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.

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.

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.

Conference Interpreters and Their Listening Behaviour—a Guest Article by Lisa Woytowicz

Listening is an integral part of every conference interpreter’s job. It might therefore be surprising that there is hardly any research on conference interpreters’ listening behaviour. Since I did not find too much on the issue, I conducted my own study.

About Listening

Studies on listening behaviour exist. But generally, they are conducted by scholars in the field of psychology or communication studies. According to these experts, listening is a multidimensional construct which consists of behavioural, cognitive, and affective processes.

Every time we listen, we—or rather our brains—process information on several levels: When somebody speaks, we receive (verbal and non-verbal) signals. We identify sounds and put them together. We recognise words, sentences and what they mean. During this process, our short-term memory continuously verifies whether the incoming information corresponds to the information stored in our long-term memory. Besides, it adds new information and establishes new links.

There is evidence that the more we already know about an issue, the faster our short-term memory processes the information. This is not only fascinating; it also is one of the reasons why preparing an interpreting assignment is key.

Listening as a Skill

However, there is a tiny but important step in the listening process which is often ignored or at least underestimated: every listener has an intention, a goal she pursues. Selecting a listening goal is the very first step of the listening process which commonly happens subconsciously. Nevertheless, it is a decision every listener makes. And it determines which of the incoming signals are considered relevant and which will be ignored.

When interpreting simultaneously, conference interpreters are special listeners because they are “double listeners”. They need to listen to the speaker and—at the same time—to themselves. They listen to the information they interpret while also making sure that their rendition makes sense and is grammatically and semantically correct. This kind of listening behaviour might be part of the job description. Nevertheless, it is quite unnatural.

Experts agree that listening is “an identifiable set of skills, attitudes, and abilities [that] can be formulated and taught to improve individual performance” (Worthington & Bodie, 2017, p. 8). And this is brilliant! It means that interpreters can learn to make conscious listening decisions to become better listeners and thus (even) better interpreters.

Different Listening Styles

The Listening Styles Profile (LSP) is a concept to describe listening behaviour. According to the latest version of the LSP, listening styles are listening goals which are triggered by individual predispositions (i.e., they are partially stable) and elements of the listening situation (i.e., they are partially not stable).

There are four different listening styles:

  • Relational listening: a concern with and awareness of the speakers’ feelings and emotions,
  • Analytical listening: focussing on the full message before forming an opinion,
  • Task-oriented listening: a concern with the amount of time spent listening and a desire to interact with focused speakers,
  • Critical listening: a tendency to evaluate and critically assess messages for accuracy and consistency. (Bodie & Worthington, 2017, p. 403)

Data on listening behaviour is collected using self-assessment questionnaires. For my research project, I used the LSP-R8 (Rinke, 2016).

Assessing the Listening Behaviour of Different Professions

I asked representatives of three different professions as well as students enrolled in the respective university courses about their listening behaviour. Using an online questionnaire, I was able to gather data on the listening behaviour of 242 (future) psychologists, teachers, and conference interpreters.

Several t-tests were performed to determine statistically relevant differences between the groups mentioned above. If you are into statistics, let me know and I am happy to give you the details. But for now, let us skip the statistical part and get straight to the results. So, here is what I found:

  • Conference interpreters have a stronger tendency toward Critical listening than the other professionals.
  • Conference interpreters have a weaker tendency toward Relational listening than the other professionals.

To my surprise, there were no statistically relevant differences among the student groups. Apparently, future conference interpreters’ listening behaviour does not differ very much from the way future psychologists or future teachers listen.

Therefore, I concluded that the frequent use of a certain listening style on-the-job might result in applying it frequently, even in other contexts. If you think about it, this is not very far-fetched. The more we use a certain skill, the more we train it and the better we get at it. And when we are good at something, we tend to do it more often. In the end, this cycle might lead to partially automatising a certain listening behaviour.

Remember, interpreters are double listeners who always make sure that their rendition is correct. So, they often apply Critical listening when sitting in the booth. Psychologists and teachers—in their professional contexts—surely use a lot more Relational listening. In the end, psychologists are paid to know how people feel; and teachers regularly need to put themselves into the shoes of their students to meet their needs.


