How to measure the efficiency of your conference preparation

Half of the time we dedicate to a specific interpreting assignment is often spent on preparation. But while many a thought is given to the actual interpreting performance and the different ways to evaluate it, I hardly ever hear anyone discuss their (or others‘) preparation performance. However, if we want to be good information and knowledge managers rather than mere information and knowledge workers, we need to close the management cycle and put extra effort into checking if our work serves its purpose and making possible adjustments to optimise it.

Efficiency being the ratio between input and output (how much do you spend to make a dollar?), the question now is what to measure in the first place. Admittedly, the efficiency of information and knowledge work is not the easiest thing to measure. Apart from the fact that whilst interpreting we have other things to worry about, it is hard to tell the difference between the way we actually interpret and the way we would have done without the most essential part of our information work, i.e. preparation. Strictly speaking, previous work experience and knowledge acquired outside the interpreter’s professional life also count as „preparation“ and can even be more helpful than preparation in the stricter sense.

To put the concept of efficiency of information and knowledge work in conference interpreting into measurable terms, it could be reduced to the following question:

How much time do you spend to make a useful information unit?

As it happens, back in 2006 I conducted a case study to check exactly this: a conference interpreter’s preparation effort in relation to its usefulness. As a baseline, I decided to use the terminology prepared for a technical meeting, assuming that this is what comes closest to a quantifiable amount of information. Even if preparation is not all about terminology (or glossaries), it is an important part, and if it is well done, it covers semantics and context information as well.

So in order to get a number representing the output, I simply counted all the terminological units prepared for one meeting (376) and afterwards had the interpreter count those units that actually came up in the meeting (197) so that the terms prepared „in vain“ could be deducted. I then calculated the percentage of the used terms in relation the total amount of elaborated terms, the so called usage rate. In the case study the overall usage rate at the conference at hand was 52%. The usage rate of terminology from a previous conference of the same client about the same subject was 48 % (81 out of 168 terminological units). This has of course no statistical significance whatsoever, but it can surely be a useful indicator for the individual interpreter. And interestingly, when repeating this exercise with my students from now and then, the results are usually of a similar order of magnitude.

Once the output (terms used) has been determined, it can be related to the input. Assuming that the input is mainly the time spent on preparing the terminological units that came up in the conference, this time is divided by the terms used in order to obtain the relative or average time spent per terminological unit. This value can be considered an approximation to the efficiency of the interpreter’s information work. In the case study the average time spent per term used was 5 minutes (9.5 hours for 113 terms). When repeating this exercise with students, this value usually ranges roughly from 1 to 10 minutes.

Such numbers of course merely serve to quantify the information work we do. In order to really complete the management cycle and find out in how far preparation could possibly be optimised, a closer look needs to be taken at the quality of information and knowledge gaps that occur during the interpreting assignment at hand and how they are or could be handled – which is a different story altogether.

References

Informations- und Wissensmanagement im Konferenzdolmetschen. Sabest 15. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. [dissertation] www.peterlang.net

About the author

Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

About Term Extraction, Guesswork and Backronyms – Impressions from JIAMCATT 2018 in Geneva

JIAMCATT is the International Annual Meeting on Computer-Assisted Translation and Terminology, a IAMLAP taskforce where most international organizations, various national institutions and academic bodies exchange information and experience in the field of terminology and translation. For this year’s JIAMCATT edition in Geneva, I had the honour of running a workshop on Tools for Interpreters – and idea I found absolutely intriguing, as the audience would not necessarily be interpreters, but translators, terminologist and heads of language, conference and/or documentation services. So I chose a hands-on workshop setting called „an hour in the shoes of a conference interpreter“. Participants had to prepare a meeting using different tools and would then listen to a 10 minute sequence of this meeting and see how well they felt prepared.

The meeting to be prepared was a EP Special Committee on the Union’s authorisation procedure for pesticides on April 12, 2018. Participants could work in two possible scenarios:

Scenario 0: Interpreters haven’t received any documents and hardly any info about the conference. They have to guess and prioritise more than those working under Scenario 1.

Scenario 1: Interpreters have received all the documents one hour in advance (quite realistic a scenario, as Marcin Feder from the EP pointed out).

The participants were free to choose to work either alone or in a team. They were encouraged to test/evaluate one of the tools presented:

InterpretBank, a Computer-Aided Interpreting tool that covers many elements of an interpreters‘ workflow, like glossary creation, multi-dictionary search, term extraction, document annotation, quick search in the booth and flashcard learning.

InterpretersHelp, a cloud-based Computer-Aided Interpreting tool that allows online shared glossary creation, glossary sharing with the community, manual term extraction and flashcard learning, as well as document and job management.

OneClickTerm, a browser-based term extraction tool

GT4T, a plugin for looking up words in several online dictionaries or machine translation sites

Sb.qtrans.de, a toolbar for consulting several online dictionaries and encyclopaedias

At the end of the exercise, the participants watched the EP Special Committee on the Union’s authorisation procedure for pesticides on April 12, 2018 of the committee meeting. What followed was a lively and inspiring discussion, where each group described their workflows and how efficient they thought it was.

Those who had the relevant documents and ran them through the OneClick term extraction found that most critical terms that came up in the speech were in the extracted list. Others found the relevant documents by way of internet research and did the same.

Quickly installing programs or creating test accounts didn’t work out as easily for everyone, so some participants reverted to creating glossaries – common practice in the „real world“ – and felt well prepared with that. Ten terms of their glossary were mentioned in the 10 minute video sequence. Others spent so much time familiarising themselves with the new tools that they didn’t feel well prepared but were very happy with what they had seen of InterpreterHelp and OneClickTerm.

When it comes to preparing for an EU meeting – at least when working from and into EU languages – there is an abundance of information available on the internet. It became clear once more that EU interpreters, in terms of meeting preparation, live in paradise. The EP legislative observatory, IATE and Eurlex were the main sources of information mentioned. I was happy to learn from Mariangeles Torrent (SCIC) that Prelex has not disappeared, but simply has turned into a tab within Eurlex named „legislative procedures„.

A short discussion about the pros and cons of Eurlex led to the conclusion that for interpreters it would be wonderful to have more than three languages displayed in parallel, and possibly a term extraction feature or technical terms highlighted in the text. Josh Goldsmith had the news that by adding a hyphen plus the language code in the url of the multilingual display, a fourth, fifth etc. language can indeed be added, although the page layout is far from perfect then. For the moment I have decided to stick to the method I have been using for over ten years, which consists of copying and pasting the columns into an Excel spreadsheet.

