Just wanted to share this useful article from Hi Career:
In my last post, I explained how to use Word Chaining to practice memorizing random words; which will help you get better at interpreting.
I stumbled upon a website that is great for that. Brain Connection’s Word Recall Game will show you a series of random words – each for a few seconds. Then it stops and asks you to write down as many as you remember, before showing you the answers. It is the perfect format for practicing Word Chaining. Give it a try today!
The UN has a great page of tips to prepare for their interpreting exam.
Check it out:
I recently finished reading this book, 「同時通訳者の英語ノート術＆学習法」by 工藤 紘実 and I have to say that it was probably the best introduction to interpretation that I have ever read. While it is titled as a simple note-taking and study book, it is so much more than that. It explains a lot of the foundational skills of interpreting that I had to learn the hard way.
Upside: This book covers a lot of the basics of interpreting like- when and how to take notes, how to study as an interpreter, how to manage vocabulary, how to get jobs and maintain clients as a feelancer, and how to manage your own time and stress.
Downside: I do wish it had had a little more on how to gain background knowledge and how to study for a particular job, but that may be too far out of the scope of this book.
Conclusion: Go buy it now! (You can even on kindle!)
I came across this article that I wanted to share with you all. A pair of sisters (twins!) who work together as simultaneous interpreters wrote about the most important rule for practicing interpreting. Stick with it. When you decide to interpret a video or audio recording for practice, don’t give up halfway through. Commit to it and keep going, no matter how bad the interpretation comes out.
Read more here:
As a preface to this post, I think it’s important that I point out that I am not an expert in second language acquisition. I have studied it, but this post is mostly based on my own observations.
At the recent IJET conference in Tokyo, I was struck by something I had not realized before:
There are people who make a living translating Japanese into English, who cannot speak Japanese.
This astounded me.
I always thought that language skills were developed somewhat evenly: you could speak as much as you could write (output based skills), or listen as well as you could read (input based skills). However, much to my surprise, that is not the case. From my years of teaching non-native speakers English, I really should have known this. So, I would like to propose a hierarchy of second language acquisition, as it relates to translating and interpreting.
We will assume for the sake of argument that the person in question speaks English as their L1 (native language) and Japanese as their L2 (second language).
I. Translation Skills Hierarchy
Level 1: Written L2 Input Comprehension
“I can understand written Japanese.” This is a great first step. Many people get to this level after a few years of study in an environment that is lacking in auditory input.
Level 2: Written L2>L1 Translation Capability
“I can put what I read in Japanese into English.” Some people have this ability without ever being able to produce output in their L2. They have a high level of comprehension of their L2 and proficient L1 writing skills. Truly, that can be all one needs to translate Japanese into English. (I am not endorsing this method, but there are plenty of people who make their living that way).
Level 3: Written L2 Output Capability
“I can express myself in written Japanese.” This is the logical next step, but sometimes one that learners do not attain. The ability to understand what one reads and the ability to translate what one thinks (L1) into one’s L2 are not always synonymous.
Level 3: Written L1>L2 Translation Capability
“I can translate English into Japanese.” It may go without saying that your understanding of you L1 is almost always higher than your L2, but that doesn’t always make it easy to translate E>J. Translating someone else’s words into your L2 is much more difficult than translating your own. In your own head, you often have both languages floating around. You can grab words you know and look up words you don’t (assuming you aren’t at the level where you think exclusively in your L2). However, when you are simply reading your L1, you have to think a lot more about the intentions of the writer, what they are trying to convey.
I. Interpretation Skills Hierarchy
Level 1: Spoken L2 Input Comprehension
“I can understand spoken Japanese.” The difference between Level 1 and Level 2 here is the difference between, let’s say, listening to a lecture and giving a lecture. There are people who can listen and comprehend what is being said in a lecture (on a topic they are familiar with), but who could not stand up and give their own lecture off the cuff and be understood. Now, let’s be fair. That is also true of native speakers of any language. Some people just need more time preparing before they speak. While it may seem unkind, I would posit that those people, regardless of L2 capability, should not be interpreters.
Level 2: Spoken L2 Output Capability
“I can speak my own thoughts out in Japanese.” See above.
Level 3: Spoken L1>L2 Interpretation Capability
You may wonder why I switched things up here. While it is true that, L2>L1 is easier in translation, that is often not the case in interpretation. When you have time and a dictionary, you comprehension of your L2 is higher and you can craft a better composition in your L1. When you have no time to process or look things up, it is often easier to take something that you understand fully (your L1) and express it in your L2. Even if you do not know the correct Japanese term for something in English, you can work around that by using words you do know. If you were going L2>L1 and something was said that you didn’t understand, you would have to either take a guess, omit it, or stop the speaker to ask.
Level 4: Spoken L2>L1 Interpretation Capability
While I am listing this as a separate skill, because of the difficulty level I explained above, I think it’s important to point out that there are very few, if any, interpreters who have the luxury of working only in one direction. Even when a presentation or conference is held all in Japanese and the interpreter is only responsible for conveying that into English, there are still pre and post events that they interpreter must attend. Get-togethers, introductions, cocktail parties in which the presenters and attendees mingle and ask questions of each other. With most events, there will be some back and forth that requires the interpreter to, as it were, go both ways 😉 But each will have her strong suits.
Keep in mind that none of these skills are mutually exclusive, nor does one necessarily lead to the next. There are people who are great at phrasing Japanese into English, but their general comprehension is poor. There are people who can express themselves in Japanese, but cannot interpret someone else’s words. There are people who can translate English into Japanese, but cannot write well in their own native language. Each person, let alone translation professional, has their own strengths and weaknesses. But there is something that each can do well and that is how they earn a living. Being able to read fluently but not speak, doesn’t mean you are less of an accomplished learner of Japanese; anymore than someone who trips over their own words in their native language who might be an avid reader.
This is a video of the woman I mentioned in the previous post. It’s also a very excellent speech.