Consecutive Interpreting

A couple of years ago a friend invited me to her graduation ceremony at Sorbonne. They have very nice graduation ceremonies for their french courses “Cours de civilisation française.” I thought that it would be nice for my friend if I took consecutive notes and interpreted the speech for her afterwards. Not that she needed interpretation, but just to remember her gratuation. Since consecutive interpreting means taking notes for up to ten minutes and then interpret after the speaker has finished it seemed like a suitable exercise. So I started taking notes, and later transcribed the speech for her. It occured to me now that I could put it on the blog as an example of note taking. I discussed it in class with my students as well, as I held an introductory lecture on note taking. I believe it is important to show your own notes since note taking is so personal. There is no way you can say that your notes HAVE to look this or that way, but there are of course good advice to be given on how to make it as effectively as possible.

The speech was nice and not very difficult. It is the teacher’s farewell speech to her students, solemn, a bit of fun and held in French of course. She also uses the triadic structure several times which also facilitates interpreting, repetition and lists are good for this.
In John le Carré’s book, Mission song (very good image of interpreting by the way, if you overlook the fact that the hero speaks at least 25 languages and interpret to and from all of them), the boss calls the interpreters notes the Babylonian cuneiform. My notes are not exactly a Babylonian cuneiform. I have a pretty bad note taking technique, you should really use more symbols than I do. There are stories of legendary interpreters whose note taking technique was to draw caricatures of the speakers and those caricatures made them remember everything. But as you can see in the picture it’s not abut shorthand, neither to note everything down. Focus is put on logical connections and important, mening bearing concepts rather than words (although you can take down words of course). You create a support for your memory.


Normally, you interpret directly after the speech. This time it now took me about ten minutes before I had time to write down the interpreting. The fact that I wrote it down, also gave me the chance to reflect once more on what was said, but here she said (with the reservation that English is not my mother tongue of course):

Today I have three things to say to you. First of all: Bravo! Bravo because the term is over and you stand here on graduation day. But above all, bravo to you who came to class every day (well, almost every day anyway …). Bravo since you were always were on time (well, almost always anyway …), bravo to you for always having done all the homework (well, almost all anyway …), and bravo for all the work you have done.
And you have succeeded! And what is even more important is the great decision you made six months ago. The decision to leave home and family and to travel to a foreign country. And now you stand here and now you have succeeded. Bravo!
I would also like to say thank you! Thank you for choosing France for you studies and thank you for choosing la Sorbonne. But it’s not the end here. When you go home, the real work begins to maintain the French language. Eventually, the French language may disappear from your memory, but you will always carry the adventure with you. And you will tell your friends about the adventure and your children and perhaps your students (if you are a teacher). And maybe, your friends, children and students will choose to come to the Sorbonne too, and then you have done the same job as we do. Then you spread the love of the French language and French culture. I expect you to do it and I say thank you for doing it.
Thirdly, I want to say goodbye, Au Revoir. You know that there are many words for the same concept in French and here comes a short vocabulary lesson. Au revoir means til we meet again. So see you again. Perhaps we see you already this spring if you have signed up for the spring semester, maybe we’ll meet later, maybe we’ll meet somewhere else. So I say Au Revoir and phonetically, you have learned that revoir (two claps) has two syllables and that e ‘decreases (I love this stuff). So now, all of you say after me Au Revoir. And I would say to you: Well done, Thank you and Au Revoir!


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