How to keep your glossaries as tidy as your kitchen drawer

Once again, the new semester is approaching, and another knowledge management course is about to start at TH Köln’s Master of Conference Interpreting. Now after 15 years of teaching, I find myself wondering what it is that I really really want my students to remember for the rest of their professional lives. Things have changed so much since I wrote my first seminar paper on terminology management back in 1995. But there certainly are some basic principles that apply no matter which tools and devices we use?

Interestingly, I happened to come across the answer this morning when I opened my kitchen drawer (or rather, I knew the answer all along, but I found it confirmed there): It is all about sorting and filtering. No matter if it’s about kitchen stuff or glossaries, what I really want my students to remember is how convenient (and sometimes life-saving, so to say) it is to have your stuff in the right place. The rules are simple:

  • Group by function: All the baking/salad etc. ingredients in one place, all the sweets together, all the loose stuff in a box
  • Group by type: All the Prinzenrollen next to each other (so you don’t buy the fifth one just because your kids keep telling you they are out of stock)
  • Sort by date: First in First out, for obvious reasons
  • Keep a shopping list and note down that you need to buy oil before you run out.
  • Keep the things you use every day on the counter, so you always have them ready. Put them back into the drawer if you don’t really use them regularly.

Terminology-wise, things may not be one hundred percent identical, but the underlying principles are fairly similar:

  • Categorise by customer and subject so that you get the right terms for your dermatology congress or the circulation pump manufacturer with just a few clicks.
  • Sort your terminology alphabetically from time to time to find similar or double entries. This can also be a very enlightening exercise as you sometimes find you translate the same term completely differently in different settings.
  • Sorting by date puts the relevance of your terminology into perspective and helps to avoid using obsolete expressions (especially when you are of a certain age).
  • Make sure you highlight missing terms and discuss them with your colleague or client before you switch on the microphone.
  • Assign priorities to the most crucial expressions and display them prominently so that you don’t have to look for them (rummage in the drawer) when in need.

I suppose there are even more similarities that I am not aware of. Suggestions – especially in terms of kitchen organisation – are more than welcome 🙂

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.

The pivot to remote online teaching on the MA in Conference Interpreting in Cologne: Lessons learned from an unexpected experience

This paper describes and critically evaluates the new online setting encountered when the MA in Conference Interpreting at the Institute of Translation and Multilingual Communication at TH Köln – University of Applied Sciences, Cologne, was forced to move completely online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pedagogical and interactional challenges of the pivot to remote online teaching are first contextualised and discussed, before the results of a longitudinal survey of staff and students are presented and analysed. The transition to remote online teaching brought into sharp relief the fact that pedagogical concepts and lesson plans cannot simply be transposed directly from face-to-face to online teaching, particularly regarding issues around interaction between all participants. Peer-to-peer interaction was perceived to suffer most in this context. What was particularly striking about the results of the survey was that the success of remote online teaching in conference interpreting depended on small groups, individualised and personalised learning and feedback, and reliable and user-friendly technical solutions. A strengthened pedagogical focus on remote interpreting proved to be an unintended benefit of the transition.

Read the full article here or the full JoSTrans Issue 36 here.

Many, many thanks to my great co-authors Barbara Ahrens and Morven Beaton-Thome as well to the Jostrans editorial board for their invaluable support.

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.

10 or so books every conference interpreter should read

I was told that bucket lists are key to successful blogging – so here is mine.

10 or so books every conference interpreter should read:

  • The Bible (in all your working languages)
  • Maschinenelemente für Dummies (machine parts for dummies)
  • Chemie Kompaktwissen iIntroduction to chemistry)
  • The Times Complete History of the World
  • International Financial Reporting Standards (in English and your working languages)
  • Who is who in Greek mythology
  • Gastronomisches Wörterbuch in 5 Sprachen (or anything that prepares you for translating sophisticated menus)
  • Die Kunst des Klüngelns by Anni Hausladen

I suppose there are about a million more, so any further suggestions are very welcome 🙂

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.

