Guest podcast: Sharing the small world of interpreting through podcasts Reply

LangFM won this year's best interpreting-related podcast.

Alexander’s LangFM series won this year’s best interpreting-related podcast.

In keeping with our guest blog series from winners of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards, it’s only fitting that we feature the recipient for best interpreting-related podcast with, well, a podcast. Alexander Drechsel, whose LangFM series won the award in this category, is a professional conference interpreter working for a large European institution. He regularly blogs about language, interpreting and technology, particularly Apple and Android tablets.

In this guest post, Alexander discusses the increasing popularity of podcasts among language professionals, and offers a few worthwhile podcast listening suggestions of his own.

Click on the play button below to to give this guest podcast a listen:

Direct link to podcast: https://blogproz.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/proz-podcast-1.mp3


alexander_drechselI hope you enjoyed this post, and many thanks to Alexander for sharing it with us!

Be sure to check out the LangFM podcast series to hear more from Alexander as he talks to fellow interpreters about their careers in languages, as well as their passions beyond the confines of the booth. You can also find Alexander on Twitter as @adrechsel, his personal account, and as @tabterp, where he shares all things related to using tablets for interpreting.

This is the third post in a series featuring recipients of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards. See the previous posts in this series here:

Guest post: How to practice interpreting? Stop interpreting 4

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Andrew won the community choice award for best interpreting-related book.

Experienced interpreters and students alike may be able to learn some valuable tips in today’s guest post from ProZ.com community choice award winner Andrew Gillies. Andrew is a freelance conference interpreter and trainer working from French, German and Polish into English at the European Parliament, the European Patent Office, the European Space Agency, the European Commission, and for private clients. He has been training interpreters since 1999 in universities throughout Europe: at the University of Łódź, WLS Warsaw, UJ Cracow, UAM Poznan, FHK Cologne, ISIT Paris and EMCI Lisbon, and for the European Parliament in Brussels. He also trains interpreter trainers for AIIC.

Andrew has published a number of books and articles on conference interpreter training, the most notable of which being Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book, which won this year’s community choice award for best interpreting-related book. In this post, Andrew shares some interesting strategies for practicing interpreting by not interpreting.


In this short post I’d like to show why interpreting is not necessarily the best way to improve your interpreting and suggest a few ways of practising that are not interpreting.

andrew_gilliesIt’s natural enough to think that best way to improve your interpreting is to interpret. Student interpreters might think so for a number of reasons – 1) they’ve done very little of it so far; 2) they’re told repeatedly how important experience is in interpreting; 3) they want to interpret as much as possible because they like doing it. Professionals on the other hand may think that all the interpreting they are doing in the course of a working week is enough to bring continued improvement of itself.

However, interpreting is not the ONLY way to improve your interpreting. And indeed, when practise means only interpreting it’s not even the best way to improve any more.

“How expert one becomes at a skill has more to do with how one practices than with merely performing a skill a large number of times. An expert breaks down the skills that are required to be expert and focuses on improving those skill chunks during practice or day-to-day activities, often paired with immediate coaching feedback.” This quote is Wikipedia’s description of the work of psychologist K. Anders Ericsson – a pioneer in the field of deliberate practice. Ericsson is not specifically talking about interpreting, of course, but it still applies, based as it is on some sound empirical evidence.

So what does that mean? Well let’s take an everyday analogy: my Great-Uncle drove a car every day for 60 years – so he had plenty of experience – but he was a bad driver and never got any better at it because 1) he wasn’t trying to get better; 2) he didn’t practice the things he did less well, like changing gear, in isolation and 3) he certainly didn’t ask for any feedback on how he was driving! (He did give a lot of ‘feedback’ to other drivers, but that’s another story!)

So can interpreting be broken down into sub-skills and how can we address them individually? Well this is only a short post, so let’s stick to consecutive interpreting.

