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Hello everyone! I’m a second-year student in conference interpreting who will soon have to sit her final exam (around mid-May). I’m generally a pretty good student, my average grade is around 14 (French system), all my professors are satisfied with my performances and some of them told me they think I have a talent for interpreting. And yet... I feel like I’m not progressing anymore. I feel like I have the potential to perform better but somehow it looks like I cannot get anymore than that damn 14. I’m working every day, I go to bed early and wake up at 6 am every morning to read and listen in my languages and learn new words, I practice sim and cons and record myself, but I feel like my level is stagnating. I talked about this with a professor and she said that, quite the opposite, she has seen progress, that sometimes I miss out details in the delivery but I’ll get better with some experience, etc... and that it’s normal sometimes to feel like you’re “stuck” and not going on anymore... The fact is: I would like to do a “qualitative leap”, to pass from being a “fairly good student” to an “excellent student”, but right now I’m at a loss as to how I could do this leap. When I listen to my recordings I realize that, even when all the information is there, I’m not always fluent, I tend to correct myself or say some mmhh and uuhh or that my rhythm is not constant. I thought I could do some shadowing in my mother tongue with excellent speakers, what do you think about this? Does any of you have some advice you would give a student that is already pretty good but aims at excellence? What tells a good interpretation and an excellent interpretation apart?

(the reason why I’m asking this is also that I’ve been granted a study bursary from SCIC and that I’ll have to sit my accreditation test when I’m done with university)

Answers are welcome in EN or DE :)

asked 17 Jan '15, 11:08

Oasisxxx's gravatar image


edited 21 Jan '15, 17:38

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Hi all,

I just wanted to thank all of you once again. A few days ago I sat my final interpreting exam and passed it with flying colours! So eventually, I think I did manage to pass from fairly good to excellent =) at least that's what the EC Head of the Italian Unit told me before inviting me to sit the accreditation test in Brussels as soon as possible :D

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answered 24 May '15, 12:20

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edited 24 May '15, 12:21

Congratulations! If you have questions regarding the accreditation test or the life of a beginner in Brussels, get in touch. :-)

(25 May '15, 07:18) Gaspar ♦♦

Thank you!! Are you a staff or a freelance interpreter for the European Institutions? =)

(25 May '15, 17:16) Oasisxxx

I've been accredited in March 2013 and have been working as a freelancer since, in the French booth.

(26 May '15, 07:59) Gaspar ♦♦

Wow, tout un programme.

  1. Take it easy. You don't have to learn the newspaper by heart nor know about every tiny detail of what is happening around the globe. Yes, you need to be informed, yes, your general knowledge has to improve. But by all means, don't get sleep deprived over this. Listening to the BBC while cooking and watching LCI why you're ironing your shirts should be a lifestyle, but not perceived as being homework (i.e. something you do because you have to, rather than because you want to).

  2. Do it step by step. Focus on small goals. If you notice parasite words you say or sounds you do, try interpreting any given speech focusing on that problem. Do it for a week or son until that given point is corrected.

  3. Take breaks, have naps. There's no point of doing twelve consecs a day if you're brain dead. Do less, but do 'em right.

  4. Believe in yourself. You will say stupid things if you're brain is busy thinking that you're doing a bad job. On the other hand, if you're just focusing on the speech, miracles happen. Some speeches just hurt and can't be done perfectly. Just hang in there, do your best, don't obsess about it.

  5. Don't be too hard on yourself. Would a layperson have understood what you were saying? If yes, your job is done. Everything else you need to improve is secondary and can be improved. You'll get more and more information across, will be able to have more décalage. It's like going to the gym. You can't lift your own weight after only three workouts and you can't always measure your progression.

  6. Be aware that having the feeling that you're not improving is normal. Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. Progression isn't linear. But you still need to practice on a regular basis (but remember, regular doesn't mean non-stop).

  7. Be aware that your trainers' comments only apply to a given performance or period, yet trust their judgement. If they say you did a good job, you probably did. Listen to your recording to see what details you still could improve, as you know what your recurring mistakes are.

  8. Wear sunscreen.

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answered 17 Jan '15, 11:32

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Gaspar ♦♦

edited 17 Jan '15, 11:37

Thank you so much Gaspar for all your useful tips! In particular I must keep in mind point 2 and 5, they are sometimes things I tend to forget… at times we students seem to forget that our goal is to make two or more people communicate effectively, and that when this happens everything else is secondary!

(18 Jan '15, 06:30) Oasisxxx

You're doing the right things and Julia and Gaspar are suggesting more useful ideas. The one (frustrating) element that is missing is patience!

Getting better, and becoming an expert is not a quick process nor a linear one. Compare your performances 6 months apart, rather than 6 weeks apart and the difference might be easier to see. In the meantime you will have bad days and good days. Just fewer and fewer of the former with any luck.

The diploma and the accreditation tests are just stageposts on the long road to excellence. Keep working on it, try not to worry about it!

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answered 18 Jan '15, 02:18

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edited 18 Jan '15, 02:20


Thank you for your answer! You nailed it Andy… I lack patience =( there are some periods in which progress is fast and tangible, and it nerves me when it slows down. But as you say, the learning process is not linear and therefore periods of no or little progress must simply be taken into account…

(18 Jan '15, 06:37) Oasisxxx

Hello and congratulations on your desire to get better!

Just so you know, all the students we are in contact with feel pretty much the same way - they are wondering why they aren't improving, what they can do, why things they thought they had gotten rid of are returning (ums, death rattles, backtracking), are they made for this, etc. etc. This is the time, January of the last year of your degree, when everyone hits a wall of sorts.

First of all, I agree with Gaspar's list wholeheartedly.

I can also recommend a text by Chris Guichot de Fortis on practicing. link text Unfortunately the body of the text is in French (maybe you can use it as a practice text for sight translation with a student who has French?), but three of the substantial annexes are in English: one is an excerpt from a book on elite practice; one is an article that Chris wrote on shadowing; one is a description of a local practice group. They may be of help.

Make sure you don't only practice on your own, but also in groups; you can all motivate each other. And make sure you have fun! If you see interpreting as something you want, but it's always painful, you will simply be carrying out your own aversion therapy.

Good luck, and I look forward to hearing that you crashed through that wall.

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answered 17 Jan '15, 17:41

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Thank you so much for taking the time to answer :D I understand some French and the text you linked is gold! Thanks so much for that :) it also makes me feel better to know my situation is common among students at this stage of the learning process!

(18 Jan '15, 06:33) Oasisxxx

Hallo Oasisxxx,

da ich Dir keine PN schicken kann, muss ich hier mit Dir Kontakt aufnehmen. Wenn Du einverstanden wärst, möchte ich Dir per E-Mail ein paar Fragen über deine Zeit as "fairly good" bzw mittlerweile "excellent" Student stellen.

Es ist für mich im Oktober soweit - an der ESIT - und die Fragen (und Zweifeln) drängen sich natürlich auf :-)

Für alle Fälle, gebe ich Dir meine Mailadresse:



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answered 27 May '15, 13:37

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question asked: 17 Jan '15, 11:08

question was seen: 6,538 times

last updated: 27 May '15, 13:37

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