Hard consoles – Quick guide to old normal relais interpreting

This blog post is intended for all those students who started their studies of conference interpreting right after the outbreak of Covid-19. More than one year into the pandemic, many of them haven’t entered a physical booth or put their hands on a hard console yet.

In order to not leave them completely unprepared, I have assembled some very basic guidance. There are many different interpreting consoles out there, the ones you see here are just three random ones to give you an idea. Many thanks to Magdalena Lindner-Juhnke and Inés de Chavarría for helping with the pictures and to Tefik Cevikel from Schneider Konferenz Systeme for letting me take a video in their hub in Düsseldorf.

And here is a short video on how to find your relais:


Further reading

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.

Gendern eigentlich Dolmetscher*innen?

Beim Dolmetschen gendern – das habe ich bislang eigentlich ganz munter “nach Gefühl” gehandhabt. Klar, wenn die Rednerin oder der Redner der Ausgangssprache gendert, übernehme ich das in der Zielsprache – sofern die sprachlichen Mittel das hergeben. Aber wenn die Originalsprache etwa Englisch ist, ist die Lage häufig alles andere als klar. Viele Benennungen erfordern keine Differenzierung bzw. lassen diese auch nicht erkennen (participant, doctor, president, friend). Das lässt uns beim Dolmetschen mitunter nicht nur graue Haare wachsen, weil wir nur raten oder blitzschnell nachschlagen können, ob the commissioner nun Herr Kommissar oder Frau Kommissarin ist, sondern weil sich auch noch die vertrackte Frage stellt, ob bzw. wie wir in der Zielsprache – wenn diese zum Beispiel Deutsch oder Spanisch ist – gendern.

Zur Frage, ob ich gendere, ist die Antwort dolmetsch-typisch ganz klar: Es kommt auf den Kontext an. Wir dolmetschen für den Moment. Relevant ist, ob die redende Person gendern würde, wenn ihre Sprache die Mittel dafür hergäbe. Es stellt sich also jedes Mal die Frage: Wer redet? Was ist die Intention der vortragenden Person? In welchem Kreis befinden wir uns (Frauenausschuss, Monteurschulung, Fraktionssitzung der Grünen oder Bilanzpressekonferenz)?

Bleibt die Frage, wie ich gendere. Was mache ich zum Beispiel aus dem gender-neutralen englischen Dear participants? Beim Dolmetschen ins Deutsche habe ich hier durchaus die Qual der Wahl zwischen unterschiedlichen Spielarten der Gendersprache. Im Sinne einer schnellen Entscheidungsfindung, wie wir sie beim Simultandolmetschen brauchen, könnte man grob unterscheiden zwischen:

progressiver Gendersprache – Neuschöpfungen wie die gesprochene “Binnen-Lücke” mit Glottisschlag, verschriftlicht als TeilnehmerInnen/Teilnehmer_innen/Teilnehmer:innen/Teilnehmer*innen;

konservativer Gendersprache – Doppelnennung wie Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer, Schülerinnen und Schüler, Kolleginnen und Kollegen, wie sie schon sehr lange üblich sind;

“vermeidender” Gendersprache – Umgehung des Genderns durch Substantivierung (die Zuhörerschaft, das Publikum), Gerundium (Studierende, Teilnehmende) oder alternative Ausdrücke (verfügt über eine Promotion in statt hat einen Doktor in, Personal/Belegschaft statt Mitarbeiter).

Interessanterweise ist die Auswahl im Spanischen durchaus ähnlich:

Was den Deutschsprachigen das progressive Gendersternchen bzw. die Binnenlücke, ist der spanischsprachigen Welt das neugeschöpfte so genannte dritte linguistische Genus – “el tercer género linguístico”: Statt todos y todas heißt es todes oder gleich todas, todas y todes, entsprechend (queridos, queridas y) querides participantes (im Schriftlichen auch wahlweise lxs participantes, l@s participantes, aber das ist für das Dolmetschen ja nicht relevant). Was beiden Phänomenen gemein ist: Sie sind neu, ungemein praktisch und nicht minder unumstritten. Für den persönlichen Umgang mit der deutschen und spanischen Sprache macht es das vielleicht kompliziert, aber im Dolmetschen kann man zumindest grob davon ausgehen, dass die Freund_innen und les amiges in ihrer Intention und Wirkung ähnlich sind.

