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Any tips on note taking when consecutive interpreting?
Thread poster: Ann Bishop
Ann Bishop  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
Jan 23, 2003

Hi everyone,

is there anyone out there who can give some pointers when it comes to note taking for consecutive interpreting?

I am going to give it a try, but am a rookie.



If you know of any links on the internet, please let me know.



Thanks in advance!

-Ann


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Serge L
Local time: 12:31
French to Dutch
+ ...
a bit of googling... Jan 23, 2003

Hi Ann,



I did a quick Google search and I got nearly 22,000 hits. There must be at least 1 useful site among them



Don\'t know anything about taking notes, I just did it once or twice, I prefer simultaneous interpreting...



Serge L.


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Silvia Ferrero  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
tips for note taking Jan 23, 2003

Hi,

I don\'t do consecutive interpreting, but I know some tips that the taught me in my degree anyway.

First of all, instead of trying to copy every word, invent some abbreviations or, even better, symbols that represent some words or ideas; for example a cross can represent a church. Everyone uses their own personal symbols, the most important thing is that you remember instantly what they mean when you see them.

It is also useful to use a small ring-binded notebook, like the ones we used to take to school, because the are very manageable. Write only on one side of the page, it is faster, and when you finish with the notebook, you can always turn it round and start using the other sides.

I hope this helps.

Good luck!


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Marijke Mayer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
I would say that you can't be taking notes Jan 23, 2003

and why should you. If you do consecutive interpreting then you have the lawyer give you once complete sentence at the time while he is addressing the witness, which you then translate. Don\'t have him or her chop any sententes as that will never work in translation because of word order. You will certainly not have any time to write down the entire sentence as it\'s faster to translate it straight across. You\'ll never get through the deposition otherwise!

Good luck! Marijke


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asil
Local time: 08:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
Some tips Jan 23, 2003

Hi, I have been a consecutive and simultaneous interpreter for over 12 years, and during my college years I was tought a technique for note-taking. It onvolves the use of symbols for certain words and tenses, such a big P and a small circle close to the upper right part of the letter to represent a \"producer\", and so on. I would suggest you to take a small course on shorthand writing, which may help you with long, weird and complex sentences (lawyers cannot speak plain language). Another option is to develop your own set of symbols, but that tikes time and LOTS of practice.

If you go one sentence at a time, it will take years for the job to be completed and boring for everyone in the room.

Good luck.


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Nathalie M. Girard, ALHC  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
You need to take notes Jan 23, 2003

I strongly disagree with Marijke.



Consecutive interpreting is considered the \"true art of interpreting\",

and a special note-taking technique was developed for that purpose.



Sometimes you have to listen to a speaker for 2-5 minutes - sometimes even

longer - before you can start your interpretation. You need to take notes;

there is no other way to remember all the facts (and numbers) after a couple

of minutes.



Marijke is not too well-informed (in my opinion) if she thinks there is no need

to take notes.



Kind regards,

Nathalie

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-23 15:50]


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Marijke Mayer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
I in turn strongly disagree with Nathalie Jan 23, 2003

the word \'consecutive\' means that you absolutely, positively HAVE to translate the exact sentence as this is vital for the record in any deposition where a court reporter takes down everything which is said in English. This has been my extensive experience. You are not even allowed to summarize anything at all, or change the sentence, which you can hardly avoid when taking notes in shorthand or just words to collect your thoughts or refresh you memory.



I don\'t know what other \'consecutive interpreting\' would be meant here. Of course, other than a deposition, you can always summarize or briefly explain what has been said, but this is definitely not \'consecutive interpreting\'!



I invite Ann to inquire what has been my experience with consecutive interpreting!



Best regards,

Marijke





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Nathalie M. Girard, ALHC  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
Clarification Jan 23, 2003

Dear Marijke,



In the courts, things may be different, but Ann did not inquire about a

court assignment, but consecutive in general.



Why do you think, Marijke, that training programs for interpreters always

include special courses on note-taking? I am sorry, but if you don\'t know

what consecutive interpreting is (by your own admission), you should not be

handing out advice to colleagues who need a reliable answer.



In consecutive interpreting, you are often required to listen to a speaker

for several minutes (there have been cases of segments going on for 10

minutes or longer), during which you have to use a special technique (no,

not shorthand) to jot down all the ideas, facts and numbers.



Consecutive interpreting is considered the \"true art of interpreting\",

because only a select few are really up to that job (in fact, simultaneous

is easier than consecutive).



I hope that this clarifies a few things...



Kind regards,

Nathalie


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Aleksandra Mandrapa  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:31
English to Bosnian
+ ...
notes are good, if and when you need them Jan 23, 2003

I believe that we are talking about consecutive interpreting in general, and there are a lot of different settings where the interpreting can take place, and a lot of different terminologies used. Therefore, I believe that it\'s good to take notes if you need them. I personally have a hard time with names and numbers, and that is what I write down. For example if you need to remember several names at once (that are totally unfamiliar to you) you should probably write them down. So, I think you should write down anything that you think it is going to be hard to remember, and in a way that works the best for you.

