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, 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, 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!


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 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 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.


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.)

Booth-friendly terminology management:

Believe it or not, only a few weeks ago I came across just another booth-friendly terminology management program (or rather it was kindly brought to my attention by a student when I talked about the subject at Heidelberg University). It has been around since 2008 and completely escaped my attention. So I am all the happier to present today yet another player on the scene of interpreter-friendly terminology management tools:

Glossarmanager by Glossarmanager GbR/Frank Brempel (Bonn, Germany)

As the name suggests, in Glossarmanager terms are organised in different glossaries, each glossary including the data fields language 1 („Sprache 1“), language 2 („Sprache 2“), synonym, antonym, picture and comment. The number of working languages in each glossary is limited to two (or three if you decide to use the synonyms column for a third language). Each glossary can also be subdivided into chapters („Kapitel“).

Glossarmanager GlossarEdit

You may import and export rtf, csv and txt files, so basically anything that formerly was a text or table/spreadsheet document, and the import function is very user-friendly (it lets you insert the new data into an existing glossary and checks new entries against existing ones, or create a new glossary).

The vocab training module requires typing in and is very unforgiving, so each typo or other deviation from what is written in the database counts as a mistake. But if you are not put off by the nasty comments („That was rubbish“, „Please concentrate!“) or the even nastier learning record, you may well use this trainer as a mental memorising tool without typing the required terms.

The search module comes as a small window which, if you want it to, always stays in the foreground. Entering search terms is intuitive and mouse-free and the results can be filtered by language pairs, glossaries and authors. Ignoring of special characters like ü, è, ß etc. and case-sensitive search can be activated. Right under the hit list, Glossarmanager provides (customisable) links to online resources for further searching.

Glossarmanager Suche

Available for Windows

Cost: Free of charge (download here and use the free licence key)


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. – a great replacement for Google Sheets | tolle Alternative zu Google Sheets

+++ for English see below +++

Mit der Terminologieverwaltung meiner Träume muss man alles können: Daten teilen, auf allen Geräten nutzen und online wie offline darauf zugreifen (wie mit Interpreters’ Help/Boothmate für Mac oder auch Google Sheets), möglichst unbedenklich Firmenterminologie und Hintergrundinfos des Kunden dort speichern (wie bei Interpreters’ Help), sortieren und filtern (wie in MS Access, MS Excel, Lookup, InterpretBank, Termbase und anderen), individuelle Voreinstellungen wie Abfragen und Standardwerte festlegen (wie in MS Access) und, ganz wichtig: den Terminologiebestand so durchsuchen, dass es kaum Aufmerksamkeit kostet, also blind tippend und ohne Maus, eine inkrementelle Suche, die sich nicht darum schert, ob ich “rinon” oder “riñón” eingebe, und mir so oder so sagt, dass das Ding auf Deutsch Niere heißt, möglichst in Form einer gut lesbaren Trefferliste (wie Interplex und InterpretBank es tun).

Airtable, eine gelungene Mischung aus Tabellenkalkulation und Datenbank, kommt der Sache ziemlich nah. Es ist sehr intuitiv in der Handhabung und sieht einfach gut aus. Das Sortieren und Filtern geht sehr leicht von der Hand, man kann jedem Datensatz Bilder, Dateianhänge und Links hinzufügen und unterschiedliche Abfragen (“Views”)  von Teilbeständen der Terminologie (etwa für einen bestimmten Kunden, ein Thema, eine bestimmte Veranstaltungsart oder eine Kombination aus allem) definieren und auch Standartwerte für bestimmte Felder festlegen, damit man z. B. den Kundennamen, die Konferenzbezeichnung und das Thema nicht jedesmal neu eingeben muss. Die Detailansicht, die aufpoppt, wenn man auf eine Zeile klickt, ist auch super.  Eigene Tabellen lassen sich in Nullkommanix per Drag & Drop einfügen oder importieren. Und im Übrigen gibt es eine Menge nützlicher Tastenkombinationen.

Teamglossare (oder was auch immer) können von verschiedenen Personen über die iPad-, iPhone- oder Android-(beta)-App oder die Browseroberflächer bearbeitet werden. Allerdings können bei Zugriff über den Browser die Daten nicht offline bearbeitet und später online synchronisiert werden. Das funktioniert nur über die mobile App. Die Daten werden bei der Übermittlung und Speicherung verschlüsselt.

