The following text is taken from Conference
Interpreting - A Student's Practice Book by Andrew
How to Practice
One cannot achieve a high level of competence in
interpreting only by attending time-tabled
interpreting classes. That's why students have to
practise outside class time
A.1 Practise often
Practise often. 5 days per week is a reasonable
timetable. That’s often enough to mean you never get out
of practise, and you continue getting better. But
practising a lot doesn't mean you're not entitled to
some rest time.
A.2 Practise in short sessions
Be aware that practising twice for thirty minutes in one
day, morning and then afternoon, may be better
than one session of 1 hour. And that one hour per day
for a week is definitely better than 7 hours practice on
one day and nothing for the rest of the week.
A.3 Don’t only interpret
If you are a student interpreter, you probably love
interpreting. And if you have the choice between any
type of course work or practice and actually
interpreting, you will choose interpreting every time.
But practice does not have to be interpreting to be
useful. So treat yourself to non-interpreting practice
activities on a regular basis. You’ll find plenty of
them in this book.
A.4 Practise skills in isolation
It is possible to break interpreting down into its
component skills and practise them in isolation, or some
but not all of them at the same time. This is the
concept underlying much of this book. So read on!
Source: Van Dam 1989: 170, Weber 1989:164, Seleskovitch
and Lederer (1989: 133), Moser Mercer 1994:66, Gillies
A.5 Practise with an aim
Set yourself an aim for each practise session. For
example, ‘Today (or this week) I'm going to concentrate
on good delivery." Early in the course the skills your
practice should probably reflect the content of your
lessons. Many courses, for example, teach delivery and
memory skills first and, say, note-taking later. You can
practise a new skill in each practise session or for a
few days or weeks at a time. This has the advantage also
of giving you interim goals to aim at, and
achieve. This allows us to see progress being
made. And this is likely to increase your motivation
levels. Not least of all because progress in
interpreting as a whole is very difficult to see over
short periods. We might notice an improvement between
January and April, but it is unlikely that you'll see a
tangible improvement in your work from one week to the
next. If you practise delivery skills, for example, in
isolation, you can make significant and visible progress
in a matter of days or weeks.
Source: Gillies 2001:66
A.6 Think about your work
Take time out to think about your interpreting
performance, and discuss it with others. Learning
comes not only from doing, but from thinking about what
you’ve done. Only you can actually learn, noone else can
learn for you.
A.7 Take a break
Stop practising if you are getting tired. If you
recognise that you are tiring, then your interpreting
has probably already been less than your best for 10-15
minutes. So stop!
This doesn’t apply to class and exam
situations of course, where you will just have to battle
through. That’s also part of interpreting. But if you’re
practising, it’s best to stop and come back to it when
you’ve had a break.
A.8 Don’t force yourself
Interpreting requires all your effort and motivation.
Anything less than 100% and you will not produce your
best performance. So don’t practise if you don't want
to. And if you find that an you don't want to practise
all that often, then you know that interpreting isn't
A.9 Start interpreting into your
Begin by learning to interpret into
your best active language#. Later, when you are
comfortable with that, and if you have a second active
language, start practising interpreting into that
language. Practise all of your language combinations.
Source: Déjean le Féal, EMCI 2002:28
A.10 Practise in groups
For most people working in groups is also more fun than
working alone or in class. Groups should be of 2-4
people for consecutive: you'll need at least one speaker
and one interpreter, the speaker can double as the
audience in consecutive. For simultaneous groups should
be of 3-6 people. You need more people for simultaneous
because the speaker cannot listen to the interpreting as
they can in consecutive. That means you'll need one
speaker, one interpreter and one listener to make a
There are a number of advantages to practising in groups
rather than alone or only in class time. Working with
other students and preparing speeches for one another
means that you will have plenty of practise material
(speeches) to interpret and that they will be pitched at
the right level of difficulty. Speeches student
interpreters give tend to be simpler in structure, logic
and vocabulary than authentic speeches and this is as it
should be for the first part of your course. Start
simple and work up. Preparing and giving the speeches is
also useful and shouldn't be considered an exercise in
altruism. As you'll see in the exercises below, creating
speeches is an exercise in understanding speech
structure and note-taking while giving a speech trains
note-reading and public speaking skills in isolation.
A.11 Shake it up
Don’t always work with the same people when practising.
Work with a variety of other students, not only your
best friend on the course. That way you are also less
likely to develop bad habits or get too used to the same
speaker and speech type.
A.12 Listen to each other
One of the simplest ways to train your ability to listen
to, and monitor, your own interpreting performance is to
listen to and assess those of your fellow students. It’s
easier because when you are interpreting and trying to
listen to yourself you're doing several things at once,
including monitoring your performance, here you are only
listening and assessing, not interpreting as well.
Always listen with particular criteria in mind, for
example, is the delivery good, do the main points make
sense, is the language register appropriate. And try to
listen only for one or two of these criteria, and not
always all of them at once.
It’s also useful because most
students make similar, and a limited number of types of,
mistakes. So the person you’re listening to probably has
some of the same interpreting problems as you.
Obviously simultaneous interpreting
can and should also be practised alone from recorded
material (and with a dictaphone to record yourself),
consecutive also if needs must, but the reactions of
others, and the opportunity to listen to their work
yourself are invaluable.
Source: Heine 2000: 223
A.13 Be a listener
The temptation with simultaneous is for lots of people
to interpret the same speech, and noone to listen to the
interpreting. Resist it! Don't everyone go into the
booths and interpret just because booths are free.
Listeners may listen to only the interpreter, or to the
interpreter and original speech simultaneously, both are
valid and useful exercises.
A.14 Work with listeners who need
Very often we practise with people who have the
same language combination as we do. And that means that
their assessment of your interpreted version of a speech
is influenced by their knowledge of the source language
and/or their understanding of the original speech.
That’s often very useful of course, but you need not
always work with a listener who understands the source
It is very useful to have a ‘real” listener who ‘needs”
the interpreter to understand the speech. Afterwards ask
them simply, if they understood what was being said.
Their questions about what was not clear are often
extremely helpful in highlighting the major problem
areas, as opposed to minor errors that listeners who
understand both the source and the target languages tend
A.15 Get non-interpreters involved
You needn't work only with your classmates. Other
people, family, friends, anyone who can be roped into
listen will do. These listeners will often be more
demanding and perhaps perceptive in their analysis of
your work than you. At the very least they will offer a
different point of view on it. Whether it's fellow
students or other people who are listening, the fact of
having someone listen to you is important. Interpreting
is about communicating between people, something one can
forget when practising from recorded speech after
recorded speech alone.