What to note -Jones

The following is taken from p41 of Roderick Jones’ fantastic book, Conference Interpreting Explained, (Routledge). You should buy the book and then I may be let off posting bits of it to this site.

To find out more about Roderick Jones, click here!!

2.2 What to note

The first thing to be noted should be the main ideas, first because they are the most significant elements of a speech, and secondly because they are the pillars of its structure. 

It is also important to systematically note the links between the different ideas as well to divide them very clearly. Another element which has to be clear is the point of view being expressed: the audience must immediately realize who is speaking. 

As far as verbs are concerned, there are two basic things which must appear in the notes : verb tenses, with special attention to conditional forms, and modal verbs, whose semantic role in the sentence is always of paramount importance.

Other fundamental data are numbers, dates and proper names, which must be noted accurately, being preferable in a good interpretation to miss some elements of another sentence than to get names or statistics wrong.

These are some of the basic needs in consecutive interpreting as regards note-taking.Of course, interpreters have their own styles, and they could note down almost everything, or just the main elements, if they trust their short-term memory. Anyway, noting down everything, without paying the proper attention to active listening, must be avoided at all costs.

Reading about simultaneous

Conference Interpreting Explained.

Jones, Roderick. 1998 Routledge.

THE book!
Almost all you’ll ever need to know about how to do this job.

You will find a number of extracts, or links to extracts from this book on the site, for example, on when to start speaking in simultaneous.

For a review click here!

To read an interview with R.J. click here!

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 “

Pédagogie raisonnée de l'interprétation

Pedagogie Raisonnee de l’Interpretation, by Lederer and Seleskovitch. Didier Erudition 2002

Download the full work as a pdf

Aimed at teachers this book is still worth reading for students. It encapsulates the methodology that defined much of conference interpreter training for 30+years

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

L’interprete dans les conferences internationales 

Danica Seleskovitch. 1968, Cahiers Champollion

Available in English as Interpreting for International Conferences: Problems of Language and Communication

This epoch-making book defined the profession at a time when there was almost nothing else in print and Danica Seleskovitch did more than anyone to raise the profile of interpreting. 

This book remained the benchmark for 20 years and although the language, the attitude and the style have dated a little, it is still a very worthwhile read.

Conference Interpreting – Principles and Practice

Taylor-Bouladon, Valerie, Booksurge.

A very interesting, thorough and practical guide. Although aimed at an Australian audience much applies to Europe.

An extract is on this site at Tips for beginners. And another here on What to note in consecutive

You can also find a review at AIIC’s Communicate site.

Author’s home page

From Russian into English: An Introduction to Simultaneous Interpretation

Lynn Visson

Former UN staffer Visson helps navigate through the maze of simultaneous interpreting from Russian into English.

Read a review here!

Interview with Lynn Visson @ ATA Chronicle

Nolan, James, 2005, Multilingual Matters.

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. Don’t bother with all the language stuff.

Le manuel de l’interprete. 

Herbert, J., 1952 Geneve. Georg

Pre-history… but still one of few general books about interpreting. Out of print but available in most University libraries.

Simultaneous papers

Intonation in the production of and perception of simultaneous interpretation

In Lambert and Moser-Mercer (Eds.). Miriam Schlesinger.

Does intonation matter? You don’t believe that natural intonation is such a priority? An empirical study to show that it actual effects what the listener understands.

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.


When to start speaking in simultaneous

The following is a summary of a section of Roderick Jones’ fantastic book, Conference Interpreting Explained.

Conference Interpreting Explained. Roderick Jones. Paperback, 152 pages. Routledge

Don’t start speaking until you know you can complete a grammatical sentence…but you don’t have to complete the sentence you originally had in mind nor the same sentence the speaker finishes.

1. Don’t start speaking until you know you can complete a grammatical sentence. Any sentence, no matter how short, but  you must be able to finish a sentence. 

(Any grammatical sentence….but if the speaker stops mid way and changes tack it’s the interpreter who looks like a fool. One of the fundamental rules of learning to interpret is “finish you sentences!”).

2. But you don’t have to complete the sentence you originally had in mind. 

(The interpreter can change his/her mind while speaking and come up with a better sentence than the original idea, no harm in that but because there was always a complete sentence in mind the interpreter has a safety net.) 

3. nor the same sentence the speaker finishes. 

(The speaker may well launch himself into long complex sentence structures which he may well get tangled up in…the interpreter can create shorter sentences from that long one to gain clarity. Jones calls this the salami technique.) 

Jones’ example goes something like this….. 

Imagine the speaker begins as follows, 

“Despite the ruling of the European Court of Justice last month, the UK government has decided not to change its much criticised and controversial policy on the disposal of waste products from hospitals.” 

By the time the intepreter has heard the words “last month” he can form a grammatical sentence, for example, “The ECJ made a ruling last month.” This may seem simplistic but as we said above it is a safety net, and can be changed as we go along. What is crucial is that the interpreter start with a whole sentence in mind.

As the speaker continues the interpreter may for example aim to continue, 

“The ECJ made a ruling last month, despite which the UK government has not decided to change policy.” 

The interpreter may also leave the original sentence and start a new one.

“The ECJ made a ruling last month. Despite this the UK government has not decided to change policy.”

It his is a technique and as such it needs to be practised. Knowing this in theory will not help you. Making its application the goal of practice sessions over a number of days or weeks will. Initially it will seem to make interpreting more difficult because it is new to us and because it is a technique that is not natural – our natural reaction is to start too early, particularly when we are nervous – but once mastered you will find that this technique eliminates many of the common pitfalls that interpreters encounter. For example, correcting oneself, restarting sentences, forgetting the grammatical structure of the beginning of long sentences and therefore not matching the end to it correctly etc.