What are these findings good for? Well, competent listeners can flexibly switch between different listening styles, always adapting to new listening contexts. Irrespective of one’s profession, this might be a goal everybody could strive for. At the end of the day, being a good listener is a great asset.

It looks as though conference interpreters should train to use Relational listening more often. They could start thinking about situations in which this listening style (or the others) could come in handy, particularly if Critical listening is more of a hindrance than a help. These might be situations which involve talking to clients, colleagues, family, and friends.

Furthermore, conference interpreters could try to consciously apply different listening styles in the booth. Depending on the speaker, they might grasp more of the relevant information by focussing on her emotions (Relational listening) or on the full message (Analytical listening).

Interpreting trainers could consider establishing listening behaviour as part of the curriculum. Besides, the LSP might help explain certain flaws, such as omissions, contresens, etc., which could be relevant for giving (better) feedback.

Since listening plays such an important role in every conference interpreter’s (professional) life, there are plenty of other conclusions to be drawn. Are you interested in discussing your suggestions? Just send me an e-mail:



Bodie, G. D. & Worthington, D. L. (2017). Profile 36 listening styles profile-revised (LSP-R). In D. L. Worthington & G. D. Bodie (Eds.), The sourcebook of listening research. Methodology and measures (pp. 402–409). Wiley-Blackwell.

Imhof, M. (2010). Zuhören lernen und lehren. Psychologische Grundlagen zur Beschreibung und Förderung von Zuhörkompetenzen in Schule und Unterricht. In M. Imhof & V. Bernius (Eds.), Zuhörkompetenz in Unterricht und Schule. Beiträge aus Wissenschaft und Praxis (pp. 15–30). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Rinke, E. M. (2016, May 14). A general survey measure of individual listening styles: Short form of the listening styles profile-revised (LSP-R8) [AAPOR Poster Session 3]. Annual Conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, Hilton Austin, Austin, TX, United States.

Worthington, D. & Bodie, G. D. (2017). Defining listening. A historical, theoretical, and pragmatic assessment. In D. L. Worthington & G. D. Bodie (Eds.), The sourcebook of listening research. Methodology and measures (pp. 3–17). Wiley-Blackwell.

Woytowicz, L. (2019). Persönlichkeitseigenschaften und Listening Styles von Konferenzdolmetschern im Vergleich zu anderen Berufsgruppen [unpublished master’s thesis]. Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

About the author

Lisa Woytowicz is a professional conference interpreter for German, English, and Portuguese, based in Essen (Germany).

DeepL – not too bad, even if it turns marriage into war

After Microsoft Translate and Google Translate, last week I decided to take a closer look at DeepL‘s beta desktop application. I had to prepare over 50 Power Point slides filled with text about quite a number of rulings of the European Court of Justice. I was pretty sure these would be read out at high speed in the meeting and I had no time to prepare in their entirety. As DeepL’s neural networks were trained on the basis of Linguee‘s databases, I had half hoped that if I had the original text of an ECJ ruling, or part of an EU regulation, DeepL would just magically replace the English text with the official German version and save me the hassle of looking it up in Eurlex or Curia myself. Admittedly, I was also tempted by DeepL’s extremely user-friendly handling: You simply highlight the word or text you need to be translated, Press CTRL+C twice, see if you like the translation and press Enter to replace the original text with the translation. Also, if there is a particular word you don’t like in the translation proposed, you click on it and DeepL offers you alternatives to choose from in a drop-down menu (improving its own system on the basis of the user’s choice). I was then a bit disappointed to see that DeepL didn’t just replace the official English version of an EU text with the official German version, with both of them being readily available on the internet.  No human translator would take the trouble of translating something that has already been translated and/or verified by expert translators. But then DeepL obviously is not pretending to be human …

All in all, I find the quality of the translation quite impressive. A sample translation from English into German and vice versa is included at the bottom of this article. Of course, it goes without saying that machine-translated texts are not there to be read out pretending you are interpreting simultaneously or you pre-translated it yourself. And also that when using your client’s confidential data, you buy DeepL Pro to make sure no such information is saved on DeepL’s servers. Apart from these banalities, these are some points that require special attention:

Consistency: The same term may be translated differently in the same paragraph. I had nominal value translated into Nennwert and Nominalwert.