Ansonsten gibt es auch hier die “konservative” Doppelnennung (etwa queridas y queridos participantes oder compañeros, compañeras) und die unauffällige Umgehung durch alternative Substantive (estimada audiencia statt estimados auditores, la ciudadanía statt los ciudadanos) oder Adjektive (el desempleo juvenil statt desempleo entre los jóvenes), genderneutrale Pronomina (quienes quieran statt los/las que quieran, cualquiera statt todos/todas) oder Umschreibungen (personas que trabajan aqui statt trabajadores).

Für meine tägliche Arbeit hoffe ich, dass mir eine solche etwas strukturiertere Herangehensweise helfen wird, den richtigen Gender-Ton zu treffen. Danken möchte ich in dem Zusammenhang meinen Studierenden des MA Konferenzdolmetschen an der TH Köln für den angeregten Austausch! Über weitere gute Tipps und Ideen rund um das mehrsprachige Gendern freue ich mich natürlich 🙂

Möchtet Ihr mehr zum Thema lesen?

Zum Gendern im Deutschen: 

Wie schreibe ich divers? Wie spreche ich gendergerecht? 

El lenguaje inclusivo en cuanto al género en espanol: 

Dolmetscherinnen zum Gendern: 

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.

No paper, no travel – can we get any greener these days?

No more traveling, paper coffee cups and the like … instead it’s videoconference interpreting, paperless office, and paperless booth (or no booth at all, for that matter)  … so could we be any more eco-friendly at all? We could indeed – after all, we are generating tons of digital waste in our “new normal” everyday life. Huge amounts of data is stored in data centres and being sent back and forth from “the cloud” to our personal devices every second, all of which requires computing power and drives energy consumption. Just writing and sending an email releases ten grams of CO2 – this is one of the things I learnt from Siegfried Behrendt, head of the “Resources, Economics & Resilience” department at the Institute for Future Studies and Technology Assessment in Berlin, in this article by Thomas Röbke (link to the German version below). It is a really interesting read about how to reduce our computer- or cloud-related carbon footprint.

Here are some tips I found relevant for conference interpreters (and ordinary human beings):

  • Use climate-neutral email providers, search engines (like Ecosia or Gexsi), streaming platforms (Betterstream), and online shops.
  • When streaming videos, choose standard definition (SD) instead of high definition (HD) or ultra-high definition (UHD).
  • Switch of your camera in videoconferences if there is no need for you to be seen (which, on the other hand, makes meetings less communicative). Consider making phone calls instead of zooming from time to time. Consider using a chat instead of a parallel video connection to stay in touch with your remote boothmate.
  • Avoid sending unnecessary emails and saving them forever on your provider’s server. Empty your sent folder regularly. For example, when organising a large team of interpreters, avoid sending all documents in all languages to the whole team.
  • Don’t send pictures if you can send texts instead (e.g. a link instead of a screenshot of a webpage). Delete pictures you don’t need (Do you really need five versions of the same motive?).
  • Choose a cable or Wifi over a mobile data connection, which is the most energy-intensive option.
  • Don’t duplicate all your data by saving it permanently on your hard drive and in the cloud. However, this makes observing the backup rule of three more difficult. Alternatively, you can start by using external hard drives or USB sticks to backup data you don’t normally need access to (more data on your hard drive requires more computing power).

There are certainly many more things we can do to become greener digital conference interpreters, or citizens. Just drop me a line or leave a comment to share your thoughts!

Further reading on how to be a green conference interpreter:

Grüne Dolmetscherin – Interview mit Sarah King von Caterina Saccani

Make IT Green – Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change by Greenpeace

Digitaler Abfall lässt sich vermeiden –

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.

New normal conferences – virtual or in person?

One year into the pandemic, I thought it might be time to think about what our new normal work environment as conference interpreters will look like. Will new normal meetings and conferences return to the “real world”, or will most of them remain virtual?

