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Hi all,

I'm going to sit the EU accreditation test, but I know I'm not yet fast enough in sim. I was taught in my Masters to have a long decalage, especially from German, in which case I usually wait for the verb to come at the end of the sentence; that's why now I'm quite "slow", that is my delivery is generally 'shifted' one sentence after the original speech, which often results in less precision because I miss details on the way. When I did some dummy booth practice in the EU they told me that it's not ok to have such a long decalage and that I should forget what they taught me at school. One official told me that, to get faster, I should practice with the radio (or similar fast material) and try to keep up with the speaker's speed translating each word as fast as I can without worrying about the output. He wants me to be very very 'attached' to the speaker so to speak... The aim is that of acquiring faster reflexes and making it become "second nature". I'm following this suggestion and already see some (little) results; however, I was curious to hear other pieces of advice. What did you do, as students or young professionals, to speed up your sim? Do you have other suggestions?

Thank you in advance :D

asked 04 Oct '16, 14:53

Oasisxxx's gravatar image


I'd rather try the salami technique. Speeding up and translating only words but without focusing on the meaning, and sacrificing your rendition and elegance of the A language sounds very counter productive.

If you're lacking speed and have to wait for too long because of the German sentence structure, that seems to suggest difficulties in reformulating and splitting ideas. In which case, IMHO, you should be working on your rendition and increasing the flexibility you have in your target language, rather than doing the total opposite by translating words as they come but without seeing the bigger picture.

Bear in mind that the eloquence and the way you make use of your A language will just as much be under scrutiny as the precision of your interpreting.

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answered 04 Oct '16, 15:37

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 04 Oct '16, 15:43

Thank you Gaspar! I'll try your suggestion as well. Sometimes it's not really about reformulating, it's that when I hear words I know how they are in my mother tongue but can't recall it fast enough... so yes, probably I shoud work on my A language.

(05 Oct '16, 03:24) Oasisxxx

Décalage is a quite complex concept and even if some people tend to have longer décalage than others, the main characteristic of décalage should be flexibility. Plus being able to have a long décalage is a good thing only if it's a strategic choice, and not because you're too slow in your comprehension or rendition. As pointed out by Gaspar, being able to be concise in your rendition is what makes you fast, so working on your A is probably the best solution. Make sure however that the problem does not come from your instant understanding of German. Do you have the issue with your other languages as well?

One of my teachers at University gave me an exercise that could also work for you. She called it the telegram and you'll understand why: find some very fast material (start with interviews on TV or radio, and when you feel comfortable switch to news programs), and interpret it by only using key words. The result should sound like an oral telegram (or the notes you would take in consec but said out loud). You should be able to understand the meaning only by listening to these keywords (don't forget to record yourself and listen to it afterwards). Once you're comfortable with that exercise, start adding more words to your rendition, and progress until you use full sentences.

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answered 04 Oct '16, 15:53

Camille%20Collard's gravatar image

Camille Collard

Thank you very much! German is not as strong as my English, but sometimes I have slow reflexes even when I understand everything, it's like "I know the word, I know it, how is it in Italian?" I can't recall it fast enough from my mother tongue... it takes me that moment too long which makes me miss the sentence that comes after. Thank you very much for your suggestion!

(05 Oct '16, 03:20) Oasisxxx

I understand the feeling. Don't forget though that there area many different ways of expressing an idea in your mother tongue, so try not to get too stuck on words. Another good exercise is to do sight translation and try to find as many different reformulations as possible.

(05 Oct '16, 03:33) Camille Collard

Thanks again!! =)

(05 Oct '16, 04:04) Oasisxxx

Gaspar and Camille are right. The way you've been doing things won't work for long (even if it might for short simple sentences). Here's a description of the the salami technique in detail.

With German you are going to either have to create shorter sentences from the longer ones, and/or where necessary add neutral verbs to create them. Or anticipate the verb that you're waiting for. The Jones version of the technique is quite 'pure' in that it suggests always thinking and speaking in sentences. My experience is that many interpreters use the same technique but work in clauses or 'units of meaning'. It might go something like this...

In heutigen Zeiten mache ich mir sehr viele Sorgen – das will ich noch kurz sagen –, dass die technischen Entwicklungen, die unsere Gesellschaft massiv verändern, in einer solchen Geschwindigkeit voranschreiten, dass die politischen Verantwortungsträger kaum – um nicht zu sagen, wenn ich mich betrachte: nicht immer – mitkommen. (Speech by Merkel)

I'm very concerned these days - I have to say. Advances in technology are changing our society. And those advances are coming very fast. (And I'm concerned that...) They are coming so fast that politicians can hardly keep up.

So you chop it up and repeat things like 'advances' and 'concerned' in subsequent sentences so that it's still clear. Repetition is allowed! (The version I've suggested is not terribly elegant, but then neither is Merkel's original, for different reasons. She's filling her sentences with asides and clauses. I've got lots of slightly repetitive short sentences. A draw!)