Context: When a person invests in a certificate issued by a bank, it is clearly a Zertifikat in German and not an Urkunde.

Plausibility: When an investor brings a tort action against a bank, this does not mean Ein Anleger leitet eine unerlaubte Handlung gegen eine Bank ein (i.e. the investor acts unlawfully) – as this means rather the opposite. The official German version talks of erhobene Klage wegen Haftung dieser Bank aus unerlaubter Handlung.

Robustness: Make sure your original text has no typos! There are typos that are not detected (yet) by machines, because the “wrong” word is actually a real word, too. Such tiny mistakes often go unnoticed by human readers, because we tend to auto-correct them on the basis of the words we expect to read in a certain context. However, such minor mistakes in the original text can sometimes lead to quite disturbing mistranslations. For example, a non-martial (instead of non-marital) partnership was translated by DeepL into Nicht-Kriegsgesellschaft (i.e. non-war partnership).

Appropriate terminology: Some translations just don’t sound right or are not exactly to the point, like e.g. a person’s status which would be referred to as the Personenstand (civil or marital status) in German instead of simply saying status, which could be anything. A bailiff practice would be Gerichtsvollzieherbüro rather than Gerichtsvollzieherpraxis.

In the end, it always boils down to the same rules, which by the way apply to each and every minute of simultaneous interpreting (or looking up a word in any dictionary, even the most reliable one): Always look for the meaning of a text and constantly run plausibility checks.

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.

DeepL Sample Translations:

