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This is for anyone who practises interpreting on a regular basis, especially if they do whispering or consecutive regularly.

How to you manage your voice? Do you regularly go to an ENT specialist?

asked 16 Oct '11, 20:14

silvia-c's gravatar image


edited 16 Oct '11, 23:34

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Every interpreter will have his own tricks for maintaining a healthy voice. Taking formal voice training or coaching early on in your career will save you a lot of misery with voice strain later on (some interpreting courses offer workshops or classes in voice coaching to students), since voice problems are often not due to overuse, but to misuse.

My very own voice coach at Westminster, the amazing Ailsa Gudgeon, wrote this article for the AIIC site: Voice Coaching for Interpreters.

Despite her excellent guidance during my student days, I often have problems with my voice, and my doctor has told me that the best cure is complete rest for your vocal cords (obviously not possible when on a contract!), plus drinking plenty of liquids. Herbal tea with honey is my personal favourite. Colleagues have recommended all sorts of treatments, from cortisone to homeopathic remedies, but I have never found anything that works better.

The interpreting blog Bootheando has looked at the issue of caring for your voice in her posts (in Spanish) Voz no hay más que una , which includes a video clip by the voice expert Michael Maccallion, and Conciencia vocal y corporal para intérpretes.

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answered 18 Oct '11, 23:25

Michelle's gravatar image


edited 19 Oct '11, 00:05

  • Get enough sleep, that's the most important thing.
  • Stay out of alcohol 24 hours before a meeting
  • Don't drink coffee, or anything with cafeine, theine, taurine, etc. less than 90 minutes before going on mic. You'll get a dry mouth if you do.
  • Take a little something sweet if your mouth tends to dry up or click. Half a teaspoon of honey 15 minutes before you switch on your mic will make you salivate. Honey is naturally antibacterial and nice on the throat and vocal chords.
  • Smile regularly at appropriate moments when you interpret. It'll make you and your listeners feel good and it will relax your vocal chords.
  • When off-duty in the booth, turn around, wag your chin ( literally, not with your boothmates... ) and do some neck stretching. Done properly, it'll deepen your voice. A deeper voice is a more energetic voice, both for the interpreter and the audience.
  • Once a week when you're alone at home and no-one is bothering you, hold a pencil in your mouth and practice your elocution with tongue-twisters. "A big black bug bit a big black bear, made the big black bear bleed blood.", etc. Google them up in your target language. Make a recording. Replay the recording from the last week and the recording of the day and see how that compares. You'll be surprised how different it may come off. Ask yourself why and act on it.

These are some of the tips that interpreters who do regularly TV and/or voice-over work get from their voice coaches.

If you're a long-time interpreter and have never had any voice-coaching ( it may be different now, but when I was an interpreting student nobody ever said anything about voice management and skills... ) make sure you do a voice management course with a recognised professional at the earliest opportunity.

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answered 25 Oct '11, 23:56

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

edited 26 Oct '11, 02:08

Dear Silvia,

There are 2 exercises that I do on a regular basis and so far they worked pretty well with me:

  • take a wine cork or a pencil, put it in between your teeth and read a short text in your A language for 5 minutes. Try to be very accurate with your pronuntiation. Your jaws will hurt a bit at the beginning but eventually they'll soften. Do this a couple of times a week and you'll notice how your speech pattern/diction will improve significantly
  • I always have a voice recorder with me when working and, if possible, I record myself and later listen to my interpretation. It's my personal way of Quality Assurance and besides it has helped me identify and erradicate bad habits when working as an interpreter
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answered 04 Nov '11, 06:47

Conrado's gravatar image


edited 04 Nov '11, 12:01


+1 Thank you for the tips, Conrado. We only record our voices when working in a public meeting, of course.

(04 Nov '11, 08:29) Angela

Absolutely, Angela: only in a public meeting setting, of course. Thank you for your precission

(04 Nov '11, 12:02) Conrado

While it is a good idea to have your voice checked by a specialist at some point of your career, preferably in the early stages, if you have no particular problems, regular classes are not necessary. You should also be familiar with the anatomy and the functioning of the voice box. Doing some warm-up exercises before starting to work would be excellent - but how many of us actually do it...?

Voice care should be an integral part of all interpreting programmes so colleagues involved in training please take heed!

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answered 24 Oct '11, 23:53

Sirpa's gravatar image


"Regular classes are not necessary". Really? I guess my elocution teacher wouldn't agree. IMO, as voice professionals we should always take care of our voice on a regular basis. This includes visiting a specialist (in articulation, elocution, rhetoric...) regularly, in particular for B languages. Radio and TV professionals also have voice training regularly.

(25 Oct '11, 15:29) Delete ♦

I bet your elocution teacher would not agree, they have a financial interest in promoting their own classes. I'm not saying you need not take care of your voice regularly. That is not the same as taking regular classes though. If you had read my post more carefully you might have noticed I specifically said an interpreter should consult a voice professional early in their career - but let's be realistic here, who does it regularly? At some point you should have the necessary tools to do your basic voice maintenance on your own and consult a professional if and when problems occur.

(25 Oct '11, 20:03) Sirpa

@Sirpa I don't agree. Of course you have at some point the necessary tools to do it by your own, but regular professional feedback is still needed, particularly if you're working with a B language.

(26 Oct '11, 11:39) Delete ♦

@Nacho: we'll just have to agree to disagree - or define what is "regular" professional feedback. I've never said it's counterproductive or not worth it so if it works for you, fine. However, I know many professional interpreters who are excellent at what they do and have pleasant voices and no particular problems despite not taking regular classes (if by regular you mean monthly/weekly). They cannot all be getting it all wrong? We at AIIC Belgium have organised voice coaching workshops which, for many, have been a first take at voice training in their careers. Better late than never...

(04 Nov '11, 18:39) Sirpa

@Sirpa: Indeed, better late than never. I do also know excellent interpreters with pleasant voices. But further education and training is very important for any professional in any business sector (not just interpreters), and voice is the interpreter´s most valuable instrument. Having healthy teeth doesn´t mean that you shouldn´t visit your dentist for a yearly check-up.

(05 Nov '11, 08:39) Delete ♦

There are many possible daily routines. I suggest:

1) Hydration! Lack of water increases viscosity of the vocal folds and makes speaking more difficult. Start your day with a glass of plain still water. The effect will not be heard immediately but it will be there. Drink plenty of water during the day.

2) Warm up exercises for your voice. I suggest humming, vocal glides and tube exercises. Check out the first warm up exercise at It is a newly published book on voice training for interpreters!

3) Possibly cool down exercises (repeat your morning routine)though some question the value of cool down exercises.

Remember that your voice is similar to a muscle and cannot be conditioned quickly so care should be taken.

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answered 02 May '16, 12:36

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

All the advice in the posts above is excellent.

There is one more approach that may also help: I was lucky enough to come across an instructor of the Alexander Technique early in my career. Alexander was an actor who kept losing his voice when performing. He went on to figure out why, and today's instructors teach how to project and use your voice, as well as exercises for posture and other issues that all affect our vocal production as well. I liked the idea that it isn't only training and warming up the vocal cords and palliative care, but something that works on the entire body to help you produce and project well.

As with any other physical training such as yoga, you may have to turn to one or two different instructors, since one of my instructors was super helpful and the other not so much.

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answered 13 May '16, 09:27

JuliaP's gravatar image


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question asked: 16 Oct '11, 20:14

question was seen: 27,314 times

last updated: 13 May '16, 09:27

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