I’ve always been real crazy about consecutive interpreting, but I realised early in life that it wasn’t for me. Not because I give up easily in the face of challenges – anyone who knows me knows it’s exactly the opposite; for me, every cloud has a silver lining and I always try to hope against hope – but because my “nervous and anxious” side (according to my Mom, I get the jitters) wouldn’t let me be a happy interpreter, assuming that I had a knack for this art. So, after completing my degree in Translation – Interpreting programme – I automatically ruled out this activity from my professional life. This decision is a direct consequence of my strong personality: I don’t do things half-heartedly and I wasn’t cut out to work in something I didn’t enjoy. If I like it, I do my best; if I don’t, I find excuses and won’t even start. Even so, I try to keep up to date with the best market practices and it is in this context that I leave you with some thoughts about what I have read over the years. This time, the topic of my thoughts is note-taking in consecutive interpreting. My aim is to share what I consider to be some of the strengths of successful interpreters.
As we know, interpreters are expected to have much more than just language skills. Besides having thorough knowledge of the target language (usually the foreign working languages), interpreters should also master their own language and culture, as well as the cultures of the foreign languages with which they work. There are also other significant aspects in interpreting: ethical and professional principles; the role of the interpreter as a communication agent and as the liaison between languages and cultures.
In consecutive interpreting, and for the most experienced interpreters, note-taking is, to a large extent, small in importance when compared with the constant efforts to analyse what is being said, understand its meaning and render it into speech in simultaneous interpreting. However, for the less experienced interpreters, note-taking is a tough hurdle to overcome. It is to the latter that this article is addressed.
First and foremost, let me make it quite clear that the note-taking process is not entirely perfect. It can never replace the oral presentation we have heard earlier. Nonetheless, much of what we say is of little importance for the purpose of the conversation. The role of the interpreter in this note-taking process is, therefore, to select what is being said and to render only what will matter to the message recipients.
Here is a list of measures suggested by professional interpreters:
Always take notes of:
In short, the work of interpreters is complicated by the immediacy of each moment and the brevity of each sentence. There is no perfect method, rather proven good practices that may be a good starting point for all those who wish to embrace this art.