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As far as my understanding, CI is a combination of basic skills (mastery of mental process) and knowledge of disciplines/ subject areas, so I have a question regarding how to get prepared for the latter.

In contrast to preparing for a specific subject matter/ conference, this type of preparation should be somehow different( done during training). The time and schedule is relatively sufficient, and targett information such as subject matter/ speaker/ theme, etc is open. What kind of strategy do you apply? An top downward one (aiming for general knowledge, starting from ABC) or an opposite way (starting from specific recorded speech one by one, similating the conference)?

And what are the major points to keep in mind? What techniques are suitable in this course? Thanks in advance.

asked 01 Feb '13, 04:48

Paris%20Si%20de%20Chine's gravatar image

Paris Si de ...

reverted 01 Feb '13, 04:58

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Dear Paris,

Whenever a professional interpreter is offered an assignment which involves specialised knowledge or skills, he/she should first of all do some soul-searching to find out whether accepting the assignment would be professional.

AIIC's Code of Professional Ethics says the following:

Members of the Association shall not accept any assignment for which they are not qualified. Acceptance of an assignment shall imply a moral undertaking on the member's part to work with all due professionalism.

So what we must ask ourselves is:

  • Do we have enough basic understanding of the subject area to grasp any more detailed and specialised information which is bound to be discussed during the assignment?
  • How much time must we realistically invest to consider ourselves well-prepared for the assignment?
  • Do we really have sufficient time available until the assignment (deducting sufficient time for any other duties including family-time)?
  • Will the client provide sufficient background information and/or texts or powerpoints etc. in due time for us to see what the conference will focus on and to prepare accordingly?
  • Will it be possible to access other sources of information on the topic (libraries, internet - or do we live in a place where power cuts make internet access difficult -, textbooks, experts we might be able to talk to etc.)?

Once we have answered these questions in a way that can make us confident that it is possible to prepare for the assignment and master the challenges, the following steps might be taken to get prepared for the assignment:

1) A basic "one-person-brainstorming" to think about what I already know about the topic, which buzzwords come to mind, which books or texts or related glossaries I might already have at home or in the computer to get started with. With some subject areas (e.g. electricity, physics, medicine, mechanics) textbooks you might still have from your school days are actually well worth reviewing. The basic vocabulary will be found in many basic texts - e.g. medical books for nurses rather than complicated texts for specialised physicians.

2) Visit websites recommended by the client or do some individual searching on the web - even for glossaries and definitions - to get a better understanding of the topic.

3) Consult the programme/speaker's list and find out what the speakers might have published on the topic. Usually a lot is available on the internet - quite often in various languages.

4) Find out whether there is any video or audio file available on the internet where it is possible to hear one or more of the speakers speak - so we can get an idea of their syntax, speed, style etc.

5) Whenever texts are made available, we should not forget to look at the bibliography which might also list publications in other languages - quite often titles mentioned therein contain terms we might otherwise have looked for in vain, or else they refer to other useful websites.

6) With all this information it is usually possible to get quite a comprehensive overview over the topic and write terminology lists (sometimes also adding definitions which make it easier for me to understand what I wrote if the subject comes along again some time in the future). Of course the terminology must be studied. I hardly ever rely on the laptop only and also tend to take a printed version of the glossary along to the conference which I might review again and again on the train/flight to the assignment.

7) Sometimes there are matters which are not easily understood. In such cases it is advisable to ask the recruiting interpreter (if it is not yourself) whether one could contact the client to get some explanation and let him/her contact the client. Sometimes the client then arranges for the speakers to meet the interpreters before the conference or before the presentation starts to explain what they wanted to say. This in turn helps us to find the proper way to interpret.

8) Of course, the team of interpreters can also discuss certain terms before the conference starts or share glossaries or information by e-mail beforehand so that they can all agree on certain terms.

Should you be in doubt as to whether you should accept an assignment or not, it might not be a bad idea to call a senior interpreter in your region and ask his or her advice. You should NOT fear that turning down an assignment will keep colleagues from calling you again. In fact, it is a sign of professinalism to say, for example: *"Thank you very much for offering me this interesting assignment which I would love to accept - however, since I will not have sufficent time to prepare for it, you will certainly understand that I will have to turn your offer down."*

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answered 01 Feb '13, 16:51

AlmuteL's gravatar image


edited 01 Feb '13, 17:03

Dear Almute:

Thanks for your valuable sharing of experience/ comprehensive considerations. To some extent, it can serve as some golden rule to decide either accepting or declining an assignment. Also, your ideas have help to make the preparation course concrete in my mind. Thank you so much.

From your answer, I understand that, for my current stage, the general preparation means to grasp the basic thinking, framework with those materials as simple as possible, am I right?

And all time before the conference is preparation stage, yet it is course of laying foundation (guided by prediction of possible discipline), and gradually grasping and focusing on a clearer and clearer target (with information from client).

I see the preparation work demands a lot time, efforts, more importantly patience. Only with love of this profession and rigorous professionalism can one be a qualified CI. I will learn all these valuable merits from seniors like you. Thank you. :-)

(01 Feb '13, 21:02) Paris Si de ...

Yes, Paris, as a beginner it is advisable to first stay with the basics, to read textbooks, to be informed about politics, economics and to make sure that you do not forget what you studied at school concerning scientific subjects. Then look up and study the terms in the languages you want to work with as an interpreter. I think highly specialised conferences should only be accepted after some years of practical experience, and if possible only with a senior colleague in the booth with you. I know what I am talking about because many years ago a senior colleague "saved me" when I turned out to be too unexperienced to cope with fast-speaking physicians suddenly mentioning topics that were not even listed in the conference programme.

(02 Feb '13, 00:26) AlmuteL

Dear Almute: thank you so much for your practical advice and I will go over the basics first, then turn to terms. It takes time to be really qualified, but with the kind guidance of you and other seniors, I am confident to continue on the path. Thanks again.:-)

(02 Feb '13, 00:55) Paris Si de ...
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question asked: 01 Feb '13, 04:48

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