I was very glad to hear one participant mention the word „thinking“ in the context of conference preparation. He looked at the agenda and the first thing he did was think about what the meeting might be about. He then did some background research in Wikipedia and other sources and looked up product names, which actually were mentioned in the speech. He also checked who were the members of the committee, who didn’t appear in this part of the meeting, but would otherwise have been useful.

While terms and glossaries were clearly the topics most intensely discussed, it became clear that semantic and context knowledge is crucial for interpreters to get a grasp of the situation they are working in. For as much as I appreciate a list of extracted terms from a meeting document as a last minute preparation, there is no such thing as understanding the content people are referring to. Hence my enthusiasm about the fact that the different semiotic levels (terms, content, context) did come up in the discussion. And indeed the notes I took while listening to the speech reflect the same thing: sometimes my doubts or reflections were simply about terms (how do you say co-formulant or low risk active substances in German), some about the situation (Can beer and talc be on the list of basic substances? Is the non-native speaker sure that this is the right word?) and some about meaning (What exactly is a candidate for substitution?).

It was also very interesting to see how different ways of preparing a meeting turned out to be useful in the meeting. Obviously, there is not just one way to success in meeting preparation.

Among the software features participants would like to see to support the information and knowledge work in conference interpreting, there seemed to be a wide consensus that term extraction and markup of glossary terms in meeting documents – like InterpretBank and Intragloss offer – are extremely useful. Text summarisation was also mentioned. Several participants found InterpretBank’s speech to text integration (based on Dragon) very interesting, but unfortunately, due to practical restraints we couldn’t test this.

When it comes to search functions, it is crucial that intuitive searching is possible in the relevant (!) documents and sources. Relevance seems to be an important factor in conference preparation. What with the abundance of information available nowadays, finding out what is really useful is key. However, many of the big international organisations like EU, UN and WTO do have very useful document management systems in place which help to find one’s way around.

From a freelancer’s perspective, I think that organizations should rather go for browser-based, i.e. device-independent systems to support their interpreters. This lowers the entry barrier of having to install something on each computer, apart from facilitating mobile access and online collaboration. Although I must say that I do also fancy the idea of a small plugin that works in any software, like my most recent discovery, GT4T. At least as freelancers, we change settings so often (back and forth from personal computers to mobile devices, Excel sheets, shared Google docs, paper, institutional information management systems etc.) that a self-contained environment for conference interpreters is maybe too clumsy and unrealistic. After all, hotkeys seem to be back in fashion: I also heard from the WTO colleagues that they have developed a tool quite along the same lines, creating special hotkeys for translators.

And finally, my favourite newly learnt word: Backcronym

Backronyms are acronyms that used to be normal words and were re-interpreted later. While translators have a chance to think twice or recognise the word as a backronym because it is written in capitals, interpreters may struggle much more with this. It may take us a moment or two to figure out that the sentence „we need to do what PIGS do“ refers to a „Professional Interpreters‘ Gymnastics Society“ rather than an animal.

Further reading:

Workhop Presentation (pdf) JIAMCATT 2018 Tools for Interpreters

Teresa Ortego Antón (2015): Terminology management tools for conference interpreters: an overview. In: Eleftheria Dogoriti  Theodoros Vyzas (editors): International Journal of Language, Translation and Intercultural Communication, Vol 5 (2016), Editors: Technological Educational Institute of Epirus, Greece. 107-115.

Hernani Costa, Gloria Corpas Pastor, Isabel Durán Muñoz (LEXYTRAD, University of Malaga, Spain): A comparative User Evaluation of Terminology Management Tools for Interpreters. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Computational Terminology, 23 August 2014, Dublin, Ireland. 68-76
Anja Rütten (2017): Terminology Management Tools for Conference Interpreters –
Current Tools and How They Address the Specific Needs of
Interpreters. In: Translating and the Computer 39, Proceedings, 16-17 November 2017, AsLing, The International Association for Advancement in Language Technology, London, England. 98 ff

 

 

New Term Extraction Features in InterpretBank and InterpretersHelp – Thumbs up!

Extracting terminology from preparatory texts into a term database seems to be the hot topic of the moment, judging by what the two most active and innovative CAI (computer-assisted interpreting) tools, InterpretBank and InterpretersHelp, are working on at the moment.  So while I am still waiting to become a Windows beta tester of Intragloss, the pioneer in this field, I am eager to have a go at both InterpretBank5’s (beta) and InterpretBank’s (experimental) new extraction features.

InterpretBank by Claudio Fantinuoli has been adding quite some time-saving features for conference preparation lately. Apart from searching online ressources on the go while building your glossary, it now promises to extract terminology from your glossaries, view original and translation in parallel and link documents to glossaries. This does indeed sound like Intragloss combined with the sophisticated booth-friendly terminology management system that InterpretBank has been for many years. So off we go!

As you can see in the picture, a new „documents“ icon has been added to the familiar three others (editing, conference mode, flashcards). When I press the magic button, the documents pane appears in the bottom left corner and lets me add documents like pdf or pptx in my two languages and display them next to each other. Unfortunately, there is no synchronised scrolling and no search function to look up word in the documents, but these functions are to be implemented soon. The selected documents are now linked to the glossary, so whenever this particular glossary is opened, they will appear in the documents pane. Highlighting words in the two texts and inserting them into the glossary or looking up translations in my favourite online resources (like IATE, Linguee, Pons, LEO and others more) works so swiftly, when I first tried it the terms were in my glossary before I had even noticed.

For English texts, context examples can be looked up using the right mouse button or using the icon in the list of extracted terms.  And what’s great for sharing with colleagues and for using in the booth: The text can be opened in a separate window and annotated with records from the glossary:

Automatic extraction of terminology or key concepts so far only works for English, but will be implemented for other languages, too (German, Spanish, French and Italian are planned to be released in April). Quality of extraction, as always, depends on many factors, like the amount of text and the subject area, but it is good to get a first impression of the subject matter at hand.

InterpretBank as a locally installed application raises no confidentiality issues with your client’s documents being opened and processed, as everything InterpretBank does happens on your computer (unless you use the „send document to any device“ option).

If you are more of a team glossary and online networking person, InterpretersHelp by Yann Plancqueel and Benoît Werner is the other option to manage glossaries and manually extract terminology from texts. It is quite straightforward: Adding documents works via Copy & Paste, you just paste the text into a field for the respective language so you have the two language versions displayed next to each other (but with no synchronised scrolling either). When I tried it, inserting 20 pages from a pdf worked fine. Words can be looked up in the texts using the browser search function.

The highlighting and inserting also works very swiftly and you can look up terms in Google Translate and the Oxford Dictionaries. Once you have extracted all the vocab you need, you press a button to add all the new entries to your glossary. When changing back from the glossary view to the extractor, the texts have disappeared.

