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Consecutive interpretation is a mode in which the interpreter begins their interpretation of a complete message after the speaker has stopped producing the source utterance. At the time that the interpretation is rendered the interpreter is the only person in the communication environment who is producing a message. It is important to note that although the person who originated the message has ceased their delivery of new information, this speaker has not necessarily given up the floor and, once the interpretation has been delivered, the speaker may resume delivery of their message. Though most people may be more familiar with simultaneous interpretation, where the interpreter renders their interpretation while still receiving the source utterance, consecutive interpretation has distinct advantages in certain interpreting situations, not the least of which is that consecutive interpretations render more accurate, equivalent, and complete target texts. In fact, the two modes, when performed successfully, employ the same cognitive processing skills, with the only difference being the amount of time that elapses between the delivery of the source utterance and the delivery of the interpretation. This being the case, mastery of techniques used in consecutive interpretation can enhance an interpreter’s ability to work in the simultaneous mode.
The Interpreting Process
We can remember..six or seven items only as long as we give all of our attention to them” (Smith. visualizing the message nonverbally. noting that the second step includes the. analyzing the message for meaning. the interpreter must go through an overlapping series of cognitive processing activities. Seleskovitch (1978) compresses these tasks into three steps.) of the source text the interpreter is free to concentrate on extracting and analyzing the meaning of the text. remembering the message. As the interpreter receives the source text the information passes initially through their short-term memory. “Short term memory.. In order to accomplish this task. If an interpreter attempts to retain the form of a source utterance their short-term memory will be quickly filled with individual lexical items. 38). These include: attending to the message.. interpreters often refer to this as “dropping form. If the interpreter does not do anything with this information it will soon disappear. structure etc.” By discarding the form (words.has a very limited duration. which may not even compose a full sentence. points out that there is another practical reason for the interpreter to discard the form of the source text. comprehending the meaning of the message. among others. and finally reformulating the message in the target language. “Immediate and deliberate discarding of the wording and retention of the mental representation of the message” (Seleskovitch. If the interpreter then attempts to find a corresponding lexical item in the target language for each of the . concentrating on the task at hand. there is only so much that a person can hold in their short-term memory.In order to interpret a text the interpreter must be able to receive and understand the incoming message and then express it’s meaning in the target language. and conceiving strategies for reformulating the message into the target language.. Seleskovitch. 8). Smith (1985) notes that.
its .the movie-goer can easily and fully process the ‘information’ conveyed. “as long as pay attention to short-term memory we cannot attend to anything else” (Smith. To demonstrate this idea Seleskovitch uses the example of a person who has just seen a movie. In a consecutively interpreted situation this would result in the interpreter stopping the speaker every six or seven words so that the interpreter could clear their short-term memory and prepare to receive new information. It is because of the limitations of short-term memory that interpreters are required to drop form and concentrate on meaning.. as Seleskovitch points out. “conversant with the various themes found in films. after viewing the film the person will be able to relate the plot and many of the details of the of the film. Since the information was understood. Of course a chunk of information must be understood in order to be meaningful. In this example the person is able to remember the film because they understood it. Cleary this is not a preferable manner in which to communicate. and.. and are. 32). because of this the moviegoer will probably be able to relate the salient points of the film in a fraction of the time it took them to receive the information.and for this reason he remembers” (Seleskovitch. Smith adds. 1979. 45). 38). as Smith points out. Both Seleskovitch and Smith propose that meaningful segments of great size can be placed into long-term memory and retrieved later... it would require the interpreter to know every existing word in both languages.source language forms in their short-term memory all of their attention will be wasted on translating these six items rather than attending to the incoming message. If the person continues to discuss the film with others the details will remain fresh in their mind for a longer period of time. “it takes no longer to put a rich and relevant chunk of meaning into longterm memory than it does a useless letter or word” (Smith.
Seleskovitch notes that dropping form aids the interpreter’s memory because they are not concentrating on remembering the words. when the moviegoer discusses the plot of the film they do not recreate its form. For example. It is this relationship that aids the interpreter’s understanding of the source text when working consecutively. These notes help the interpreter retrieve the message from their longterm memory and consist of. Interpreters are not charged with merely understanding the message. they must also be able to remember it. “In consecutive interpretation the interpreter has the advantage of knowing line of the argument before he interprets” (Seleskovitch.” Due to the greater ease of assimilating larger meaningful chunks of information it behooves the interpreter to focus their attention on these larger chunks. 1991. To this end interpreters working consecutively will often make notes as they take in the source utterance. Of course the interpreter must provide a more equivalent target text than the moviegoer. 7). or even the structure of the source text. and is then able to reformulate it in much the same way the moviegoer can relate the points of a film. arrows. These few notes are effective because interpreters do not produce their target texts based on the form used by the speaker but on what they . connects it to long-term memory. Instead. As Seleskovitch (1978) points out. the interpreter understands the message. nor do they take two hours to render their “interpretation. in order to deliver their interpretation. once a chunk of information is understood it can be reformulated into another form. 28). As shown above. “symbols. A larger chunk of text will usually contain a greater amount of meaning.salient points can be reformulated into another mode of communication. and a key word here or there” (Seleskovitch.
they can devote more of their processing to analysis and reformulation of the text thereby producing a more accurate and equivalent interpretation. and monitoring their output. Interviews. One-on-one interactions often allow for more structured turn taking behavior than large group situations. Situations where one speaker maintains the floor. 36). parent teacher meetings. and . or of specific information “such as proper names. Because the interpreter does not need to split their attention between receiving the message. While Seleskovitch notes that spoken language interpreters working at international conferences may sometimes interpret entire speeches consecutively. 1978. consecutive interpretation can be employed successfully in one-on-one interpreted interactions. Situations for Consecutive Interpreting Even though the interpreter’s goal is always to produce the most accurate and equivalent target text possible consecutive interpretation is not always possible. the consecutive mode often requires some type of pause so that the interpreter may render the message. Seleskovitch also points to the time afforded an interpreter working in the consecutive mode as an asset in reformulating the message in the target language.understood of the meaning of the source text. with little or no interaction with the audience and situations where there is rapid turn taking between a group of interlocutors may require the interpreter to work simultaneously. headings and certain numbers” (Seleskovitch. as is required in simultaneous. The “key words” may consist of words that will remind the interpreter of the speaker’s point. In general.
