How to practice interpreting in shared space

How to practice interpreting in shared space

If you work in an open office, like I do, it can be very hard to practice interpretation. In the rare free time you have, you will end up just reviewing Anki decks or reading NHK so you don’t disrupt people. While these are valuable ways to study, nothing can take the place of actually practicing interpretation. So, here are some quick ways that you can practice effectively while still being at your desk.

Prepare to interpret

First, select the speech or other media that you are going to use to practice. Do not listen to it now. That would ruin your practice. Just have it ready. Try to select a fairly short piece of no more than 5 minutes on a single topic. (search and selection time: 5-10 min)

Next, begin your background research. Read articles related to that field. Listen to previous speeches by the same speaker. Read current news articles about this topic. (30 min, more if a very unfamiliar topic)

Then, prepare your vocab lists. Make them simple, one-word equivalent lists in excel. You can use these while interpreting as a reference too.  (List writing and study time: 20 min)

Lastly, practice Quick Response using your vocab list. This will help you to memorize the words. You can usually do this whispering at your desk without causing too much of a disturbance. But, you can also do it in your head.

Make sure your mic, recorder, and notes are all set up to begin interpreting.

Do the actual interpretation on your lunch hour

Once everyone in your immediate vicinity leaves for their lunch breaks, that is the time to do the actual interpretation. If you are doing simul, it shouldn’t take you longer than the media track. If consecutive, plan for close to double time. This means you have more than enough time to do multiple takes before everyone gets back. (20 min max)

Review your interpretation

Once the office is full, you can begin listening to your interpretation. Take a notebook and make notes of any pronunciation errors. Then listen to the original again and see if you missed any content.

 

And there you have it. Complete interpretation practice for a silent office.

Interpreter Training in Columbus

Interpreter Training in Columbus

IMAG0056The Japan Association of Translators is running a great seminar called The Japanese Automotive T&I Seminar. This is a continuation of the Honda seminar that I had blogged about a few years ago. It is going to have two very experienced instructors.

If anyone out there is in my area and interested, you should definitely join us on September 1, 2016.

See details below:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-japanese-automotive-ti-seminar-beyond-the-words–tickets-26413062180

 

Interpreter Training Tapes

Interpreter Training Tapes

I found a wonderful resource of old interpreting tapes on Youtube. They are probably from the 70s and a little slow paced, but they have great practice exercises (starting around 2b). Also, you will get to hear Nishiyama Sen-sensei around 30a, so that is exciting. If you don’t know that name, you really should. He is basically the father of J<>E simultaneous interpreting.

Enjoy!


 

Interpreting Essentials: Confidentiality

Interpreting Essentials: Confidentiality

I want to start a series on the essential skills involved in interpreting. While I would love to start with something nice and easy, I am choosing to open the series with the most essential skill: maintaining confidentiality.

Much has been written on this topic from the AIIC (conference), NAJIT (judiciary), NCIHC (healthcare), among others. If you take the time to go through these standards, you will see that interpreters are held to the same level of confidentiality as doctors and lawyers. So, we are going to take a different approach here. We are going to discuss how to handle confidentiality when you work in close quarters; in-house.

Let’s take this common example. You are interpreting at a meeting with American and Japanese staff. Things are going smoothly, when one of the Japanese associates says something inflammatory, immediately followed by 「さっきは訳さないで」(don’t translate that). Even if you are working simultaneously, you likely hadn’t caught up to the inflammatory statement yet. So, what do you do now?

This happens all too often, especially when the in-house interpreter is someone who the Japanese staff trust and rely on often. So, first, congratulate yourself that the staff member was willing to say that in front of you. But then what?

Think of it from the Americans’ perspective for a minute. They just heard something. Don’t know what, but it sounded pretty angry. They want to know what was said. They are relying on you to provide that. But then switch perspectives. The Japanese person let his tongue slip because he thought no one (who might be offended by the comment) could hear him. He is trusting you to keep it secret.

So the first thing you must do is:

Manage the Flow of Discourse

waterbending_poses_by_moptop4000

 

You are in control of what happens now. Both parties are looking at your panicked face waiting for your next word. So the best policy is to let the room know what is going on. You can either do that by saying, “The speaker would like the last statement not to be translated” (not my fault guys), “The interpreter would like a minute to clarify” (I can smooth this over), or “Kindly disregard the previous outburst” (he’s just venting guys, don’t worry about it).

