What to concentrate on during interpretation
Thread poster: krishna mallick

krishna mallick
Local time: 20:23
Japanese to English
+ ...
Mar 5, 2004

I am going to do interpretation for the first time. I am not really good at spoken japanese but very well versed with terminology, etc. What I always fear is, though I know all words I get struck up in the sentence and will not be able to proceed.

can you tell me what I should prepare and concentrate on.


Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:53
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Be calm first of all Mar 5, 2004

aikokujin wrote:
What I always fear is, though I know all words I get struck up in the sentence and will not be able to proceed.

Hello aikokujin,
Good luck with your assignment. I am sure you will do fine. I know what you mean by being afraid of getting stuck with an expression or sentence. Try to do your best. No interpreter can interpret 100% of what they say in a Conference. If you can't remember a certain word, or term, use a synonym or a word/expression that is very similar. If you miss something, do not loose your mind over it, be calm and keep going with the rest of the speech.
If you are going to be in a booth and have a table, try to keep notes of the main key words. In my case, I write down nouns and numbers. If it is a simultaneous interpretation, do not expect to interpret everything, but it will get better. Pay attention to what the speaker says, try to write down some key words or signs and let your mouth say the words.
Good luck again,

[Edited at 2004-03-05 06:13]


Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:53
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
If it is court interpretation Mar 5, 2004

...then it's a different story. In this case then you will do consecutive interpretation. Make sure that you interpret everything they say, as they say it. From my experience, they speak slow and in short sentences, so you will be able to interpret everything.
Good luck again,


PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:53
English to Polish
+ ...
c, c & c Mar 5, 2004

cool, calm and collectedicon_smile.gif

I hope that this first job is not interpreting for the Queen of England!

Otherwise, if you _really_ lose your place, don't be afraid to ask the speaker to repeat the sentence/ phrase. In most cases nobody gets upset.
Obviously you cannot do this every 5 minutes and not in official speech situations.

My personal sundry requirements:

a _large_ glass of water, non sparkling - otherwise the bubbles go up your nose in the worst possible moment. You won't have time to ask for more, so make a stash somewhere close to you. I prefer water to all other liquids.
Talcum powder on the palms of your hands. This is a guitarist's trick. If your palms sweat a lot, putting a little talcum on them will make you more comfortable.
Don't eat too much before the job - you will be more alert. Eat something, though. A growling stomach inside a board room is LOUD.
The follow-up to this: you shouldn't be eating all the pretzels and cookies lying on the table. It's not professional and the crumbs inevitably make their way into the wrong hole and stay there. After that your voice is dead. You are too.
Remember to go to the bathroom before you start. Don't laugh. If the job is a 6 hour factory tour or board of directors meeting, you may get strange looks if you interrupt...
Dress comfortably for the occasion - no new shoes or clothes. A blister or chafing collar will distract you terribly.
Forget dictionaries. They're unprofessional and you'll never have time to check anyway.
Taking notes takes practice. It's easy to fall into a trap where you start writing and stop listening! Take notes only if you can multi task well.
Finally - do not interpret literally. It will sound terrible. Try, as early as possible, to learn to get the idea across as closely as possible, but remember that you are speaking the target language, not the source. This is the trap of "whispered" jobs. You start saying something and it turns out the speaker wanted to say something else. If the beginning of the sentence is not clear, you have to wait a few seconds to hear the end to know what the speaker had in mind.

All this applies in my area of jobs: board room meetings, walking tours, small presentations (one or two speakers and 20-40 audience), training courses etc.

Otherwise Monika's comments all apply.

You'll do fine. Don't lose your head!

