Cleopatra: an App for Automating Symbols for Consecutive Interpreting Note-Taking – Guest Article by Lourdes de la Torre Salceda

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The perfect symbol has just come to mind! I’ve been racking my brain for ages and I got it, finally! I’ve been inspired! But where should I write it down, now that I’m sunbathing on the beach!

Has something similar ever occurred to you? As a millennial the first thing I did was to look for an app that could help me in that situation. I opened Google Play and… Surprise! Nobody had created it yet! That’s how Cleopatra was born. Born from the daily needs of a future master student in conference interpreting. Though my journey at Pontifical University Comillas hadn’t as yet started, I had already chosen a subject for my MA Thesis. I fondly recall the moment I explained the idea to my MA thesis director, Lola Rodríguez Melchor. With something between curiosity and scepticism, she asked cautiously: “Do you know anything about how to develop smartphone apps?” I answered: “Well, not yet. But if I take into account the huge amount of apps on the market, I don’t see why I couldn’t create one. I don’t think that every creator of an app must be a genius.” Lola helped me a lot to outline my idea for Cleopatra and I’m deeply thankful to her.

However, even before the app idea came to mind, I already had chosen its name. Perhaps you are wondering: but how could you choose a name before you even invented it? Let me explain: Like many others, I sometimes struggle to fall asleep at night; this meme neatly summarizes the problem:

Whenever I cannot sleep, I usually listen to a SER Historia podcasts. On one of those sleepless nights, somebody was talking about Cleopatra and I thought to myself: Cle-o-pa-tra… what a wonderful sonority and what an elegant woman! I should take advantage of her name somehow in the future. Her name is well-known universally and any variation of it in other languages is minimal. While developing the idea for the app, I quickly connected the dots. Cleopatra was polyglot, as are many interpreters, and historically she is linked to hieroglyphs, stylized pictures containing information that is not readable by everybody, just like interpreters’ symbols!

How Cleopatra works

Cleopatra  is the first smartphone app created for consecutive interpreting professionals. It has four main features: symbols storage, saved symbol checking, training mode, and a quiz.


The user can store his or her triads here. A triad comprises a concept, a symbol, and an explanation for the symbol. You can define the concept and explain it in the dedicated space via the virtual keyboard, and you can draw the symbols with your finger on the virtual notepad. Easy, right?

  • SYMBLARY or Library of Symbols

In order to look up a triad, users should tap on Selecciona un concepto. A list including all their saved concepts will appear. When selecting a concept, users will view what we see in this picture: in the upper-central part you can find the explanation of the symbol, and in the centre the symbols drawn by the interpreter for the chosen concept. At the bottom of the screen, you see three icons: the first –– the back-to-menu button; the second–– a quick-access button to Crear Símbolo; and the third, with which users can delete either one triad or the whole library of symbols.


This is the key feature of Cleopatra. Thanks to this feature, interpreters will be able to automate symbols and so, when needed, write or read them swiftly. Cleopatra has a stable academic basis and targets performance improvement during note-taking thanks to task decomposition and deliberate practice in symbol automation.

According to Gile (1995, 159-195) mental energy is paramount for consecutive interpreters. It is only available in limited supply and where processing capacity is lower than required, saturation can trigger quality deterioration. Furthermore, in his Tightrope Hypothesis, Gile warns that interpreters often work too close to saturation point. In order to protect an interpreter’s mental energy flow, some tasks should be automated.

Ericsson (2000-2001, 195-196) reveals that the secret to reaching expertise level in our field is practice, but it must be deliberate. It should be organised to improve specific aspects that guarantee the durability of the changes required.

Cleopatra is also based on deliberate practice for automating one of the elements that shapes consecutive note-taking (symbols). Regarding task decomposition, Gillies (2013) published a book in which he provided isolated training exercises for the component elements constituting conference interpreting in order to attain a comprehensive improvement in all interpreting skills. Likewise, Gillies (2005, 6-8) adduces that the complexity in the first phase of consecutive interpreting requires a high demand of mental energy, for all mental operations are operating simultaneously. During the second phase, clarity in our notes is crucial because our processing capacity dedicated at decoding them depends on the notes. In order to protect our limited mental energy, we should learn how to perform the same tasks but consume less mental energy; we can attain this goal by automation. Gillies maintains that if we succeed in reducing the mental energy required for those tasks, by automating them, the time and energy spared could be invested in other tasks. He affirms that any attempt to reduce the efforts required in taking good notes will positively impact both phases of consecutive interpreting.

