This page contains a number of tips for those of you taking
exams in conference interpreting. They will of course also apply to the
accreditation tests at international institutions. They have been
kindly volunteered by a number of colleagues, including several who
regularly sit on the juries of these exams and compiled here into a
three (and a half)sections, before the exam, consecutive and simultaneous
(and after the exam).
There are a lot of ideas here. Don't get to hung up on trying
remember them all.
A big thank you to, amongst others, Guy Laycock and Anna
from the European Commission and Parliament respectively.
The illustration is kindly provided by Benoit Cliquet from
of cartoons, Interpreters. To
see more click here.
Before the exam
On the day of your exam do a little practice
interpreting before you go in. If your test is early in the morning get
up a bit earlier and, using a cassette or a colleague as source
material, interpret one five minute speech each in consecutive and
simultaneous. The idea is just to wake you up and warm you up. Don't
get up at 5 am and practise for two hours! If your test is in the
afternoon you could do two speeches each in consecutive and
simultaneous, but DON'T practise all morning. You will wear yourself
out. Your peak for interpreting performance will be in that period when
you have warmed up sufficiently but not yet got tired.
Bring not ONE pencil, but several, and
well-checked biro or 2 would be better, pencils are known to break
Dress smartly AND comfortably if at all
Urm... How shall I put this? Ladies, don't overdo it...
If you have to talk about yourself as a warm
the actual interpreting tests then be modest and truthful.
Don't wait to be asked to start your consec,
don't keep the jury (the examiners) waiting while you pore over your
notes. Start straightaway.
Take a deep breath just before you start
This may sound funny, but make sure you
consec in the right language! Many candidates (usually those who work
into a foreign language) will start off in the wrong language. Even if
it only gets a smile from the jury rather than outright disapproval it
will throw you off balance.
Make sure you are clearly audible to all.
means speaking clearly and loudly (without deafening anyone).
Look at the examiners, eye contact is
Keep an even pace through out. Don't rush
end is in sight.
Put on a good show.
Get a move on, don't bore the jury, aim to
your consec shorter than the original. As a rule of thumb your version
should be about 20% shorter in terms of time than the original.
Keep it concise and tidy.
Avoid any unnecessary rephrasing and/or
Be businesslike and professional. Think of a
on a lake. Above the water it looks majestic, in total control,
underneath the feet are paddling away furiously.
Even if you are not enjoying a difficult
speech DON'T sigh, and don't look like you are not enjoying it. You
will only get sympathy for your professionalism, not for your
suffering! The jury will know that the text is difficult and you will
be rewarded for your attempts to deal with it in a professional manner.
Remember it is the message that is important.
Register. Is the speech a dry technical on,
jokey story? Get the right register but don't over do it. If in doubt
keep it formal, avoid slipping into the colloquial.
If at the end you ask a question, make sure
understand the answer and don't ignore it or forget it. Don't ask more
than two questions, and make them clear and specific. (ie. "Could you
please repeat the name of the Mayor of X " and NOT "What was that bit
about the factory, I didn't catch that". )
Take care to note down the ending if you can!
last words of a speech will often contain some important message that
the speech has been working towards. Don't miss it! You may even want
to note it in longhand.
When you've said you bit, get up and leave.
hang around, you will be asked to leave anyway so the jury can consult.
Leave with a polite smile.
Water... have some ready poured, don't pour on
Make sure the conditions are as they should
you hear the speaker, can you see the speaker. Ask the jury, "can you
hear me" before you start.
Make sure you have several pens or pencils and
paper in the booth.
Only turn the mike on for the actual
not for the intro to the speech if the speaker gives one.
Keep some distance from the microphone so your
breathing cannot be heard.
Sound relaxed but interested. You want to know
is coming next.
Don't umm and err.
Don't swear! (Sounds obvious but it happens).
Your smile should be audible to the jury, not
struggling with the speech.
Look up at the jury and the speaker. You are
in a communicative activity and eye contact will help you and your
Avoid monotonous intonation but don't be
either. Beware of sounding patronizing.
You are like an actor who has been given his
the last minute but still has to put on a good show.
Beware the purity of your mother tongue. Do a
warming up, read some good mother tongue prose on your way into the
exam or while you are waiting - it will get you into the right language
Be businesslike...and professional... Don't
will say things that are less than ideal, you may miss something out.
Don't dwell on it, move on and keep going...
...as a very last resort... it is clearly too
for you rather than stuff it up say "the interpreter would ask the
speaker to slow down".
Microphones are very sensitive these days. Use
pencil to take down info, not for scribbling. If you are prone to
scribbling while you work, you should definitely use something that
does not make a noise.
Take down notes on loose sheets of paper that
moved without too much rustling. If you can, note everything on one
Use the cough button if you need to clear your
throat, it is what the ..
Switch off the microphone at the end.
Behave professionally at all times. If you
can of course smile and look relieved, but punching the air and
shouting hooray are definitely out.
Likewise if you are unlucky enough fail be
graceful... you may wish to come back and be tested again soon so
bitter, impolite or caustic remarks, withering looks and expressions of
disbelief should be avoided.