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. 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, you could check here.

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

Terminology Assistance Coming to a Simultaneous Interpreter Near You

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, check out carpet cleaners dublin. 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.

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 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.






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

+++ For Spanish scroll down +++

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

  +++ für deutsche Fassung bitte runterscrollen +++

One of everything, please!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne Berres:
+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: