Interpreting INTO native language.
Thread poster: rmt240

rmt240
France
Local time: 14:06
English to French
+ ...
Dec 25, 2011

Hi Folks,

I've been working as a translator/interpreter lightly for almost 2 years now and I'm studying to take the NY State Court Interpreter exam sometime within the next year. I am using ACEBO to train, and I'm seeing progress, but there's one thing that I just CANNOT SEEM to get, and that is simultaneous interpretation from French (my second language) into English (my native language). Simultaneous from English to French is not that hard; I actually like it the best. And consecutive from French to English isn't that hard either; I can manage pretty well. But no matter how much I practice, I'm just not seeing any improvement in my simultaneous interpretation from French to English, and it's really frustrating me.

I do exercises every day (shadowing, memory, etc.) and practice with recordings and seem to do better and better every time, but then the second I put on a news report in French on the television and try to simultaneously interpret into English, I don't even make it two full sentences without losing the speaker. I feel as though I just CANNOT translate that quickly; I need time, a good few seconds, to restructure the French phrase into an English one that sounds even the slightest bit normal/professional/understandable. When I listen to French I think in French, so a lot of times I'll get stuck on a word where I just cannot remember how to say it in English and by the time I finally find it, the speaker is 5 sentences ahead of me. Often it's the stupidest, simplest words - today, for example, I couldn't think of the English word "vegetable." I mean, really.

This is very discouraging because I feel like this is going to be the section that screws me on the test - all the other parts I think I'm going to be okay with continued studying and prep work, this is the ONLY section where I feel like I'm just not getting ANYWHERE. And if it's just this ONE SECTION that keeps me from getting certified, I'm going to be really upset.

Does anyone know WHY it seems to be so much harder to interpret from the second language into the first? Why don't I have this same problem going from English to French? What can I do to better my skills in this area that I'm not already doing? Has anyone else taken the NYS Court Exam in French, or working as an interpreter there in those languages? What has worked for you?

Thanks for any advice!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:06
Chinese to English
Who the hell told you to do TV news? Dec 26, 2011

Is this what people at other institutions really teach?! It's insane.

Listen, TV news is literally the hardest thing a person can be asked to interpret.

It is:
1) Scripted (so in a rather non-speech style)
2) Incredibly information-dense
3) Not structured
4) Delivered at high speed
5) Full of very local detail which may well need explanation

DO NOT try to use TV news (or any other kind of news bulletin program) as practice material. You can use news discussion programs, but the news itself is the very pinnacle of what the world's best interpreters *might* achieve. If your fellow students are claiming to practice on the news, I would lay a pound to a penny that what they're producing is not good output.

Still you can improve. The difficulty with news is speed of understanding the content. You don't live in France, and you're not immersed in French current affairs, and it's that tenth of a second of recognition delay before you "get" the item that is most likely causing your problems. You can listen to more news, and read more journalism from France (not just for practice, but for background "priming") to cut down that delay. But unless you live there, that delay is going to be very difficult to eradicate.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't worry Dec 26, 2011

You'll make it. It's just a matter of practice. All of a sudden one day it will come to you when you least expect it to happen. That's how it goes.

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rmt240
France
Local time: 14:06
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Immersion Dec 26, 2011

Hi Guys,

Thanks so much for the input! Phil, just FYI, I actually DO live in France right now although I'll be returning to New York in the summer. I've found that HAS helped for the reasons you explained (knowing what the hell they mean, that decalage if sorts), but I'm relieved to hear that news is not a realistic goal.

So far what HAS been going rather well (and where I've been seeing improvement) is that I'll take an article from a French newspaper, record myself reading it at the standard pace of 120-140 wpm, and practice with that. THERE, I HAVE been seeing improvement. I was just getting worried because after those exercises, I would turn on other stuff on TV and be like "AHHHH!"

Is this a good idea, in your opinion? I feel like it's a double benefit - one, I brush up on French current affairs, and two, I get a more structured text to work with that's likely to be like the one I'll encounter on the exam.

I've found that television shows are often good too - I don't know why.

I'm not a student; I'm studying on my own with the ACEBO materials. But yes, I've done a lot of research, and a LOT of places seem to encourage "oh, practice simultaneously interpreting news programs!" as means to help. Take it for what you will.

Thanks again,

Rachel


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Try speeches Dec 26, 2011

News is better for consecutive (and good practice). The reason is, it generally tries to answer all the WH- questions in the first two sentences. Quite a lot to hang on. It's a question of being prepared for the type of onslaught.

We once tried an experiment with French news transcription/translation. The average word count for 5 minutes is between 700 and 800.


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rmt240
France
Local time: 14:06
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yep Dec 26, 2011

Parrot, I've noticed that too - CONSECUTIVE French to English using news? Not NEARLY as hard. I have a much better time with that than simultaneous.

Any idea where we can find speeches in foreign languages? The EU website? Most of the stuff on other video sites seems to be news.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Websites Dec 26, 2011

http://www.elysee.fr/president/les-actualites/discours/discours.18.html , for one. Or pick another speaker and track them. Hillary Clinton's a favourite of mine for inverse practice.

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polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
why not the news ? Dec 26, 2011

I'm going to be the dissenting voice here. I know news broadcasts are not necessarily easy but normally people practising interpreting from them should have the advantage of knowing what is going on in the world and be able to pick up the gist pretty rapidly.

I know this sounds discouraging but no point in burying our heads in the sand is there? Henry has got it right when he says that you have to keep on plugging away until one day you get a breakthrough - or don't as the case may be.

