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Section 10

Last minute tips

1. Last minute revision: the critical importance of lexicons

Review the lexicons you have prepared during the previous weeks, as well as the lexicons directly related to the session you will interpret at.

2. Solidarity with your boothmate

-Share lexicons, water, write down specialised words, difficult names and numbers for your partner in the booth.

-Help the newcomers and encourage them. Remember how nervous you were during your first interpretation... Soon to come: 'How To Help My Newbie Advice', advice collected from all the excellent professional and experienced interpreters out there...

3 Basic ergonomics

Sit properly and comfortably in a booth. Rest between sessions. Do not eat heavy meals before interpreting. Drink a lot of water. Sleep well the day before interpreting. Relax before and between sessions (on relaxation techniques, read the article in Spanish by Marta Renau on the Alexander Technique).

4 Remember to note difficult words in the booth and look them up later.

Ask for the speeches before/after the session. Explain who you are (you are not interested in plagiarism, you will not copy the speech, but you need to note the specialised vocabulary, etc.)

Create lexicons afterwards ans share them for the next Forum.
5 Deontology

Be aware of issues such as responsibility, accountability, commitment, dumping, etc.(see 'Translation and Interpreting: Volunteer work and social commitment')

Remember we are ad-hoc volunteer interpreters: you have not received a full course on interpreting, only a taster. If you are interested in learning more, you are encouraged to apply to a course in interpreting at University.

6 Troubleshooting

You may enjoy reading the advice posted a few years ago by Jean Bisping on How to Be a Better Conference Interpreter. Technology has improved since, and it is no longer useful to use newspaper articles, but the text is sharp and very helpful for newcomers to Babels.

Frequently asked Questions

What do I do if the booth doesn't work properly?

Press mute (never talk to your boothmate while the microphone is on). Ask your boothmate to call the sound technician.

What do I do if there are no booths?

Chuchotage (see 'Basic definitions'). Do consecutive interpreting only if you know what you are doing and you have been trained for it.

What do I do if the speaker goes too fast?

Summarise as much as you can, try to keep up with him/her. If you get lost, get back on the horse as soon as possible. Press mute and ask your boothmate to help you by writing down vocabulary as you interpret.

What do I do if there is no water in the booth?

Ask the organisers to provide it. If you are already interpreting, press mute and ask your boothmate to tell the organisers.

What do I do if the languages expected in the seminar have changed?

Do not panic. Sometimes the speakers change their minds and decide to practice their English, and very often in Forums there are last-minute changes of the programme. Your room coordinator or an experienced interpreter in the room may be able to tell you what to do, bearing in mind the language combinations of the interpreters. If nobody seems to be in charge, or the room coordinator is elsewhere, use your common sense. Does the majority of the audience understand one language? Is there an interpreter into that language? Perhaps that interpreter should remain in the booth. Can chuchotage be arranged for the rest? Whatever you do, keep your wits and remain calm. Do your best to help communication take place and be ready to improvise.

What do I do if my boothmate doesn't show up or gives up?

Tell the room coordinator, asking him/her to find someone else to help you. Start interpreting on your own while a new boothmate arrives.

What is Alis?

Alis stands for Alternative Interpreting System. It is open-source interpreting equipment created by volunteers and Linux lovers, that provides the same basic console as traditional proprietary models. The interpreting equipment is put together by the Alis technicians and activists. Consoles are usually installed in a portable wooden booth. Alis and Babels are separate networks, but they often work together because they share the same ideals.

Will I always interpret in an Alis booth?

No. Sometimes the organisers decide to find or borrow their booths elsewhere.

How does an Alis booth work?

See section 4 (exercises) for a document written by Alis technicians on how an Alis console works.

What is Babels?

Babels is an international network of volunteer interpreters and translators whose main objective is to cover the interpreting needs of the Social Forums. See the Babels website: (and more particularly the 'About' section).

How do I volunteer as an interpreter at a Social Forum?

If Babels participates in that particular forum you want to attend, register with Babels on the Babels website, once you have read the Charter of Principles (see section 1). If the forum is organising interpretation on its own, contact the organisers. Note that when forums choose to not work with Babels, interpretation is often treated like a secondary concern.

How do I become a volunteer coordinator with Babels?

First, read the Chapter of Principles (see section 1). If you agree with them, register with Babels. Then, subscribe to the General Babels list. That's all!

You can also read the document "How to try to organise a Social Forum and not die in te attempt", written by Graziella, to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again. Babels is a horizontal network and everyone shares the same Principles is welcome to join.

Acknowledgements and Bibliography
Copyright 2008, de los Autores de los Cursos. Cite/attribute Resource. Section 10. (2009, March 10). Retrieved February 17, 2020, from OCW-USAL Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License