Nur eine Sache vermisse ich bei Airtable schmerzlich, nämlich die oben beschriebene intuitive, akzent-ignorierende Suchfunktion, die ihre Fundstücke in einer Trefferliste präsentiert, statt mich von Suchergebnis zu Suchergebnis hüpfen zu lassen. Ansonsten aber eine wahrhaft schnuckeliges Datenbankanwendung, nicht nur für Terminologie!

Airtable ist kostenlos, solange jede Tabelle nicht mehr als 1500 Zeilen umfasst. Für bis zu 5000 Zeilen bezahlt man 12 $ monatlich und für bis zu 50 000 Zeilen 24 $.

Übrigens: Eine Übersicht von am Markt verfügbaren Terminologieverwaltungsprogrammen für Dolmetscher findet sich hier.


Über die Autorin:
Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

My perfect terminology database must be shareable, portable and accessible both on and off line (like Interpreters’ Help/Boothmate for Mac and also Google Sheets) but at the same time trustworthy to the point that companies feel comfortable having their terminology stored there (like Interpreters’ Help), sortable and filterable (like MS Access, MS Excel, Lookup, InterpretBank, Termbase and others), customisable with pre-defined views and default values (like in MS Access) and, very importantly, searchable in a way that requires almost no attention – meaning a mouse-free, incremental search function that does not care whether I type “rinon” or “riñón” and tells me that it is kidney in English either way (like Interplex and InterpretBank do), if possible in an easy-to-read hit list.

Airtable, a mix of spreadsheet and database, seems to get very close to it. It is very intuitive to handle and, even more so, it looks just nice and friendly. It has very comfortable sorting and filtering, you can add pictures, links and files, define different views of subsets of your data (like for a specific customer, particular subject area, type of conference or a combination thereof) and set default values so that, while working at a given conference, you don’t need to type the conference name, customer and subject area time and again when entering new terms. And the detailed view of each data set popping up at one click or tap is just lovely. You can import or drag and drop your tables in no time. And Airtable has loads of useful keyboard shortcuts, by the way.

Team glossaries (or anything else) can be worked on by several people and accessed via an iPad, iPhone and Android (beta) app or the browser-based interface, although, when using the browser interface, there is no way to edit your data offline and update the online version later. This works on the mobile apps only. Data being transferred back and forth as well as stored data are encrypted.

The one thing I miss most on Airtable is an intuitive, accent-ignoring search function as described above, which displays hit lists instead of jumping from one search hit to the next. But apart from that, Airtable is just great for data management, not only in terms of „terms“.

It is free of charge as long as your tables don’t have more than 1500 lines, costs 12 $ per month for up to 5000 lines per database and 24 $ for up to 50 000 lines per database.

If you need an overview of available terminology management tools for conference interpreters, click here.


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.


Zu Gast in Brüssel bei „Radio Alex“, auch bekannt als #LangFM

Diesen Monat war ich gemeinsam mit Leonie Wagener zu Gast in Brüssel an Alex Drechsel’s Podcast-Küchentisch. Sehr nett war’s – hier könnt Ihr reinhören:

+++ Seminarankündigung +++

Wer beim Hören Appetit auf mehr Wissens- oder Terminologiemanagement bekommt und vom Rheinland nicht allzu weit entfernt ist (oder den Weg dorthin nicht scheut), könnte vielleicht Spaß an einem der folgenden AIIC-Seminare (auch für Nicht-Mitglieder offen) haben:

I. Computereinsatz in der Dolmetschkabine und um die Dolmetschkabine herum – SPEZIELL FÜR EINSTEIGER
in Wassenberg oder Köln

Dieses Seminar ist auf fünf Teilnehmer beschränkt, um im kleinen Kreis auf die Grundlagen des Computereinsatzes eingehen zu können. Der Inhalt gestaltet sich rund um die vorab erfassten individuellen Fragen der Teilnehmer („Was viele nie zu fragen wagen“). Es ist ausdrücklich nicht auf Terminologieverwaltung beschränkt; es können auch allgemeine Themen wie Datei- und E-Mailablage, Skype, Twitter, GoogleDocs, Buchhaltung in Excel und alle möglichen anderen Fragen behandelt werden.

