Improve your Sight Translation: Quick Tip

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Today's quick tip doesn't really directly relate to interpreting technique, but it has everything to do with preparation. As many of our readers know, sight translation (despite its name, it's considered a form of interpreting) is very frequently used in court settings. While we learn at university and at prep courses that we should never, ever start sight translating until we've read the entire document, the reality is that most of the time things move so quickly that we just don't have time to do so. The best we usually can do is to scan the text a few sentences ahead while we sight translate sentence by sentence.

Now, the best way to get better at this is to be a fast reader. Yes, mom was right: reading is good for many, many things, including sight translation. The faster you read, the better you will be at crafting good sight translation, even when under pressure. Of course we don't just mean superficial reading, but reading to really understand the texts. To practice that, we read high-level texts (good newspapers, such as the New York Times and non-fiction), and after reading a paragraph or two, we put away the reading materials and ask ourselves: have we really understood what we just read? And then we try to give a brief summary.

Needless to say, the more you read, the faster you usually get, which will benefit your sight translation. And yes, we'd say your summer reading by the pool definitely counts--everything counts!

What do you think, dear colleagues?


Jesse Tomlinson on July 15, 2015 at 7:16 PM said...

What a relief to hear you say you don't read the whole document before sight translating. I'm not a legal interpreter, but I get called on to do sight at the most random, unexpected times! And it's usually in front of a bunch of people and they are all breathing down your neck to hear what it says.

The last time I did it was a few months ago. It was a letter written by a doctor, thanking someone for all their help and resources and the difference it had all made in many peoples' lives. The doctor presented me with the letter, telling me he had crafted it over many a day and it was a very serious topic. I started reading this thing, able only to get to the second line before starting, and with each line, infusing it with feeling and gratitude, and with each line thinking, this could be 70% better if only I had read over the whole thing before starting. But it turned out well!

Another sight situation for me is during conference interpreting, usually before everything gets started. Someone has a revised agenda or some information that they'd like transmitted to the group so it's get the interpreter up on stage in front of everyone time! Incidentally, I learned about this in school! I love that anything-can-happen-at-any-time quality to interpreting. Wild card! Yee haw!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 17, 2015 at 2:00 PM said...

@Jesse: Thanks for your insightful comment as always, Jesse! Ah yes, we wish we had time to read the whole thing, but as you point out, people are usually looking over our shoulders and it's just not realistic to be able to take the time to read it all. Of course that would be ideal....How interesting that you have also run into this at the conference interpreting level, where it has not really happened to us (any sight translation, as a matter of fact). And being on stage can be so scary, right? We are sure you do a great job, though!

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