Interpreting notes


Interpreting notes

The interpreter who translates a speech after he has listened to it, either in its whole length or cut in several portions, is said to be working in consecutive mode using notes to help his memory. These notes are not part of any conventional graphic system and everyone is free to develop his own technique. Nevertheless, a certain number of basic rules facilitate the recording of details of the speech, which would by their great number clog the interpreter’s memorizing capabilities or could be mixed up during the speech into the translated (target) language.

Theory

Contrary to what one might think, it is not appropriate to note the speech in shorthand since this would duplicate the task: First decipher the notes and then translate the language. The notes taken must thus be readable in any language just like pictograms which are understood worldwide (just think of the sketches symbolizing the different disciplines at the Olympic Games) since not related to any specific language.

The interpreter must listen with utmost concentration to the speaker and only write the information which he or she judges sufficient to render the original, respecting its structure like names and titles of person or companies, figures, etc.

Again, it must be understood that the aim of interpreting notes is not to transcribe the speech, i.e. it is not a different form of shorthand. The idea is to write the minimum that will, at a quick glance, elicit in the interpreter's mind the ideas of the speech, so that it can be re-expressed in a different language.

Practice

The interpreter must analyse the speech and write the information in abstract form. For instance, the letter “E” laid on its back (like the Cyrillic Ш = "sh" ) will represent Europe, and one can specify whether eastern, western or central Europe is meant by slashing the relevant upward leg; one horizontal bar with two vertical bars underneath will represent a table as seen from the side, which means a meeting, a conference, etc.

These ideograms are at the same time linked by a simple system of arrows and brackets to render the structure of the sentence. One can consequently note that a sum increased (or decreased according to the arrow’s direction) by a certain percentage to reach another value. A bracket before an action (verb) indicates that it will take place in the future and vice versa.

As an example, the notes in the illustration read:

"We are particularly glad to inform you about an important increase in our company’s revenues, which rose by 10 percent, from 3.5 to 3.85 billion (*) dollars. This derives from huge sales of helicopters. The United States of America bought 50 and South Africa 20 of them. On the other hand we must relocate parts of our production in these countries."(*) a “billion” (bn) is called in most languages “milliard” , Md or mrd. Some people have even created complete systems of abbreviations to note all academic titles, administrative functions, military grades, etc. This system has a drawback: it is, just like shorthand, too tightly linked to a given language.

The sentences are usually written vertically in a notebook, each one being separated from the others by a horizontal line. After reading each sentence, the interpreter slashes it (discreetly). This small gesture has an important psychological effect: It’s like when you erase data on a computer memory, you make space free for other data.

Bibliography

* Andres, Dorte: "Konsekutivdolmetschen und Notation." 2000, ISBN 3-631-39856-5
* Gillies, Andrew: "Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting." 2005, ISBN 1-900650-82-7
* Jones, Roderick: "Conference Interpreting Explained." 1998, ISBN 1-900650-57-6
* Matyssek, Heinz: "Handbuch der Notizentechnik für Dolmetscher. Ein Weg zur sprachunabhängigen Notation." 1989, ISBN 3-8727-6616-3
* Rozan, Jean-François: "La Prise de Notes en Interprétation Consécutive." 1956, ISBN 2-8257-0053-3
* Seleskovitch, Danica: "Langage, langues et mémoires."1975, ISBN 2-256-90752-X
* Snell-Hornby, Mary/Hönig, Hans G./Kußmaul, Paul/Schmitt, Peter A.: "Handbuch Translation." 1999, ISBN 3-86057-995-9


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