What to note – Seleskovitch & Lederer

The ideas below are compiled from pages 50-51, 55 and 68 of Pedagogie Raisonnee de l’Interpretation, by Lederer and Seleskovitch.

Didier Erudition 2002. This is the only book of its kind so far, written by two of the biggest names in the short history of interpreting and interpreter training. Originally written in 1989 the 2002 edition is also sponsored by the European Commission. It is also now available in translation as “A systematic approach to interpreter training”, Harmer, J.

Download the full work as a pdf

Pédagogie raisonnée de l'interprétation

1. The ideas. The essence. A single symbol or word can represent an entire idea. 

2. Fulcra. Causality, consequence, links etc. and the relation of the ideas to one another in time. 

3. Transcodable terms. Words than must be repeated rather than deverbalised and interpreted. 

4. Numbers. Note the numbers immediately, interrupting whatever you are noting to note the number as they cannot be remembered from context and noted later as ideas can. 

5. Proper names. If you don’t know a name, note it phonetically and see if you can work out how to say it properly in your target language later. If you can’t then substitute a generic like “the UK delegate” rather than mangling the name. 

6. Technical terms. Specific to the context of the speech. 

7. Lists. Lists of words which are not integral parts of the sentences in which they are held overload the memory. So note them.

8. The first sentence of each new idea should be noted with particular care. This does not mean verbatim but with care. 

9. LAST sentence of the speech should be noted with particular care. 

10. Striking usage. If the speaker uses a word or expression that stands out he has probably used it deliberately and will want it to appear in the intepretation.

How do notes help? Andres

In the second part of her book, Konsekutivdolmetschen und Notation, (2002, Peter Lang), Doerte Andres offers probably the most thorough and systematic analysis of different interpreters’ note-taking techniques yet undertaken. A summary of the conclusions is offered here. Hier in Originalfassung (auf Deutsch)

Doerte Andres describes a study in which 14 students and 14 professional interpreters were asked to interpret the same speech, Jacques Chirac’s New Year address 1996/7 (Part 1Part 2), consecutively. Each was filmed taking notes and giving back the speech and Andres has painstakingly noted the exact second at which each element was spoken in the original, appeared in the note-pad, and also was spoken by the interpreter. Large sections of the notes are also recreated in printed and thus legible form for the purposes of the analyses she them makes. Much has been written about consecutive, but we interpreters tend to say what we think rather than what we see and herein lies the beauty of this large empirical study. We can see what really goes on. 

For TEACHERS and interpreting researchers this body of work is the single most valuable resource available for the analysis of consecutive notes and the problems they pose. And it is available, albeit in its rawest form, at the following web address.

http://www.uni-mainz.de/~andres/Notizen.html

For STUDENTS it represents an excellent opportunity to see that other students have the same problems in consecutive, and why they have them. There is also the invaluable possibility of seeing how professionals solve the same problems. 

The conclusions Andres draws from this exceptional study are extremely interesting and as follows, 

1. A clear system for notation which includes fixed rules for abbreviation and a core of unambiguous symbols can help save time, which can then be used for other operations. 

2. Verbs and expressions of time are significant in reproducing what was said. 

3. According different weights to and structuring the layout of elements within the notes serve to intensify the operation ‘comprehension’ and facililitate the reproduction of the [source] text. 

4. The segmentation and arrangement of the notes on the page can facilitate assignation [of meaning] and have a positive effect on oral reproduction. 

5. Noting link words is an important part of ensuring cohesion. 

6. The time lag [between hearing and writing] is dependent on and can be allowed to vary according to how quickly something has been understood. 

7. Everyone has to discover their own [ideal] time lag 

8. A continued time lag of more than 7 seconds causes gaps to appear in the comprehension or notation [of the original]. 

9. discontinuous noting [noting elements in a different order to the order they are presented by the speaker – or in practice, going back and adding something to your notes from a previous section] can be helpful in structuring and completing the information [noted]. 

10. Rhetorical components are more easily reproduced if they have been noted down. 

11. Gaps in the comprehension or notation processes among students reappear in the production phase. 

These observations show clearly, how important and helpful it is for students to deal in some detail with note-taking and how important a component skill [Teiloperation] an in-grained, reliable and efficient system for taking notes is. [It is] a skill which aids and intensifies the comprehension process and thus has a decisive influence on the target langauage output. (Andres p250, Translation into English ITR) 

( Note on the website. Students are numbered Ger, SB and HD, representing the different schools they were attending. The speech itself can be found under the first two links (Part 1, Part 2).