InterpretersHelp as a cloud-based tool addresses the data protection issue by encrypting the data that transit to and from the website (https://interpretershelp.com/help/secure_hosting).

Of course there are zillions of other functions interpreters need for CAI tools to support their workflow perfectly. But I think that both InterpretBank and InterpretersHelp have added one super useful feature to make our lives easier. Thanks a lot!

About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

Further reading:

Summary Table of Terminology Tools for Interpreters. <www.termtools.dolmetscher-wissen-alles.de>

Josh Goldsmith: The Interpreter’s Toolkit: Interpreters’ Help – a one-stop shop in the making?. In: aiic.net February 12, 2018. <http://aiic.net/p/8499>.

Anja Rütten: InterpretBank 4 Review. 31 July 2017. <http://blog.sprachmanagement.net/interpretbank-4-review/>.

Alexander Drechsel: App profile: Interpreters‘ Help. 2 Oct 2015. <https://www.adrechsel.de/dolmetschblog/interpretershelp>.

Anja Rütten: Booth-friendly terminology management revisited – two newcomers. 29 April 2014. <http://blog.sprachmanagement.net/booth-friendly-terminology-management-revisited-2-newcomers/>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashterm revisited. A guest article by Anne Berres

  +++ für deutsche Fassung bitte runterscrollen +++

One of everything, please!

Have you ever wished there was a terminology management system (TMS) that would provide all the functions you are looking for and prepare for the conference largely automatically? Wouldn’t that be splendid? You’d just have to type in the event’s title and the speaker’s name and the tool would sift through your existing terminology and the web, compile a list of useful terms – with their correct translations and including collocations, obviously – and present it to you as an audio file on your smartphone which you would “only” have to memorise. Thank you very much! We don’t yet have such a supertool but much is changing in the realm of TMS. This also holds true for flashterm.

Flashterm was designed to be used in enterprises, and most customers are large businesses. Its developer, Joachim Eisenrieth, does, however, find our profession very exciting and offered to create a new version for interpreters in which he would take my suggestions for improvement into consideration.

Naturally, I immediately came up with a tech shopping list: voice recognition, a field for collocations and 200 grams of fuzzy search, please. I’d also like a vocab learning mode – auditive, if possible – some nice and fresh terminology extraction mechanism – multilingual, please – and a simultaneous search in online dictionaries. But without the need for an internet connection, of course, and I’m afraid I can’t have the search slowing down.

None of the solutions on the market today is a panacea for all our woes, and the tools set different priorities. Flashterm focusses on knowledge management. This brings immense benefits because the tool stores very diverse data and lets us find and reuse terms more easily. It therefore provides useful features that most TMS targeted at interpreters lack:

  1. Most TMS for interpreters are term-based, which means that their structure is similar to a bilingual or multilingual dictionary. Flashterm, in contrast, is concept-based and can therefore be used as a kind of thesaurus where everything revolves around the meaning rather than the wording. This gives us the opportunity to store more relevant information.
  2. There are no collective data fields under a heading like “Additional information”. Every single piece of information has its allocated spot. This again enables us to use various filters, such as the admin and status filters. With their help we can quickly find abbreviations or acronyms, revise changes we made in the booth or have those terms displayed that still lack a target-language equivalent. Such filters do not only speed up the term search but also reduce the time needed for “tidying up” after the conference.
  3. Terms receive tags for the subject areas and projects they are to be allocated to, which we can use to our advantage to be a little more creative. Subject areas do not necessarily have to be limited to the traditional ones, e.g. “automotive”. We can also define subject areas for “speaker”, “slogan”, or “product line”, for instance. This way we could create a term entry for the speaker’s name, add a photo and details from their CV and allocate them to our project tag for this event. The CV info would then be stored together with the terminology and we would not have to switch in between different sources. Also, if the same speaker were to give a talk on a different occasion and the name rang a bell but we couldn’t quite remember where we heard it before, we could just search for the name in our database and would immediately receive information on past events. Just get creative!
  4. You can create internal links to other term entries which are likely to come up in the same context as the term you searched for. This can be very helpful in the booth and also during preparation to memorise information on the subject matter more effectively.

Joachim Eisenrieth and I have been able to add a few features that were not included in flashterm for businesses. How did we do this? Well, I’d usually express my desire for an, in my opinion, indispensable feature for interpreters and he’d get down to programming. Once the programming was done, I’d receive a new software version for testing, give feedback from an interpreter’s perspective and help detect bugs. This would go on until the feature ran flawlessly.

From a developer’s perspective, the most challenging programming task was probably designing an import and export feature that could be easily used even by non-techies. The data import and export used to be offered exclusively as a service by Eisenrieth Dokumentations GmbH but now interpreters can import all the information they have in their existing glossaries themselves via Excel. And this includes definitions, grammar details, context, subject areas, project allocation etc. Even if you wanted to use flashterm only for the booth, and otherwise preferred Excel, you could keep on using Excel to compile your glossary and then simply import it.

Of course, entries can also be created directly in flashterm. The interpreter version now includes fields for collocations and pronunciation so that the information is displayed right next to the term.

This description might be a little too theoretical but if you have a look at the user interface, you will understand why flashterm offers so many features and is still easy to use. The user interface is unbelievably intuitive, well structured and you can learn how to use the software in only a day. As an additional plus, the user interface can be reduced to a simple bilingual dictionary view should you prefer this in the booth. In accordance with current trends, flashterm can be used just as well on tablets and on the iPhone. Of course, that’s brilliant for assignments where you need to be mobile.

If you want to know more about flashterm, feel free to get in touch with me or visit one of my (free-of-charge) webinars or even just contact Joachim Eisenrieth directly for a trial version.

Anne Berres: kontakt@ab-dolmetschen.de
www.ab-dolmetschen.de
+49 17645844081

Joachim Eisenrieth: joachim.eisenrieth@edok.de
https://www.flashterm.eu/

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Einmal mit Allem, bitte!

Wer kennt es nicht – die Suche nach dem einen Terminologiemanagementsystem (TMS), das alle Funktionen bietet, die man sich wünscht und einem die Konferenz, wenn möglich, weitestgehend automatisch vorbereitet. Wäre das nicht fantastisch? Ein Tool, bei dem man den Titel der Konferenz und den Namen des Redners eingibt, das Tool durchforstet dann automatisch den eigenen Terminologiebestand sowie das Internet auf brauchbare Vokabeln mit deren Übersetzung in die gewünschten Sprachen, extrahiert von alleine noch die passenden Kollokationen und bereitet uns diese Infos als Audiodatei auf, die wir natürlich über das Smartphone abrufen können und dann „nur“ noch zu lernen brauchen. Ganz so weit sind wir leider noch nicht, doch im Bereich der TMS tut sich tatsächlich Einiges. So auch bei flashterm.