Original DE DeepL EN>DE Original EN DeepL DE>EN
20.12.2012    | DE | Amtsblatt der Europäischen Union | L 351/1 20.12.2012 | DE | Amtsblatt der Europäischen Union | L 351/1 20.12.2012    | EN | Official Journal of the European Union | L 351/1 20.12.2012 | EN | Official Journal of the European Union | L 351/1
VERORDNUNG (EU) Nr. 1215/2012 DES EUROPÄISCHEN PARLAMENTS UND DES RATES über die gerichtliche Zuständigkeit und die Anerkennung und Vollstreckung von Entscheidungen in Zivil- und Handelssachen VERORDNUNG (EU) Nr. 1215/2012 DES EUROPÄISCHEN PARLAMENTS UND DES RATES über die Zuständigkeit und die Anerkennung und Vollstreckung von Entscheidungen in Zivil- und Handelssachen REGULATION (EU) No 1215/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL  on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters REGULATION (EU) No 1215/2012 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters
vom 12. Dezember 2012 vom 12. Dezember 2012 of 12 December 2012 of 12 December 2012
(Neufassung) (Neufassung) (recast) (recast)
Artikel 1 Artikel 1 Article 1 Article 1
(1)   Diese Verordnung ist in Zivil- und Handelssachen anzuwenden, ohne dass es auf die Art der Gerichtsbarkeit ankommt. Sie gilt insbesondere nicht für Steuer- und Zollsachen sowie verwaltungsrechtliche Angelegenheiten oder die Haftung des Staates für Handlungen oder Unterlassungen im Rahmen der Ausübung hoheitlicher Rechte (acta iure imperii). 1.   Diese Verordnung gilt in Zivil- und Handelssachen unabhängig von der Art des Gerichts. Sie erstreckt sich insbesondere nicht auf Steuer-, Zoll- oder Verwaltungsangelegenheiten oder die Haftung des Staates für Handlungen und Unterlassungen in Ausübung staatlicher Gewalt (acta iure imperii). 1.   This Regulation shall apply in civil and commercial matters whatever the nature of the court or tribunal. It shall not extend, in particular, to revenue, customs or administrative matters or to the liability of the State for acts and omissions in the exercise of State authority (acta iure imperii). 1. This Regulation shall apply in civil and commercial matters, whatever the nature of the court or tribunal. In particular, it shall not apply to tax, customs or administrative matters or to the liability of the State for acts or omissions in the exercise of State authority (acta iure imperii).
(2)   Sie ist nicht anzuwenden auf: 2.   Diese Verordnung gilt nicht für: 2.   This Regulation shall not apply to: (2) It shall not apply to:
a) | den Personenstand, die Rechts- und Handlungsfähigkeit sowie die gesetzliche Vertretung von natürlichen Personen, die ehelichen Güterstände oder Güterstände aufgrund von Verhältnissen, die nach dem auf diese Verhältnisse anzuwendenden Recht mit der Ehe vergleichbare Wirkungen entfalten, a) den Status oder die Rechtsfähigkeit natürlicher Personen, Vermögensrechte aus einer ehelichen Beziehung oder aus einer Beziehung, die nach dem auf diese Beziehung anwendbaren Recht vergleichbare Wirkungen wie die Ehe haben; (a) | the status or legal capacity of natural persons, rights in property arising out of a matrimonial relationship or out of a relationship deemed by the law applicable to such relationship to have comparable effects to marriage; a) | the marital status, legal capacity, capacity to act and legal representation of natural persons, matrimonial property regimes or matrimonial property regimes on the basis of relationships which, under the law applicable to such relationships, have comparable effects to marriage,
b) | Konkurse, Vergleiche und ähnliche Verfahren, b) Konkurs, Verfahren im Zusammenhang mit der Liquidation insolventer Unternehmen oder anderer juristischer Personen, gerichtliche Vereinbarungen, Vergleiche und ähnliche Verfahren; (b) | bankruptcy, proceedings relating to the winding-up of insolvent companies or other legal persons, judicial arrangements, compositions and analogous proceedings; (b) bankruptcies, settlements and similar proceedings,
c) | die soziale Sicherheit, (c) | Sozialversicherung; (c) | social security; c) Social security,
d) | die Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit, (d) | Schiedsverfahren; (d) | arbitration; (d) arbitration,
e) | Unterhaltspflichten, die auf einem Familien-, Verwandtschafts- oder eherechtlichen Verhältnis oder auf Schwägerschaft beruhen, (e) Unterhaltspflichten, die sich aus einer familiären Beziehung, Abstammung, Ehe oder Verwandtschaft ergeben; (e) | maintenance obligations arising from a family relationship, parentage, marriage or affinity; e) | Maintenance obligations based on a family, relationship or marriage law relationship or on affinity,
f) | das Gebiet des Testaments- und Erbrechts, einschließlich Unterhaltspflichten, die mit dem Tod entstehen. (f) Testamente und Erbfolge, einschließlich Unterhaltspflichten, die sich aus dem Tod ergeben. (f) | wills and succession, including maintenance obligations arising by reason of death. (f) the field of wills and succession, including maintenance obligations arising from death.
Artikel 2 Artikel 2 Article 2 Article 2
Für die Zwecke dieser Verordnung bezeichnet der Ausdruck Für die Zwecke dieser Verordnung: For the purposes of this Regulation: For the purposes of this Regulation, the following definitions shall apply
a) | „Entscheidung“ jede von einem Gericht eines Mitgliedstaats erlassene Entscheidung ohne Rücksicht auf ihre Bezeichnung wie Urteil, Beschluss, Zahlungsbefehl oder Vollstreckungsbescheid, einschließlich des Kostenfestsetzungsbeschlusses eines Gerichtsbediensteten. | Für die Zwecke von Kapitel III umfasst der Ausdruck „Entscheidung“ auch einstweilige Maßnahmen einschließlich Sicherungsmaßnahmen, die von einem nach dieser Verordnung in der Hauptsache zuständigen Gericht angeordnet wurden. Hierzu gehören keine einstweiligen Maßnahmen einschließlich Sicherungsmaßnahmen, die von einem solchen Gericht angeordnet wurden, ohne dass der Beklagte vorgeladen wurde, es sei denn, die Entscheidung, welche die Maßnahme enthält, wird ihm vor der Vollstreckung zugestellt; a) “Urteil” ist jede von einem Gericht eines Mitgliedstaats ergangene Entscheidung, unabhängig von der Bezeichnung der Entscheidung, einschließlich eines Dekrets, einer Anordnung, einer Entscheidung oder eines Vollstreckungsbescheides, sowie eine Entscheidung über die Bestimmung der Kosten oder Ausgaben durch einen