Wozu Notizen? Andres

Im zweiten Teil ihres Buches, Konsekutivdolmetschen und Notation, (2002, Peter Lang), bietet Doerte Andres dem Leser an, die bisher wahrscheinlich gruendlichste und systematischste Analyse der Notizentechnik beim Konsekutivdolmetschen. Ihre Schlussfolgerung sind hier wiedergegeben. (Conclusions in Englishavailable here)

In the second part of her book, Doerte Andres describes a study in which 14 students and 14 professional interpreters were asked to interpret the same speech, Jacques Chirac’s New Year address 1996/7 (Part 1Part 2), consecutively. Each was filmed taking notes and giving back the speech and Andres has painstakingly noted the exact second at which each element was spoken in the original, appeared in the note-pad, and also was spoken by the interpreter. Large sections of the notes are also recreated in printed and thus legible form for the purposes of the analyses she them makes. Much has been written about consecutive, but we interpreters tend to say what we think rather than what we see and herein lies the beauty of this large empirical study. We can see what really goes on. 

For TEACHERS and interpreting researchers this body of work is the single most valuable resource available for the analysis of consecutive notes and the problems they pose. And it is available, albeit in its rawest form, at the following web address. 

http://www.uni-mainz.de/~andres/Notizen.html

For STUDENTS it represents an excellent opportunity to see that other students have the same problems in consecutive, and why they have them. There is also the invaluable possibility of seeing how professionals solve the same problems. 

3.4. Notation

Die in dieser Untersuchung enthaltenen Daten lassen den Schluß zu, daß der Notation eine andere Bedeutung und Funktion zukommt, als in zahlreichen Publikationen bisher angenommen. Es geht bei der Notation nämlich letztendlich nicht um Fragen wie zielsprachliches oder ausgangssprachliches Notieren, um die Anzahl von Symbolen oder um den zeitlichen Abstand zwischen Informationsrezeption und Notation. Uns geht vielmehr darum, zu vermitteln, daß

1. ein deutlich geschriebenes Notationssystem mit festen Abkürzungsregeln und einem eindeutigen Stamm an Symbolen Zeitersparnis bewirkt, die für andere Operationen genutzt werden kann;

2. Verben und Tempusangaben fuer die Rekonstruktion des Gesagten ein wesentlicher Faktor sind;

3. Informationsgewichtung und -strukturierung in den Notizen die Verstehensoperationen intensivieren und die Textproduktion erleichtern;

4. Segmentierung und räumliche Anordnung in den Notizen das Zuordnen erleichtern und die Sprachproduktion positiv beeinflussen;

5. die Notation von Verknüpfungsmitteln ein wesentliches Element für die Herstellung von Kohäsion ist;

6. das Decalage in Abhängigkeit vom Faktor Verstehen Schwankungen unterworfen ist und sein darf,

7. jede Person das für sie individuelle Decalage herausfinden muß;

8. ein anhaltendes Decalage von mehr als 7 Sekunden zu Defiziten im Verstehens- oder im Notationsprozess führt,

9. diskontinuierliches Notieren zur Informationsstrukturierung oder – ver-vollständigung hilfreich sein kann;

10. rhetorische Merkmale in der Textproduktion leichter ücksichtigt werden, wenn diese in den Notizen markiert sind;

11. Defizite im Verstehensprozess und in den Notizen sich bei den Studierenden in der Präsentation widerspiegeln.

Diesen Schlußfolgerungen soll eine weitere Beobachtung hinzugefügt werden: In der Gruppe der Studierenden wurde in den Transkripten auch die Ausbildungsstätte vermerkt. Dies geschah in der Ueberlegung, ob sich Notationsschulen in den Notizen widerspielgen oder ob die Studierenden, losgelöst von der Notationsdiktion der jeweiligen Institute, ihre eigenen individuellen Notationstechniken entwickeln. Die Untersuchungen haben eindeutig gezeigt, daß die Studierenden das aufgreifen und eventuell weiterentwickeln, was ihnen an Notationsformen in den Instituten angeboten wird. Es bildet die Grundlage, auf der sie aufbauen und die sie als Professionelle beibehalten.

Die Studierenden der Universität Heidelberg arbeiten mehr als die übrigen Studierenden mit Symbolen, d.h. der Notation nach Matyssek (Matyssek 1989): sprachunabhängige Symbole, Buchstabensymbole, Tempusmarkierungen. Die wenigsten Symbole, viele ausgeschriebene Wörter und Abkürzungen in Form von Wortanfängen sind bei den Studierenden der Universität Saarbrücken zu finden. Die Studierenden der Universität Mainz/Germersheim benutzen ein Mischsystem der verschiedensten Notationsweisen: Matyssek, Rozan, Herbert, d.h. eine Mischung aus einigen Symbolen, ausgeschriebenen Wörtern, Wortanfängen und Abkürzungen.