Das Tool war ursprünglich auf Terminologiemanagement in Unternehmen ausgerichtet und zieht auch hauptsächlich Unternehmenskunden an. Doch der Entwickler, Joachim Eisenrieth, findet auch die Dolmetschertätigkeit sehr spannend und hat angeboten, mit meinen Verbesserungsvorschlägen eine neue Dolmetscherversion auf den Markt zu bringen.

Das war der Startschuss für das große Wunschkonzert: einmal bitte mit Spracherkennung, Anzeige von Kollokationen und fehlertoleranter Suche, aber bitte ohne das Programm zu verlangsamen, dann noch bitte Lernmodus, am besten auditiv, automatische Termextraktion, in mehreren Sprachen natürlich, und gleichzeitiger Suche in Online-Wörterbüchern, aber bitte ohne eine Internetverbindung zu benötigen.

Die eierlegende Wollmilchsau gibt es heute noch nicht und die verschiedenen Anbieter setzen ihre Prioritäten unterschiedlich.

Flashterm hat sein Hauptaugenmerk auf dem Wissensmanagement. Dies hat zum Vorteil, dass verschiedenartigste Informationen verwaltet werden können und die Auffindbarkeit von Termini sowie deren Wiederverwendbarkeit erleichtert werden. Es gibt zahlreiche Elemente, die flashterm zu einer wahren Wissensdatenbank werden lassen, die andere dolmetschorientierte TMS nicht derart anbieten:

  1. Die meisten Terminologietools für Dolmetscher sind benennungsorientiert. Das bedeutet, dass sie eher mit einem zwei- oder mehrsprachigen Wörterbuch zu vergleichen sind. Flashterm ist begriffsorientiert, was bedeutet, dass sich das Tool nicht nur als Wörterbuch, sondern fast eine Art Thesaurus verwenden lässt, bei dem nicht das Wort, sondern das Konzept im Mittelpunkt steht. Das hat den Vorteil, dass mehr Informationen abgespeichert werden können.
  2. Es gibt keine Sammelfelder beispielsweise mit dem Titel „Zusatzinfos“, in die alles Mögliche hineingeschrieben werden kann, sondern jede Information hat ihren gerechten Platz. Das bietet die Möglichkeit hilfreicher Filter, so zum Beispiel die Admin- und Statusfilter, die einen Abkürzungen/Akronyme ganz leicht auffinden lassen, einem geänderte Begriffe noch einmal vor Augen führen und einem diejenigen Begriffe aufführen, bei denen ein Äquivalent fehlt. Solche Filter erleichtern nicht nur die Suche nach Termini, sondern beschleunigen auch die Nachbereitung von Dolmetschaufträgen.
  3. Die Zuordnung zu Sachgebieten und Projekten findet eher Tag-artig statt. Das bietet mehr Flexibilität und erlaubt es einem, mit den Möglichkeiten der Datenbank zu spielen. So könnte man sich z.B. überlegen, nicht nur traditionelle Sachgebiete (z.B. „Automobil“) zu definieren, sondern auch Sachgebiete mit den Titeln „Redner“, „Slogan“ oder „Produktlinie“ anzulegen. Zur Veranschaulichung: Im Sachgebiet „Redner“ ist der terminologische Eintrag dann der Name des Redners, ein Bild desselben kann auch hinzugefügt werden, sowie im Feld für Definitionen die Daten seines Lebenslaufs. So hätte man erstens auch diese Infos mit der Terminologie an einem Ort abgelegt und könnte zweitens bei einer künftigen Konferenz einfach den Namen des Redners in das Suchfeld in flashterm eintippen und überprüfen, ob man diesen vielleicht schon einmal gedolmetscht hat und, wenn ja, bei welcher Veranstaltung. Der Kreativität sind also keine Grenzen gesetzt!
  4. Es können verknüpfte Begriffe angelegt werden. Bei einem terminologischen Eintrag können andere Begriffe, die diesem inhaltlich nahestehen oder häufig mit diesem in Verbindung auftreten, sehr einfach verlinkt werden, sodass sie gleichzeitig angezeigt werden. Dies kann sowohl in der Kabine hilfreich sein als auch während der Vorbereitung, um sich inhaltliche Zusammenhänge besser merken zu können.

Joachim Eisenrieth und ich konnten in der Kooperation noch einige Funktionen hinzufügen, die nicht Teil der normalen Unternehmensversion flashterms waren. Ich habe dann meist den Wunsch nach einer Zusatzfunktion geäußert, die ich als für Dolmetscher überlebensnotwendig erachtet habe und er hat sich daraufhin ans Programmieren gemacht. Wenn die Funktion dann einmal programmiert war, habe ich die neue flashterm-Version zum Testen erhalten und konnte somit als Teil der realen Zielgruppe eine Rückmeldung geben und dabei helfen, eventuelle Bugs aufzudecken. Herr Eisenrieth hat mit meinem Feedback dann, sofern nötig, noch ein paar Nachbesserungen unternommen, bis die Funktion einwandfrei zu verwenden war.

Zu diesen neuen Funktionen gehört als vermutlich größte Entwicklungsherausforderung die Anfertigung einer Import- und Exportfunktion, die auch von Laien problemlos genutzt werden kann. Zuvor wurde ein Datenimport oder -export lediglich als Dienstleistung von der Eisenrieth Dokumentations GmbH angeboten, nun können die Termini und alle weiteren unterstützenden Angaben (Definition, Kollokationen, Aussprache, Grammatikangaben, Kontextbeispiel, Sachgebiet, Projektzuordnung, Links etc.) ganz einfach aus Excel in die dafür in flashterm vorgesehenen Felder importiert werden. Man kann hiermit nicht nur seine bestehende Terminologiesammlung übertragen, sondern kann auch weiterhin, sofern man das bevorzugt, mit Excel arbeiten und seine Daten dann einfach in flashterm importieren.

Natürlich kann man auch direkt in flashterm arbeiten und dort neue Terminologieeinträge anlegen. Hier kam als Neuerung in der Dolmetscherversion hinzu, dass es nun Felder für Kollokationen und Aussprache gibt, sodass einem diese Informationen, so man sie denn angelegt hat, direkt neben dem Fachbegriff angezeigt werden.