But how do you decide which to do?

Who are you accountable to?

accountableYou are being paid to translate one language into the other. Both parties are trusting you to conduct your work fairly. They trust that what you are saying accurately reflects the speaker’s intended meaning. If you lose that trust on either side, you are no longer reliable; regardless of how good your language skills may be. Confidentiality is the most important skill for an interpreter.

But you are first and foremost accountable to your own conscience.

If something is said that is unlawful, unethical, or otherwise morally grey and the speaker is asking you not to divulge that information to the other party, that is line you should never cross. Both parties must know that you are reliable but also an ethical human being. If you are ever in the situation where you are asked to give a false statement, interpret something that you know to be illegal, or cover up someones indiscretion, you should immediately recuse yourself from the meeting. You do not have to keep interpreting when you are not morally comfortable with the situation*.

*Note: This is not true of generally uncomfortable situations such as when someone is cursing a lot, talking about a traumatic experience, or yelling at someone. These are all uncomfortable, but you have the responsibility to portray them faithfully and not try to downplay anything that is being said.

Second, you are accountable to your company. They hired you and they expect you to work for them. So if the meeting was between your company and another company, you should keep what was said to yourself.

What I do

interpreter-4589When I am faced with this situation, I like to handle it this way. Usually I am working simultaneously so I am close to the offending comment. I pause and then say, “Don’t translate that last part,” just as the person said it. This way the Americans know that something was said and can chose to push back or leave it be. If I cannot do this, I will say “The interpreter has omitted the last statement at the request of the speaker.” This usually makes the Americans perk up and want to know what was said. But then you are back to interpreting, not intervening.

But the most important thing you can do is:

Training

Being in-house, you have the unique ability to haul other associates off into a room and say don’t you ever put me in that situation again. Okay, maybe not that forcefully, but the offending party does need to know that what they did is not acceptable behavior. Anything said in the room will be translated in the room. So if they want to vent in their language, they should stop the meeting, ask for a minute, and then they can say whatever they would like. Little quips when they think no one is listening would be inappropriate in any business setting, even when two languages aren’t involved.

So remember, in the moment it will be tough, but you have the opportunity to clear it up later and help stop it in the future. Above all, please remember to maintain the trust of both parties equally. Once you break on parties’ trust, you are no longer considered reliable, and that’s what confidentiality is all about.

 

Practice along with me: Word Chaining

Practice along with me: Word Chaining

word_chain

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!

Practice along with me

Practice along with me

I put together a practice schedule to help me polish the basic skill set that goes into translation and interpretation. I will put the schedule up here and then post occasional progress updates. Feel free to practice along with me and post any resources you found particularly helpful.

Objectives

Interpretation

  1. Improve memory and recall skills.
  2. Improve concept understanding and retention.
  3. Improve number recollection.

Translation

  1. Phrase more flexibly.
  2. Improve Japanese writing style.

General

  1. Increase vocabulary.
  2. Increase grammar knowledge.

Practice Tasks

  Task Applicable Objective
1 10 digit number memorization I-3
2 Number interpretation I-3
3 Word chaining I-1
4 Phrase memorization I-1, T-1, G-1, G-2
5 Quick word interpreting I-1, G-1
6 Shadowing I-2, T-1, G-1, G-2
7 Consecutive practice I-1, I-2
8 Translation editing T-2, G-1, G-2
 

Explanation of Tasks

1.      10 digit number memorization

Listen to a recording of ten unrelated numbers. Repeat as the recording plays. Then, play the recording again and wait until the first two numbers have been said to start repeating. This way, you are hearing numbers and saying different numbers.

Example:

Recording: “1, 5, 33, 47, 118…”

You:             “……….1, 5, 33, 47, 118…”

2.      Number interpretation

Listen to a recording of random numbers (over 6 digits) and interpret them into the opposite language.

3.      Word chaining

Memorize a series of random words by forming a story in your head as you hear them.

4.      Phrase memorization

Memorize sentences from JLPT N1 vocabulary book. Repeat the previous one before starting to memorize the next.