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answered 05 Oct '16, 08:17

Andy's gravatar image


Thank you so much for your clarity and the practical example! :D

(05 Oct '16, 19:04) Oasisxxx


I think there is also a psychological side to this ‘problem’. Of course there is the disponibilité linguistique component (D. Gile), but I believe that sometimes we tend to think so much about the problems we may have -or think we have, that we become obsessed, and that is precisely what clouds our minds when we are interpreting. And you gave a perfect example of this:

[...] but sometimes I have slow reflexes even when I understand everything, it's like "I know the word, I know it, how is it in Italian?"

If you ask yourself that question while you are interpreting, you may miss the next sentence and probably a whole idea that you will not be able to render. So, in addition to all the precious advice that Gaspar, Camille and Andrew gave you already, I would suggest you don’t let your brain 'talk to you' while you are interpreting. Focus on the message, not on the words.

It is good and necessary that we be aware of our weak points, especially when we are preparing for a test, but don’t let the thought of them undermine your performance while you are working.

In bocca al lupo! ;)

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answered 09 Oct '16, 07:29

David's gravatar image



David, thank you so much! You made me realize that the psychological component plays a larger role than we sometimes think... and yes, maybe in this case also my lack of self-esteem and confidence is an obstacle to my improvement. It is as if I had convinced myself that I'm too slow and can't improve...

(09 Oct '16, 08:48) Oasisxxx

Long decalage is a wrong advice. Decalage should be appropriate to the situation and language combination and a particular text. It has actually been found that shorter decalage is a sign of a better simul skill.


Source language segmentation first with written text

Shadowing of very fast texts

Exercises to develop faster speaking rates

Switching from text to meaning

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answered 06 Nov '16, 23:08

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

" It has actually been found that shorter decalage is a sign of a better simul skill."

It might be a bit off topic, but could you tell me which study (or studies) you're referring to? That sounds very interesting! Thank you.

(07 Nov '16, 12:29) Camille Collard

Dear Camille, I heard it in Rome at an AIIC seminar. I ll double check the reference and post it here. Cyril

(07 Nov '16, 12:33) Cyril Flerov

Check out the study by Stephanie Díaz Galaz (done at the U. of Granada as her PhD and published in issue 17:1 of Interpreting), who used EVS as a parameter to assess the performance quality of SI with and without prior preparation. She found that in the condition with preparation,accuracy scores were higher, whereas EVS was shorter. Please refer to the published study for details:

Answer courtesy of Franz Poechhacker

(07 Nov '16, 19:19) Cyril Flerov

Thank you very much Cyril, it was indeed on my reading list! Actually, in the same issue of Interpreting, there is an article by Bart Defrancq "Corpus-based research into the presumed effects of short EVS" that concludes that a short EVS does not necessarily have a negative impact on the quality. However, this applies to professional interpreters, who have probably developed strategies that allow them to have a short EVS. I don't think that we could go as far as saying that a short EVS is linked to a better simultaneous though (at least, for now). I think this mostly shows that there is no rule of thumb when it comes to EVS, and one must learn to adapt it to the situation.

(08 Nov '16, 06:28) Camille Collard

I ll check that article out.

EVS is not negative or positive per se, it is just too short or too long for a particular text or rather for a particular unit of meaning (translation unit).

In any instance, a longer EVS is not a sign of a better skill though some claim it to be the case. Beginners tend to increase EVS in SI unnecessarily (sometimes simply because they do not have enough processing speed yet), so one of the first tasks in SI training to me is to show how to find the shortest acceptable EVS and how to "play" with EVS i.e. to lengthen it by stalling or shorten by compression often within one sentence. ("yo-yo ball feeling" you have in simul)

One of the biggest misconceptions is to speak of EVS as a constant. It is constantly changing even within one sentence. However, with skill you leran to keep EVS at the minimum acceptable size (with emphasis on minimum and acceptable being a required condition without going into literal or breaking boundaries of units of meaning.

In that sense shorter EVS is a sign of better skill. And do not get me wrong, in some cases EVS may be extremely long because required by grammar, but it will still be the shortest acceptable one.

So "playing with EVS" within text or even better a sentence is a real training goal.

(08 Nov '16, 08:46) Cyril Flerov

Ok I see what you mean and yes I totally agree: if you manage to do a great job while keeping your EVS as short as possible, it's definitely a sign of good interpreting skills. As much as being able to increase your EVS when needed. I guess the reason why a long EVS is often associated with better sim skills is because trainers want to encourage their students to take a step back and understand the speaker before talking. It should therefore be considered more as a training technique, and a possible strategy, rather than as the best technique. I think we all agree that flexibility is the key!

(09 Nov '16, 05:16) Camille Collard

We are totally on the same page, Camille. Long decalage is an urban legend.

(09 Nov '16, 16:29) Cyril Flerov
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question asked: 04 Oct '16, 14:53

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