Interpreter Training Resources

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Practising Speaking skills

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These exericises are taken from Conference Interpreting - A Students'Companion, A. Gillies, 2001, and are reproduced with the kind permission of Tertium Krakow). More exercises can be found in the 2004 revised edition of this book, Conference Interpreting - A New Students' companion.


Conference Interpreting - A New Students' Companion, Tertium Cracow 2004.

1.1 "Just a minute". This is UK radio game show in which one must speak on given subject, without hesitation or repetition, for 60 seconds or more.

1.2 Improvisation exercise. While in the booth, improvise a speech of 2 minutes on a subject volunteered by a colleague. Other students listen and comment on the coherence of speech, delivery etc.

1.3 The same as 1.2 except students outside the booth show cards with keywords on them at short intervals. The person speaking must incorporate the word/idea coherently into the improvised speech.

In addition to delivery this exercise also trains the split attention of the interpreter since as you improvise you should be thinking ahead to your next sentence/paragraph.

1.4 Giving speeches for your colleagues.

Speeches prepared for lessons and practice sessions should be noted / written in consecutive note style and then presented. These notes will not correspond exactly to what might have been noted from a spoken speech (inter alia the role of memory will be different if we prepare hours/days in advance) however it can still be a very useful exercise.In preparation we practise note-taking techniques (i.e. brevity and clarity of our notes, familiarizng ourselves with the use of symbols or margins for example but without the time pressure associated with note-taking from live speeches. Also when giving the speech to colleagues students practise note reading and delivery. By giving speeches for fellow students you have not, therefore, sacrificed your own practice time but rather practised different, but equally important, skills.

1.5 Record your interpretation and make a transcript of it spacing the words on the page proportional to the time between them in the interpretation. › Annex 3 Delivery.

1. Transcript of interpretation with time represented by distance on the page.

“Thank …………you Mr Chairman I’d…………..just……….like …… come in on this point if I may. We in Sweden ……………..are particularly concerned by …… the …… issues raised in ……….this ………documents.”

“This document has been adopted by the Secretariat. The Executive Committee and the Congress will vote on it when they next convene.”

If the listener hears….

“This document has……….. been adopted by the Secretariat the Executive Committee and the Congress …………………. will vote on it.”

They will initially be unaware of the full stop and understand the remark to mean that the Executive Committee and Congress have also approved the document. This is very wrong as we see from what follows.

This exercise will make it abundantly clear whether or not your intonation within a sentence is at all natural. Putting the pauses in the wrong places in a sentence or using the wrong intonation is not only unpleasant for the listener but in non- inflected languages CAN CHANGE THE MEANING of a given sentence or pair of sentences.

1.6 Practice public speaking both off the cuff and after preparation. › 1.2 above, “Improvisation”.

1.7 One student gives an acronym (for example OSCE), the next must immediately give the full title in the same language. This can also be done from one language into another. (Zalka in Gran and Dodds)

This helps us practise recalling instantaneously words from our memory. The interpreter must be able to access quickly anything in his/her memory.

1.8 Practise speaking in front of a mirror. Check for twitches, gestures and the like. What impression do you make on the listener? (Heine, 2000. p 217)

1.9 Observe professional speakers, for example, in national parliaments, note and try to emulate how and when they pause for breath, their rhythm and other oratorial techniques. (Heine, 2000. p217)

1.10 When practising public speaking try varying speed and volume. Learn through your own experience where the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable lie both with regard to what your voice and your audience can reasonably deal with. (Heine, 2000. p217)

1.11 Shadow a speech which has been deliberately sprinkled with errors. Correct the errors in your version. (Kalina, 2000. p180)


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