Some people are very competent consecutive interpreters but never really like doing simultaneous. Personally I adore simultaneous and do consecutive under duress. I can do it, I do do it but I do not enjoy it. In meetings, all too often, I want to take over the chair! I love the contact with the people, however. Bizarrely, my clients think I'm good at consecutive. If they only knew!

So you see, there is no law that says that you will be equally good at both. But back to the news: my humble opinion is that you should read the papers, keep abreast of the news in French (not just in France) and give the 8 o'clock news another chance. I was told years ago that a good way to practise was the news and I can only concur from personal experience. Just remember that progess is never in a regular line, it goes in fits and starts. If you want to succeed, you cannot afford to give in and go for the "soft" options.

Good luck!


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:06
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not news to begin with Dec 26, 2011

When you're starting out, all you have by way of equipment is the awareness that you can navigate both source and target. Getting into dense waters at the outset tends to challenge that, at a point when you're still too ready to throw in the towel. Few people at that point can recover a two-sentence decalage that has contained the most information, and in the news there is a tendency to go over this pattern again and again every three minutes or so. You need a mental template of expectancy and a familiary with the objectives of news reporting to confront that. Speeches, on the other hand, have a more predictable development and are delivered with a certain deliberation, not usually exceeding a recommended speed, which in news may be imposed by added time constraints.

This is not to say it can't be done.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:06
Chinese to English
Sounds like you're doing the right sort of thing Dec 26, 2011

with your background reading - and the fact that the priming helps you suggests that the problem is indeed more with the content than the language. On the recording exercise - if it's working for you, that's fine, but some people report having great difficulty interpreting from their own voice, so it can help to get a friend to do the reading for you.

(If you're managing to interpret successfully from a news article read aloud, then technically you're there. People reading from scripts are much harder to interpret than natural speech. However, it sounds as though all of your practice is a bit focused on the written word. You do need to practice on real lectures and speeches, because though it tends to be a bit easier, it does involve its own challenges.)

I have seen the recommendations to use news programs, but I've always assumed they were from people who didn't know anything about interpreting. What do your training materials recommend as practice speeches? Because I can't believe any self-respecting interpreter school would give its students news programs, nor recommend them in teaching materials.

As parrot says, news is possible. In Japan they have a channel which broadcasts CNN with live simultaneous interpretation. Sounds like the hardest, most terrifying job in the world to me! The interpreters who do it become mini-celebrities.

For us mere mortals, I reckon it would be more practical to concentrate on stuff that you're likely to get asked to do at a conference. I personally always struggle with those little "thanks" or "welcome speeches" that you get at the beginning and ends of conferences, because Chinese loads the information in a completely different way to English. So if I ever get organised enough to do some practice, that's what I'll be focusing on.

I would advise you to focus on similarly useful stuff. Think form, as in my example, and also content: though the news has the benefit of giving you broad vocab, there's little depth to it; if you get a speaker talking about banking regulation, or the differences between IFRS and GAAP, or the European carbon market, you're very quickly going to run into vocab that you won't get off the news. So recordings from the big institutions and public lectures are invaluable.


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rmt240
France
Local time: 14:06
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
LOVE that site. Dec 26, 2011

Hey Guys,

After lunch today I started my daily studying routing, and for my French-English simultaneous exercise, I went on that site Parrot mentioned and tried a speech by Sarkozy. WHOA. Talk about NIGHT AND DAY - I was able to follow it nearly perfectly and found it actually manageable to interpret. I mean, sure, there's still a lot of work to do and tons of room for improvement, but I overall didn't lose him at all, was able to listen in French and talk in English at the same time and make the translation without completely falling apart. I can honestly say that this was the best I've done to date. I'd hesitate to say I did WELL, but I certainly didn't do horribly. Which I can work with; I can continue to build skills from there.

Thank you SO MUCH for these helpful suggestions. As I get more and more comfortable with speeches and lectures, maybe I can move onto news programs. But for now I feel like I have a much more solid place to start.

Phil, my training materials advise either using language specific tape sets to do the training that come with the manual or recording what's in there in French with your own voice to work from. Unfortunately, they don't have French language specific tapes at ACEBO (I have no idea why) so I've done the latter, and you're right - interpreting from your own voice is very weird and a bit harder (though I manage to do it without too much extra difficulty. I haven't had too much of a challenge yet).

If anyone else has ideas for places where I can find speeches and lectures in French, please don't hesitate to let me know. I'd love to find resources wherever I can.

Thanks again!

Rachel


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:06
Chinese to English
Universities and C-span equivalent Dec 26, 2011

Glad you got started on some more normal materials!

A lot of US universities put lectures online, and I'm sure some French institutions do the same. They are great material - well structured, and you can learn some economics/law/whatever as you practice.
And you should look at what the big institutions offer. I found this pretty quickly on the EU website:
http://europarltv.europa.eu/fr/player.aspx?pid=8e3b1bd3-604b-4583-893b-9fbb011b639b
It's got some newsy bits in, and also some discussion, which is much more doable. See if you can track down any recordings of speeches in French in the EP itself.


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fbbest  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 14:06
English to Italian
+ ...
very difficult.. but rewarding Dec 27, 2011

Hallo,

As Harry said, it is just a matter of practice. And I add, it is the best practice of all, because it is extremely difficult.

If you make it, you will be able to handle inconsistent, incongruous and super fast speakers pretty good!

All the best

Francesca


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