Kursgebühr ca. € 180,- pro Person
Mögliche Daten für den eintägigen Kurs:
14. November 2015 oder
21. November 2015 oder
05. Dezember 2015

Doodle-Umfrage zu den Terminen dieses Kurses (bitte in der Umfrage vollen Namen und Mailadresse angeben):

II. Terminologiemanagement in der Dolmetschkabine
in Wassenberg oder Köln

Dieses Seminar richtet sich an praktizierende Konferenzdolmetscher, die sich gerne einen Überblick über die „herkömmlichen“ und neuen Tools am Markt verschaffen möchten. Die verschiedenen Programme werden vorgeführt, Schwerpunkt sind jeweils die Funktionen Schnellsuche, Sortier- und Filtern, Import und Export von eigenen Glossaren. Ein Überblick einschließlich Preisinfos und Links finden sich hier: Bei Bedarf kann auf die theoretischen Grundlagen von Informationsmanagement und Terminologieverwaltung eingegangen werden – die Wünsche der Teilnehmer werden vorher abgefragt.

Kursgebühr: € 900,00 geteilt durch die Anzahl der Teilnehmer
Mögliche Daten für den eintägigen Kurs:
14. November 2015 oder
21. November 2015 oder
05. Dezember 2015

Doodle-Umfrage zur Terminfindung (bitte in der Umfrage vollen Namen und Mailadresse angeben):

Shared glossaries in Google Docs – How to make them work for everyone | Team-Glossare in Google Docs – So wird’s was


+++ for English see below +++

Team-Glossare in Google Docs – So wird’s was

Als unsere liebe Kollegin Leonie Wagener 2012 im Rahmen ihrer Masterarbeit eine Erhebung zur vorbereitende Terminologiearbeit unter Konferenzdolmetschern durchführte, gaben 93 % an, zumindest in der Kabine nie ihre Terminologie in Google Docs zu bearbeiten. Mittlerweile ist die gemeinsame Vorbereitung eines Einsatzes in einem gemeinsamen Online-Glossar schon beinahe State of the Art. Die Vorteile liegen auf der Hand:

Man spart Zeit, vor allem, wenn zunächst einmal alle ihre Termini ohne Entsprechungen eingeben und man die anderssprachigen Lücken in Teamarbeit ausfüllt, sprich jeder füllt zunächst die Lücken (der anderen), die er in seinem Wissensbestand ohnehin abrufbar hat. Fehler werden vermieden (Vier-Augen-Prinzip). Das gesamte Team hat den gleichen Wissensstand, alle sprechen „die gleiche Sprache“ und wissen auch um eventuell noch offene Fragen, die mit dem Kunden/Teilnehmern der Veranstaltung noch zu klären sind. (hierzu auch Leonies Beitrag im AIIC Blog).

Hinzu kommt bei sehr dichten Fachkonferenzen, dass man sich die Vorträge häufig aufteilt. In einem gemeinsamen Glossar hat dabei dennoch jeder Zugriff auf die Terminologie zu den jeweils anderen Vorträgen und kann darauf zumindest einmal einen Blick werfen und zur Not auch einspringen.

Abgesehen davon ist es einfach unterhaltsam und motivierend, sich „im Glossar zu treffen“ und live zu sehen, dass die Kollegen gerade auch dort herumhüpfen das Glossar wie von Geisterhand wächst. Und wie wir ja wissen, gibt es kaum etwas Besseres für eine tiefe Verarbeitung von Wissen als das Besprechen – hier vielleich eher „bechatten“.

Trotz dieser Litanei an Vorteilen begegnen aber viele Kollegen immer noch verhalten, wenn es darum geht, sich auf ein gemeinsames Online-Megaglossar einzulassen, und zwar teilweise zu recht. Oft ist es nur Gewohnheits- oder Geschmackssache, aber einige konkretere Vorbehalte habe ich im Folgenden zusammengestellt und versucht zu beantworten.

Kann ich vertrauliche Kundendaten der Cloud bzw. Google anvertrauen?

