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Is there a note taking system for interpreters?
Thread poster: flint2
Jul 20, 2006

I’m taking a course in interpretation in Tokyo. When I’m doing consecutive interpretation practice I don’t always remember all the key points mentioned by the speaker. To give you some idea what I am dealing with, two or three sentences of spoken Japanese could be translated into sixty or seventy English words. I try to sort out the main ideas, but even then I feel I need a better system of notation. Unfortunately, my instructors do not teach a method of notation and they do not use any kind of system for themselves. Would learning a shorthand system help? What kind of system if any do they use at the University of Queensland or the Monterey Institute? Does anybody have any suggestions?


Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:46
French to Spanish
+ ...
Suggestion. Jul 20, 2006

Your profile is very strange, indeed.
You're flint2, 21 questions asked, in ProZ since Apr 2005, period. Not even languages.
So to say, anonymous asker.
A lot around here like you, asking questions about words, and that's OK... but in fora?
I don't know others, but I don't answer anonymous questions in this case.


Emanuela Leonardi  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:46
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
I agree with my colleague Juan Jul 20, 2006

Very strange infact!
I totally agree with my colleague. Search on the internet if you need info...


texjax DDS PhD  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:46
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
wisdom Jul 20, 2006

"Birds never make nest in bare tree"

Japanese proverb


Alireza Amini
Local time: 22:16
English to Farsi (Persian)
+ ...
suggestion Jul 20, 2006

Practice makes perfect,you should only know the basic knowledge of interpertation,be fluent in both languages, also yuor knowledge of vocabulary is important, I think interpertation in fact does not need those capablities that in case of translation are needed,in interpertation you are just to convey the meaning so do not restrict yourself with many
complicated and kind of useless matters

[Edited at 2006-07-20 22:08]


Reply Jul 21, 2006

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful response.


Aleksandr Okunev (X)
Local time: 21:46
English to Russian
Take notes Jul 21, 2006

I put down all numbers, proper names and
whatever I think I can forget. Sometimes these
are words, sometimes pictures.
(15+ years in this stuff)

I agree with the folks too, I think I deserve
at least a real name of yours.

Good luck!


Marion Sadoux
Local time: 02:46
English to French
+ ...
I agree Jul 21, 2006

Absolutely. I think that note taking in consecutive interpreting can become an obsessive focal point when in fact you would be better of training your memory and your attention to meaning rather than words.
Have a look at


Anthony Baldwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:46
Portuguese to English
+ ...
They require different skill sets. I find interpretation harder. Jul 22, 2006

alireza amini wrote:

Practice makes perfect,you should only know the basic knowledge of interpertation,be fluent in both languages, also yuor knowledge of vocabulary is important, I think interpertation in fact does not need those capablities that in case of translation are needed,in interpertation you are just to convey the meaning so do not restrict yourself with many
complicated and kind of useless matters

[Edited at 2006-07-20 22:08]

Personally, I find interpretation much more difficult, really.
While translating, response is not needed immediately, even on a tight deadline, and I have time to do research, flip through a dictionary or glossary, etc., if I need to clarify something. Also, since I can SEE the words I must translate, there is rarely much confusion, anyway, whereas, in interpretation, spoken language is harder to understand, and response is needed immediately (at least in the legal interpreting I do), rarely allowing time for the use of resources I have at my disposal while translating in my office.
Then again, I have a lot more training in written expression and in research (degrees in English Lit and Library/Info Sciences), which might explain why I find translation easier.
They´re both challenging, and I enjoy them both immensely, but I find interpretation far more stressful.


Reply Jul 25, 2006

Thanks for your input.
Interpreting both ways 日英 and 英日 can be very challenging, but I am gaining a better understanding of both languages.

Anyone interested in interpreting should check out this web site:


Cristina Golab  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exercise your memory Jul 27, 2006

I am an interpreter as well and I do a lot of memory exercises. One example, record a TV commercial or any TV or radio program, and try to interpret consecutively or even simultaneously. The U.N website on its translation and interpreting link has some exercises and samples you can use.
Also, become familiar and learn the vocabulary of the field you interpret (legal, medical, etc)
Personally I do not take notes and I have not seen note taking among my colleagues.

[Edited at 2006-07-27 18:25]


Magdalena Macinska  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:46
English to Polish
+ ...
Rozan's book and some tips Aug 6, 2006

I can suggest a very practical book on note- taking - Jean-Francois Rozan's Notetaking in Consecutive Interpreting. Publishing details here:

Rozan does propose a kind of a "system". He introduces the basic rules of note-taking and he proposes 20 symbols that can be widely used. One of the biggest advantages of his approach is simplicity. He shows how to analyze the text and transcribe the meaning, rather than hold on to particular words.

Another interesting book is the book of Andrew Gillies
Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting - A Short Course. Details can be also found in the link quoted above. All his books about interpreting are very practical and useful. He shows how to build your skills step by step.

I try to apply what we were taught in our interpreting course. First of all, everyone has their own way of taking notes. It takes a bit of time to work out your own technique.

In consecutive I like to note down quite a lot. But then I have to be careful to keep the notes clear so I don’t get lost and waste time wondering what I actually meant by that strange abbreviation. In any case here are some ideas I picked up from my teachers:

• Allow yourself plenty of space. Don’t squeeze the notes on one page. It’s easier to read the page of a notebook at one glance when there isn’t too much text
• Write down the basic facts when? who? What happened?
• Note down the logical links like ” however, so, if” ( possibly on the margin) between the facts. They are building blocks for your memory. It will be easier to recreate the logic of the speech even if you loose some details.
• Be sure to note down dates, numbers and names- they are hard to remember.
• If a speaker enumerates something like for example The X consists of five elements”..., be sure to note down that there are five of them.
• Be sure to mark who says what, whether it’s the speaker’s personal opinion or somebody else’s comment.
• Use pictures, abbreviations and symbols that are clear to you. It doesn’t make sense to learn a complicated system that you will be likely to forget in stressful situations.

In simultaneous I basically note down only the names and the dates and figures ( with the help of the partner)

I hope that helps. Good luck!



Thanks Aug 7, 2006

I have already ordered Gillies book a few weeks ago. I've read good things about it.


Andy Gillies
Local time: 19:46
German to English
+ ...
note-taking Aug 24, 2006

magda's advice is sound.
be patient with concecutive. your progress will be difficult to see as it comes over months and years. you will see easily that you have improved between, say june and december, but it is difficult to perceive the progress made say between june and july. there is progress though.
rozan, gillies and what magda says above cover all the basics you need. the rest is making those techniques your own.
you can approach notes as a mechanical exercise. that is to say every time you take any go through them afterwards and see whether they could be improved, which notes were helpful, which weren't. write out a "fair copy" of your notes even, aiming each time at clearer, more concise notes.
and practise practise practise!
good luck



Andy Gillies
Local time: 19:46
German to English
+ ...
ps Aug 24, 2006

ps flint2, i would be interested to see what has been written about the gillies book on the internet... do you have any links you could post here for me?

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