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I am a CI student trying to pass his two last 1st year exams. I have just taken my sim exam from German into Italian, but I haven't passed it because, so my professor, my voice reveals stress and anxiety while in the booth. Now, I have to say that I was particurarly nervous for this exam, but I am also aware that my anxiety always impairs my delivery during sim exams (I've passed other sim exams, but I could have done much better with more self-control). So, do you have any tips to cope with stress and anxiety? I fear this problem could jeopardize my professional career, should I fail to overcome it.

asked 26 Sep '13, 08:45

Stefano's gravatar image


retagged 26 Sep '13, 11:58

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

I took and failed my exams. One thing I'd have done differently (throughout my whole course, really) is to exercise and get out more. I can't recommend sports highly enough, they make a huge difference in life. I also find I should have spent more time hanging out, letting my brain relax. Maybe these things will help you :)

(27 Sep '13, 07:32) TheInterpret...

Meditation is an option. I mean active meditation in the booth. Try to separate your consciousness into two parts: active and passive. Let the interpretation happen in the active part and you remain in the passive part and observe yourself doing the interpretation. Whatever happens do not leave the passive part. Do not think that "you" are doing the interpretation, it is just happening. You are feeling the stress that you will get used to later on. Correct breathing is the key too. Diaphragmatic breathing helps. See if my comments here help:

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answered 06 Oct '13, 21:14

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

Sometimes it actually occurs to me (when I practice with my colleagues and so I'm particularly relaxed) that I just do the interpretation with some kind of distance, without putting too much effort in the process, and that's when I get the best results. I don't know if it is the form of meditation you mentioned, but is there anything I can do to develop it, even in more stressful situations?

(07 Oct '13, 04:53) Stefano

Stefano I think it is a very accurate description. You need to realize that at an early stage of any complex skill acquisition your neuron network is rewiring. What you see now as stress will not be noticed afterwards after 10,000 hours of practice. I think the state of concentration/meditation is a must for any professional interpreter. You can acquire it by practice and by reframing your attitude to interpretation: do not concentrate on results or performance,think about interpretation as of a timeline where you simply go from a moment to a moment to a moment. If you evaluate yourself in the process of interpretation you will lose the required distance, just observe yourself in the process of interpreting. The correct process is effortless, you just need to shut down your mind. Easier said than done though, it takes time to learn it. You need to get into the process of "flow" but again it takes practice and reframning your mind/shutting it down/observing yourself.

(07 Oct '13, 13:26) Cyril Flerov

Thank you. I feel that these are the hints I needed most :-)

(07 Oct '13, 19:46) Stefano

Glad you find them useful! Happy interpreting and thank you for choosing this wonderful profession!

(07 Oct '13, 19:57) Cyril Flerov

Coping with stress is one thing and it's very personal. In this profession you'll have to cope with situations that will make you much more nervous than an exam.

But your voice and breath mustn't "reveal stress and anxiety while in the booth". You just cannot stress the people who listen to you. They should neither hear nor feel your anxiety.

Voice training and breathing techniques during and after my studies have helped me not to "appear" nervous and to improve my delivery.

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answered 26 Sep '13, 17:27

Angela's gravatar image


That was actually the fist time I was told of my 'anxious' voice, maybe because, as I said, I was particularly nervous for this exam, more than for others anyway. But I will carry out some research on voice training and breathing techniques, thank you!

(27 Sep '13, 03:22) Stefano

I would add one bit of simple advice. Your professors actually want you to do well and pass, so get that idea into your head starting now. Though they have to judge your performance, they are with you, not against you.

So when you get into the booth, remind yourself of that. Take a few breaths while you think of that and center your concentration. Don't worry about being perfect; tell yourself: "I'm about to do this the best I can. I have a friendly audience out there and I'll simply communicate the message as best I can for them."