Zunächst einmal ist das Speichern bei Google (vorausgesetzt, man stellt die Daten nicht öffentlich) an sich nicht unsicherer als der Versand per E-Mail – bis auf die Tatsache, dass Google theoretisch „mitliest“. Grundsätzlich empfiehlt sich, Dateien nicht unbedingt nach dem Muster „XY AG – Vorstellung des neuen Glasreinigerpatents am 1.8.2015“, sondern eher „Reiniger“zu nennen und vor allem im Zweifel den Kunden vorher zu fragen. Eine weitere Lösung ist das Verwenden einer Verschlüsselungssoftware wie

Mir ist so ein Riesenglossar viel zu unübersichtlich, ich weiß überhaupt nicht, was wo steht.

Wie in einer normalen Terminologiedatenbank auch, steht und fällt der Wert eines Gemeinschaftsglossars auch mit der Aussagekraft seiner „Tags“, also Kategorisierungen.

Gibt es mehrere Parallel-Teams, Konferenztage, Redner oder Themenbereiche, so empfiehlt es sich, dafür jeweils eine eigene Spalte zur Kennzeichnung anzulegen. Auch eine Kombination der Kriterien ist möglich, etwa Konferenztag und Redner in einer Spalte nach dem Muster „Mo – Schmidt, Mo – Müller, Di – Meier“. Der Mehraufwand ist nicht der Rede wert: Einmal getippt, kann man die entsprechende Kennung in die nächsten Zeilen einfach mit der Maus herunterziehen/-kopieren. So hat man dann gleich die nächsten Zeilen für die eigenen Einträge „reserviert“ und die Kollegen räumen ihre Einträge erst darunter ein. Wenn man Filter und Kategorien geschickt einsetzt, kann jeder Nutzer sich mühelos seine eigene persönliche Teilansicht des großen Teamglossars erstellen – hier findet Ihr auch ein zweiminütiges Erklär-VIDEO.

Es hat doch jeder seine eigenen wichtigen Termini. Kollegen schreiben oft Dinge ins Glossar, die mich gar nicht interessieren, und umgekehrt schreibe ich mir vielleicht Sachen auf, die andere lächerlich finden, aus Sorge, sie im Eifer des Dolmetschgefechts nicht abrufbar zu haben.

Hier bietet es sich an, jedem Teilnehmer eine „private“ Spalte zuzuweisen, in der er das markieren kann, was für ihn persönlich relevant ist oder zum Beispiel auf eine Kurzliste gehört. Die kann man sich dann für den eigenen Bedarf herausfiltern und womöglich sogar ausdrucken. Ganz abgesehen davon ist es hochinteressant zu sehen, wie fast schon lachhaft ähnlich sich die Aufzeichnungen unterschiedlicher Kollegen doch oft sind.

Wenn ich während des Arbeitens z.B. die Sprachen ausblende, die ich nicht brauche, oder nach einem bestimmten Redner filtere, können andere auf die ausgeblendeten Informationen nicht zugreifen. Wenn ich z. B. nach der Spalte „Deutsch“ sortiere, um nach Doubletten zu suchen, wird die ganze Reihenfolge durcheinandergeschmissen und jemand, der eigentlich gerade die Termini zu einem bestimmten Votrag eingeben wollte, ist völlig verwirrt.

Wenn wirklich viele Leute gleichzeitig in einem Glossar arbeiten, kann es praktisch sein, für die eigene Dateingabe oder für spezielle Sortierungen/Filterungen ein separates Datenblatt zu nutzen. Wenn die Tabellenstruktur identisch ist, kann man dort in Ruhe seine eigenen Einträge anlegen und diese dann nachher in das Gemeinschaftsglossar hineinkopieren, z.B. jedes Mal, wenn man einen Themenbereich oder einen Vortrag fertig bearbeitet hat. Dabei kann man dann auch störende Spalten ausblenden.

Es gibt auch eine große Auswahl von add-ons, die das Arbeiten mit großen Datenmengen erleichtern. So kann man mit EZ Query ein neues Datenblatt erstellen, das ähnlich einer Abfrage in MS-Acces ein Abbild der großen Gesamtdatenbank erstellt, in dem nur die Spalten gezeigt werden, die mich interessieren. Wenn ich bspw. in einem Team mit 10 Sprachen bin, kann ich für die Abfrage in der Kabine meine persönliche Ansicht zum Durchsuchen wählen, in der nur meine Sprachen und meine als relevant gekennzeichneten Einträge sichtbar sind. Wenn jemand in der Haupttabelle etwas ändert, sehe ich es in meiner personalisierten Ansicht auch in Echtzeit.