Zum Teil klingt das nun vielleicht etwas theoretisch, doch wer sich die Softwareoberfläche selbst anschaut, weiß, warum so viele verschiedene Funktionen möglich sind und diese dennoch einfach zu handhaben sind. Die Oberfläche ist einmalig intuitiv, sehr übersichtlich und der Umgang mit dem Programm deswegen kinderleicht zu erlernen. Zudem kann sie minimiert werden, sodass man, wenn man dies in der Kabine bevorzugt, wirklich nur ein zweisprachiges Wörterbuch hat. Im Einklang mit der modernen Technik ist flashterm auch auf Tablets nutzbar und für das iPhone gibt es eine App, was für mobile Einsätze äußerst nützlich sein kann.

Wer an mehr Infos interessiert ist, kann gerne direkt bei Joachim Eisenrieth nach einer Testversion fragen oder mich kontaktieren bzw. eines meiner kostenlos dazu angebotenen Webinare besuchen.

Anne Berres: kontakt@ab-dolmetschen.de
www.ab-dolmetschen.de
+49 17645844081

Joachim Eisenrieth: joachim.eisenrieth@edok.de
https://www.flashterm.eu/

Team Glossaries | Tips & Tricks von Magda und Anja | DfD 2017

Aus unserer Kurzdemo zum Thema „Teamglossare in GoogleSheets“ bei „Dolmetscher für Dolmetscher“ am 15. September 2017 in Bonn findet Ihr hier ein paar Screenshots und Kurznotizen. Detaillierte Gedanken zu gemeinsamer Glossararbeit in der Cloud findet Ihr in diesem Blogbeitrag.

Magdalena Lindner-Juhnke und Anja Rütten

Grundsätzliches zur Zusammenarbeit

  • Einladung zum Online-Glossar
  • Erwartungshaltung auf beiden Seiten
  • “Share Economy” oder Schutz des Urheberrechts/vertrauensvolle Zusammenarbeit
  • Organisation in Ablage/eigene und gemeinsame Ordner
  • Glossarstruktur – mehrere Reiter?
  • Vorteile/Bedenken
  • Teilnehmerstimmen
  • “Live-Teamarbeit” vor und während der Konferenz
  • “praktisch, sich […] GEMEINSAM vorzubereiten”, einheitliche Terminologie, Zeitersparnis
  • Glossar sortieren nach Chronologie im Vortrag -> Absprache
  • “Ich kann mit Word besser umgehen als mit Excel …”
  • “Teilen mit anderen Kabinen evtl. zu kompliziert?”
  • “Datenschutz?“

Musterglossar

demo glossary

Word geht auch!

word works, too

Aufbau (z.B. Zeilen/Spalten fixieren) oder Kopie erstellen

copy document

Die wichtigsten Kniffe, um nicht zu verzweifeln

  • Textumbruch oder fortlaufend, Textausrichtung in Zelle
  • Absatz in Zelle (Alt+Enter) – Vorsicht, zerschießt beim Exportieren evtl. die Tabellenstruktur
  • Suchen (Strg+F), alle Tabellenblätter durchsuchen
  • Zellen kopieren
  • Zeilen/Reiter hinzufügen
  • Spalten/Zeilen fixieren
  • Jedem eine “Privatspalte” zuweisen, für eigene Prioritäten/Anmerkungen etc.
  • Tabellendatei hochladen (schlecht zu bearbeiten) vs. Tabelle in Google erstellen – Kollegen fragen oder Webinar besuchen!

Kommentare, Chat, Kommentarspalte

comment in table

Sortierung, Chronologie

(nicht ohne Absprache umsortieren, es sei denn die ursprüngliche Reihenfolge lässt sich wieder herstellen)

sort chronologically

Datensicherung (was ist, wenn jemand anderes das komplette Glossar zerstört)

Private Filteransichten (bei großen Datenbeständen)

Herunterladen, Drucken, oder Copy&Paste

Paralleltexte “alignieren”

Alternative Airtable (verschlüsselt)

Paperless Preparation at International Organisations – an Interview with Maha El-Metwally

Maha El-Metwally has recently written a master’s thesis at the University of Geneva on preparation for conferences of international organisations using tablets. She is a freelance conference interpreter for Arabic A, English B, French and Dutch C domiciled in Birmingham.

How come you know so much about the current preparation practice of conference interpreters at so many international institutions?

The answer is quite simple really: I freelance for all of them! I am also pro paperless environments for obvious environmental and practical reasons. So even if some organisations offer a paper alternative (ILO, IMO, UNHQ, WFP) I go for the electronic version. Paperless portals of international organisations may differ in layout and how the information is organised but they essentially aim to achieve the same thing. Some organisations operate a dual document distribution system (paper and digital) with the aim of phasing out the former over time.

The European Parliament is already on its second paperless meeting and document portal. It used to be called Pericles and now it is called MINA, the Meeting Information and Notes Application. This required a bit of practice to become familiar with the new features.

I recently heard someone working in one of these paperless environments complain about the paperless approach, saying that they often struggle to find their way through a 400 pages document quickly. My first reaction was to say that hitting CTRL-F or CTRL-G is an efficient way to get to a certain part of a text quickly. But maybe there is more to it than just shortcuts. What is the reason, in your experience, that makes it difficult for colleagues to find their way around on a tablet or laptop computer?

I think that tablets represent a change and people in general resist change. It could be that we are creatures of habit. We are used to a certain way of doing things and some of us may be having a difficulty coping with all the changes coming our way in terms of technology developments. It could also be that some interpreters do not see the point of technology so they are not motivated to change something that works for them.

How is the acceptance of going paperless in general in the institutions you work for?

This depends on individual preferences. Many colleagues still prefer paper documents but I also see more and more tablets appearing in the booths. Some organisations try to accommodate both preferences. The ILO operates a dual distribution system as a step towards going completely paperless. Meeting documents are available on the organisation’s portal but are also printed and distributed to the booths. The same goes for the IMO where the interpreters are given the choice of paper or electronic versions of the documents or both.

Right, that’s what they do at SCIC, too. I take it that you wrote your master’s thesis about paperless preparation, is that right? Was the motivational aspect part of it? Or, speaking about motivation: What was your motivation at all to choose this subject?

Yes, this is correct. I am very much of a technophile and anything technological interests me. I was inspired by a paperless preparation workshop I attended at the European Parliament. It made sense to me as a lot of the time, I have to prepare on the go. It happens that I start the week with one meeting then end the week with another. Carrying wads of paper around is not practical. Having all meeting documents electronically in one place is handy. It happens a lot that I receive meeting documents last minute. There is no time to print them. So I learned to read and annotate the documents on apps on my tablet.

So while you personally basically did „learning by doing“, your researcher self tried to shed some more scientific light on the subject. Is that right? Would you like to describe a bit more in detail what your thesis was about and what you found was the most interesting outcome?