To summarize: thanks to this easy and habit-forming game, interpreters will be able to train themselves to automate symbol with the aim of reducing their efforts during note-taking and note-reading. Consequently, they will be able to spare themselves, for they won’t have to think much about how to write what, and the energy they save can be invested in other tasks and/or of steering away from saturation point.


Can you imagine a Trivial Pursuit specifically for interpreters? Cultura del intérprete is designed with this in mind. It is a quiz with three possible answers, only one of which is correct, about many important issues for interpreters. The questions relate to geopolitics, institutions, political personalities, economy, sports and so forth. Most of the questions are atemporal (where is the Gaza Strip located?), but there are also questions about current circumstances (which country is currently holding the rotating Presidency at the Council of the EU?).

With Cleopatra, interpreters can store their symbols in an organized way, whenever and wherever they want. Of course, jotting down symbols on a piece of paper is also useful, but I think it is now time to draw symbols on our smartphones for storage purposes. For those who like to play games in their spare time, what better way of enjoying it than by revising your out-dated symbols. Cultura del intérprete quiz can be useful for users to learn or consolidate concepts and perhaps even to delve into the questions proposed autonomously. To date, the app has had a huge success, with already more than 200 Cleopatra sets in use around the globe.

Stop noting your symbols on paper-napkins and download Cleopatra now!

Currently, the app is just available for Android and costs only 0,99 €. In September 2017, I became an associate of Interpreters’ Help, and Cleopatra became part of IH. Soon Yann and Benoît (IH co-founders) will develop a version of Cleopatra for iOS. I’d like to take this opportunity given by Anja Rütten to introduce for the first time one of the next Interpreters’ Help features: The Symblary of Alexandria. On this platform, Cleopatra and/or Interpreters’ Help users will be able to contribute to the community through their symbols. With this collaborative space, every time interpreters need inspiration, we will be able to access to the Symblary of Alexandria in order to consult what symbols other community members are using for a given concept. Great feature, isn’t it? For those who may not know, at IH we already have a similar concept with the Glossary Farm. It is a space where interpreters publish and share their glossaries.

To sum up, I’d like to share with you this last picture on Cleopatra so that you know the meaning of Cleopatra’s icons. If you would like to download Cleopatra, or for further information about the app, please follow this link.

Cleopatra, la app para entrenarse en la automatización de símbolos para la toma de notas en interpretación consecutiva

¡Se me acaba de ocurrir el símbolo perfecto! Llevaba muchísimo tiempo buscándolo y, por fin, he encontrado la inspiración, ¡a ver dónde lo apunto ahora que estoy tomando el sol en la playa!

¿Alguna vez te ha pasado algo parecido? ¡A mí también! y yo, como buena millennial, lo primero que hice ante tal situación fue buscar una aplicación que me solucionase la papeleta. Entré en Google Play y… ¡sorpresa, nadie la había creado aún! Así nació Cleopatra, de una necesidad cotidiana de una futura estudiante de máster de interpretación de conferencias. Mi andadura en la Universidad Pontificia de Comillas aún no había empezado y ya tenía escogido el tema para mi trabajo de fin de máster. Recuerdo, con mucho cariño, el momento en que le expliqué mi idea a Lola Rodríguez Melchor, mi directora del trabajo de fin de máster. Creo que con una mezcla de curiosidad y escepticismo, me preguntó cautamente: ¿pero tú sabes desarrollar aplicaciones? yo, básicamente, le contesté: bueno, aún no, pero habida cuenta de todas las apps que hay en el mercado, no sé porqué yo no podría crear una. No creo que todo el que haya creado una app sea un genio. Lola me ayudó muchísimo a perfilar mi idea de Cleopatra y le estoy muy agradecida.