Insgesamt überwiegen meiner Einschätzung nach die Chancen dieser Form der Zusammenarbeit, um bei immer fachlicheren Konferenzinhalten und immer knapperen Vorlaufzeiten weiter auf hohem Niveau areiten zu können. Mich würde sehr interessieren, wie die gängige Praxis bei anderen Kollegen aussieht – ich freue mich auf Kommentare!

Über die Autorin:
Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

Shared glossaries in Google Docs – How to make them work for everyone

When, back in 2012, our colleague Leonie Wagener conducted a survey on preparatory terminology work in conference interpreting, 93 % of the respondents answered that they never used Google Docs for terminology management in the booth. Today, it seems, team preparation in the cloud by way of a shared mega-glossary is about to become state of the art.

The benefits are quite clear:  It saves time – your colleagues may know things you don’t know and the other way around, and with everyone feeding in their knowledge and filling in the missing bits, it’s just much less effort. Everything is double (triple …) checked and mistakes can be spotted more easily. The whole team has a common knowledge base, all interpreters speak the same language and everyone is aware of any open questions waiting to be sorted out (also see Leonie’s AIIC blog article).

Furthermore, you have these highly technical conferences crammed with presentations where the only way to get through preparation is by assigning to each interpreter his or her share of speeches. By working in a common glossary, you can still make sure that everyone gets at least a glimpse of what the other speeches are about so as to be able to jump in if need be.

Apart from that, it is good fun to see your glossary grow as if by magic and to „meet in the glossary“, seeing your colleagues jump about from one cell to the other. And then of course, there is nothing better than discussing things in order to really understand them and process them deeply, which is exactly what you end up doing when working in a common file, using the chat function or simply a comment field.

However, some colleagues still have their doubts when it comes to putting all their effort into these mega glossaries in the cloud, understandably so to a certain extent. Sometimes it is just a matter of taste or habit, but as to the more specific questions or doubts I have heard people mention so far, I have tried to summarise them below and provide possible solutions:

Is it safe to store my customers‘ confidential data in the cloud or with Google?

First of all, storing files in Google Docs (provided you don’t store them publicly, but with restricted access) is as safe as sending them around by e-mail – apart from the fact that Google can read your data. We know that some customers even refuse to send their files to a gmail address, so in any case it is good to double-check with them. Also, it is a good idea not to name your files „XY Corp. – Presentation of the new glass cleaning patent on August 1st, 2015“, but rather make it „cleaning“ or „glass“. Another possible solution might be the use of special encryption software like

You get lost so easily in these huge glossaries, I just can’t find my way around there. I prefer to see what I need at one glance.

Just like in any (terminology) data base, the more „tags“ (labels) each entry has, the more useful becomes the data base. If, on your three-day, six-language conference, there are several teams working in parallel with many speakers or subjects in each session, then it may be useful to use special columns to indicate the day/speaker/session/subject, or a combination thereof (like „Monday – Miller, Tuesday – Matt“). Technically, the effort is not worth mentioning: Once you have typed this kind of category in one cell, simply drag & copy it to all the cells below in the same column. This way, you can „reserve“ the next couple of lines for your entries and the colleagues use those further below. The smart use of categories and filters is not too complicated and helps everyone to create their own customised view of the big master glossary – here’s a 2 minute VIDEO to illustrate it.

Each of us has their own important terms-to-remember. My colleague writes things into her glossary I would never dream of noting down, and I am sure that she would laugh at the ridiculous things I put into mine, just for the sake of feeling safer. 

It may turn out useful to have an individual „private“ column for each user where they are free to mark any terms that are relevant to them (or open questions etc.) to enable everyone in the team to filter their customised shortlists and even print them. The one thing to really laugh about is to see how much the glossaries of different colleagues for the same conference can look alike.

What with all this hiding, sorting and filtering, my colleagues will freak out if, while they are just busy entering terms, I start hiding their language columns, applying filters or changing the sorting order right under their noses.

