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Does anyone know of research or professional insights into breathing strategies during consecutive-mode interpreting?

asked 15 Nov '16, 22:12

Grezm's gravatar image


...other than that it's heartily recommended, not really, no :-) . More seriously, though, I don't think that when it comes to breathing there's anything setting us apart from every other speaker (but I obviously stand to be corrected) so whatever's generally available ( ) would be it, methinks.

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answered 16 Nov '16, 09:21

msr's gravatar image


I don't think that when it comes to breathing there's anything setting us apart from every other speaker (but I obviously stand to be corrected)

Admittedly, it's not an everyday scenario... but when in the booth and in a setting that requires a very precise rendition with virtually no shortcuts, we're in this unusual situation where we aren't deciding ourselves about the speed of our delivery.

To make things worse, if you happen to work in a direction that requires more syllables than the source language (typically in my case, EN to FR) and/or if the speaker reads out a text, hence doesn't have to pause to think, I'm more likely than the average speaker to struggle to find the time and the right moment when to breathe. Before I got the chance to attend a voice coaching training, I would hit the mute button every now and then and gulp for air, as if I were drowning. This shortness of breath often impacted my own comfort when speed was of essence.

Similarly, when we'd momentarily increase our ear-voice-span, we later have to play catch up. This variation in speed can have an influence on our breathing and it's something the average speaker wouldn't have to deal with that often in a short period of time. They could start nervous and then calm down and slow down, or they could get upset and get faster, but the change in speed is more progressive and less frequent than what we'd be doing in the booth.

(16 Nov '16, 09:33) Gaspar ♦♦

Hi Gaspar :-) Yes, booth work would probably be able to claim a modicum of specificity via-à-vis other speakers - the question does refer to consecutive, though :-). Even in the booth, however, we may not be that singular, namely when it comes to our not controlling the speed of the original... but then again neither does, say, a football commentator control the pace of the match, does s/he?

(16 Nov '16, 09:45) msr

".other than that it's heartily recommended" lol!

(22 Nov '16, 04:07) Andy

Hi Michael,

@Andy mentions delivery exercises in his book, which you can buy here.

Voice coaching sessions always cover breathing techniques as one of the pillars involved in the body's sound producing apparatus. Understanding how the body works, how we react to stress and how breathing can affect stress levels (and vice versa) can help a big deal when one can't overcome their problems. I took part in a two day coaching that allowed me to overcome some unconscious, disturbing habits.

Incidentally, stress management workshops for interpreters can prove to be very helpful as well.

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answered 16 Nov '16, 09:23

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 16 Nov '16, 09:23

Thanks everyone for the suggestions and resources. I like the idea of taking stress management workshops to better strategically place breaths during consecutive.

To follow up - I've been observing interpreters that use one of two distinct strategies while rendering:

  1. Breath between concepts.
  2. Breath mid-way through concepts.

It seems that breathing between concepts is better suited towards the interpreter maintaining a more focused and deliberate stance while rendering. Breathing in the middle of a concept seems to be an indicator that the interpreter is dealing with a lot of stress.

Any thoughts?

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answered 17 Nov '16, 11:50

Grezm's gravatar image


I don't think it's that much a matter of when you pause, but whether you actually had decided to pause or simply couldn't do otherwise. Pauses should be enabling you to do a better delivery rather than being a hinderance.

See also:

(17 Nov '16, 12:00) Gaspar ♦♦

1) Do not hold your breath when you are listening to the original especially if you are stressed out. You should be aware of your breathing when you are listening.

2) Use your breath as a natural metronome to maintain proper rhythm. Rememebr that breaths give you time to think and process information.

3) Avoid the pattern when you inhale, speak for a long period of time and then empty your lungs and then inhale again. It will create unnatural pauses and will not allow you to speak fast. Space small inhalations relative frequently ie after every syntagm or sentence.

4) Avoid hyperventilation when excited.

5) Do not breathe through your noise especially if you are using a microphone.

See more exercises at:

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answered 17 Nov '16, 16:25

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

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question asked: 15 Nov '16, 22:12

question was seen: 2,702 times

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