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Section 6

Further improving your interpreting skills

6.1 Introduction

Hopefully by now, you will have already had a little practice in the booth in your groups. Do not worry if it was not very satisfactory, this is normal at first. It takes time. Try again with a less difficult speech.Remember to begin interpreting with the easiest speeches. You can also use them as warming up exercises before a more difficult interpretation.

If you are having trouble, eep practising paraphrasing, even if is in the same language (this will help you to learn that you do not have to salways maintain the same structure of the source speech). However, if after a couple of months the main message of your interpretation still does not come across, that is, the most important contents of the speech are not understood in the target language, please remember that you can still volunteer as a coordinator at the next Social Forum.

If you are doing well:

  • try to increase the lapse of time (décalage) between the speaker's words and your production (that is, wait a few seconds until you start interpreting and keep that lapse of time during your performance). This will allow you to learn to analyse the source speech much better. Interpreters usually finish a few seconds after the speaker. Make those few seconds as long as possible (do this only if you are doing well for now and you do not have any problems).
  • try to be more aware of what you say, that is, try to "listen to yourself while you are interpreting" to make it sound more natural.

Remember that the very minimum for an ad-hoc interpreter is to get the main message across in a comprehensible way (we are focusing on the contents only for now). That is, we are summarising and we are finishing all our sentences in a very simple manner, without ever making anything up. When in doubt, we remain silent, we listen until we understand, and then we summarise. If we get lost, we stop and listen, then we get back on the horse as soon as possible, summarising what we have understood, in a simple way.

It is important to know that even the best interpreters get lost sometimes; even the most experienced interpreters cannot always think of a very specialised word they might encounter. This is nomal. When it happens, you just have to listen carefully and get back on the horse as soon as possible (for example, by generalising). However, you have to write down that difficult word, because it will most probably come up again during the speech, or in another conference. This is why the lexicons are crucial.

Please bear in mind that each person is different, and some people might need more practice than others.

Case Studies

Prepare yourselves to interpret a given speaker. You can look them up in the Internet and find documents or lexicons on the subjects they may talk about.

1. You have volunteered to interpret David Barzanian into your mother tongue. You do not know anything else about him because you have lost your luggage at the airport, along with the programme and the abstracts. You are also suffering from jetlag because you have just arrived to Porto Alegre. You missed your host at the airport and you had to find your way using public transport. You calculate you have 12 hours before having to interpret, and that you need to sleep for at least 8. Luckily, there is a computer with Internet connection at the house you are staying. Explain the basic documentation process you would follow to prepare for the next day.

2. You have volunteered to interpret Sean O'Siuchru. All you know is that he talks in English about the Media and Social movements. You have all the time in the world. What do you do?

Activities and resources

Video Barzanian
Video Sean Osiuchriu
  Extra homework
Copyright 2008, de los Autores de los Cursos. Cite/attribute Resource. Section 6. (2009, March 10). Retrieved February 17, 2020, from OCW-USAL Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License