5.      Quick word interpreting

Prepare a list of 10 words in Japanese and English. Look at each word in the Japanese column and say the English version. Repeat with opposite language. Time target of 10 seconds to interpret the whole list (ie: no time to think about it).

6.      Shadowing

Listen to a speech and repeat the speaker’s words as he is speaking without changing or missing any words. This is done in the language of the presenter (ex: listen to Japanese and repeat in Japanese).

7.      Consecutive practice

Listen to a 5 minute speech and take notes. Interpret after speech has concluded. Record your interpretation. Re-watch speech and check for errors.

8.      Translation editing

Take an old translation and remove any confidential content (company names, etc.) Post on lang-8 to solicit corrections. Compile revised version in translation notebook.

Resources for Practicing Japanese to English Interpretation

Resources for Practicing Japanese to English Interpretation

Recently, I have been looking for more ways to practice interpreting Japanese into English. But it is harder than you might think to find good resources. Even though there is a wealth of Japanese material out there, it is hard to find any that fits the general guidelines for good interpreting practice material.

What makes a good interpreting practice resource

Drawing from several different sources (see below), I have come to the conclusion that J>E practice material should be the following:

  1. 3-5 minutes in length
  2. with one speaker
  3. on a topic of a general nature (narrative, argument, explanation, etc)
  4. with clear audio (not muffled or recorded in a noisy environment)
  5. with a transcript (for checking meaning)
  6. with an English translation (when possible)

Obviously, these are ideal conditions for a beginner practice session. Once you have gotten used to these, you can move on to longer resources, with more than one speaker, on a more specialized topic. But if you want to be successful in practicing, I recommend you start easy and progress to more difficult. You may find it harder than you think at first.

Recommended Resources?

Given these conditions, I have only found three good resources. I explained one in the last post: Japanese to English Speech Interpreting Practice.

The second one is NHK Easy News. The benefit to these short news casts is that the audio is slow, but still natural paced, and there is a transcript. There is no English translation, but because the vocabulary has been simplified, it should be easy enough to understand. Also, they are short so it makes great quick practice.

The third is FluentU. With this site, you can access videos in Japanese (or several other languages) which have been transcribed and have vocabulary lists pre-generated. However, they do not allow you control over how you print the transcript. It automatically prints in a huge font with furigana. This means that it takes up several pages, making it difficult to use for something like sight translation. Also, the video topics vary a lot so you have to be choosy.

Resources:

Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book by Andrew Gillies

同時通訳者の英語ノート術&学習法 by 工藤 紘実

はじめてのウィスパリング同時通訳 by 柴田バネッサ清美

Improving your Japanese Pronunciation

Improving your Japanese Pronunciation

Lately, I have had some very long interpreting days. When you talk for too long, you start to slur your words and they become almost incomprehensible. So, I decided to start doing vocal warm-ups before interpreting. I know how to do them in English, but I wasn’t sure how to warm up in Japanese. I found a great activity from a woman who used to be an announcer on TV.

Take a listen and see if you can emulate her fantastic pronunciation.

Here is a link to the text she is practicing:

http://www.benricho.org/kotoba_lesson/yoko_hakusyuu-50on-hurigana.html

A Study in Keigo from Hanzawa Naoki

A Study in Keigo from Hanzawa Naoki

Image

*Note: May contain small spoilers for those who haven’t seen the show. No major plot points are revealed.

Many of you have probably watched the show Hanzawa Naoki. It was a huge hit in Japan last fall; just under half of the country was watching the final episode. If you haven’t seen it, well, you should. It is an excellent resource for understanding the nitty-gritty of Japanese business culture. But that is not what I am going to talk about today.

Hanzawa Naoki is an excellent display of how different levels of 敬語 and 丁寧語 work in practice.

①半沢と同期 (Kondo & Tomari)

When Hanzawa is talking to the guys who joined the company at the same time he did (his buddies), he doesn’t use any formal language. He doesn’t put -さん on their names. He calls them by their last names only. He uses informal language with them.