Pawel Skalinski

[Edited at 2004-03-05 07:45]


CMJ_Trans (X)
Local time: 15:53
French to English
+ ...
Ignore the words - try to grasp ideas and logic Mar 5, 2004

The key to good consecutive interpreting it to understand the point the speaker is trying to make. As someone else has said, if he/she is not clear, you can always request an explanation - though do not abuse of this possibility ! The chances are that other people in the room listening in the original will have had trouble following as well. Lots of people express themselves badly.
Then translate the IDEAS and not the words.
Pawel's tips are good.
Also always note the dates, numbers and names (phonetically will do). People tend to recognise these so it pays to get them right to create confidence in your listeners.
One cheap trick that often helps if you're young and pretty is to go to the Chairman of a meeting and tell him it is your first time. 9 times out of 10 he will be very kind, sympathetic and understanding. You can usually tell at a glance whether this one will work!
Always speak confidentally even if you haven't the foggiest idea what you're saying. If you let doubt creep into your voice, however good your translation, no-one will believe in it.
The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to be in contact with the organisers and to get your hands on as much written preparatory documentation as possible. Failing this, surf the Internet for information about the place, the company, the organisation. If you already know what the meeting is to be about and about the company you are working for, you will find it easier to understand what people say. Above all, talk to delegates before the meeting and, if possible, in the breaks. INFORMATION is the key.
End of potted interpreting lesson.
Most of the above applies irrespective of whether consecutive or simultaneous is concerned.
It gets easier with practice BUT if you are of a shy disposition, maybe you shouldn't be doing this at all!
Good luck


Maria Eugenia Farre  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:53
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Binoculars, post-it notes and don't lose track of the going-ons in the conference room Mar 6, 2004

aikokujin wrote:

I am going to do interpretation for the first time.

Hi there aikojujin

Good luck on your first assignment. You have already received good tips from other interpreters, but let me add some more.

- First and foremost: prepare, prepare and prepare. Get the presentation from the organizer and do a thorough job of studying it. Focus not only on the vocabulary. Ask yourself: what idea are they proposing? what are they trying to sell? what cause are they advancing? don't get trapped on terminology issues and lose the big picture.

- Get to the venue at least 30 minutes before start time so that you can get comfortable with the equipment and your surroundings. If you get a chance to talk to your speaker, by all means do so. Remind him that it's always a good idea to try to speak slower if you're being interpreted into another language. (that's very relative however, give me a speedy gonzalez talker who repeats her main ideas and pauses for a breath of air every once in a while and you'll make me a happy interpreter)

- Make sure you tell your boothmate that you're a first-timer. Don't try to hide it, your colleague will notice. On a first gig, an experienced boothmate can be a tremendous support or a bone-crushing critic. But by being honest you may actually win her over to your side.

- If you're doing simo don't forget to take a pair of binoculars. Very few presentations dispense with Powerpoint these days and if the font is too small and you're too far behind (either geographically or speech-wise) it will really help to be able to read those bullet points

- Take post-it notes to write down the key translations and acronyms and stick them to the booth glass right where you can't miss them

- Never lose track of what's going on in the conference room. The speaker's demeanor and gestures can tell you a lot about his emotional state or his attitude to the company or idea he is describing and this will bear great influence on your choice of words. Pay attention to the audience as well: maybe they are falling asleep? In this case you need to spice it up a bit, change your tone of voice, use a flowery construction to jolt them.

- Beware of people sitting in front of you or moving around the conference room. They are a major distraction factor. Remove any chairs obstructing your view if you must. Nothing worse than a big head standing between you and the speaker.

- Always close your sentences, even if the speaker doesn't. Don't leave ideas dangling in the air, it comes across like the interpreter, not the speaker, is lost.

- Take dictionaries, why not. Your boothmate may look up a word for you while you're paraphrasing like mad or you can place the hefty volume on the floor to keep a jammed booth door open, thus preventing asfixiation and heat stroke.

- Try to keep your calm, or at least try to hide your panic. Chances are your first interpreting experience won't do justice to your ability. Remember you're doing your best and that interpreting is a job like any other. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it.

Good luck!


p.s. number one indicator that you've goofed up: heads are turning to look at the booth! number one indicator that you're doing a great job: the audience is laughing at the translated jokes!

[Edited at 2004-03-06 02:31]


Maria Eugenia Farre  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:53
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A page with lots of good advice for first-timers Mar 8, 2004

Here's a good page with a discussion on Lantra on the same topic



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