Daniel Gile identifies the following sub-skills for consecutive in his book Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training: Listening, Analysing, Memorising, Taking notes, Coordinating between sub-skills in a first phase and then in a second phase, Speaking, Reading notes, Recalling information, Monitoring your production.

Any of these skills can be practised in isolation, without actually interpreting. You just need to find the right exercise. And the practice will impact positively on your future performance of the whole interpreting skill.

Let’s take ‘analysis’. Speeches are not uninterrupted streams of consciousness (despite what we sometimes might think!) The speaker will have created a speech with distinct sections separated by topic, chronology, line of argument etc. Identifying those sections is a useful part of the analysis sub-skill in consecutive (and also simultaneous). And it’s a skill that can be practised without interpreting. For example by only listening to a speech and indicating when you think the speaker has moved on to a different part of the speech. The classic exercise is to count the sections on your fingers¹, but you could equally note down one word per section². You can also work from the transcript of a speech³. (First ask someone to remove all the paragraph breaks from the transcript so the speech is just a block of text. Then read the speech and hit ‘return’ wherever you think it moves on to a new section). And for each of these exercises compare your version with a colleague or a teacher. After all, if you can’t identify these sections when only listening, or when reading a text, how will you recognize and communicate them when interpreting?

Another related exercise⁴ practises your understanding of how the parts of a speech fit together. Get a colleague to print out a short speech, or part of a speech (5-10 paragraphs). Ask the colleague to cut up the speech – so you have one paragraph on each piece of paper – and shuffle the bits of paper. Now your job is to read the different parts of the speech and put them back in the right order. You will notice – because the exercise forces you to notice – that certain elements of language and information exclude or impose a certain order of the sections. You will start recognize how a speaker signals a new section, or how two sections relate to one another, or how speeches self-reference. That in turn become very useful to you when you are interpreting and better understanding these things yourself will help you communicate them better to your listeners.

conference_interpretingProfessionals may feel that basic exercises like these are too simple for them. But it’s worth trying them out to check that is the case. If it is, then instead of isolating a sub-skill entirely they can focus on a sub-skill while interpreting⁵. For example, by setting a goal as a complement to the interpreting task. Something like, ‘today while interpreting I’m going to focus on clearly separating the sections of the speech for my listeners’. Then record and listen to yourself to see if you managed to do that. Focusing on a sub-skill in this way is also more effective than simply interpreting without any specific goal.

To conclude I’d like to make one more important point and again abuse the example of my (fictional) Great-Uncle to do so. As I said earlier, his driving didn’t improve because he wasn’t trying to improve it. Most student interpreters are trying to improve already, so part of the battle is won. My Great-Uncle though had another issue. He wasn’t trying to improve because he mistakenly thought he was doing it just-fine-thank-you-very-much. Interpreters can make the same mistake. Don’t be one of them! There’s always room for improvement, so keep practising, and thinking about how you practise, long after you graduate from interpreting school!

These exercises, and more, can be found in Andy Gillies’ book, Conference Interpreting – A Student’s Practice Book with the following references – 1 C31; 2 C103; 3 C39; 4 C40; 5 A5.


Many thanks to Andrew for sharing this post with us.

Interested in learning more tips on honing your interpreting skills? Be sure to check out Interpreter Training Resources, a website dedicated to this subject. Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book is also available for sale via Routledge and on Amazon.

This is the second post in a series featuring recipients of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards. The first post in this series can be found here:

Guest post: Teaching translation project management 2

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Nancy’s e-book won this year’s award for best translation-related book.

As promised, I’m happy to present the first installment of our guest blog post series featuring recipients of this year’s ProZ.com community choice awards. First up is Nancy Matis, who won the award for best translation-related book for her e-book entitled How to manage your Translation Projects. The print version, available in French, can be purchased here.

Nancy has been involved in the translation industry for about 20 years, working as a translator, reviser, technical specialist, project manager and teacher, among other roles. She currently manages her own translation company based in Belgium and teaches translation project management at four universities. She has conducted seminars at numerous universities on this subject across Europe, and has also been involved in designing and evaluating training materials for future translators and project managers.