Also, very often, as an interpreter you are in control, and you can give a signal to the person that you are interpreting for, when you think that is time for them to stop, and for you to start talking. Of course, this doesn\'t work in every situation.



And even though this is not a main subject, I have to point out that every interpreter who can do simultaneous interpreting can also do consecutive, but not everybody who can do consecutive can also do simultaneous interpreting. Simultaneous is much more difficult, because you have to think really fast and basically do consecutive with a couple of seconds of delay. I have been working as an interpreter trainer, so I am not talking just about my personal experience here. I know for sure that there are many more consecutive interpreters then simultaneous.



I hope this was helpful.



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Marijke Mayer  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 12:31
Dutch to English
+ ...
I am often hired for consecutive interpreting where I translate Jan 23, 2003

sentence by sentence in a deposition. So who\'s right? In the States when they ask for consecutive interpretation where they mean they want the sentences translated one by one. It now appears that the terms we have been using are used inconsistently as reflected below: I refer to the following part \"generally with the aid of notes. In the modern world consecutive interpreting has been largely replaced by simultaneous . . .\"



In addition, there is another proper term for simultaneous translating, which is \'chuchotage\'. This, I do admit, is a art in itself. What I have been doing in the depositions seems to be somewhere in the middle of as there is definitely no time to take notes as it concerns a question and answer setting.



Please refer to the EU site on consecutive interpreting http://europa.eu.int/comm/scic/interpreting/tech_consecutive_en.htm:



What is consecutive interpreting ?

1 2

Interpreting after the speaker has finished



The interpreter sits with the delegates, listens to the speech and renders it, at the end, in a different language, generally with the aid of notes. In the modern world consecutive interpreting has been largely replaced by simultaneous, but it remains relevant for certain kinds of meetings

(e.g. highly technical meetings,working lunches, small groups, field trips).

Well-trained interpreters can render speeches of 10 minutes or more with great accuracy.



A deposition is essentially a fact-finding question and answer session which, incidentally is NOT held in court, but usually held in a hotel room or at a lawyer\'s office in the presence of a court reporter as well as the lawyers. The product, the transcript, is a proper court document though.



As Ann did not indicate what type of meeting it will be, she\'d be wise to check with the client as to what to expect, and to check with other interpreters what their experiences have been in this field. However, there is a good chance it will be deposition, which is definitely easier on the brain.



Whatever the case will be, I wish you good luck, Ann!



Marijke





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Erika Pavelka  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:31
French to English
Who said anything about lawyers? Jan 23, 2003

I don\'t know how the lawyers came into the picture, because it wasn\'t part of the original query. (In any case, translating between two parties is not consecutive, but liaison interpreting. That\'s what I learned in my interpreting course and that is what I do almost on a daily basis.)



I completely agree with Nathalie. I did a program in all three types of interpreting, and consecutive involved taking notes, using symbols for certain words. Often, consecutive interpreters have to interpret someone\'s speech to a group of people, so there\'s no way it can go sentence by sentence (and neither can liaison).



Marijke, the whole point is taking notes is so you can ensure that you convey every bit of information. I honestly think there is a misunderstanding somewhere.



My two cents,



Erika



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Mariflor Salas  Identity Verified
Venezuela
Local time: 07:31
English to Spanish
Very difficult job, indeed. Not for everybody. Jan 23, 2003

I am an engineer who has been working as a translator and (to a lesser degree) as an interpreter (in situations like doctor\'s offices or lawyer\'s depositions, etc.) for almost 15 years. Last year someone asked me if I could do consecutive interpreting in a conference. I was interested in trying something new. Being familiar with the subjects dealt with in the conference (engineering-economics), I decided to give it a try.



I was told not to translate sentence by sentence, but rather let the speaker talked for a while (3-5 minutes) and then give a summary to the audience, something that I\'m sure all of you agree it\'s not easy. To begin with, you have to understand what\'s being said. That\'s the only way you will be able to summarize it for the audience.



I can only say: What a difficult job this was. With all honesty, I don\'t think I did a bad job (as a matter of fact, the same people called me back 5 months later to do the same). However, I was incredibly stressed the whole time. Again, I had to hear people talking for several minutes before I spoke to the audience. Yes, I had to take notes. It would have been impossible without them. But without a doubt, the best thing for me, was that before the conferences I researched all the speakers for whom I would be interpreting and read documents written by them so I could familiarize with the terms used by them.



My opinion? I can only say the same thing I say regarding having children: this is not a job for everybody. You need to be very focused, very self-assured and you need to understand what\'s being said. And, for so much work, the pay better be good.



However, if you are able to translate sentence by sentence, then things get easier, but for what I\'ve been hearing, normally that is not the case.



Good luck.


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Momichi
Local time: 05:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
I would try this first Jan 23, 2003

I have been a consecutive interpreter for 3 years, and these are my tips for you (tips I wish someone would have given me at the beginning).