Pero eso no fue lo más precoz porque, incluso, antes de que se me ocurriera la idea, ya tenía pensado el nombre. Quizá te preguntes: ¿pero cómo vas a haber escogido el nombre de la app antes de concebirla?, pues te lo explico: yo, al igual que mucha gente, hay noches en las que me cuesta dormir, este meme resume muy bien lo que me suele ocurrir:

Cuando no puedo conciliar el sueño, suelo escuchar algún podcast de SER Historia y, en una de esas noches de insomnio, en mi programa de radio preferido se habló sobre Cleopatra. Enseguida pensé: Cleopatra, ¡qué sonoridad y qué elegante era esa mujer! Esto lo tengo que aprovechar de alguna manera. Ese nombre es mundialmente reconocido y su variación en otros idiomas es mínima. Así que cuando tuve la idea de crear la app, até cabos rápidamente. Resulta que Cleopatra era una mujer políglota, al igual que muchas intérpretes; además se le asocia a los jeroglíficos, que son dibujos que contienen información que no todo el mundo sabe interpretar, exactamente igual que nuestros símbolos.

Cómo funciona Cleopatra

Cleopatra es la primera aplicación móvil creada para los profesionales de la interpretación consecutiva. Dispone de cuatro funciones principales: almacenamiento de símbolos, consulta de símbolos guardados, modo entrenamiento y juego de preguntas y respuestas.


Aquí es donde el usuario puede registrar sus triadas. Una triada consiste en un concepto, un símbolo y una explicación de este último. El concepto y la explicación se deben escribir en los espacios habilitados con el teclado virtual y el símbolo se dibuja con el dedo sobre la libreta virtual. Fácil, ¿verdad?


Para que el usuario pueda consultar una de sus triadas, primero, debe pulsar en Selecciona un concepto; después le aparecerá una lista con todos los conceptos que haya guardado y, al seleccionar uno de ellos, verá lo que se muestra en la imagen: en la zona central-superior queda representada la explicación del símbolo y en la parte central, el símbolo que el intérprete dibujó para el concepto previamente escogido. En la parte inferior de la pantalla, se aprecian tres iconos: el primero es para volver al menú de inicio, el segundo consiste en un botón de acceso rápido a Crear Símbolo y, mediante el tercero, el usuario puede borrar o bien una triada, o bien toda la Simboloteca.



Esta es la función estrella de Cleopatra. Gracias a ella el intérprete podrá automatizar sus símbolos para que, a la hora de la verdad, los escriba y los lea a toda pastilla. Y no lo digo por decir, Cleopatra tiene una fundamentación académica bastante estable, a mi juicio. Con ella se pretende alcanzar una mejora del rendimiento en la toma de notas gracias a la descomposición de tareas y a la práctica deliberada en automatización de símbolos.

Según Gile (1995, 159-195), la interpretación consecutiva es una disciplina en la que los recursos mentales del profesional desempeñan un papel primordial. Estos son finitos y cuando la capacidad de procesamiento disponible es inferior a la necesaria, se produce la saturación, lo que acarrea una pérdida de calidad en la prestación. Además, con su teoría de la cuerda floja, nos advierte de que el intérprete a menudo trabaja cerca de dicha saturación. Para poder salvaguardar el caudal de recursos mentales, con el fin de poder satisfacer las necesidades requeridas, determinadas tareas se pueden automatizar.

Ericsson (2000-2001, 195-196), nos revela que el secreto para alcanzar el nivel experto en nuestro campo no es otro que la práctica y esta ha de ser deliberada. Además, debe orientarse a mejorar aspectos específicos que garanticen la durabilidad de los cambios alcanzados.