Beamten des Gerichts. | Für die Zwecke von Kapitel III umfasst das “Urteil” vorläufige, einschließlich Schutzmaßnahmen, die von einem Gericht angeordnet werden, das nach dieser Verordnung in Bezug auf den Inhalt der Angelegenheit zuständig ist. Sie umfasst keine vorläufige, einschließlich schützende Maßnahme, die von einem solchen Gericht angeordnet wird, ohne dass der Beklagte vorgeladen wird, es sei denn, das die Maßnahme enthaltende Urteil wird dem Beklagten vor der Vollstreckung zugestellt; (a) | ‘judgment’ means any judgment given by a court or tribunal of a Member State, whatever the judgment may be called, including a decree, order, decision or writ of execution, as well as a decision on the determination of costs or expenses by an officer of the court. | For the purposes of Chapter III, ‘judgment’ includes provisional, including protective, measures ordered by a court or tribunal which by virtue of this Regulation has jurisdiction as to the substance of the matter. It does not include a provisional, including protective, measure which is ordered by such a court or tribunal without the defendant being summoned to appear, unless the judgment containing the measure is served on the defendant prior to enforcement; (a) ‘decision’ means any decision given by a court or tribunal of a Member State, whatever the judgment may be called, such as a judgment, order, order for payment or enforcement order, including the determination of costs and expenses by an officer of the court. | For the purposes of Chapter III, the term “decision” shall also include provisional, including protective, measures ordered by a court having jurisdiction as to the substance of the matter under this Regulation. Such measures shall not include provisional, including protective, measures ordered by such a court without the defendant having been summoned, unless the decision containing the measure is served on him before enforcement;
b) | „gerichtlicher Vergleich“ einen Vergleich, der von einem Gericht eines Mitgliedstaats gebilligt oder vor einem Gericht eines Mitgliedstaats im Laufe eines Verfahrens geschlossen worden ist; b) “Gerichtsvergleich” ist ein Vergleich, der von einem Gericht eines Mitgliedstaats genehmigt oder im Laufe des Verfahrens vor einem Gericht eines Mitgliedstaats geschlossen wurde; (b) | ‘court settlement’ means a settlement which has been approved by a court of a Member State or concluded before a court of a Member State in the course of proceedings; (b) “court settlement” means a settlement approved by a court of a Member State or concluded before a court of a Member State in the course of proceedings;
c) | „öffentliche Urkunde“ ein Schriftstück, das als öffentliche Urkunde im Ursprungsmitgliedstaat förmlich errichtet oder eingetragen worden ist und dessen Beweiskraft | i) | sich auf die Unterschrift und den Inhalt der öffentlichen Urkunde bezieht und | ii) | durch eine Behörde oder eine andere hierzu ermächtigte Stelle festgestellt worden ist; c) “öffentliche Urkunde” ist ein Dokument, das im Ursprungsmitgliedstaat formell erstellt oder als öffentliche Urkunde eingetragen wurde und dessen Echtheit: (i) | bezieht sich auf die Unterschrift und den Inhalt des Instruments; und | (ii) | (ii) | wurde von einer Behörde oder einer anderen zu diesem Zweck befugten Behörde eingerichtet; (c) | ‘authentic instrument’ means a document which has been formally drawn up or registered as an authentic instrument in the Member State of origin and the authenticity of which: | (i) | relates to the signature and the content of the instrument; and | (ii) | has been established by a public authority or other authority empowered for that purpose; (c) “authentic instrument” means a document which has been formally drawn up or registered as an authentic instrument in the Member State of origin and the probative value of which relates to the signature and the content of the authentic instrument and which has been established by an authority or other authority empowered to that effect;
d) | „Ursprungsmitgliedstaat“ den Mitgliedstaat, in dem die Entscheidung ergangen, der gerichtliche Vergleich gebilligt oder geschlossen oder die öffentliche Urkunde förmlich errichtet oder eingetragen worden ist; d) “Herkunftsmitgliedstaat” ist der Mitgliedstaat, in dem gegebenenfalls die Entscheidung ergangen ist, der gerichtliche Vergleich genehmigt oder geschlossen wurde oder die öffentliche Urkunde formell ausgestellt oder eingetragen wurde; (d) | ‘Member State of origin’ means the Member State in which, as the case may be, the judgment has been given, the court settlement has been approved or concluded, or the authentic instrument has been formally drawn up or registered; (d) “Member State of origin” means the Member State in which the judgment has been given, the court settlement approved or concluded, or the authentic instrument formally drawn up or registered;
e) | „ersuchter Mitgliedstaat“ den Mitgliedstaat, in dem die Anerkennung der Entscheidung geltend gemacht oder die Vollstreckung der Entscheidung, des gerichtlichen Vergleichs oder der öffentlichen Urkunde beantragt wird; e) “ersuchter Mitgliedstaat” ist der Mitgliedstaat, in dem die Anerkennung der Entscheidung geltend gemacht wird oder in dem die Vollstreckung der Entscheidung, des Gerichtsverfahrens oder der öffentlichen Urkunde angestrebt wird; (e) | ‘Member State addressed’ means the Member State in which the recognition of the judgment is invoked or in which the enforcement of the judgment, the court settlement or the authentic instrument is sought; (e) “requested Member State” means the Member State in which recognition of the judgment is sought or enforcement of the judgment, the court settlement or the authentic instrument is sought;
f) | „Ursprungsgericht“ das Gericht, das die Entscheidung erlassen hat, deren Anerkennung geltend gemacht oder deren Vollstreckung beantragt wird. f) “Ursprungsgericht” ist das Gericht, das dem Urteil, dessen Anerkennung geltend gemacht oder dessen Vollstreckung angestrebt wird, zugestimmt hat. (f) | ‘court of origin’ means the court which has given the judgment the recognition of which is invoked or the enforcement of which is sought. (f) “court of origin” means the court which delivered the judgment, the recognition of which is sought or the enforcement of which is sought.

