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With some study and several tries, I have my gains: one one hand, there is progress, about understanding the profession, skills required, mental process, and some basic skills; on the other hand, I become less confident about myself.

To be frank, before I touched this area, (when I did sight interpreting), I felt I could interpret any article of general contents with small amount of specialized terms, although more time and words are required than in CI; but now, I feel that I cannot do it, and more is required to be studied, esp. for English. My reason tells me that it is fine, I have just come to a new stage, and all this is only a temporary thing, which will pass.

So I wonder for a training student who aims to become a CI practitioner, what are the stages for him/ her to go through? I remember one senior ever said that it takes six months to concentrate. Is concentration the first stage? And what are the others? Thanks in advance.

asked 11 Feb '13, 22:32

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

Paris Si de ...

edited 13 Feb '13, 08:05

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Paris, this is a VERY tall order, it's a subject-matter that can only be fielded by refering you to a great many books and research thesis on the topic :-), all of which are listed in those bibliographies you're already familiar with.

In a nutshell, one never stops learning and hopefully improving: do not let the extent of your ignorance stop you... I would have crawled into a hole a long time ago, otherwise :-). Then again, often times when self-diagnosing it, we are too harsh, also because we do not really know how much we actually do know, ie what stores lie hidden in our brains to tap when needed...

I suspect it's particularly difficult for someone learning anything on her own to gauge her progress and determine whether it's par for the course or otherwise, be it in connection with languages or technique: perhaps you should take a language test to have something of a validated notion of your actual level, before you compound the problem by attempting to interpret from it, for which non-linguistic knowledge is also required?

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answered 13 Feb '13, 15:12

msr's gravatar image


Hi, MSR: thank for your sincere and kind advice for my difficult question. Yes, I did struggle to figure out my actual language level, and got some idea about my level after some online tests.

As for the "stages", I suppose that it is not visible to an extent enough to be noticed, because mainly mental process is involved, besides we interpreters are not necessarily researchers at the same time. During training, the accomplishment of skills and expertise is the main and sole target. As you mentioned about the "stages", obviously my efforts are not enough, and I should and will do more work to abstract them from the books. Thanks.

Yes, I should not be limited by myself, and I will make good use of external resources to assess and improve my knowledge. Thanks again.:-)

(13 Feb '13, 20:41) Paris Si de ...

Like Manuel, I cannot offer you a detailed list of stages. What I can tell you is that the learning curve you describe is typical - there are always ups (e.g. when one has learned something and incorporated the lesson), and there are downs (e.g. when one is now learning something new and has yet to fully incorporate it, or has realized that he doesn't know what he thought he knew and has to take a step back to rectify). And in my experience the learning never stops - unless one becomes overly complacent and stops learning.

If you feel less than confident about English, I would advise you to attack the problem. Define your level and take a course or courses appropriate for your level. Include oral and written comprehension as well as speaking. Work with context and not just words. And don't consider it a defeat - interpreters are always learning (even their native language).

So, it may indeed be a a "temporary thing" but it won't just "pass" - you'll have to overcome it by working on it.

One last point: interpreting is not a mechanical process (and I am not saying you think it is). A list of points or stages or techniques or skills that one can go through - or read about - is not enough. Interpreting is about communicating and knowing "how to" rather than "about"- but that takes us back to the beginning, so I'll leave it there for now.

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answered 13 Feb '13, 19:17

Luigi's gravatar image


Hi, Luigi: thanks for your kind instructions, and I am trying to digest your ideas.

Yes, I absolutely agree with you to overcome the problem by working on it.

A lot of thanks to your last point. This is a great correction of my opinion. Yes, interpreting is about communicating, and I will always keep speaker and my audience in mind. "How to" "communicate" well between them is my main focus, do I understand it right?Thanks a lot.:-)

(13 Feb '13, 20:59) Paris Si de ...

Paris - "to communicate well" is very broad. For me communicating includes many things, such as presenting one's version in a clear and understandable way (including accent), with logic and argumentation appropriate to the target language, with internal coherence, with any subtly that the original contained (including meaning expressed indirectly but that would be picked up by any native speaker of the source language), with correct emphasis, etc. As others before me have said, we first grasp the speakers message, its full meaning, and then we express it in the target language.

(14 Feb '13, 18:48) Luigi

Yes, Luigi, thank you for your clear explanation. I will bear these as principles in mind, and at the same time focus on "how to" part. Thanks again. Good day! :-)

(15 Feb '13, 18:25) Paris Si de ...

Personally, I found the Four Stages of Competence model quite useful in improving my understanding of the learning process in general. Here a Wikipedia article but you can find more about it in literature.

During my interpreting studies, I felt like this model matches the interpreter's education quite well. For instance, you may feel like you can sight translate any article (stage 1) but then you realize how much you actually have to learn (stage 2). This may apply to various modes and sub-skills in CI.

Obviously, it is no more than just a model (one of many) and, consequently, a huge simplification of the much more complex reality.

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answered 14 Feb '13, 19:09

Joanna's gravatar image


edited 23 Feb '15, 02:55

Yes, Joanna, thanks for your sharing of knowledge. This simple model is very interesting and instructive. Thanks a lot.:-)

(15 Feb '13, 18:27) Paris Si de ...

Hello! I realize that it's a bit late to answer, but there is an article on the psychological side of learning to be a conference interpreter here: link text The important thing is to know that you are not alone!

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answered 22 Feb '15, 07:58

JuliaP's gravatar image


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question asked: 11 Feb '13, 22:32

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