Por otro lado, Cleopatra se basa en la práctica deliberada para automatizar uno de los elementos que conforman la toma de notas para consecutiva (los símbolos). Con respecto a la descomposición de tareas, Gillies (2013) ha publicado todo un libro en el que da a conocer ejercicios para entrenarse de forma aislada en los distintos elementos que forman la interpretación de conferencias y alcanzar, así, una mejora de la pericia interpretativa en su conjunto. Igualmente, Gillies (2005, 6-8) aduce que lo complejo de la primera fase de la consecutiva es que supone una gran demanda de recursos mentales, pues todas las operaciones se ejecutan a la vez. Por otro lado, durante la segunda fase, la claridad de las notas es crucial, ya que de ella depende la capacidad de procesamiento destinada a descifrarlas. Para proteger nuestros recursos mentales finitos, debemos aprender a desempeñar la misma tarea, pero consumiendo menos recursos mentales y eso se alcanza gracias a la automatización. El autor declara que si se consigue que dichas tareas requieran menos esfuerzo intelectual, por estar automatizadas, el tiempo y la capacidad se podrán emplear en otras tareas. Gillies concluye que cualquier reducción de esfuerzos que implique tomar buenas notas, tendrá efectos positivos en las dos fases de la interpretación consecutiva.

En resumen: gracias a este sencillo y adictivo juego, el intérprete podrá entrenarse en la automatización de sus símbolos para poder reducir sus esfuerzos durante la toma de notas y la lectura de las mismas. Así, la energía que ahorra, al no tener que pensar demasiado cómo escribe qué, podrá invertirse en otros esfuerzos y alejarse de la saturación.


¿Te imaginas un trivial para intérpretes? Pues la Cultura del intérprete es algo parecido. Se trata de un juego de preguntas con tres posibles respuestas para poder estar al día de muchas de las cuestiones relevantes para los intérpretes. Geopolítica, instituciones, personalidades políticas, economía, deportes… las preguntas versan sobre todos esos temas. Normalmente se trata de preguntas que no cambian con el paso del tiempo (dónde se encuentra la franja de Gaza), pero hay algunas que sí son exclusivamente de actualidad (qué país ostenta la actual presidencia de turno del Consejo de la UE).

Gracias a Cleopatra, el intérprete podrá guardar sus símbolos, de manera ordenada, donde quiera y cuando quiera. Creo que lo de apuntarse los símbolos en un hoja también es muy útil, pero ya va siendo hora de aprovechar nuestros teléfonos móviles para almacenar símbolos. Además, para aquellos que utilicen sus ratos muertos para echar una partida a un videojuego, ¿qué mejor que divertirse y refrescar los símbolos? Por su parte, las preguntas de la cultura del intérprete podrán servir al usuario para conocer o afianzar conceptos y quizá para profundizar de forma de autónoma sobre las cuestiones que se proponen. La app está teniendo mucho éxito, pues ya tenemos a más de 200 Cleopatrers repartidos por los cinco continentes.

¡Deja de escribir tus símbolos en servilletas y descárgate ya Cleopatra!

De momento la app solo está disponible para Android y cuesta 0,99 €. En septiembre de 2017 me asocié con Interpreters‘ Help y Cleopatra ha pasado a ser uno de los activos de IH. Dentro de poco Yann y Benoît (los fundadores de IH) desarrollarán Cleopatra para iOS. Me gustaría aprovechar la oportunidad que Anja me brinda para desvelar en primicia una de las próximas funciones de Interpreters‘ Help: La Simboloteca de Alejandría. Se trata de una plataforma en la que los usuarios de Cleopatra y/o Interpreters‘ Help podrán contribuir a la comunidad mediante sus símbolos. Así, cuando los intérpretes necesitemos inspiración, podremos acceder a la Simboloteca de Alejandría para ver qué símbolos se utilizan en la comunidad para algún concepto que nos interese. ¿A que mola?

Para terminar aquí os dejo una última imagen de Cleopatra para que sepáis el porqué de sus iconos. Para saber más sobre la app y para descargarla podéis encontrarla en este enlace.




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 (

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. <>

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

Anja Rütten: InterpretBank 4 Review. 31 July 2017. <>.

Alexander Drechsel: App profile: Interpreters‘ Help. 2 Oct 2015. <>.

