Rozan and diagonal note-taking

J-F. Rozan’s seminal book, La Prise de notes dans l’interpretation consecutive, published nearly 50 years ago, is still the foundation of most teaching of consecutive today and the basis of most interpreters note-taking methods – even if they don’t all know it! 

In the book Rozan was the first to describe the advantages of noting diagonally across the page rather than horizontally as we do when writing normally.

Because of formatting difficulties the extract is available as a short downloadable Word file.

Rozan book review ITI

The following review of the new English translation of Rozan’s seminal work on note-taking in consecutive, La prise de notes en interprétation consécutive , appeared in the ITI bulletin July-August 2005.

Note-taking in Consecutive InterpretingTertium Cracow 2004.

Note-taking in Consecutive Interpreting by Jean-François Rozan

Edited by Andrew Gillies and Bartosz Waliczek ISBN: 83-914764-9-0 Cracow Tertium Society for the Promotion of Language Studies Reviewed by Florence Mitchell

This book revives le Rozan, the slim booklet published in 1956 which presented the note-taking system now used by all consecutive interpreters. Rozan’s text is translated here into English by Andrew Gillies and into Polish by Bartosz Waliczek.

Originally written in French, it will now be accessible to a wider audience. Not too long ago we had a useful chapter on Consecutive interpreting in Roderick Jones’s book (Conference Interpreting Explained, St Jerome 1998), but this is a welcome return to the words of the Master, with just a twist of modernisation.

Taking notes while interpreting is notoriously difficult and yet essential. You might well interpret two sentences from memory, even 3 or 4 if you have your wits about you. But come the fifth sentence you will have forgotten the first and the second. Your brain is constantly working overtime, leaving you with just a faint idea of what it was all about. That’s why a notebook and a pen are an interpreter’s best friends, but they only help if your note-taking system is already properly established. Training systematically may take six months or more in order to reach the point where you become unaware that you are noting something down and simply listen to the ideas behind the words you hear.

Some will ask, is it worth the investment in time and effort? Yes it is, if you are preparing for exams in simultaneous interpreting at the European Commission or at any of the other major international organisations which employ interpreters, as consecutive interpreting tests are invariably the first hurdle. Being able to take notes is also invaluable for freelance conference interpreters who may have to work away from the booths. Be it an afterdinner speech or a press conference, interrupting speakers or asking them to repeat anything is out of the question.

This is a slim book with 60 pages in English and another 60 in Polish. It first came out two years ago, but was not widely available. In the meantime Andrew Gillies has also produced his own book, Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting – A Short Course, which will be available in September 2005 from St Jerome in its collection ‘Translation Practices Explained’.

Jean-François Rozan interpreted at the UN and taught at the Geneva School for many years, but he left it all to pursue other interests. 

ITI bulletin July-August 2005 36

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 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.


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!

La Terzia Lingua

Garzone, Santulli, Damiani

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.


Principles of Note-taking – Rozan

The following text is taken from a new translation of Jean-Francois Rozan’s masterpiece “Note-taking in Consecutive Interpreting” which is now available again, this time in English and Polish translations. It is reprinted here without the permission of the publishers Tertium, Cracow, Poland. If you like the extract below please visit their site and buy THE text on Consecutive note-taking there.

Note-taking in Consecutive Interpreting, Rozan, Jean Francois, (1956 Geneve, Georg), 2005 Tertium, Cracow.

Because of formatting difficulties the extract is available as a pdf file below.

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.

Noting the idea rather than the word

This extract is taken from a new translation of Jean-Francois Rozan’s La Prise de notes dans l’interprétation consécutive. It is a short passage that has defined the teaching and practice of consecutive interpreting since it was written 50 years ago.

La prise de notes en interprétation consécutive, Rozan, Jean Francois, 1956 Geneve . Georg. To see a longer extract click here.

1. Noting the idea rather than the word 

Take any French text and give it to 10 excellent english translators. The result will be ten very well translated texts, but ten very different texts in as far as the actual words used are concerned. The fact that we have ten good translations, but ten different texts, shows that what is important is the translation of the idea and not the word. This is even truer of interpretation since the interpreter must produce a version of the text in another language immediately. He must be free of the often misleading constraints that words represent. It is through the analysis and notation of the ideas that the interpreter will avoid mistakes and a laboured delivery. Example: Let us take the following, from French into English: 

„Il y a des fortes chances pour que…../ There is a very good chance that…”

If we base our notation of this expression on the words, the key word is chance. If we base it on the idea, it is probable.

The notes will have to be read 20 minutes – even an hour – after the idea was originally expressed. In the first example it would be very easy to make a mistake. Having noted chance the interpreter might, if the context allowed, render it „there is a chance that” or „by chance”. If on the other hand he noted probable the mistake cannot be made. The issue of style is also dealt with in the second example where one would automatically say (interpreting into English), „It is probable that”, or „it is likely that”, or „in all likelihood” whereas in the first example even if the interpreter had correctly recalled the idea that the word chance represented he/she will be a prisoner to that word and might easily produce a gallicism . Example:

„We should try to live up to….”

It would be absurd to note the word „live” and it would greatly increase the risk of making a mistake. Although it would seem to be very different from the original it would be more appropriate to note in French, for example, „ a la hauteur” (in english ‘to be up to’). This is the result of analysing the idea behind what is said and noting it idiomatically in the target language. It would be just as useful to note 

be =

…representing being equal to , which could very easily be read back idiomatically in intepretation (ie. „a la hauteur in French”, „to be up to in English”).

Whenever taking notes the interpreter must concentrate on the major idea and how this can be noted clearly and simply (preferably in the target language, although this is not essential).