My thesis looked at training conference interpreting students to prepare for conferences of international organisations with the use of tablets. I noticed from my own experience and from anecdotes of older colleagues that meetings were getting more and more compressed. As a result, especially in peak seasons, interpreters may start the week with one conference and end it with another. Preparation on the go became a necessity. In addition, there are several international organisations that are moving towards paperless environments. Therefore, I think it is important for students to be introduced to paperless preparation at an early stage in their training for it to become a second nature to them by the time they graduate. And what a better tool to do that than the tablet? I created a course to introduce students to exactly that.

So when you looked at the question, was your conclusion that tablets are better suited than laptop computers? Currently, it seems to me that on the private market almost everyone uses laptops and at the EU, most people use tablets. I personally prefer a tablet for consecutive, but a laptop in the booth, as I can look at my term database, the internet and room documents at the same time more conveniently. I also blind-type much faster on a „real“ keyboard. I hope that the two devices will sooner or later merge into one (i.e. tablets with decent hard drives, processors and operating systems).

Now, from your experience, which of the two option would you recommend to whom? Or would you say it should always be tablets?

I prefer the tablet when travelling as:
– it is quieter in the booth (no tapping or fan noise),
– using an app like side by side, I can split the screen to display up to 4 apps/files/websites at the same time so the laptop has no advantage over the tablet here,
– it is lighter.

You have created a course for students. What is it you think students need to be taught? Don’t they come to the university well-prepared when it comes to handling computers or tablets?

The current generation of students is tech savvy so they are more likely to embrace tablets and go fully digital. The course I put together for teaching preparation with tablets relies on the fact that students already know how to use tablets. The course introduces the students to paperless environments of a number of international organisations, it looks at apps for the annotation of different types of documents, glossary management, more efficient google search among other things.

I also like to use the touchscreen of my laptop for typing when I want to avoid noise. But compared to blind-typing on a „normal“ keyboard, I find typing on a touchscreen a real pain. My impression is that when I cannot feel the keys under my fingers, I will never be able to learn how to type, especially blind-type, REALLY quickly and intuitively … Do you know of any way (an app, a technique) of improving typing skills on touchscreens?

I’m afraid I don’t really have an answer to that question. I am moving more and more towards dictating my messages instead of typing them and I am often flabbergasted at how good the output is, even in Arabic!

Talking about Arabic, is there any difference when working with different programs in Arabic?

Most of the time, I can easily use Arabic in different apps. The biggest exception is Microsoft Office on Mac. Arabic goes berserk there! I have to resort to Pages or TextEdit then. Having said that, a colleague just mentioned yesterday that this issue has been dealt with. But I have to explore it.

As to glossary management, not all terminology management tools for interpreters run on tablets. Which one(s) do you recommend to your students or to colleagues?

I use and recommend Interplex. It has a very good iPad version. The feature I like most about it is that you can search across your glossaries. I can do that while working and it can be a life saver sometimes!

If I wanted to participate in your seminar, where could I do that? Do you also do webinars?

I offer a number of seminars on technology for interpreters to conference interpreting students at some UK universities. I will keep you posted. I also have an upcoming eCPD webinar on September 19th on a hybrid mode of interpreting that combines the consecutive and simultaneous modes.

That sound like a great subject to talk about next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

InterpretBank 4 review

InterpretBank by Claudio Fantinuoli, one of the pioneers of terminology tools for conference interpreters (or CAI tools), already before the new release was full to the brim with useful functions and settings that hardly any other tool offers. It was already presented in one of the first articles of this blog, back in 2014. So now I was all the more curious to find out about the 4th generation, and I am happy to share my impressions in the following article.

Getting started

It took me 2 minutes to download and install the new InterpretBank and set my working languages (1 mother tongue plus 4 languages). My first impression is that the user interface looked quite familiar: language columns (still empty) and the familiar buttons to switch between edit, memorize and conference mode. The options menu lets you set display colours, row height and many other things. You can select the online sources for looking up terminology (linguee, IATE, LEO, DICT, Wordreference and Reverso) and definitions (Wikipedia, Collins, Dictionary.com) as well as set automatic translation services (search IATE/old glossaries, use different online translation memories like glosbe and others).

Xlsx, docx and ibex (proprietary InterpretBank format) files can be imported easily, and unlike the former InterpretBank, I don’t have to change the display settings any more in order to have all my five languages displayed. Great improvement! Apart from the terms in five languages, you can import an additional “info” field and a link related to each language as well as a “bloc note”, which refers to the complete entry.

Data storage and sharing

All glossaries are saved on your Windows or Mac computer in a unique database. I haven’t tested the synchronization between desktop and laptop, which is done via Dropbox or any other shared folder. The online sharing function using a simple link worked perfectly fine for me. You just open a glossary, upload it to the secure InterpretBank server, get the link and send it to whomever you like, including yourself. On my Android phone, the plain two-language interface opened smoothly in Firefox. And although I always insist on having more than two languages in my term database, I would say that for mobile access, two languages are perfect, as consecutive interpreting usually happens between two languages back and forth and squeezing more than two languages onto a tiny smartphone screen might not be the easiest thing to do either.

I don’t quite get the idea why I should share this link with colleagues, though. Usually you either have a shared glossary in the first place, with all members of the team editing it and making contributions, or everyone has separate glossaries and there is hardly any need of sharing. If I wanted to share my InterpretBank glossary at all, I would export it and send it via email or copy it into a cloud-based team glossary, so that my colleagues can use it at their convenience.

The terminology in InterpretBank is divided into glossaries and subglossaries. Technically, everything is stored in one single database, “glossary” and “subglossary” just being data fields containing a topic classification and sub-classification. Importing only works glossary by glossary, i.e. I can’t import my own (quite big) database as a whole, converting the topic classification data fields into glossaries and sub-glossaries.

Glossary creation

After having imported an existing glossary, I now create a new one from scratch (about cars). In edit mode, with the display set to two languages only, InterpretBank will look up translations in online translation memories for you. All you have to do is press F1 or using the right mouse button or, if you prefer, the search is done automatically upon pressing the tab key, i.e. jumping from one language field to the next –empty– one. When I tried “Pleuelstange” (German for connecting rod), no Spanish translation could be found. But upon my second try, “Kotflügel” (German for mudguard), the Spanish “guardabarros” was found in MEDIAWIKI.

By pressing F2, or right-click on the term you want a translation for, you can also search your pre-selected online resources for translations and definitions. If, however, all your language fields are filled and you only want to double-check or think that what is in your glossary isn’t correct, the program will tell you that nothing is missing and therefore no online search can be made. Looking up terminology in several online sources in one go is something many a tool has tried to make possible. My favourite so far being http://sb.qtrans.de, I must say that I quite like the way InterpretBank displays the online search results. It will open one (not ten or twenty) browser tabs where you can select the different sources to see the search results.

