compiled an invaluable preparation resource, his thematically ordered Guide to the Committees of the European Parliament which you can download here.
He has also shared some ideas of the use of register in interpreting and his latest offering is a ten part series on language learning – the Dekalog.

Alex Williams

…suggests of few very useful ideas for finding your feet, and work when starting out in Geneva

Martin Wooding

…is a former staff interpreter of the European Parliament. Martin was editor of the EP’s interpreter bulletin, Lingua Franca, and was Head of Unit responsible for Enlargement and Multilingualism at the EP. He has reviewed Andrew Gillies’ book, Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting, for this site.

Thanks too, of course, to the many colleagues who have included links to ITR on their own websites, who have offered suggestions and ideas on improving the site, and also to those whose material has been borrowed or summarized elsewhere on the site.

Practice tips Gillies

The following text is taken from Conference Interpreting – A Student’s Practice Book by Andrew Gillies (p11-14) Routledge,  2013

How to Practice

One cannot achieve a high level of competence in interpreting only by attending time-tabled interpreting classes. That’s why students have to practise outside class time

Heine 1989:164


A.1    Practise often

Practise often. 5 days per week is a reasonable timetable. That’s often enough to mean you never get out of practise, and you continue getting better. But practising a lot doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to some rest time. 

A.2     Practise in short sessions

Be aware that practising twice for thirty minutes in one day, morning and then afternoon, may be  better than one session of 1 hour. And that one hour per day for a week is definitely better than 7 hours practice on one day and nothing for the rest of the week.

A.3     Don’t only interpret 

If you are a student interpreter, you probably love interpreting. And if you have the choice between any type of course work or practice and actually interpreting, you will choose interpreting every time. But practice does not have to be interpreting to be useful. So treat yourself to non-interpreting practice activities on a regular basis. You’ll find plenty of them in this book.

A.4    Practise skills in isolation

It is possible to break interpreting down into its component skills and practise them in isolation, or some but not all of them at the same time. This is the concept underlying much of this book. So read on! 

Source: Van Dam 1989: 170, Weber 1989:164, Seleskovitch and Lederer (1989: 133), Moser Mercer 1994:66, Gillies 2001:66

A.5     Practise with an aim

Set yourself an aim for each practise session.  For example, ‘Today (or this week) I’m going to concentrate on good delivery.” Early in the course the skills your practice should probably reflect the content of your lessons. Many courses, for example, teach delivery and memory skills first and, say, note-taking later. You can practise a new skill in each practise session or for a few days or weeks at a time. This has the advantage also of giving you interim goals to aim at, and achieve.  This allows us to see progress being made. And this is likely to increase your motivation levels. Not least of all because progress in interpreting as a whole is very difficult to see over short periods. We might notice an improvement between January and April, but it is unlikely that you’ll see a tangible improvement in your work from one week to the next. If you practise delivery skills, for example, in isolation, you can make significant and visible progress in a matter of days or weeks.

Source: Gillies 2001:66

A.6    Think about your work

Take time out to think about your interpreting performance, and discuss it with others.  Learning comes not only from doing, but from thinking about what you’ve done. Only you can actually learn, noone else can learn for you. 

A.7     Take a break
Stop practising if you are getting tired. If you recognise that you are tiring, then your interpreting has probably already been less than your best for 10-15 minutes. So stop! 
    This doesn’t apply to class and exam situations of course, where you will just have to battle through. That’s also part of interpreting. But if you’re practising, it’s best to stop and come back to it when you’ve had a break.


A.8     Don’t force yourself

Interpreting requires all your effort and motivation. Anything less than 100% and you will not produce your best performance. So don’t practise if you don’t want to. And if you find that an you don’t want to practise all that often, then you know that interpreting isn’t for you. 

A.9    Start interpreting into your best language 

    Begin by learning to interpret into your best active language#. Later, when you are comfortable with that, and if you have a second active language, start practising interpreting into that language. Practise all of your language combinations.

Source: Déjean le Féal, EMCI 2002:28

A.10     Practise in groups

For most people working in groups is also more fun than working alone or in class. Groups should be of 2-4 people for consecutive: you’ll need at least one speaker and one interpreter, the speaker can double as the audience in consecutive. For simultaneous groups should be of 3-6 people. You need more people for simultaneous because the speaker cannot listen to the interpreting as they can in consecutive. That means you’ll need one speaker, one interpreter and one listener to make a group.  
There are a number of advantages to practising in groups rather than alone or only in class time. Working with other students and preparing speeches for one another means that you will have plenty of practise material (speeches) to interpret and that they will be pitched at the right level of difficulty. Speeches student interpreters give tend to be simpler in structure, logic and vocabulary than authentic speeches and this is as it should be for the first part of your course. Start simple and work up. Preparing and giving the speeches is also useful and shouldn’t be considered an exercise in altruism. As you’ll see in the exercises below, creating speeches is an exercise in understanding speech structure and note-taking while giving a speech trains note-reading and public speaking skills in isolation. 

A.11    Shake it up

Don’t always work with the same people when practising. Work with a variety of other students, not only your best friend on the course. That way you are also less likely to develop bad habits or get too used to the same speaker and speech type. 

A.12    Listen to each other

One of the simplest ways to train your ability to listen to, and monitor, your own interpreting performance is to listen to and assess those of your fellow students. It’s easier because when you are interpreting and trying to listen to yourself you’re doing several things at once, including monitoring your performance, here you are only listening and assessing, not interpreting as well. 
Always listen with particular criteria in mind, for example, is the delivery good, do the main points make sense, is the language register appropriate. And try to listen only for one or two of these criteria, and not always all of them at once.
    It’s also useful because most students make similar, and a limited number of types of, mistakes. So the person you’re listening to probably has some of the same interpreting problems as you.
    Obviously simultaneous interpreting can and should also be practised alone from recorded material (and with a dictaphone to record yourself), consecutive also if needs must, but the reactions of others, and the opportunity to listen to their work yourself are invaluable. 

Source: Heine 2000: 223 

A.13    Be a listener

The temptation with simultaneous is for lots of people to interpret the same speech, and noone to listen to the interpreting. Resist it! Don’t everyone go into the booths and interpret just because booths are free. Listeners may listen to only the interpreter, or to the interpreter and original speech simultaneously, both are valid and useful exercises. 

A.14    Work with listeners who need interpretation

 Very often we practise with people who have the same language combination as we do. And that means that their assessment of your interpreted version of a speech is influenced by their knowledge of the source language and/or their understanding of the original speech. That’s often very useful of course, but you need not always work with a listener who understands the source language. 
It is very useful to have a ‘real” listener who ‘needs” the interpreter to understand the speech. Afterwards ask them simply, if they understood what was being said. Their questions about what was not clear are often extremely helpful in highlighting the major problem areas, as opposed to minor errors that listeners who understand both the source and the target languages tend to highlight.

A.15    Get non-interpreters involved

You needn’t work only with your classmates.  Other people, family, friends, anyone who can be roped into listen will do. These listeners will often be more demanding and perhaps perceptive in their analysis of your work than you. At the very least they will offer a different point of view on it. Whether it’s fellow students or other people who are listening, the fact of having someone listen to you is important. Interpreting is about communicating between people, something one can forget when practising from recorded speech after recorded speech alone.