When we learn Japanese, we are taught that everyone who is not a -ちゃん or a -くん is addressed as -さん. However, that is not true. With people on the same level as you or (as we will show later) people lower on the chain than you, it is perfectly acceptable to call them by their last name only. There is a scene where Kondo puts the smack down on his subordinate who had been acting like his boss. Kondo had been addressing him politely by his title and all of a sudden he shouts, “Oi, Noda!” This gets the guys attention. It says, “I have been trying to be polite to you, but don’t you forget that I am still your boss.”

②半沢⇒支店長

The branch manager, Asano, is Hanzawa’s first rival. Also, the first person he threatens. Technically, Asano is two steps above Hanzawa and therefore Hanzawa speaks in fluent Keigo to him. However, he is only paying lip service. His tone betrays his true feelings.

In a TV show, this is all well and good as it creates added drama. Hanzawa sticks it to the man with every beautiful line of Keigo. But we, as non-native speakers, need to be careful not to do the same. No matter what you may think of Keigo, it all comes down to respect. You must try to show sincere respect to your superiors. I found this quote in the ビジネス能力検定3級 book that I have mentioned in previous posts.

「相手を敬う気持ちを持ってのぞむことが大切で、この気持ちがこもっていれば、多少使い方がおかしくても不快感を与えることは少ないものです。反対に、敬う気持ちのないまま、口先だけで丁寧なことばを使っても、相手にそらぞらしい感じをもたせるだけです。むずかしいのは敬語そのものではなく、この相手への尊敬や感謝の気持ちのもち方なのです。」-2012年版, pg. 64

Even if you can’t master Keigo (and trust me, there are many native speakers who never do), what’s important is that you show respect in the way you speak. But I would encourage you all to try and master Keigo as much as you can because I feel that it is something that many Japanese don’t expect from foreigners. Especially as interpreters, we need to aim to exceed those expectations.

③頭取⇒Everyone else

There is no one in the show higher than the bank president and that being the case, he almost never uses Keigo. He speaks informally to almost everyone under him. Must be nice to be the boss.

④頭取⇒黒崎(金融庁)

The only time we hear the president speaking formally, it is on the phone to Kurosaki, when he finds out his bank is about to be audited. Within the company, only the company organization chart matters. But even the highest person in a company must be ready to kowtow to an outsider who holds their company’s future in their hands. This goes for customers too. Even if the customer is lower on his company’s food chain than the president of the bank, the president will almost always address him formally and may even use Keigo to him.

When deciding whether or not to use Keigo, think of the following things:

1) Have I met this person before?

    – First impressions are important and almost always require more formal language.

2) Is the person part of my group (company, school, etc) or an outsider?

    – An outsider (customer, employee of another company, student from another class) will always be addressed formally.

3) Is the person higher on the food chain than me?

    – This one probably goes without saying. Respect your higher ups.

The Importance of Background Knowledge

The Importance of Background Knowledge

Background knowledgeI recently had the opportunity to interpret for a machine specialist from Japan. He was visiting the U.S., trying to help different customers who had purchased his company’s machines get them set up correctly. After he ran some trials and explained what he had done to our English speaking staff, they thanked him for his time and I left the room with them. When he was alone with our Japanese staff, he proceeded to tell them how impressed he was with my interpretation. “Most interpreters can speak both languages and are fine with regular conversations but they get caught on the nitty-gritty machine stuff,” he told them. What impressed him about me is that I was able to talk like someone who knew about machines.

When you become an interpreter, it is easy to feel like you have arrived. You have been acknowledged as someone who is fluent in both languages and you are paid for that skill. However, that skill should never be static. We should never be content where we are. If we want to truly be able to express things the way someone would if they had spoken in their native language, we have to know what they know. I’ve heard experts say that if you are interpreting for a doctor, you should almost as much as a doctor knows. You can know all the words a doctor knows in two languages, but if you don’t have the background knowledge, you may not put them together correctly. Your interpretation will always lack the fluidity and coherence of the native language utterance.

The good thing is that we learn with each new job we take. So, all you have to do is be proactive about it. As you are interpreting, jot down or make a mental note of things you don’t understand or didn’t prepare for and look them up later. When you have the opportunity, ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up to clarify something that was not clearly stated. In my experience, most people respond favorably to their interpreter being thorough and trying to learn, rather than just glossing over things they don’t get.