The functions for collecting reference texts on specific topics and extracting relevant terminology haven’t yet been integrated into InterpretBank (but, as Claudio assured me, will be in the autumn). However, the functions are already available in a separate tool named TranslatorBank (so far for German, English, French and Italian).

Quick lookup function for the booth

While searching in „normal“ edit mode is accent and case sensitive, in conference mode (headset icon) it is intuitive and hardly demands any attention. The incremental search function will narrow down the hit list with every additional letter you type. And there are many option to customize the behaviour of the search function. Actually, the „search parameters panel“ says it all: Would you like to search in all languages or just your main language? Hit enter or not to start your query? If not, how many seconds would you like the system to wait until it starts a fresh query? Ignore accents or not? Correct typos? Search in all glossaries if nothing can be found in the current one? Most probably very useful in the booth.

When toying around with the search function, I didn’t find my typos corrected, at least not that I was aware of. When typing „gardient“ I would have thought that the system corrected it into „gradient“, which it didn’t. However, when I typed „blok“, the system deleted the last letter and returned all the terms containing „block“. Very helpful indeed.

In order to figure out how the system automatically referred to IATE when no results were found in my own database, I entered „Bruttoinlandsprodukt“ (gross domestic product in German). Firstly, the system froze (in shock?), but then the IATE search result appeared in four of my five languages in the list, as Dutch isn’t supported and would have to be bought separately. At least I suppose it was the IATE result, as the source wasn’t indicated anywhere and it just looked like a normal glossary entry.

Queries in different web sources hitting F2 also works in booth mode, just as described above for edit mode. The automatic translation (F1) only works in a two-language display, which in turn can only be set in edit mode.

Memorize new terms

The memorizing function, in my view, hasn’t changed too much, which is good because I like it the way it was before. The only change I have noticed is that it will now let you memorize terms in all your languages and doesn’t only work with language pairs. I like it!

Summary

All in all, in my view InterpretBank remains number one in sophistication among the terminology tools made for (and mostly by) conference interpreters. None of the other tools I am aware of covers such a wide range of an interpreter’s workflow. I would actually not call it a terminology management tool, but a conference preparation tool.

The changes aren’t as drastic as I would have expected after reading the announcement, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the old InterpretBank not having been completely user-unfriendly in the first place. But the user interface has indeed become more intuitive and I found my way around more easily.

The new online look-up elements are very relevant, and they work swiftly. Handling more than two languages has become easier, so as long as you don’t want to work with more than five languages in total, you should be fine. If it weren’t for the flexibility of a generic database like MS Access and the many additional data fields I have grown very fond of , like client, date and name of the conference, degree of importance, I would seriously consider becoming an InterpretBank user. But then even if one prefers keeping one’s master terminology database in a different format, thanks to the export function InterpretBank could still be used for conference preparation and booth work „only“.

Finally, whatwith online team glossaries becoming common practice, I hope to see a browser-based InterpretBank 5 in the future!

PS: One detail worth mentioning is the log file InterpretBank saves for you if you tell it to. Here you can see all the changes and queries made, which I find a nice thing not only for research purposes, but also to do a personal follow-up after a conference (or before the next conference of the same kind) and see which were the terms that kept my mind busy. Used properly, this log file could serve to close the circle of knowledge management.

About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

Booth notes wanted for a study | Kabinenzettel für Studienzwecke gesucht

Dear fellow conference interpreters! For a study on information management in the booth, I am currently collecting sample booth notes (those papers you scribble terminology, names, numbers, acronyms or whatever on). So if you would like to make your personal contribution to this study, it would be great if you could email or whatsapp me a scan or foto of your booth notes to ruetten@sprachmanagement.net or +49 178 2835981. Your notes will of course be treated confidentially. Thanks a lot in advance!

Liebe DolmetschkollegInnen! Für eine informationswissenschaftliche Studie sammle ich derzeit Kabinenzettel, also die Blätter, auf denen Ihr Eure Notizen jeglicher Art verewigt, sei es Terminologie, Namen, Abkürzungen oder was auch immer. Wenn Ihr mir also einen Eurer Schriebe zur Verfügung stellen möchtet, würde ich mich sehr freuen. Gerne als Scan oder Foto emailen oder appen an ruetten@sprachmanagement.net oder 0178 2835981. Natürlich wird alles vertraulich behandelt. Schon jetzt mein herzliches Dankeschön!

Impressions from Translating and the Computer 38

The 38th ‚Translating and the Computer‘ conference in London has just finished, and, as always, I take home a lot of inspiration. Here are my personal highlights:

  • Sketch Engine, a language corpus management and query system, offers loads of useful functions for conference preparation, like web-based (actually Bing-based) corpus-building, term extraction (the extraction results come with links to the corresponding text, the lists are exportable to common, reusable formats) and thesaurus-building. The one thing l liked most was the fact that if, for example, your clients have their websites in several languages, you can enter the urls of the different language versions and SketchEngine will download them, so that you can then use the texts a corpus. You might hear more about SketchEngine from me soon …
  • XTM, a translation memory system, offers parallel text alignment (like many others do) with the option of exporting the aligned texts into xls. This finally makes them reusable for those many interpreting colleagues who, for obvious reasons, do not have any translation memory system. And the best thing is, you can even re-export an amended version of this file back into the translation memory system for your translator colleagues to use. So if you interpret a meeting where a written agreement is being discussed in several language versions, you can provide the translators first hand with the amendments made in the meeting.
  • SDL Trados now offers an API and has an App Store. New hope for an interpreter-friendly user interface!

All in all, my theory that you just have to wait long enough for the language technology companies to develop something that suits conference interpreters‘ needs seems to materialise eventually. Also scientists and software providers alike were keen to stress that they really want to work with translators and interpreters in order to find out what they really need. The difficulty with conference interpreters seems to be that we are a very heterogeneous community with very different needs and preferences.

And then I had the honour to run a workshop on interpreters workflows and fees in the digital era (for some background information you may refer to The future of Interpreting & Translating – Professional Precariat or Digital Elite?). The idea was to go beyond the usual „digitalisation spoils prices and hampers continuous working relations“ but rather find ways to use digitalisation to our benefit and to boost good working relationships, quality and profitability. I was very happy to get some valuable input from practicioners as well as from several organisations‘ language services and scientists. What I took away were two main ideas: interface-building and quality rating.