In this guest post, Nancy discusses some techniques she uses in teaching translation project management to her students, and explains why this is a useful skill for project managers and translators alike.


TPM_checklistTeaching Translation Project Management (TPM) is really thrilling. One of the aspects I most enjoy is that the majority of my students are highly interested in this topic. The challenge lies in the breadth of the subject and the wide variety of translation requests it encompasses. Every project is different, every company (whether an end client or a translation agency) has its own management methods, and every project participant has their own concerns depending on the role they play.

The way I approach TPM with MA students is to describe the theoretical life cycle of a translation project, and in-between, to add as many counter examples as I can. The goal is not to teach them just one way of managing their projects, but to open their minds to this vast area while pushing them to know how to adapt to any situation, as project managers or translators, and as employees or freelancers.

TPM is not only useful for future project managers. All participants in a translation project have to manage their own tasks. That’s why it’s essential to include concepts that apply to all of them and to target explanations at specific job profiles.

For instance, the subject that students find the most appealing in the main is pricing. I usually start by showing them several examples of price grids and explaining that, as project managers working in translation agencies, they will probably have to refer to grids to prepare new quotations. This gives me an opportunity to illustrate any rate variations based on source and target languages as well as the project domain (legal, medical, economics, etc.), style (technical, marketing, etc.) and category (documentation, software, multimedia, etc.), and the tasks involved (not only translation and revision, but also desktop publishing, illustration mock-up, testing, etc.) according to their level of
complexity. From there, we explore how translation companies establish their rates and how these future professionals can define their own and present them in a customised price grid. We talk about prices based on estimated costs and briefly introduce the notion of gross margin. Afterwards, we check in detail how to set up rates based on expected productivity. At this stage, we discuss profitability, which gives us the chance to think about what is and is not acceptable. Depending on how much time I have with the class, we can then go as far as drawing up tables with multiple productivity metrics, several expected hourly (or daily) fees and the resulting word rates. We can do this for translation alone, deciding whether to integrate the use of CAT tools (or even machine translation) or not, or we can include other linguistic steps in the calculation, such as revision and LQA (linguistic quality assurance). Sometimes, we repeat the process for some technical tasks, for example DTP (desktop publishing), focusing on rates for units such as pages and illustrations. We can also end the topic by discussing when we should apply extra charges and increase unit rates, or even debating whether the price reductions some clients require are legitimate.

The goals of this approach are multiple:

  • Make the students understand how rates are set up in translation companies.
  • Prepare them to fix rates as freelancers (even when subcontracting to others).
  • Enable them to decide if they can accept the rates imposed by some clients or translation agencies.

During the course, I teach most of the other TPM topics (project analysis, quotation, scheduling, launching, monitoring, closing, etc.) in the same way, i.e. from various perspectives to ensure I cover as many roles in as many project types as possible. I don’t generally limit myself to successful cases since, whenever possible, I share my experience of some project failures too so we can analyse how these situations could have been avoided. This helps students become aware of the importance of risk management. Examining a range of cases is certainly the most enriching side of teaching project management. As I work in parallel on new projects in my other day job, I can constantly update the examples and exercises I give my students. That’s why the Translation Project Management programme is constantly evolving.


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Nancy Matis, author of this guest post

Thanks for sharing this post with us, Nancy!

For those interested in learning more about this topic, be sure to check out Nancy’s website, which is dedicated to the subject of translation project management, at: http://www.translation-project-management.com/

The How to manage your Translation Projects e-book is also available for purchase in the ProZ.com books section: http://www.proz.com/books/91/How-to-manage-your-translation-projects

Stay tuned for upcoming guest blog posts featuring winners of the 2015 ProZ.com community choice awards. Feedback on this blog post and suggestions for future posts can be made below or tweeted to @ProZcom