Interpreting: Two Quick Memory Exercises

During last week's amazing 54th Annual American Translators Association Conference, several colleagues commented on the fact that we had good memory, as we tend to remember spouses' names, pets' names,
and anecdotes that colleagues told us the previous year. We do think that we have decent memory, as we are both working interpreters, but just like all interpreters, we constantly work on it. Please read on for two simple exercises that we've been doing for many years. They seem to work, so we will continue doing them.

  • Movie previews. This is an exercise we've done since long before we became interpreters. It's very simple and consists of memorizing, in their correct sequence, any movie previews that are shown at the movie theater before the actual movie starts. In the US, that's usually a total of five previews, and remembering them in their correct sequence after the movie (120 minutes or so) is a lot harder than you think. And no, we don't cheat and write them down, but we do silently repeat the titles of the movies back to ourselves a few times during the movie.
  • Reading and remembering. We are both voracious readers, but we read so quickly (to the tune of up to two books a week per person) that occasionally we don't pay too much attention to what we read and hence can't remember what we just read. In an effort to change that (nice side effect: memory training!), we started forcing ourselves every few pages to read a sentence that has a list of say, nouns (could be adjectives, too) and then continue reading for a few more sentences. After that, we stop and try to remember all the words in the list that we have just read. You can also try to remember a complete sentence if you prefer, but with fiction, that can be more difficult. For instance, a typical list could be: "She had been to New York, San Francisco, Zagreb, Crete, Oslo, Frankfurt, and Rome." Can you remember all these cities in the correct order after a minute or two? It's a bit of a challenge, but it's good for your brain and for your memory. 
What about you, dear fellow interpreters? Do you have any suggestions on improving your memory? We would love to hear about them!


Svetlana Beloshapkina on November 12, 2013 at 10:19 AM said...

Thanks for the nice tips on memory training, ladies! And it was nice seeing you both at the conference. Great session on business conflict, Judy!

For memory exercises (and more) I subscribe to It's a very fun way to keep one's mind sharp. (I have not been reimbursed for this endorsement).

Best wishes,
Svetlana Beloshapkina
EN, FR, IT -> RU translator

Unknown on November 12, 2013 at 2:22 PM said...

Having a good memory as well as ability to memorize and recall things are very necessary part for being s successful translator. Many translation agencies do test for the same while recruiting translation professionals.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM said...

@Svetlana: Many thanks for the comment! And great seeing you at the conference as well. Thanks for mentioning Lumosity; we've heard about it. Sounds like a great site, but I know there's some fee involved. :)

Jolanta on November 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM said...

I do Lumosity too and there is a free option. It has only a selection of the games and tests. I think it is 3 out of 5 or 6 daily challenges, but no annoying adds so far (I am using it for couple of months). I have to try your reading tip as not remembering what I recently read is my problem too.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 13, 2013 at 2:20 PM said...

@Jolanta: Many thanks for letting me know that some Lumocity functions are free -- how fantastic! We need to be sure to check that out as well, since we are always looking for new exercises ourselves. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

Alice in Translation on November 14, 2013 at 12:38 PM said...

After a couple of days I'm happy to see that I can still remember the list of cities you mentioned! I usually do that exercise not for memory-related purposes, but when I find an English sentence I particularly like for its structure or sound. I never thought it would come in handy!

EN/FR>IT Translator

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 15, 2013 at 1:27 PM said...

@Alice: That's fantastic! Way to go. :) Have a lovely weekend.

Anonymous said...

Good exercise, going to try it.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM said...

@1GlobalTranslators: Glad you like it. Keep us posted!

Unknown on November 25, 2013 at 6:45 AM said...

Good reminder (je je je) to focus on memory, and thanks to everyone for their exercises.

Unknown on November 25, 2013 at 6:47 AM said...

Thanks for the reminder that working on memory is key! I also appreciate the tips and website advice.

mfgh on November 29, 2013 at 11:07 AM said...

See a car plate number, quickly say it back to myself, and do another car. This is what I used to do, but not anymore, because I drive, and don't want to have an accident.

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