At interpreting school they thaught me to take notes on everything, but that doesn\'t work for me nor for any interpreter I know; in order to know whether or not to take notes, first you must know how your own short-memory works. It\'s different for everyone, you know. So get a friend to help you and do this:



Get him to read a short peace of text (a newspaper, an article, anything). This text should be in your own native language; we are not testing your language skills here but your memory. The text should preferably contain figures, dates and names. When he\'s finished, try to repeat the essentials.

How did you do? Did you remember all of the data? What did you forget? The numbers? The dates? The names? The answers to this questions should give you an idea about what to take notes on when you are interpreting. There are people who remember names very well, but they tend to forget numbers. Try and see what sticks to you and what you forget. Try to keep notes to a minimum; if you are interpreting a meeting, people will be speaking very fast (and sometimes at the same time) and you will not have much time to write things down ; if, on the other hand, you are interpreting a conference, lots of notes will only confuse you. Remeber notes are to help you remember; if you are too concentrated in taking notes your mind will go blank when you try to puzzle them out. Trust your own memory.



Now, another tip which is not related to notes, but I think it\'s helpful if this is your first time: YOU MUST EXERCISE CONTROL, and without the people you\'re interpreting for knowing it. Example: In my first interpreting job, I worked for two engineers. One was an English-speaking Belgian (is that the right word?) who understood a lot of Spanish but didn\'t speak it, and the other was a Japanese who understood (barely) English but didn\'t know any Spanish at all. Most Mexican businessman know some English, but not very well. So imagine: Mexican speaks, Belgian understands and wants to answer; I\'m in the process of interpreting for Japanese. Belgian, as I am busy, utters his question in English. Mexican listens, thinks he understands, and eagerly answers something not even remotely connected with the original question. Belgian looks at him blankly, probably wondering if the Mexican is crazy. Japanese lost in the woods. Interpreter, panicking. I had to step in as the moderator, so Belgian and Mexican had to wait for me to persue their conversation. If I hadn\'t, it would have been a complete mess (it almost was). This is something you don\'t learn at interpreting school; somehow you think everything will be quiet and organized, but you make it so; people are eager to talk and communicate and it is part of your job to impose some order. If you don\'t you\'re apt to be swept away (and not in a good way) by your audience. It\'s not difficult, either. People are not used to have an interpreter among them. You just have to make your presence visible. Interrupt them, if it\'s necessary (never rudely, of course); just start interpreting whenever the speaker finishes a sentence and stops to breathe. After a while they will have caught the rythm and will wait for you to step in. But, as I said, you must make it happen.



Now a comment on the accuracy; it seems to be a controversial point. My own oppinion is be precise on the hard data (figures, dates, names, etc) and express the rest in your own words. Expressions and jokes are never the same in different languages, so why stick to them? Try to find equivalents in your own day-to-day language, or skip them altogether if the time presses. On the other hand, when people speak it\'s not like when reading a book; people tend to ramble, explaining the same ideas in many different ways. Why repeat everything? Stick to the essencials. And besides, when you are interpreting a conference, the things go like this: the speaker blah-blah-blah for five minutes, then you step in. Are you going to speak for five minutes yourself, repeating exactly what the speaker said? That seems unlikely; it would be very difficult for you to remember everything, it would be tiresome for the audience, and the speaker would lose his train of thought as well. So don\'t worry about precission; stick to the essentials.



Finally, keep the dictionary at hand, the nerves at bay, stand straight, dress to kill and smile.



I wish you the best of luck; consecutive interpreting is the best kind of interpreting (people get to see you and they know you are a person, not a voice from the headphones) and I love it.


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Nathalie M. Girard, ALHC  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
Absolutely Erika... Jan 23, 2003

Hi again



You are right Erika. No form of interpreting is limited to the \"sentence

level\". Interpreters always deal with chunks or segments, but they are all

usually more than single sentences.



Note-taking is an absolute requirement, and part of every curriculum -

again, please note, note-taking does NOT involve shorthand; it is a very

special system using specific \"tricks\" (and each practitioner adds his/her

own personal touch).



I disagree with Aleksandra, though: CI is more difficult than SI (because it

requires even greater linguistic skills of the interpreter). Yes, SI is also

difficult, because of the simultaneous aspect and the speed, but in CI your

skills of \"conveying the message\" are really running at full steam (even

more so than in SI).



As a matter of fact, official rates for CI are always higher (much higher)

than for SI (!!!). And many simul. interpreters will not and cannot

interpret consecutively (e.g., because many schools nowadays only teach the

SI mode, but neglect CI).



Kind regards,

Nathalie


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Momichi
Local time: 05:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Two things Jan 23, 2003

Two things about my previous posting:

First, I apologize for the mispellings. I\'m translating on one screen and posting in another, if you know what I mean, and I\'m kind of distracted.

Second, upon rereading it I notice it may seem I\'m advising to forget about accuracy and invent everything, but it isn\'t so at all! I just wanted to point out that it\'s preferable to stick to the essential idea and forget all the furnishings than to try to translate the furnishings and lose or blurr the essential idea. Also, sometimes you must summarize if you want to keep the audience awake. But of course you must be accurate in terms of original meaning, don\'t get me wrong!!

Have a great (interpreting) day.


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