Interpreting notes

Interpreting notes

The interpreter who translates a speech after he has listened to it, either in its whole length or cut in several portions, is said to be working in consecutive mode using notes to help his memory. These notes are not part of any conventional graphic system and everyone is free to develop his own technique. Nevertheless, a certain number of basic rules facilitate the recording of details of the speech, which would by their great number clog the interpreter’s memorizing capabilities or could be mixed up during the speech into the translated (target) language.


Contrary to what one might think, it is not appropriate to note the speech in shorthand since this would duplicate the task: First decipher the notes and then translate the language. The notes taken must thus be readable in any language just like pictograms which are understood worldwide (just think of the sketches symbolizing the different disciplines at the Olympic Games) since not related to any specific language.

The interpreter must listen with utmost concentration to the speaker and only write the information which he or she judges sufficient to render the original, respecting its structure like names and titles of person or companies, figures, etc.

Again, it must be understood that the aim of interpreting notes is not to transcribe the speech, i.e. it is not a different form of shorthand. The idea is to write the minimum that will, at a quick glance, elicit in the interpreter's mind the ideas of the speech, so that it can be re-expressed in a different language.


The interpreter must analyse the speech and write the information in abstract form. For instance, the letter “E” laid on its back (like the Cyrillic Ш = "sh" ) will represent Europe, and one can specify whether eastern, western or central Europe is meant by slashing the relevant upward leg; one horizontal bar with two vertical bars underneath will represent a table as seen from the side, which means a meeting, a conference, etc.

These ideograms are at the same time linked by a simple system of arrows and brackets to render the structure of the sentence. One can consequently note that a sum increased (or decreased according to the arrow’s direction) by a certain percentage to reach another value. A bracket before an action (verb) indicates that it will take place in the future and vice versa.

As an example, the notes in the illustration read:

"We are particularly glad to inform you about an important increase in our company’s revenues, which rose by 10 percent, from 3.5 to 3.85 billion (*) dollars. This derives from huge sales of helicopters. The United States of America bought 50 and South Africa 20 of them. On the other hand we must relocate parts of our production in these countries."(*) a “billion” (bn) is called in most languages “milliard” , Md or mrd. Some people have even created complete systems of abbreviations to note all academic titles, administrative functions, military grades, etc. This system has a drawback: it is, just like shorthand, too tightly linked to a given language.

The sentences are usually written vertically in a notebook, each one being separated from the others by a horizontal line. After reading each sentence, the interpreter slashes it (discreetly). This small gesture has an important psychological effect: It’s like when you erase data on a computer memory, you make space free for other data.


* Andres, Dorte: "Konsekutivdolmetschen und Notation." 2000, ISBN 3-631-39856-5
* Gillies, Andrew: "Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting." 2005, ISBN 1-900650-82-7
* Jones, Roderick: "Conference Interpreting Explained." 1998, ISBN 1-900650-57-6
* Matyssek, Heinz: "Handbuch der Notizentechnik für Dolmetscher. Ein Weg zur sprachunabhängigen Notation." 1989, ISBN 3-8727-6616-3
* Rozan, Jean-François: "La Prise de Notes en Interprétation Consécutive." 1956, ISBN 2-8257-0053-3
* Seleskovitch, Danica: "Langage, langues et mémoires."1975, ISBN 2-256-90752-X
* Snell-Hornby, Mary/Hönig, Hans G./Kußmaul, Paul/Schmitt, Peter A.: "Handbuch Translation." 1999, ISBN 3-86057-995-9

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Interpreting contracts in English law — is an area of English contract law, which concerns how the courts decide what an agreement means. It is settled law that the process is based on the objective view of a reasonable person, given the context in which the contracting parties made… …   Wikipedia

  • Interpreting — Language interpreting or interpretation is the intellectual activity of facilitating oral and sign language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between two or more users of different languages. Functionally, interpreting and… …   Wikipedia

  • Telephone interpreting — See also: Language interpretation and Video Relay Service Part of a series on Translation …   Wikipedia

  • Prise de notes en interpretation consecutive — Prise de notes en interprétation consécutive Dans le cas d une interprétation consécutive, l interprète traduit un discours après l avoir écouté dans sa totalité ou en plusieurs passages, cohérents si possible s aide en prenant des notes… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Prise de notes en interprétation consécutive — Dans le cas d une interprétation consécutive, l interprète traduit un discours après l avoir écouté dans sa totalité ou en plusieurs passages, cohérents si possible s aide en prenant des notes manuscrites. Ce système d écriture n obéit en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Language interpretation — Interpreter redirects here. For the movie with the same title, see The Interpreter. For the band, see The Interpreters. For other uses, see Interpretation. Part of a series on …   Wikipedia

  • BIBLE — THE CANON, TEXT, AND EDITIONS canon general titles the canon the significance of the canon the process of canonization contents and titles of the books the tripartite canon …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Translation — For other uses, see Translation (disambiguation). Translator redirects here. For other uses, see Translator (disambiguation). Contents 1 Etymology 2 Theory …   Wikipedia

  • biblical literature — Introduction       four bodies of written works: the Old Testament writings according to the Hebrew canon; intertestamental works, including the Old Testament Apocrypha; the New Testament writings; and the New Testament Apocrypha.       The Old… …   Universalium

  • Jesse Mugambi — Jesse Ndwiga Kanyua Mugambi Born Jesse Ndwiga Kanyua Mugambi 6 February 1947 (1947 02 06) (age 64) Kiangoci, Embu District, Kenya Residence Kenya Citizenship Kenya …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”