Interpreting and taking notes


I had a day out of the office interpreting yesterday. I really enjoyed it, especially as it was a trip to France. The journey back on the Eurostar gave me the chance to think about how the meeting had gone and how I can maybe improve the way I work and the actual process of interpreting. The one area that I have never read any theory about or had specific training in is that of note taking. It’s not that I have a particular problem with it, and what I do works for me, but I have never sat down down to think about how I could make the best use of the notes I scribble while my clients are talking.
I tend to write down names, figures and dates, which are difficult to memorise, and keywords, with a sprinkling of signs indicating the relation between the words: => indicates a consequence, + indicates a coordination, etc. I think my work would really benefit from a more rigorous use of these signs which indicate the logical structure of what is being said. Thus, I would be able to write down not the words that are being used, but the general thinking and reasoning of the speaker, which should, I imagine, allow me to completely free myself from the source language and convey the message in a more natural manner.
I also tend to write either in the source or target language according to what is easier to me in the split second where I need to make a note of something. I’m sure it would be easier to stick to one language, and from what I’ve read, it should ideally be in the target language.
To find answers to my questions, I’ve ordered the following book: Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting – A Short Course (Andrew Gillies). There aren’t that many books on interpreting techniques out there and this one looks like it is steeped in practice, which is what I’m looking for. I’ll let you know if it is helpful.

By | 2016-10-18T15:50:44+00:00 October 13th, 2005|Interpreting|3 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. MM October 13, 2005 at 2:26 pm

    I used to help examine this, although I can’t do it myself. The biggest results came from spacing the clauses out across the page with lots of room between, and arrows indicating references back. Then your rapid notes are in a spatial framework. Also, the fewer notes you get used to using, the more you can rely on your short-term memory and retain the overall sense. I’m sure the book will be good.
    Also recommend Jean-François Rozan, La Prise de Notes en Interprétation Consécutive 1979, probably still in print as used at Geneva University. I envy anyone who can interpret at all!

  2. céline October 13, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks a lot for the tip on the Rozan book Margaret. About the spacing of notes on the page, I’m sure it would make things clearer, but I don’t like using so much paper!
    Interpreting is great, it gives me a really good buzz, but it’s exhausting and I can’t imagine doing simultaneous interpreting at conferences, for example. The pressure!

  3. Andrew Gillies January 6, 2006 at 8:47 am

    hi Celine,
    i was very pleased to come across your blog the other day. There are not many interpreting pages out there.
    I was even more surprised to get there while googling my own name! Not the most modest activity in the world but I wanted to see if anyone had heard about my new book. And you have!
    I’m genuinely interested to know what you and others think. The book’s only been out for a couple of weeks.
    all the best
    Andrew Gillies

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