Our Number One Rule for Interpreting Practice

We both have the pleasure of teaching interpreting at the University of Vienna (Dagy, in-person) and at the University of California-San Diego Extension (Judy, online) and while we share what we know with others, we are also always constant students of our craft and practice and learn every day. We don't have too many hard rules for when we practice interpreting, but we have one that we came up with long ago that we try to stick with no matter what. Now, without further ado, here's our number one rule for practicing interpreting:

Stick with it. When you hit "play" on a recording (YouTube video, Speechpool video, any audio file) or listen to a TV show or radio show that you have chosen to interpret, just do it, even if it seems terribly hard. Soldier on. Try to stick it out, even if you falter early on, and try to recover. Just go on, even if the first sentence was terrible. That's how things will be in real life: you just have to go on, and learning how to do that early on, when the stakes are low, meaning you are sitting at home in front of your computer, is a very important lesson. Trust us, it can be painful -- we've been there too. As a matter of fact, Judy just listened to a recording she did a few weeks ago where the first 30 seconds were really quick terrible, but she did recover and went on to give a strong performance for the next 20 minutes. Be tough on yourself with this rule, and just keep on going once you've started interpreting. The worst that can happen is that you are not too happy with your performance, but the beautiful thing: it's only practice. And don't forget to record yourself.

What about you, dear colleagues and interpreter trainers? Do you have one favorite rule for interpreting practice that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.


Emanuela on October 24, 2014 at 6:44 AM said...

That is a golden rule! Thank you for the advise! My number one rule is to do some interpreting (at least 5 minutes) every single day and to assess my performance

Jesse Tomlinson on October 24, 2014 at 8:45 AM said...

Thank you for bringing up this topic. My number on rule for interpreting practice is just to actually do the thing! It's surprising how many interpreters only work interpreting and do not practice. That's an interesting survey to think about! Speechpool is on my list of things to do. I practice interpreting with friends and family (that's an easy one) and in my head a lot (which of course isn't the same thing). I also like to interpret the news, and commercials on TV. It's challenging in terms of getting yourself psyched up to do it, but to me, that's what interpreting is all about.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 24, 2014 at 6:47 PM said...

@Emanuela: Our pleasure! And yes, your rule is probably even more crucial than ours -- just interpreting in the first place is key. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

@Jesse: That sure is surprising to hear -- that many working interpreters don't practice on their own. You do get in a rut, especially if you always interpret the same thing, so it's essential to keep your skills sharp, in our humble opinion. Hehe, we don't think interpreting in your head would count, but we don't want to be sticklers about it. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comment!

Alexander on November 11, 2014 at 9:45 AM said...

My girlfriend is currently studying interpreting here in Austria. She is exactly going through the phase you describe: Professors are pushing them into seemingly impossible situations. It can sometimes be very frustrating but the method is definately cutting the learning curve.

Jonathan Downie on January 20, 2015 at 7:42 AM said...

I would also add a bit of advice from a recent webinar with Elisabet Tiselius: take note of all the little things you do each day that will increase your skills. Reading SL newspapers, writing and even research all count and all help. But of course, nothing works as well as mentored practice.

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

Subscribe by email:


Twitter update

Site Info

The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

Translation Times