In one of my exams I actually made a silly mistake, using a calque for a word I certainly knew. One of the examiners pointed that out and added: "But you made it sound all sound so good that I thought that one little thing didn't matter."

Good luck.

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answered 26 Sep '13, 19:06

Luigi's gravatar image


Thank you! I will definitely bear this in mind!

(27 Sep '13, 03:20) Stefano

I took and failed my exams. One thing I'd have done differently (throughout my whole course, really) is to exercise and get out more. I can't recommend sports highly enough, they make a huge difference in life. I also find I should have spent more time hanging out, letting my brain relax. Maybe these things will help you :)

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answered 27 Sep '13, 07:32

TheInterpretator's gravatar image


I absolutely agree with you.

(27 Sep '13, 07:59) Stefano

Some advice was already mentioned in less specific topics. Two of them are dealing with tips for exams in general:

I used to consider the exams as any other sim/consec exercice with my tutors (and a few other friendly but unknown faces). To be taken seriously, yet not impossible to do. I told myself that I was there to show my trainers only what they'd already know: That I was good enough. If you performed well during the year, just focus on being as good as you always were.

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answered 26 Sep '13, 11:40

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 26 Sep '13, 11:42

That's a good advice I will try to put into practice next time, even though psychology is no easy stuff!

(26 Sep '13, 12:23) Stefano

With my very limited experience (I have only just started my CI course, but have done sim during my BA and passed the exams, and also having passed sim into two languages during my DPSI exam) I can say the following:

  1. With more practice, you will inadvertently discover a calming technique that works for you. I found I am calmer when I do something with my hands (scribbling, etc.) and what works even better is when I put the volume of the speech up, so I can barely hear my voice. I know what I'm saying, but I seem to concentrate easier and the words just flow.

  2. What you can also do is have a few sessions with a hypnotherapist or psychologist. Once they explain what actually goes on in your brain during high levels of anxiety, the way you'll tackle this will change. You'll simply see this in a different light. They'll also teach you a few relaxing techniques.

I hope this will help you.

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answered 27 Sep '13, 06:39

Diana's gravatar image


Thank you, Diana, interesting hints

(27 Sep '13, 06:47) Stefano

"(scribbling, etc.) and what works even better is when I put the volume of the speech up, so I can barely hear my voice."

These two can seriously back-fire, even if they turn out to work quite well for you :

  • The jury will be attentive to professional conduct, e.g. parasite noise in the booth. Scribbling should be kept to a minimum and/or one should be certain that it can't be heard in the room.

  • Barely hearing yourself will (in many cases) have a negative effect: You'll need to speak louder. You'll require more efforts to do the same job and will get tired quicker. One of the techniques to cope with fatigue is to lower the incoming volume and reduce the volume of your own voice accordingly. The A language might suffer if you don't focus enough on what you're saying. Since people tend to fail mostly because of stress AND a weak A language, hindering the ability to control one's output should be avoided.

(27 Sep '13, 07:13) Gaspar ♦♦

I agree, putting the volume speech up is not a good method. It is not enough to KNOW what you are saying, you have to actually be able to HEAR it.

Furthermore, for some people the quality of voice goes significantly down if they speak loud on the micro. For me, the high volume of my voice is a stress indicator - in the training, I would speak louder when the speech was getting faster/more difficult and I was getting more and more nervous. To reduce the stress level and make a calmer impression, it actually helps me to lower the volume down a bit and speak more quietly - my voice sounds calmer then.

(28 Sep '13, 02:39) Joanna

I never said I speak louder because I put the volume up. It actually relaxes me and I speak calmly with a normal voice. It's like the speaker's voice takes over, my mind is freed up and the words just flow better.

And of course we have to be aware of the noise we make in the booth. But please, no one will hear your scribbling on a thick notepad. Some interpreters knit for example, or so I heard.

Do whatever works for you :)

(29 Sep '13, 05:53) Diana
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question asked: 26 Sep '13, 08:45

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