When there are really many people working on the glossary at the same time, it may be useful, in order to avoid confusing other users when sorting or filtering, to temporarily copy the data from the „master“ sheet to a separate one. You might also wish to enter new terms for one speech in your private sheet first (e.g. hiding the language columns you don’t want to see) and then copy this batch to the big master glossary in one go. Just always make sure you have identical table structures so that you can copy your terminological entries (lines) back and forth from your personal sheet into the master glossary, which is the one where you keep all the data up to date.

There are also a great many add-ons that allow you to work with complex team glossaries more comfortably. With EZ Query, for example, you create a new sheet that, just like a query in MS-Access, shows a pre-defined selection of the data contained in the big master table. You can include just the columns you are interested in (e.g. hiding language or other columns irrelevant to you) and even filter for certain criteria, like only those entries you have marked as important. As soon as someone changes something in the master table, you will see it in your customised table in real time.

All in all, much more chances than risks to keep up with ever more specific conference subjects and short-notice preparation. I would be really interested to know more about the common practice of other colleagues – feel free to post a comment!


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.



Wagener, Leonie (2012): Masterarbeit zum Thema „Vorbereitende Terminologiearbeit im Konferenzdolmetschen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Zusammenarbeit im Dolmetschteam“

Wagener, Leonie (2014): Conference preparation 2.0.

Booth-friendly terminology management: Intragloss – the missing link between texts and glossaries|die Brücke zwischen Text und Glossar


+++ for English see below +++

Wer schon immer genervt war von der ständigen Wechselei zwischen Redetexten/Präsentationsfolien einerseits und dem Glossar andererseits, der hat jetzt allen Grund zu jubilieren: Dan Kenig und Daniel Pohoryles aus Paris haben mit Intragloss eine Software entwickelt, in der man direkt aus dem Text Termini in sein Glossar befördern kann und das einen neuen Text mit einem vorhandenen Glossar abgleicht, gefundene Termini im Text hervorhebt und die anderssprachige Entsprechung in einem kleinen Kommentarfeld im Text anzeigt. Das Programm ermöglicht auch die parallele Anzeige von Original und Übersetzung, ferner ist eine Internetsuche in Portalen wie Linguee, IATE, Wikipedia etc. eingebaut. Fazit: Jede einzelne dieser drei „Killer-Funktionen“ ist für sich schon ein Kaufargument!

– Intragloss läuft momentan nur auf Mac, eine Windows-Version ist in Entwicklung (man kann sich als Beta-Tester registrieren!).

– Kosten: Sonderangebot bis 10. Juli 2015: 49 $ für das erste Jahr, danach bei Vertragsverlängerung 219 $/1 Jahr, 309 $/2 Jahre, 359 $/3 Jahre (Regulärer Preis: 49 $/Monat, 99 $/3 Monate, 269 $/1 Jahr)

Mehr zu dolmetschfreundlichen Terminologieprogrammen findet Ihr in der Übersichtstabelle TermTools für Dolmetscher.

Über die Autorin:
Anja Rütten ist freiberufliche Konferenzdolmetscherin für Deutsch (A), Spanisch (B), Englisch (C) und Französisch (C) in Düsseldorf. Sie widmet sich seit Mitte der 1990er dem Wissensmanagement.

+++ English version +++

If you are fed up with constantly jumping back and forth between your glossary and speech manuscripts or Powerpoint presentations, here’s a tool that will make your day: Intragloss, developed by Dan Kenig and Daniel Pohoryles from Paris, allows you to transfer terms from your text directly into your glossary, checks new texts against existing glossaries and highlights glossary terms that have been found in the text, adding its translation in a small comment between lines. Furthermore, Intragloss includes a parallel display function of original text and translation and lets you search for terms in internet resources like linguee, IATE, Wikipedia and the like. In short: Intragloss offers three killer functions, which each of them make this program worth trying.

– Mac-only; a Windows version is currently being developped (you can register as a beta tester!).

– Price: Special offer valid until July 10, 2015: 49 $ for the first year, then renewal 219 $/1 year, 309 $/2 years, 359 $/3 years (regular price: 49 $/month, 99 $/3 months, 269 $/1 year)

For more information about terminology management for interpreters, see this Summary table terminology tools for interpreters.

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.