Deliberate Practice – What’s in it for Conference Interpreters

The one thing that strikes me most about deliberate practice is the notion of immediate feedback. How could that possibly work in simultaneous interpreting? You can’t just interrupt each other when interpreting, can you? Well, most certainly not while on the job, but could you give immediate feedback when practising in a silent booth or at home? It reminds me of a dear colleague who once kindly recommended that I shouldn’t end every Spanish sentence with a “no?”, and then she started a tally of all my “nos” while I was interpreting. Apart from the fun we had, I got rid of this habit once and for all in no time.

But apart from bothering your colleagues to get rid of your bad habits (or not to fall into them in the first place), there must be more to deliberate practice, I thought. So I grabbed what sounded like the most promising book about the subject, which I learned about thanks to the book’s promotion carried out by The Marketing Heaven on social media: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool to see if I could find some inspiration for experienced interpreters or students. And just to whet your appetite, I am happy to share my favourite ideas:

Once reached an acceptable level of – automated – performance, you do not necessarily improve by just going on doing the same thing for years. Your performance may even deteriorate. Leave your comfort zone, challenge your homeostasis if you want to improve.

So that’s that for the discussion about whether conference interpreters need any further training in interpreting once they have graduated (“our daily work is training in itself”) …

Don’t just “try harder”, but differently. If you want to practice purposefully, define a realistic sub-goal and focus on the particular sub-skill, then make sure you receive immediate and positive feedback and repeat.