To read a fuller description of how this technique works in practice, buy Roderick Jones’ book!

Conference Interpreting Explained – review

The following review of Roderick Jones’ book, Conference Interpreting Explained, appeared in the ITI bulletin June 24th 1998. 

Conference Interpreting Explained. Roderick Jones. Paperback, 152 pages. Routledge Publishing, 1998.

To find out more about Roderick Jones, click here!

Despite the front-cover illustration of brightly coloured parrots (a pub­lisher’s joke?), the author of this volume is a forth­right opponent of word-for-word substitution in interpreting. Indeed, I realised as early as paragraph two of the introduction that he and I were on the same wavelength, when I read that “interpreting is about communication”. 

This book is part of a series, edited by Anthony Pym, entitled “Translation theo­ries explained”. Yet it is (intentionally) an almost entirely practical guide, barely touching on theoretical issues. The fairly brief but well-focused annotated bibliog­raphy would, as its compilers point out, serve as a springboard for anyone wishing to explore more theoretical aspects of this discipline and its overlap with translation research. Perhaps, rather than treating interpreting as a totally separate activity, it might have been helpful to approach it via the basic similarities and differences with translating. 

I found three aspects of presentation somewhat irritating. 1) A wealth of (ficti­tious) illustrative examples are given – in English throughout – but it is not immedi­ately apparent when these are intended to represent a foreign language, so word order can be most odd. A different tvpe­face would have clarified which is which. 2) A couple of typographical errors have crept into this first edition. I was much amused by one in particular, given the con­text: “delegates going at their speech(es) hammer and tongues(sic)”. 3) In scrupu­lous devotion to politically correct lan­guage, the author litters his text with mon­strosities such as “the interpreter has to mobilise all their resources”. 

Much of the content of the first of three main chapters, Basic Principles of Consec­utive Interpreting, applies equally to the simultaneous mode. The whole process is broken down into three stages: under­standing, analysing and re-expressing. Attention is drawn to the need for active , listening, the analysis of speech types and links, the identification of the main ideas (“who does/says/thinks what and when?”) and the use of memory. The interpreter’s ‘ role as a public speaker is stressed. At the start of chapter two, entitled Note-taking in Consecutive Interpreting, we are prop­erly informed that notes “are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end”. Jones draws heavily here on what he describes as “Rozan’s epoch-making book” published in 1956, and one infers that he is personally more inclined to fol­low Rozan’s “minimalist” approach to abbreviations and svmbols than Matyssek’s “maximalist” approach. He also express­es a slight preference for notes to be taken mainly in the target, rather than source, language. Chapter three, Simultaneous Interpreting, begins by emphasising that the same basic intellectual activities are required as in consecutive, but that there is a need to cope with two added difficulties: the unnatural practice of speaking and lis­tening at the same time, and the fact that the interpreter does not know where the speaker is heading. Many helpful strate­gies are proposed: how to cope with long, convoluted sentences (slice them up = according to the “salami technique”, and process “units of meaning”), metaphors, savings and numbers, as well as fast speak­ers – a11 persistent bugbears in the booth. There is even advice for interpreters work­ing in “retour”, i.e. out of their mother tongue, or as “relays”, i.e. where one inter­pretation is used as a source for others. (All such terms are explained in a glossary and cross-referenced to the appropriate point in the text.) 

Jones cannot be faulted on his approach to consecutive interpreting, which is almost identical to my own. I was, however, slightly perturbed by his recommendation ‘ to correct a speaker who makes what the interpreter judges to be a mistake, or to tone down certain comments. The author does admit that this is a “very moot point”. Much of what the book says about the simultaneous mode corresponds like-wise to my own views, and I imagine that a1l colleagues would endorse the list of Golden Rules. The most disappointing sec­tion is the surprisingly brief one on culti­vating split attention, where the advice basically amounts to “concentrate as hard as you can and keep going”. The longest section of all is devoted to reformulation of a speaker’s utterance in simultaneous interpreting, the merits of which are indis­putable – so as to avoid working on “auto­pilot” – but perhaps over-stressed here: I am not convinced that starting a sentence in the same way as the speaker is so wrong. Jones does say, however, that with experi­ence this technique becomes second nature. The advice on how to simplify when deal­ing with highly technical material is sound, but might strike some as controversial. Where I do disagree with the author is on his recommendation that all structuring elements (“I should like to make three comments….. 1 should be conveyed in con­secutive but not in simultaneous – in case the speaker fails to stick to his/her plan. Surely delegates should be given the bene­fit of the doubt. Nor can I agree to dismiss occurrences of unknown words out of con­text (“I should now like to talk about hops”) as “so rare as to be not worth wor­rving about”. Finallv, subjects such as per­sonal suitability, professional ethics, team­work, etc., are touched on only in passing and might perhaps have merited a short chapter. 

A11 in all this is a down-to-earth, straightforward book which describes what happens on the job and offers useful advice on technique. Although it could on no account serve as a teach-yourself man­ual – and is certainly not intended as such – it provides a valuable insight into the profession and meets a real need. I would not hesitate to recommend it to students of interpreting and to all those linguists who wonder how on earth we cope with the German verb. 

Janet Altman

Links by Jones

The following is taken from Roderick Jones’ fantastic book, Conference Interpreting Explained, and is reprinted without the kind permission of St Jerome publishers.

Conference Interpreting Explained. Roderick JonesPaperback, 152 pages. Routledge Publishing, 1998. ISBN 9781900650571

Analysis of Links

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. 

Reading back your notes

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.

Conference Interpreting Explained. Roderick Jones. 1998. ISBN 1-900650-09-6

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.