Diese Beobachtungen machen insgesamt deutlich, wie wichtig und hilfreich für die Studierenden eine intensive Auseinandersetzung mit der Notation ist, wie wichtig ein trainiertes, verläßliches, effizientes Notationssystem als eine Teiloperation ist, die den Verstehensprozeß stützt und intensiviert und damit entscheidenden Einfluß auf die Qualität der zielsprachlichen Umsetzung nimmt.

Die Rede finden Sie unter folgenden 2 Links (Teil 1Teil 2)

Is there a note-taking system I can learn?

You don’t have to invent your own note-taking system!

If you are studying conference interpreting at some stage you will undoubtedly hear, or be told, „that no two interpreters’ notes are the same” and quite possibly, that „every interpreter has to develop their own note-taking system”. The two ideas are often taken to mean the same thing, however, and this is not quite true.

No two interpreters’ notes are the same, and interpreters cannot read each other’s notes with any degree of accuracy – this much is true. However, it is not true to say that every interpreter must develop their own system for note-taking from scratch (and that by extension no systems for note-taking can be taught or learnt.) 

If we look carefully at a several experienced interpreters’ notes and ask each interpreter what is going on in a given section of notes what we see is, that, through the fog of apparently distinct note-taking systems, a whole array of very significant similarities appear – diagonal notes, margins, links, lines between ideas, a limited number of modulable symbols, verticality and more. Most of these fundamentals can actually be traced directly back to the father of note-taking in consecutive, Jean-Francois Rozan and his seminal work La Prise de notes dans l’interprétation consécutive. Others like noting subject-verb-object have been around almost as long (see Ilg’s explanation of Andronikov’s suggestion) and have been consolidated in books like Roderick Jones’ Conference Interpreting Explained.

If you’re starting out it would be a good idea to make the following the basis of your note-taking system.

These suggestions (or indeed any of the books that suggestion note-taking systems) should allow you to benefit from ideas which have served generations of interpreters very well while leaving plenty of room to incorporate your own ideas and solutions.

Note the underlying meaning not the word usedRozan Part 1.1
Diagonal notation (Shift)
Note the Subject, Verb and Object of each idea diagonally across the page. Separate each idea with a horizontal line across the page.
Separate ideas on the page Often equivalent to a sentence or Subject-Verb-Object group ideas are divided from one another on the page with a horizontal line. Interestingly Rozan did not explicitly suggest this in his book, but he did do it in all the example notes he gave and his example has been widely followed.)
VerticalityNoting vertically, from top to bottom on the page, rather than from left to right is the distinguishing characteristic of Rozan’s system, and one that you will find in almost all interpreters’ notes. Together with diagonal notes (shift) it goes to make up sections of notes that read from top-left to bottom-right. Click here to see what this looks like Rozan Part 1.6
Links …are essential to the cohesion of a speech and should be noted on the left of the page.
Symbols… must be clear and used consistently. Rozan Part 2.2
Rules for abbreviationClear, efficient (time-saving) and consistent rules for creating abbreviations. Rozan Part 1.2

A joined-up thinking exercise

This extract is taken from pages 243 of… Approaches to the teaching of interpreting mnemonic and analytic strategies by Ballester and Jiminez in Teaching translation and Interpreting, Eds Dollerup and Loddegarde, 1991.

Here is a great exercise to get the brain in gear for simultaneous or consecutive that you can do with your teacher or when practising amongst yourselves.

One person creates a series of unlinked phrases or sentences which the others have to join together into a meaningful speech.

4.b Connective exercises

These are exercises in which the students are offered a series of unlinked [phrases or] sentences which they have to join together by means of different connectors (syntactic, semantic and textual).This type of exercise is very useful in that it trains the student to give shape to ideas, to convey them more clearly and finally, and that is our main aim, they learn to build a text. 

Example 1:Cold War over / Japan claims control over Kuriles / Gorbachev’s visit to Japan unsuccessful. 
Example 2:Abortion in Britain may be performed up to the 28th week / the termination of pregnancy after the 20th week involves considerable risk / Long waiting lists at the NHS leave women no choice.

How links work

The following extract is taken from the excellent In Other Words by Mona Baker. The book is about translation, but much of it is both useful and interesting to interpreters and student interpreters.