Anja Rütten: Booth-friendly terminology management revisited – two newcomers. 29 April 2014. <>








Flashterm revisited. A guest article by Anne Berres

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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:
+49 17645844081

Joachim Eisenrieth:


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:
+49 17645844081

Joachim Eisenrieth:

Extract Terminology in No Time | OneClick Terms | Ruckzuck Terminologie extrahieren

[for German scroll down] What do you do when you receive 100 pages to read five minutes before the conference starts? Right, you throw the text into a machine and get out a list of technical terms that give you a rough overview of what it’s all about. Now finally, it looks like this dream has come true.

OneClick Terms by SketchEngine is a browser-based (a big like) terminology extraction tool which works really swiftly. It has all it takes and nothing more (another big like): Upload – Settings – Results.

Once you are logged in for your free trial, OneClickTerms accepts the formats tmx, xliff (2.x), pdf, doc(x), html, txt. The languages supported are Czech, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional.

The settings in my opinion don’t really need to be touched. They include:

  • how rare or common should the extracted terms be
  • would you like to see the word form as it appears in the text or the base form
  • how often should a term candidate occur in the text in order to make it to the list of results
  • do you want numbers to appear in your results
  • how many terms should your list of results contain

When I tried OneClick Terms, it delivered absolutely relevant results at the first go. I uploaded an EU text on the free flow of non-personal data (pdf of about 100 pages) at about 8:55 am and the result I got at 8:57, displayed right on the same website, looked like this (and yes, the small W icons behind the words are links to related Wikipedia articles!):

It actually required rather four clicks than OneClick, but the result was worth the effort. There isn’t a lot of „noise“ (irrelevant terms) in the term candidate list, one of the reasons that often put me off in the past when I tried to use term extraction tools to prepare for an interpreting assignment. In the meeting where I tested OneClickTerms, at the end the only word I missed in the results was the regulatory scrutiny board. Interestingly, it was also missing from the list I had obtained from a German text on the same subject (Ausschuss für Regulierungskontrolle). But all the other relevant terms that popped up during the meeting were there. And what is more, by quickly scanning the extraction list in my target language, German, I could activate a lot of terminology I would otherwise definitely have had to think about twice while interpreting. So to me it definitely is a very efficient way of reducing the cognitive load in simultaneous interpreting.

The results list can be downloaded as a txt file, but copy & paste into MS Excel, for example, works just as fine, plus it puts both single and multi words into the same column. After unmerging all cells the terms can easily be sorted by frequency, which makes your five-minute emergency preparation almost perfect (as perfect as a five-minute preparation can get, that is).

Furthermore, even if you do have enough time for preparation, extracting and scanning the terminology as a first step may help you to focus on the substance when reading the text afterwards.

There is a free one month trial, after that the service can be subscribed to from 100 EUR/year (or 12.32 EUR/month) plus VAT. It includes many other features, like bilingual corpus building – but that’s a different story.

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.

Noch fünf Minuten bis zum Konferenzbeginn und ein hundertseitiges pdf zur Vorbereitung schneit (hoffentlich elektronisch) in die Kabine. Was macht man? Klar: Text in eine Maschine werfen, Knopf drücken, Terminologieliste wird ausgespuckt. Damit kann man sich dann zumindest einen groben Überblick verschaffen … Nun, es sieht so aus, als sei dieser Traum tatsächlich wahr geworden!

OneClick Terms von SketchEngine ist ein browser-basiertes (super!) Terminologieextraktionstool, das extrem einfach in der Handhabung ist. Es hat alles, was es braucht, und mehr auch nicht (ebenfalls super!). Upload – Einstellungen – Ergebnisse. Fertig.

Wenn man sich mit seinem kostenlosen Testaccount eingewählt hat, kann man eine Datei im folgenden Format hochladen: tmx, xliff (2.x), pdf, doc(x), html, txt. Die unterstützten Sprachen sind Tschechisch, Deutsch, Englisch, Spanisch, Französisch, Italienisch, Japanisch, Koreanisch, Niederländisch, Polnisch, Portugiesisch, Russisch, Slowakisch, Slowenisch, Chinesisch vereinfacht und Chinesisch traditionell.