I very much hope that our new reality brings the best of both worlds together and we can help conference hosts to make wise decisions as to when to meet in person or online. After many, many, many discussions I held and heard in the past year, I have tried to draw up an overview of the pros and cons of organising conferences with interpretation on-site or virtually, using interpreting hubs, or having interpreters work from their own offices. I hope you find it useful!

Did I miss anything? I will be happy to include further aspects, just drop me a line 🙂

On-site Full remote/virtual Hub
Participants and interpreters meet in person at a physical conference/meeting venue Participants and interpreters all work from their own offices relying on their personal equipment and internet connections Meeting can take place physically or virtually, interpreters work from “hubs”, i.e. in booths from a single location, RSI software permanently installed, professional technical support, secure and redundant internet connection
Host’s needs
Confidentiality Full control over attendance Good for open formats with no confidentiality issues Protected server structures and connections – sensitive information is protected
Reliability No connection issues Risk of technical failure is accepted; participants use “standard” equipment/connections too Reliable, redundant connection for events where software/hardware/connection failures would be problematic or costly
Time More time-consuming due to travel time Good for short notice meetings, replacement straightforward (but sound checks etc. need to be factored in) Time-saving if hub is located close to interpreters’ offices
Logistics More logistics required (travel, set-up of sound/interpreting system) Short set-up time, flexible, no travel Time and cost-saving if interpreters are closer to hub than to meeting venue
Technical equipment Professional, state-of-the-art equipment and technical support Reliance on interpreters’ own equipment and expertise in using it Professional, state-of-the-art interpreting equipment and technical support
Software No RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpreting) software required RSI software to be booked/managed by organiser (or by a designated interpreter) Professional RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpreting) software support/hosting
Collaboration and personal contact Personal contact, coffee break chats, lively exchanges, spontaneous encounters Less personal contact, screen time more tiring – “Zoom fatigue” (recommended for shorter meetings) Personal contact possible if participants meet in person and interpreters work from hubs (but no direct contact with interpreters)
interpreters’ needs
Sound (transmission) quality Excellent transmission quality (frequency band, latency, lip synchronicity) allowing for trouble-free interpretation Bad sound may affect quality and hearing, USB microphones required for participants! Bad sound may affect quality and hearing, USB microphones required for participants!
Work environment On-site amenities: professional equipment, catering etc.  Comfortable “private” environment Amenities of professionally-equipped booth
Cognitive load Cognitive load OK for full-day meetings Cognitive load significantly higher, OK for 3-4 hours (or larger teams/work in shifts required) Cognitive load significantly higher, OK for 3-4 hours (or larger teams/work in shifts required)
Technical equipment Provided by organiser Interpreter provides headset, ethernet cable, high-speed internet, back-up internet, second device, bigger screen etc. Provided by the hub
Software No RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpreting) software required RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpreting) software to be booked/managed by organiser (or by a designated interpreter) Professional RSI (Remote Simultaneous Interpreting) support
Collaboration and personal contact Personal contact, teamwork, smooth handovers, mutual support (terminology, numbers, document management) Teamwork, e.g. handovers and mutual support (terminology, numbers, document management) via chat or additional video connection Teamwork as on-site: smooth handovers, mutual support (terminology, numbers, document 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.

How to be boothmates without sharing a booth – My impressions from the #Innov1nt Summit 2021

Just in case you missed out on last week’s Innovation In Interpreting Summit by @adrechsel and @Goldsmith_Josh, aka Techforword, here comes my short and personal recap.

The good news is: If you want to watch all the panels and loads of useful video contributions around how technology can support you in the booth, setting up your own interpreting studio, sim-consec, digital notetaking, remote simultaneous interpreting, remote teaching any many more, it’s not too late! You can still buy the power pack (including access to all videos and lots of bonus material) until midnight on 3 March 2021 here.

This is my video contribution on How to be boothmates without sharing a booth. (which is in German with English subtitles by my dear colleague Leonie Wagener). It is about digitalising – instead of just digitising – collaboration between interpreters.