This makes me think of what Andrew Gillies (who also refers to Ericsson) says about practice: Dissect the process of interpreting and practice different sub-skills separately. Andrew suggests a plethora of useful exercises in his book Conference Interpreting – A Student’s Practice Book. And even if you are too lazy to do specific exercises: We all have these meetings once in a while where we know the content inside out, and I have seen colleagues writing emails or playing sudoku while interpreting. Why not focus on a particular aspect of your performance instead? You can play with your ear-voice-span, try to find new ways of expressing the standard phrases, monitor your voice and intonation, watch out for false starts or eeehms, try to make meaningful pauses or structure your output more clearly etc.

You need a mental representation of good performances. Only when you know what it “feels” like to do something properly, you will be able to notice that what you are doing does not match this way of doing it well. By way of adaptive thinking, you can then correct mistakes.

The part of mental representations that are elicited by interviewing the best of the best performers in their respective fields (e.g. surgeons) could be quite interesting also for interpreting studies. In her dissertation Experience and Expertise in Conference Interpreting: An investigation of Swedish conference interpreters, Elisabet Tiselius conducted a study comparing the performance of interpreters with longer, shorter and no experience. Among many interesting findings, it becomes clear that the notions of deliberate practice and expert interpreter are not clearly defined in the world of interpreting, visit best lax suv service. Differences between short- and long-experience interpreters were not as significant as one might have expected. “It may very well be that monitoring and informativeness are the components that make the expert performance superior. The challenge ahead is to dig deeper into these differences in order to understand and define expertise in interpreting.” So a lot is still to be done is this field of research.

All these insights remind me of another experience of having received immediate feedback. At university, one teacher we had would always listen in and watch us intently when we were interpreting, and he would frown as soon as we talked nonsense, or even interrupt and correct us. As a student, I found this teaching method rather effective, albeit cruel But now, from a deliberate practice perspective, I understand that it might have been even more effective if – just like the tally experience mentioned at the beginning – (a) we had focussed on a sub-skill and (b) the feedback had been given not only immediately, but in a somewhat more enjoyable way. Lesson learned!

Further reading/watching:

Aline Casanova, who is both a conference interpreter and ballet dancer, has a special perspective on the subject.

Elisabet Tiselius, expert in deliberate practice and expertise in interpreting, refers to an analogy made by Ericsson, comparing conference interpreters to violinists:

Blog article on internet platforms for practising in virtual teams: Speechpool, InterpretimeBank & InterpretersHelp – the Perfect Trio for Deliberate Practice in Conference Interpreting

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.

Great Piece of Research on Terminology Assistance for Conference Interpreters

Word Clouds – much nicer than Word Lists

I have been wondering for quite some time if word lists are the best thing I can come up with as a visual support in the booth. They are not exactly appealing to the eye, after all …

So I started to play around with word cloud generators a bit to see if they are of any use. Here comes a short summary of my conclusions:

The tool I liked most was WordItOut by Enideo from the UK. You can copy and paste text or tables easily and create nice word clouds in no time.

I tested it with three kinds of documents:

  1. My personal glossary
  2. Plain text
  3. Term extraction results from SketchEngine

Personal short glossary

I like to create a shortlist of my most-important-to-remember terms and have it on display permanently in the booth. Usually, there are no more than 10 to 20 terms on this list. So I copied in a short sample glossary with numbers from 1 to 10 added behind the terms (indicating frequency but meaning importance) and the result was this:

OK, it’s monolingual, but why not add some colour to the booth and print a second one?

Of course it does not help if you don’t know the equivalents. But especially when working mainly into one target language, some colleagues tend to write down terms in their target language anyway (more insight about this subject to be published in autumn!).

And if you really like a fancy booth decoration, you can always do some manual work and create a table with the equivalents in your working languages in one field

and get your bilingual word cloud:

By the way, you can choose the font and colour or simply press the “regenerate” button again and again until you like what you get.

My conclusion: I love it! Easy enough to use from time to time as a nice booth decoration – or use it as a desktop wallpaper, for that matter.