Die Einstellungen muss man zuächst einmal gar nicht anfassen. Möchte man es doch, kann man folgende Parameter verändern:

  • wie häufig oder selten sollte der extrahierte Terminus sein
  • soll das Wort in der (deklinierten oder konjugierten) Form angezeigt werden, in der es im Text vorkommt, oder in seiner Grundform
  • wie oft muss ein Termkandidat im Text vorkommen, um es auf die Ergebnisliste zu schaffen
  • sollen Zahlen bzw. Zahl-/Buchstabenkombinationen in der Ergebnisliste erscheinen
  • wie lang soll die Ergebnisliste sein

Als ich OneClick Terms, getestet habe, bekam ich auf Anhieb äußerst relevante Ergebnisse. Ich habe um 8:55 Uhr einen EU-Text über den freien Verkehr nicht-personenbezogener Daten hochgeladen (pdf, etwa 100 Seiten) und hatte um 8:57 Uhr gleich im Browser das folgende Ergebnis angezeigt (und ja, die kleinen Ws hinter den Wörtern sind Links zu passenden Wikipedia-Artikeln!):

Es waren zwar eher vier Klicks als EinKlick, aber das Ergebnis war die Mühe Wert. Es gab wenig Rauschen (irrelevante Termini) in der Termkandidatenliste, einer der Gründe, die mich bislang davon abgehalten haben, Terminologieextraktion beim Dolmetschen zu nutzen. In der Sitzung, bei der ich OneClickTerms getestet habe, fehlte mir am Ende in der Ergebnisliste nur ein einziger wichtiger Begriff aus der Sitzung, regulatory scrutiny board. Dieser Ausschuss für Regulierungskontrolle fehlte interessanterweise auch in der Extraktionsliste, die ich zum gleichen Thema anhand eines deutschen Textes erstellt hatte. Alle anderen relevanten Termini, die während der Sitzung verwendet wurden, fanden sich aber tatsächlich in der Liste. Und noch dazu hatte ich den Vorteil, dass ich nach kurzem Scannen der Liste auf Deutsch, meiner Zielsprache, sehr viele Terminie schon aktiviert hatte, nach denen die ich ansonsten während des Dolmetschens sicher länger in meinem Gedächtnis hätte kramen müssen. Für mich definitiv ein Beitrag zur kognitiven Entlastung beim Simultandolmetschen.

Die Ergebnisliste kann man als txt-Datei herunterladen, aber Copy & Paste etwa in MS-Excel hinein funktioniert genauso gut. Man hat dann auch gleich die Einwort- und Mehrwort-Termini zusammen in einer Spalte. Wenn man den Zellenverbund aufhebt, kann man danach auch noch die Einträge bequem nach Häufigkeit sortieren. Damit ist die Fünf-Minuten-Notvorbereitung quasi perfekt (so perfekt, wie eine fünfminütige Vorbereitung eben sein kann).

Aber selbst wenn man jede Menge Zeit für die Vorbereitung hat, kann es ganz hilfreich sein, bevor man einen Text liest, die vorkommende Terminologie einmal auf einen Blick gehabt zu haben. Mir zumindest hilft das dabei, mich beim Lesen stärker auf den Inhalt als auf bestimmte Wörter zu konzentrieren.

Man kann OneClick Terms einen Monat lang kostenlos testen, danach gibt es das Abonnement ab 100,00 EUR/Jahr (oder 12,32 EUR/Monat) plus MWSt. Es umfasst noch eine ganze Reihe anderer Funktionen, etwa auch den Aufbau zweisprachiger Korpora – aber das ist dann wieder eine andere Geschichte.

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.

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!










Zeit sparen bei der Videovorbereitung | How to save time when preparing video speeches

Videos als Vorbereitungsmaterial für eine Konferenz haben unzählige Vorteile. Der einzige Nachteil: Sie sind ein Zeitfresser. Man kann nicht wie bei einem schriftlichen Text das Ganze überfliegen und wichtige Stellen vertiefen, markieren und hineinkritzeln. Zum Glück hat Alex Drechsel sich in einem Blogbeitrag dazu Gedanken gemacht und ein paar Tools ausgegraben, die dem Elend ein Ende bereiten. Danke, Alex 🙂

Please enjoy Alex Drechsel’s blog post on how to make preparing video speeches less of a hassle.

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!

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.