Like expert witness testimony. In the case of medical interpreting accuracy and equivalence are also at a premium due to the possible consequences of a misdiagnosis. Palma notes that. In these situations. where a person’s life or freedom is at stake.various type of individual consultations may be interpreted consecutively with minimal disruption to the flow of communication perceived by the participants. judges etc. These are legal and medical interpreted interactions. doctor-patient interactions may be filled with medical jargon or explanations . especially during expert witness testimony. a segment of text that is short in duration may be extremely dense in terms of the content and complexity of its ideas. due to the consequences involved. In this case the consecutive mode has the added advantage of allowing the interpreter to ask speaker to pause so that the interpreter may deliver the message.) may be familiar with the norms of consecutive interpretation and by the fact that turn taking between the witness and the attorney often proceeds with only one the two speaking at any one time. Use of the consecutive mode is also helped by the fact that court officials (attorneys. there are two types of interpreted situations that. The interpreter may also take advantage of the time in which they hold the floor to ask the speaker for clarification. Specifically. Palma (1995) points out that the density and complexity of witness testimony requires the interpreter to work consecutively and to be aware of how long a chunk they can manage effectively. where the language used can be highly technical and is more likely to use complex sentence constructions. consecutive interpretation provides greater accuracy and equivalence than simultaneous does. as we have seen. accuracy and equivalence are of the utmost priority. require consecutive interpretation rather than simultaneous.
Establishing the logistics with all the parties involved. while Seleskovitch (1978) establishes the parallel between consecutive and simultaneous. Isham. (Gish. before the interpreted interaction takes place. 1989. In the case of a single speaker who will have little or no interaction with the audience this means either the speaker will pause for the interpreter. the medical interpreter may take advantage of the structure of a doctor-patient interaction in order to request for pauses and clarifications. These processes are described by many interpreting theorists. Again turn taking may be more structured in a one-on-one medical environment especially if the patient is in full control of their faculties. 1986). Generally. While this is a significant difference. knows that the interpretation will not be delivered until the speaker has finished. one that provides more challenges for the interpreter. Colonomos. 1986-1994. or the interpreter. According to Seleskovitch an interpreter working in the . the logistics of a consecutively interpreted interaction must be established before the communication takes place. As in the legal setting. can help prevent the uneasiness that participants often feel while waiting for the interpreter to begin. at their roots consecutive and simultaneous interpreting modes stem from the same set of cognitive processes.of bodily systems that may be particularly dense for the interpreter. Consecutive in Relation to Simultaneous As mentioned above the primary difference between consecutive and simultaneous interpreting involves the time lapse between the delivery of the speaker’s message and the beginning of the interpretation. and hopefully the audience.
not just individual lexical items. In fact. and style of the source text. Because interpreters working in the simultaneous mode are still interpreting meaning rather than form they also allow for a lag between themselves and the speaker. analyzing the message for meaning. Conclusion Rather than being two separate skills. After all. which Seleskovitch suggests would be an exercise in futility. mastery of consecutive interpretation is in fact a building block for successful simultaneous interpretations. the interpreter waits until the speaker has begun to develop their point before beginning to interpret. as does the interpreter working consecutively. affect. and developing a linguistically equivalent reformulation. An “accurate” interpretation will provide the target language audience with all of the . There are situations that lend themselves to consecutive interpretations (one-on-one interactions).simultaneous mode uses the same strategies. and monitoring the target for equivalence. medical) due to the consequences of a possible misinterpretation. and others still which require use of the consecutive mode (legal. “Accuracy” relates to the content of the text. dropping form. and the interpreter ensures that they are interpreting meaning. By allowing for lag time. while “equivalence” relates to the ability of the target text to convey the register. to deliver an accurate and equivalent target text. The difference is that in the simultaneous mode the interpreter continues to receive and process new information while rendering. the goal is the same for both interpreters. That is. thanks to the time allowed for comprehension and analysis of the source text consecutive interpretations offer greater accuracy and equivalence than do simultaneous interpretations.
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‐ use acronyms (first letter of each word in a phrase). ‐ Use nouns and verbs (content words). Interpreters should develop their individual systems. For examples: 1. ‐ Change word order. unimportant prepositions. or first two or three letters of certain words. ‐ Do not use the same abbreviation for 2 different things. ‐ use symbols to replace certain words or letters. Using key Words: ‐ Key words are the words that carry essential information. Abbreviating: ‐ omit endings. ‐ To shorten sentences. omit articles. ‐ You can use your own system of symbols and abbreviations. . exclamations. ‐ Use the same symbol or abbreviation for all derivatives of the same word and for all synonyms of a particular word. ‐ Same symbols can be used for both English and Arabic words and phrases that have the same meaning.Note Taking in Consecutive Interpreting There is no universal note‐taking system. 2. adjectives and adverbs. vowels and double letters. ‐ use only the first.