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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

13 Tips for taking notes while Interpreting

Over the years, based on my experience and discussions on forums I have compiled the following list of tips for interpretation.

1. Interpreting is considered to be a difficult job. Sometimes you have to listen to a speaker for 5 minutes - sometimes even longer - before you can start your interpretation. You need to take notes; there is no other way to remember all the facts (and numbers) after a couple of minutes. Instead of trying to copy every word, invent some abbreviations or, even better, symbols that represent some words or ideas. Everyone uses their own personal symbol. The most important thing is that you remember instantly what they mean when you see them.

2. There are a lot of different settings where the interpreting can take place, and a lot of different terminologies used. Therefore it is good to take notes if you need them. Some people can have hard time with names and numbers, and that is what should be written down. For example if you need to remember several names at once (that are totally unfamiliar to you) you should probably write them down.

3. It is useful to use a small notebook, like the ones we used to take to school, because they are very manageable. Write only on one side of the page, it is faster, and when you finish with the notebook, you can always turn it round and start using the other sides. The point is, taking notes is to ensure that you convey every bit of information.

4. You have to learn the technique, you have to learn to take the right notes.

5. Don’t write down everything. Just write those main topics as a reminder of your memory.

6. To listen attentively is of first importance. Strike the right balance between note-taking and listening (ie analysing and understanding).

7. Before the conferences, research all the speakers for whom you would be interpreting and read documents written by them so that you could familiarize with the terms used by them.

8. You must exercise control. You have to make your presence visible. Interrupt them, if it\'s necessary (never rudely, of course); just start interpreting whenever the speaker finishes a sentence and stops to breathe. After a while they will have understand and will wait for you to step in.

9. Be precise on the hard data (figures, dates, names, etc) and express the rest in your own words. Do not repeat everything. Stick to the essentials. Cover the message, not the words.

10. Ask in advance what the case is about and ask for background material.

11. Short term memory is a must.

12. If You realise you made a mistake...just stop and correct it.

13. Dress well and always smile.