Regular readers of my blog know that I am not a big fan of long-form, conference-style consecutive. When I was an interpreter trainee, I did not get a lot of training in consecutive. And as a professional, I have not done that much consec either, as clients on the Canadian market tend to prefer simultaneous.
That said, I am absolutely convinced that consecutive training is an essential part of becoming a good interpreter. Consecutive teaches us to listen consciously, to analyze deeply, and to pay careful attention to how we perform in front of clients.
I’m therefore pleased that our new MCI faculty members, Emma Zhang and Qjinti Oblitas, happen to be so very good at consecutive. What’s more, I think it’s fair to say that they have considerably different styles. In the future, perhaps I will see if Emma will map out her approach to consecutive for the blogosphere. But today, I would like to introduce you — with her help, of course — to consecutive interpretation, Qjinti-style!
To get into the heart of the matter, I’ll say that generations of interpreters have been trained either using Jean-François Rozan’s 1956 classic, “La prise de notes en interprétation consécutive” (the original French is out of print, but a bilingual Polish/English translation can be found here), or using approaches inspired by Rozan.
To describe such approaches in a nutshell, I would say this. The interpreter of course deverbalizes the original message, but what winds up on the page is often a representation of the “subject”, “verb”, and “object” of ideas in the source speech. In other words, despite the symbols, and arrows, and other marks the interpreter puts on the page, consecutive notes often wind up being connected to language forms.
Qjinti’s approach is a bit different. I think this is first because she was trained at the Université de Genève’s Faculté de traduction et d’interprétation. (I once saw FTI’s Barbara Moser-Mercer give a talk about consecutive as part of her InZone project. The notes taken by the project participants looked more like a drawing than like anything you would find in Rozan.) But more importantly, Qjinti’s approach is simply the result of how she thinks.
Intrigued by what we had seen her do, I and the other MCI instructors asked Qjinti to demonstrate her technique.To begin with, she needed a source speech. She chose a very short talk I put together for our Year One students to practice with, following my visit to Brussels last March for the SCIC-Universities conference. The speech is entitled, “Panda Diplomacy and Chocolate”, and you can listen to it on YouTube by clicking on the preview to the left. The next step, of course, was to have Qjinti take notes while listening to the English speech. This she did on one of the whiteboards in our interpreting lab at Glendon, so that it would be more visible than if she had used the standard notepad. I found it interesting to watch how quickly Qjinti was able to find visual and logical ways of representing ideas from the speech. Following this, Qjinti then delivered the original speech in French. What I think is remarkable is Qjinti’s overall performance. She expertly modulates her voice to support the thrust of her message, and she most definitely makes the material her own. What’s more, even though she’s only looking at a camera lens, she’s able to establish a real rapport with her audience. Finally, Qjinti walks us through her notes, explaining the logic behind her technique. I was struck by her use of space to represent meaningful information — for example, parallel ideas are placed side by side on the same vertical level. Also, the bit about pandas being sent out from China would have taken several lines to express, Rozan-style, but Qjinti captures the information neatly with a simple diagram.
Watching Qjinti at work gave me a lot to think about. As an interpreter, I will certainly approach consecutive differently in the future, and hopefully I will teach it more successfully as an instructor as well.
What about you? Have you had an experience that led you to a breakthrough with consecutive interpreting? If so, be sure to drop me a line in the comment field below.