Consecutive interpreting: how fast is your shorthand?

ImageGood note-taking is the key to good consecutive interpreting, as here the interpreter often has to note down the contents of an entire speech, then stand up and deliver the same speech “consecutively” (hence the name) in the target language. This system can be used where booths and simultaneous facilities are not available and avoids a speech being interrupted every few sentences as would be necessary if the speech were interpreted bit by bit. Note-taking systems used by consecutive interpreters are many and varied ‘ some use short-hand, some rely on symbols and others use a combination of both. For example, the symbol for a country is a small square, the symbol for world is a small square in a circle etc. Obviously it’s not possible to have a symbol for every single word or concept, so abbreviated words are also used. The advantage of using as many symbols as possible, apart from the fact that they’re quicker to write down, is that it avoids the interpreter being “tied” mentally to a particular word in the source language and thus removes one of the mental processes which has to take place when one language is being interpreting into another.

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