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Or do you know of any who does, or examples in the literature of their use?

Apart from note-taking, and visualization (seeing a thing in your mind's eye) I have never come across the systematic use of memory techniques in interpreting. ESIT is famous for its logic-based fil rouge technique, but it's not quite the same.

That was until I recently read AIIC's book of its own history, Naissance d'une profession…

On p100, Christopher Thièry, the author and teacher for many years at ESIT, describes a conversation with André Kaminker, founding father of the profession and one of the great consecutive interpreters. A quick translation from the French would go… "While working with Kaminker in consecutive in 1949-50 Christopher Thièry asked Kaminker about his prodigious memory. Kaminker explained the mnemonic technique he used: he assigned each speech to a district of Antwerp that he could recall, in his mind's eye, in all its topographical detail. He assigned each [in the speech] idea to a shop and thus by walking down the streets of his childhood he was able to recreate the speech".

This method has been known since antiquity and is called location linking or method of loci. location linking

I've always been surprised that this, and related methods like visual linking appear to have been ignored in the interpreting literature and teaching that followed. Hence this question.

asked 22 Feb '14, 04:13

Andy's gravatar image


edited 22 Feb '14, 11:11

Nacho's gravatar image

Nacho ♦

A mes yeux, l'interprétation (consécutive) n'est pas une affaire de mémoire, mais d'analyse et de bagage cognitif. Il s'agit bien de s'approprier un sens et non de mémoriser des mots : or la compréhension dudit sens suffit en principe à l'assimiler (avec le concours des notes de consec pour ne rien oublier, pour les chiffres, noms propres etc.). Je ne crois personnellement pas beaucoup aux "trucs" mnémotechniques (pas plus qu'aux prétendues méthodes de prise de notes qui ne servent généralement qu'à coder des mots et négligent le sens).

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answered 22 Feb '14, 15:09

leprof's gravatar image



And voilà a fair summary of the Parisian approach to consec - unchanged since the 70's and of course not unsuccessful - but which IMO, unnecessarily (dogmatically even) excludes potentially useful techniques which can ASSIST the interpreter who has listened to and understood a speech - for example, systematic note-taking techniques for transferring the structure of a speech onto the note-pad (thus allowing for better rendition later), or memory techniques.

There is some contradiction here. Christopher Thièry says in "L'enseignement de la prise de notes en interpretation consecutive : un faux probleme?? here ...that the structure of the speech must be visible on the note-pad from 3 feet away. And yet at the same time rejects the use of a consistent way of representing structure on the page (a "method").

Also many of the teachers who expound such views themselves use a whole series of the same techniques in their note-taking - horizontal lines dividing ideas on the page; links noted on the left of the page; diagonal notes top-left to bottom-right; vertical lists; the use of a recall line; the consistent use of symbols and abbreviations etc. etc.

"Methods" are no more than collections of useful tricks and the view that a "method" equates to short-hand is to misunderstand them.

BUT... that was not the discussion I wanted to get into here (tho I suspected it would be brought up). I know the arguments for and against note-taking techniques (and I think my position is probably known to most) but I am looking for evidence of the actual use of memory techniques! ...

(23 Feb '14, 02:48) Andy

... Let me give you an example of a memory technique. I have often been called upon to do consecutives in which buildings, landscapes, paintings or machines that were right in front of speaker, interpreter and client, were described. In such cases notes are almost entirely unnecessary as the information can be visually attached each part of the thing I am looking at and recalled by looking in turn at each part of the object again. This is the method of loci (above) and I'm sure many interpreters use it, even if they don't name as such. (And I'm not expecting anyone to hear that anyone uses such techniques to the exclusion of understanding the speech or taking notes, but as a COMPLEMENT to those techniques. Clearly Kaminker was also listening and understanding the 30-60 minute speeches he was able to interpret from memory. But it should be equally clear that he could not have done this with this mnemonic trick - otherwise he wouldn't have used it)

(23 Feb '14, 02:59) Andy

Some of the tricks I use:

  • remembering the total number of items in a list (or e.g. the number of arguments in the speech),
  • using my fingers to count items and especially arguments, and then using my fingers again while recalling the speech (it seems that I use it kind of like the method of loci, 'linking' one argument to one finger. I definitely have to try the above-mentioned trick with using the interpreting setting for that.)
  • writing numbers 'in the air' if I can't write them down (this trick, as well as the previous one, obviously cannot be used in some situations where it would look unprofessional),
  • using a short break in the speech to mentally 'review' the list of previous points (I did it during CI studies when I had to memorize speeches without taking notes; this is of little use in my professional life, though, as I make use of short breaks to start interpreting, or take notes for longer speeches).
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answered 23 Feb '14, 18:03

Joanna's gravatar image


edited 23 Feb '14, 18:05

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