Plain text

When using plain text, words are displayed in varying sizes depending on their frequency in the text. While this is not as useful as term extraction, where terms are extracted based on much more complicated algorithms, it still gives you an idea of what the most frequent words in the text are. This can be useful, for example, for target language vocabulary activation (or when learning a new language?).

One downside, however, is that multi-word terms like “circular economy” are torn apart, so you would need to post-edit the list of words adding a ~ between the words you wish to be kept together.

Another problem is that when using any language other than English, no stop word list is pre-determined (you can add one, though). This means that, for example in German, you end up getting a cloud of der, die, das, und, er, sie, es, aber, weil, doch.

My conclusion: A lot of potential but little real use cases.

Term extraction results

The nicest thing is of course to have an extraction tool with a built-in word cloud generator, like SDL Trados Studio has.

But if you use other term extraction tools, you can still copy the extraction results into the word cloud generator. I used a term list extracted by SketchEngine,  copied in the list of extracted terms plus scores and the result was this:

Multi-word terms are no problem at all, and the size of the terms varies according to the scores calculated by SketchEngine for each term. Much more relevant than frequency in most cases …

My conclusion: Very nice!

PS: If you are interested in terminology extraction for interpreters, Josh Goldsmith is conducting an interesting study on this subject. First results may be expected to be presented in November at the 2nd Cologne Conference on Translation, Interpreting and Technical Documentation (CGN18).


About the author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OneClickTerm, a browser-based term extraction tool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, my favourite newly learnt word: Backcronym

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

Further reading:

Workhop Presentation (pdf) JIAMCATT 2018 Tools for Interpreters

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

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



Speechpool, InterpretimeBank & InterpretersHelp – the Perfect Trio for Deliberate Practice in Conference Interpreting

After testing the practice module of InterpretersHelp last month, the whole practice thing got me hooked. Whilst InterpretersHelp gives us the technical means to record our interpretation together with the original and receive feedback from peers, there are two more platforms out there which cover further aspects of the practice workflow: InterpretimeBank and Speechpool.

To start with, you need source material to interpret – which is where Sophie Llewellyn-Smith‘s fabulous speechpool comes into play. Just like InterpretimeBank and InterpretersHelp, it is a platform for practicing conference interpreters. It serves for exchanging speeches suitable for this purpose, i.e. you can upload speeches you recorded yourself and listen to those others recorded. Of course, there are zillions of speeches out there on the internet. But to practice purposefully, e.g. on everyday subjects like, say, sourdough bread, or dive into more technical subjects like ballet or fracking, it is sometimes difficult to find suitable speeches in the required source language. And this is where Sophie’s great idea of pooling speeches made by interpreters for interpreters kicks in. It currently has over 200 German, Spanish and French speeches and more than 900 in English. Obviously, the whole platform only works if many people participate actively and make contributions. Technically, you upload your video on and add it to Speechpool using the YouTube url. This makes it a perfect match for InterpretersHelp, which also uses YouTube to handle the source speech videos.

Once you have found your speech to practice with, there’s InterpreTimeBank, a platform to find peer conference interpreters from all over the world to pair up with and exchange feedback. My colleague (and former student) Fernanda Vila Kalbermatten drew my attention to InterpretimeBank recently:

Es una plataforma muy recomendable para continuar con la práctica después de terminados los estudios. La mayor ventaja es que nos conecta con intérpretes en otros países, que actúan como público en consecutivas y nos pueden dar feedback sobre nuestros retours. La comunidad necesita crecer, por lo que invito a todos los intérpretes en activo a participar.

InterpreTimeBank is still in its initial phase, so the community needs to grow. Once you have found your perfect practice monder law buddy, you can start interpreting, be it doing consecutive interpretation over the web, or exchanging your simultaneous interpretations using the fabulous practice module of InterpretersHelp and give and receive feedback using its integrated feedback function.

How much more could you ask for to keep practicing after university, brush up a language combination or just keep your skills sharp? For, as Karl Anders Ericsson puts it, an automated level of acceptable performance is not improved by just going on for years. In fact, it may even deteriorate. But that’s for next time …

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.