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Dear all,

I am scheduled to teach two relatively short (20 lessons in 10 weeks) and non-intensive courses, one on simultaneous and one on consecutive interpreting, to two separate groups of university students of English language not majoring in translation and interpreting. It should start in February so I have plenty of time and am currently at the stage of gathering ideas. I do not think that these students will actually become interpreters as they are majoring in culture or literature but I still want to do a good job and hey, maybe some of them will even enjoy it.

I am of course re-reading Roderick Jones and a book called Interpretation Techniques and Exercises by James Nolan and I am also doing a thorough research of online sources. I would welcome any recommendations as to what materials to read and/or use but what interests me the most are the personal observations and stories of professional interpreters and teachers of interpreting – which courses of interpreting do you most vividly remember and why? What was the best experience for you in your training? How do/would you teach such courses? What is the best way to start if you’ve never interpreted before?

I myself learned interpreting mostly by actually doing it so I know that it is best to just practice it but we need to start somewhere and I just have 90 minutes a week with them and I would love to teach them something valuable and usable. I am a practising interpreter.

Thank you in advance for any and all of your comments and recommendations.

P.S. The group training in simultaneous previously had a course on consecutive interpreting like two years ago. I also have booths and the necessary interpreting equipment available for this group. I have just a normal classroom for the consecutive one.

asked 21 Aug '15, 05:06

baudelaireviolet's gravatar image


edited 24 Aug '15, 05:44

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Dear Ester,

The first question I would ask myself is: what is the purpose of that course? The students are obviously not going to be ready to work as interpreters. So is it to encourage them to start a master in conference interpreting? Answering that question might help you shaping your course. I also think that it raises an ethical question: Are some of those students going to think they are ready to work as interpreters? You might want to insist on the fact that they are not going to be ready and that they will need proper training.

About good literature on teaching interpreting, I would suggest reading Danica Seleskovitch's Pédagogie raisonnée de l'interprétation (translated as A Systematic Approach to Teaching Interpretation if I'm not mistaken) to get a good idea, or a reminder, of what really matters in interpreting. For exercises' ideas, I strongly recommend Andrew Gillies's Conference Interpreting: A Student's Practice Book.

A lot of teachers recommend starting consecutive and simultaneous training with A language > A language (shadowing) exercises. It helps students understanding how interpreting works.

Memorizing and analyzing exercises are also a must in the early stages of learning, especially since you won't have much time to spend on note-taking. One of my favorite and most useful consecutive class was one where the teacher, before his speech, would ask half of the class to take notes and the other half to memorize the speech. After his speech, he would ask one of the memorizing students to give a shortened version of the speech, where only the important elements were given. After that one of the note-taking students would do the whole speech. It really helps you understanding what the speech is really about and what is important.

Giving feedback is obviously the most challenging part and it takes lots ot practice to get it right. As a general rule, try to give them one specific objective at a time (get the main message across without focusing on details / focus on communication / avoid calques / etc) and only comment on that aspect when you give feedback. There is nothing more frustrating than a teacher asking you to focus on communication and then only giving you a list of all the details you have missed out as feedback. Clearly, interpreting is about mastering a lot of different skills simultaneously, but you first have to acquire those skills separately. Moreover, focusing on one or two skills helps you identifying your student's main issue. Even if it's difficult, try to always give them solutions to improve when you give feedback. Also, don't directly give them the answers to vocabulary or content issues, get them to find the solution themselves.

If you want it to be useful for them even if they're not interested in interpreting, you could take the opportunity to help them improve their public speaking skills and native language's command (with reformulation exercises for example).

For simultaneous, are you going to be teaching alone? If so you might want to either record the students and play the recordings afterwards (if you have the material) or have someone else (a student maybe) give the speech so you can focus on the students' output.

It might also be interesting to spend some time telling them about the reality of the job, the career perspectives, in case some of them are actually interested in studying interpreting.

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answered 21 Aug '15, 06:46

Camille%20Collard's gravatar image

Camille Collard

Pédagogie raisonnée de l'interprétation, .pdf for free, in French::

(21 Aug '15, 07:57) Gaspar ♦♦

I don't speak French :( just English, German, Slovak or Czech. Has it been translated?