Interface-building: By cooperating with the translation or documentation department of companies and organisations, quality and efficiency could be improved on both sides (translators providing extremely valuable and well-structured input for conference preparation and interpreters reporting back „from the field“). Which brings me back to the aforementioned positive outlook on the sofware side.

Quality rating: I noticed a contradiction which has never been so clear to me before. While we interpreters go on about the client having to value our high level of service provided and wanting to be paid well for quality, quality rating and evaluation still is a subject that is largely being avoided and that many of us feel uncomfortable with. On the other hand, some kind of quality rating is something clients sometimes are forced to rely on in order to justify paying for that (supposedly) expensive interpreter. I have no perfect solution for this, but I think it is worth some further thinking.

In general, there was a certain agreement that formalising interpreters‘ preparation work has its limitations. It is always about filling the very personal knowledge gaps of the individual (for a very particular conference setting), but that technologies can still be used to improve quality and keep up with the rapidly growing knowledge landscape around us.

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About the author:
Anja Rütten is a freelance conference interpreter for German (A), Spanish (B), English (C) and French (C) based in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has specialised in knowledge management since the mid-1990s.

 

Hello from the other side – Chinese and Terminology Tools. A guest article by Felix Brender 王哲謙

As Mandarin Chinese interpreters, we understand that we are somewhat rare beings. After all, we work with a language which, despite being a UN language, is not one you’d encounter regularly. We wouldn’t expect colleagues working with other, more frequently used languages to know about the peculiarities of Mandarin.

This applies not least to terminology tools. Many of the tools available to interpreters do now support Chinese-script entries. And indeed: Interpreting from English into Chinese, terminology software works as well for Chinese as it would for any other language – next to good old Excel, I myself have used InterPlex, Interpret Bank and flashterm. It’s rather when working from Chinese into English that things get tricky – and that’s not necessarily a software issue.

Until recently, many interpreters were convinced and rather adamant that simultaneous interpreting with Chinese is downright impossible, and I am sometimes tempted to agree. Compared to English – left alone German – Chinese is incredibly dense. Many words consist of only one syllable, and only very few of more than two. Owing to the way Chinese works grammatically, the very same idea can be expressed a lot more concisely in Chinese than English. To make matters worse, we replace modern Mandarin expressions with written, Classical Chinese equivalents in formal Mandarin. As a rule of thumb, the more formal the Chinese used, the more succinct it will be as well – rather different from English or German. This also is the case with proper names and terminology, which will usually have abbreviated forms that are a lot shorter syllable-wise than their English equivalents.

Adding to that, Chinese natives are incredibly fond of their language and make ample use of its full range of options: Using rare and at times byzantine expressions and words is appreciated and applauded as a sign of good education; it is never perceived as pedantic or conceited. This includes idioms (chengyu 成語), which usually refer to a story from the Chinese Classics in a highly condensed fashion: They generally contain a mere four syllables and usually function as adjectives, in contrast to English or German. In English, we will need at least a full sentence to explain what is being said, even if the same or a similar idiom exists. Chinese also frequently uses xiehouyu 歇後語: proverbs consisting of two parts, the first presenting a scenario, the second outlining the rationale of the story. Usually, the second part will be left out because Chinese natives will be able to deduce it from the first – similar to speak of the devil (and he will appear) in English. Needless to say, there hardly ever is an English equivalent, and seeing that we are operating in entirely different cultural contexts, ironing out cultural differences when explaining xiehouyu will take additional time.

It will be no surprise to hear that Chinese discursive and grammatical peculiarities make it a difficult language to interpret from: relative clauses tend to be lengthy – and are always placed in front of the noun they describe; Chinese doesn’t mark tenses as such but rather uses particles to outline how different events and actions relate to each other, in contrast to linear notions of time and tenses in European languages, so we are often left guessing; he and she are homonyms in Mandarin; to name but three examples.

Considering all of this, we see that more often than not, simultaneous interpreting from Chinese is a race against the clock and an exercise in humility – and there isn’t much time to look up words in the first place.

In Modern Mandarin, there are only around 1,200 possible syllables, with each syllable being a morpheme, i.e. a component bearing meaning; in English, we have a far greater range of possible syllables, and they only make sense in context, as not every syllable carries meaning: /mea/ and /ning/ do not mean anything per se, but meaning does. For Chinese, this implies that homophones are a common occurrence. And while we aim for perfect clarity and lucidity in English, Chinese rather daoistically indulges in ambivalence. Clever plays on words, being illusive and vague and giving listeners space to interpret what you might actually mean: not bad style, but an art to be honed. Apart from having to spend more capacity and time on identifying terms and words used in the original, this adds another layer of difficulty with regards to looking up terminology in the booth: The fastest way to type Chinese characters is by using pinyin romanisation, but owing to the huge number of homonyms, any syllable in romanized transliteration will give you a huge range of options. This means that we would have to spend at least another second or so simply to select the correct character from a drop-down list – and we will not enjoy the pleasure of word prediction that works for other languages.

In practice, this means that besides very intensive preparation before the event, we rely on what might be the oldest terminology tool in the world: our booth buddy. They are particularly important because in Chinese, we obviously don’t have any cognates – something than might get us off the hook working with European languages. We also heavily rely on our colleagues sitting next to us for figures: Chinese has ten thousand (萬) and one hundred million (億) as units in their own right, so rather than talking about one million and one billion, the Chinese will talk about a hundred times ten thousand and ten times one hundred million, respectively. This means we will have to be calculating while interpreting: a feat hard to accomplish if you are out there on your own.

While I started out thinking that not being able to use terminology software to the same extent I would use it for German-English would be quite a nuisance, I have found that this is rather an instance of the old man living at the border whose horse runs away1, as you’d say in Chinese. Interpreting is teamwork after all, and working with Chinese, we are acutely aware that we rely on our booth buddy as much as they rely on us and that we can only provide the excellent service we do with somebody else in the booth. With that in mind, professional Chinese interpreters always make for great partners in crime in the booth.

About the author:

Felix Brender 王哲謙 is a freelance conference interpreter for English, Chinese and German based in Düsseldorf/Germany. He also teaches DE>EN at the University of Heidelberg, and ZH>EN interpreting as a guest lecturer in Leeds, UK, and Taipei, Taiwan.

1 (which, as the story goes, then returns, bringing a fine stallion with it, which is then ridden by his son, who falls of the horse and breaks his leg, which is why he is not drafted and sent to war, ultimately saving his life; meaning that any setback may indeed be a blessing in disguise, similar but not entirely identical to every cloud has a silver lining. One of the most frequently used Chinese sayings, eight syllables of which the latter four are generally left out: 塞翁失馬,焉知非福, which literally translates as ‘When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous?’. I rest my case.)