Links signal the way the speaker wants the listener to relate what is about to be said to what has been said before

In Other Words, Mona Baker, Routledge, 1992 (3rd edition 2018)

(In the extract below I have added square brackets to add an expression that is more relevant to us as interpreters, for example “reader [listener]”)

6.3 Conjunctions

Conjunction involves the use of formal markers to relate sentences, clauses and paragraphs to each other. Unlike reference, substitution and ellipsis, the use of conjunction [links] does not instruct the reader to supply missing information either by looking for it elsewhere in the text or by filling structural slots. Instead, conjunction [links] signals the way the writer [speaker] wants the reader [listener] to relate what is about to be said to what has been said before. Conjunction [links] expresses one of a small number of general relations. The main relations are summarized below, with examples of conjunctions which can or typically realize each relation.

 a. additive

and, or, also, in addition, furthermore, besides, similarly, likewise, by contrast, for instance;

b. adversative

but, yet, however, instead, on the other hand, nevertheless, at any rate, as a matter of fact; 

c. causal

so, consequently, it follows, for, because, under the circumstances, for this reason;

d. temporal

then, next, after that, on another occasion, in conclusion, an hour later, finally, at last;

d. continuatives

now, of course, well, anyway, surely, after all,

A number of points need to be borne in mind here. First, the same conjunction may be used to signal different relations, depending on the context. Second, these relations can be expressed by a variety of means; the use of a conjunction is not the only device for expressing a temporal or causal relation, for instance. In English, a temporal relation may be expressed by means of a verb such as follow or precede, and a causal relation is inherent in the meanings of verbs such as cause and lead to. In fact, a language user will often recognize a semantic relation such as time sequence even when there no explicit signal of such a relationship exists in the text. Third, conjunctive relations do not just reflect relations between external phenomena, but may also be set up to reflect relations which are internal to the text or communicative situation. For instance, temporal relations are not restricted to sequence in real time; they may reflect stages in the unfolding text. A good example is the use of firstsecond and third in this paragraph.

The impact of links

The following is taken from Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting by Andrew Gillies, Routledge Publishing, 2014, and shows the impact that links have within a speech.

Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting – A Short Course, Andrew Gillies 2017 ISBN 9781138123205

Read a reviews of this book here!

Chapter 4 – Links

Links signal the way the speaker wants the listener to relate what is about to be said to what has been said before (Baker, 1992:190). A speech is all about two things: the ideas and the links between them. Why are links important? Let’s look at some very straightforward examples.

1. The economy is struggling. The Central Bank has left interest rates unchanged.

In this example we have two ideas, represented by two SVO [Subject Verb Object] groups but we have no link between them. The ideas form a list of factual statements perhaps, but with no links between they are tell us very little. But what happens if there are links between the ideas?

2. The economy is struggling. However, the Central Bank has left interest rates unchanged.

We now have a very different message. See how much more these ideas say than Example 1. The links bring the ideas into relation with one another AND in doing so implicitly give us more information about the situation. In this example we are led to believe that the Central Bank had been expected to change interest rates (and basic economics suggests downwards) but that it has not done so. But what if a different type of link had been used?

3. The economy is struggling. Consequently, the Central Bank has left interest rates unchanged.

In Example 3 the situation is the opposite. The Bank, we infer, would normally have raised its rate, for one reason or another, but because of the economic situation it did not (in order not to stifle growth, for example). A speech without links is a meaningless list of ideas.

Links

“Link words” is a misleading expression. We should talk about “links”. Links create a relationship between 2 or more ideas in a speech and can be conveyed by single words, expressions or implicitly. 

The following is a breakdown of links inspired by one of our colleagues. Numbered are 10 types of link, words that fall under that category and possible symbols to represent that link.

See also margins

Bbut, however, nonetheless, on the other hand, in spite of this, all the same,contradiction or limitation following an idea*
THOalthough, despite (the fact that), even though, while, whilst, notwithstanding,contradiction or limitation preceding an idea*
COSbecause, the main reason for this, what is causing this, what’s behind this?effect → cause
hence, this means that, the result of this is, the consequence of this is, so that, because of this, therefore, this is why, not surprisingly then,cause → effect
TO(in order) to, in such a way as to, so that, with the aim of, the purpose being to,purpose
if →if          then… (or inversion of same), had I known, were this to happen (and other similar conditionals), provided that, given a… then bcondition and consequence
egFor example, in particular, i.e., e.g., amongst other things, inter alia, like, not least the, and for announcing lists,examples of the preceding idea often in the form of lists
++ also, in addition, and, not only, on top of that there is, furthermoreaddition
//The paragraph mark: decidedly no link, end of section.no link

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.