(21 Aug '15, 08:24) baudelairevi...

wikipedia: "Translated into English by Jacolyn Harmer as A systematic approach to teaching interpretation, Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, 1995, 235 p. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 95-069311. "

(22 Aug '15, 01:36) Andy

Yes, I searched for that and could not find it, that's why I asked. Will try to ask in the library on Monday, but am afraid this won't be easy to get...

(22 Aug '15, 06:42) baudelairevi...

Hi My approach would be to identify the component skills of each (which is easier for Consec than SIM) and then introduce them, and practice them, one by one, adding a new skill each time the previous one has been acquired. (It's never as clear cut as that, but the approach is good.) You'll find some ideas about component skills here...

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answered 22 Aug '15, 01:39

Andy's gravatar image


so the course design would look like this acc. to you:

  1. intro to consecutive
  2. how to present (yourself)
  3. text analysis
  4. memory
  5. note-taking 6.-9. pratising consecutive
  6. test of some sorts

Did you mean it like that?

I am thinking about assigning each student/pair of students a topic on which they would have to present. Should be something to do with CI, maybe something from the list above, so they can practice their presenting skills while getting to know CI. I was also thinking about using this opportunity to make them interpret/at least shadow right away - stopping the presentation each 3 minutes and randomly choosing any student to interpret what they just heard. This would of course interupt the presentations and I am debating this with myself, but it would def keep them alert, focused and by chosing randomly they would all have to try to memorize it/take notes. This would be materials I would not be familiar with either, so I could actually judge their memory/note-taking skills compared to what I remembered, so it's not about having the original written down and comparing their performance with that, which would be quite unfair... What do you think?

(22 Aug '15, 05:41) baudelairevi...

That would be the order I would use, yes. And those component skills. I would only practice memory with students using speeches appropriate for consec without notes (memory). That would be.... narratives/stories (eg prsonal stories, history or film &book plots); speeches based on pictures or objects the interpreters can see ( show a slide of a building/ machine/ landscape and have a speech given relating to parts of the image); very clearly structured speeches (past, present, future or beginning middle end). Startin

(24 Aug '15, 23:00) Andy

Dear Camille,

thank you so much for your great answer! I didn't even think about ethics and you are absolutely right - I will explain at the beginning that a one-semester course will not make interpreters out of them in any way, that it will be just a taste of the interpreting world.

All that you wrote makes perfect sense and I'm downloading Gillie's book to my Kindle right now :) cannot get to Seleskovitch's though... But thank you for your advice, I will definitely use it and practice giving feedback beforehand.

I've read about teaching consecutive by first just training the memory - getting to the stage where you can interpret 3-5 minute stories without taking any notes and not starting with note-taking until they master that. I was not taught like that but I consider it an interesting idea. What do you think? I am afraid however that this won't leave a lot of time to go over the actual note-taking. I must admit, I am a "born" simultaneous interpreter and consecutive intr. does not come naturally to me, but I get the impression that I can only give them so much information on note-taking, they must create their own systems themselves. I am considering doing the entire course on consecutive inerpreting just about memory exercises and about mastering the one-sentence consecutive interpreting, which is what they think consecutive interpreting is anyway and which is the closest people get to interpreting in their (non-interpreting) jobs when they finish their studies around here... then again, the course is called "consecutive interpreting"... but I prefer doing one thing well to covering everything but doing it just half-way...

Thank you again for all your valuable advice!

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answered 21 Aug '15, 07:46

baudelaireviolet's gravatar image


edited 21 Aug '15, 07:48


I think starting consecutive without any note-taking is a great idea. Note-taking is only a tiny part of consecutive but a lot of students tend to focus only on notes and forget that memorizing and analysing are more important. You're absolutely right about notes being personal, so don't lose too much time on that. You could teach them the main principles of note-taking and some symbols and that's it. Once again, about teaching them sentence-by-sentence consecutive, it all depends on what the purpose of the course is. I would be careful though on not giving them the impression that this is what a professional interpreter usually does. Good luck!

(24 Aug '15, 05:08) Camille Collard
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question asked: 21 Aug '15, 05:06

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