Most of what’s in this video has also been – at least briefly – mentioned in our collaborative Unfinished Handbook For Remote Simultaneous Interpreters. If you feel there is something missing, please drop me a line!

I also had the honour to moderate a panel on New Frontiers in Interpreting Technology. My four wonderful panellists were Bart Defrancq, Bianca Prandi, Jorn Rijckaert, and Oliver Pouliot. There was interpretation from spoken English into International Sign Language and vice versa provided by Helsa Borinstein and Romy O’Callaghan, and we even had live captions in English by Norma MacHaye. Even without the inspiring discussion, I could have just watched the sign language interpreting and live captioning for ages. But then the discussion as such wasn’t too bad either 🙂

Looking back on the last 25 years, it seems to me like around every five years some innovative technology comes about and changes our professional lives in a way for us to ask “how could we ever …?”

1995 – … write translations on a typewriter?
2000 – … do translations without Google/electronic dictionaries/translation memories?
2005 – … travel and run a business with no mobile internet/ phone?
2010 – … live without linguee?
2015 – … survive without your laptop/tablet in the booth?
2020 – … prepare technical conferences on your own? Live without Zoom?

So I asked my panellist colleagues what they thought the next big thing would be in 2025. For Bart, and also for Bianca, it is definitely ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) that is going to help create a new kind of artificial boothmate, displaying difficult elements like numbers, acronyms, and named entities in real time. Bianca also thinks that the majority of interpreter colleagues will finally embrace computers as a valuable support in the booth. Oliver made me a bit envious when he said that as a sign language interpreter, for a very long time he just brought his physical self to the booth, with no technical support whatsoever (not even pen and paper I suppose). He and Jorn mentioned sign language avatars as a new technology in sign language interpreting. Jorn also explained how ASR could be a good way for deaf sign language interpreters to be able to interpret from spoken language into sign language with automatic live captions being their intermediate language.

We then discussed skills. Are there any skills, like knowing how to read a map or remembering phone numbers for our kids, that will become obsolete for conference interpreters? Won’t we memorise key terminology before each conference in the future?

There was general agreement that interpreters shouldn’t become “lazy” and rely on a virtual boothmate to spit out any terminology needed in real-time. We should rather develop strategies as to best use CAI tools in the booth and in preparation, as Bianca put it. So predicting a “virtual boothmate’s” errors might be a decisive skill in the future. After all, the strengths and weaknesses of humans and machines are quite different and should be used so that they complement each other, as Bart explained. Jorn gave us a very interesting account of how sign language interpreters due to COVID-19 started to do their own recordings and video editing at home instead of relying on a cameraman.

My final question was twofold: What do you wish had never been invented (like built-in laptop microphones), and which piece of hardware (e.g. a rollable 34-inch screen which I can bring to the booth) or software (for me: fully functional abstracting/automatic mind-mapping) is top on your wishlist?

Oliver explained how video auto-focus was a real nightmare for sign language interpreters, something I had never thought about before. It tends to never get the focus right, what with sign language interpreters constantly moving and gesturing. Just like Jorn, he saw perfect ASR as a real opportunity in sign language interpreting. Bart referred to the downsides of data sharing in the remote simultaneous interpreting industry. He saw speaker control as a promising feature of the future so that instead of waving at the speaker to slow down, the system will simply slow down the speech electronically as soon as certain threshold values are reached – very promising indeed! Bianca’s wishes were the nicest ones: computers serving as a “second brain” in the booth, and – most importantly – being able to see our boothmates on RSI platforms. I couldn’t have thought of any better concluding remarks!

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.


Save the Date – Innovation in Interpreting Summit – February 23-25, 2021

Looking forward to talking about How to be boothmates without sharing a booth on the Innovation in Interpreting Summit, hosted by our two favourite tech geeks, Josh Goldsmith & Alex Drechsel, aka @techforword.

Registration for free tickets will start soon!

Hope to see you there on 23-25 February 🙂



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.

Wishing you Happy Holidays and plenty of time for coffee breaks