E4T taster: time-saving materials to polish your English

E4T taster

English: an essential part of many interpreters’ language combinations.

And English is all around us, so it should be easy to maintain….right?

Well…maybe you’re so used to hearing Globish at work that you struggle when Irish, British, American, Indian, or Kenyan speakers take the floor.

Or maybe the multitude of different accents and variants of English you hear is stressful when you’re interpreting.

Or perhaps you can access plenty of suitable practice material, but you’re short of time and you’d like a shortcut.

A few months ago, I launched a new series of modules focusing on English, along with my colleagues Catriona Howard and Kirsten Coope.

We’ve had some great feedback about the materials (called E4T: English for Interpreters), which are intended to give you a helping hand with improving your English C (or B!); but we’ve also had questions about how to make the most of the materials, and what the content of the modules actually consists of.

I thought it might be nice to give you an E4T taster, with a peek behind the scenes of several modules, along with some tips on how you can make the most of the content.

What’s in each module?

Each module typically contains:

  • 3 tailor-made practice speeches, prepared by yours truly, Catriona, and Kirsten, on the topic of the month. Each video is captioned and comes with a full transcript. You’ll also find a short introduction and some terminology that you can choose to research before tackling the speech, or to ignore if you’d rather tackle it without preparation.
  • 3 carefully selected ‘real life’ speeches representing a variety of accents and viewpoints. These could be panel debates, TED talks, interviews, lectures, etc. Again, we give a brief introduction, some terminology, and often some guidance on how to tackle the speech – or a suggested focus.
  • a reading exercise (often, this is a reading comprehension), based on a relevant article or paper.
  • a listening exercise; this could be based on one of the practice speeches, or a podcast or lecture. The exercise might be a listening comprehension or some other exercise to practise analysis, for instance.
  • a note-taking exercise to practise note-taking technique or symbols.
  • a ‘resources’ section with more suggestions for audio or video practice material and further background reading.
  • an Excel glossary template containing key terminology, vocabulary that comes up in the speeches, and any relevant idioms.

We’ve tried hard to reflect a variety of viewpoints and accents in each module, and to cover the key terminology that you need to know in order to interpret successfully.

Oh, a very important point: if you decide to purchase one of the modules, you will have indefinite, on demand access.

This is not the kind of material that you can only access for 6 months or a year; you can dip in an out of the modules whenever you like – your access is permanent (as long as my website continues to exist!).

Now, what can you do with all of this? The answer will partly depend on whether your English is a C or a B language.

If your English is a C

Here are some ideas:

  • fill in the glossary templates with your A language equivalents and learn the vocabulary.
  • Use the caption function to check your understanding of a tricky speech.
  • If you struggled with sections of a speech, read the transcript afterwards.
  • Use all the consecutive speeches for note-taking practice.
  • Improve your background knowledge by going through the additional resources.
  • Prepare for an exam by going through all the materials, in the order they are given (roughly in order of difficulty).
  • Prepare for a mock conference, volunteer gig or assignment by practising with the simultaneous speeches.

Here’s a taster of a reading exercise, from the circular economy module.

Sample reading exercise – circular economy

“Read through the speech transcript provided and find different ways of expressing the words/ phrases listed below in the text. If you would like to take it a step further, or are working on an English B, why not come up with a third (or fourth!) option. I have provided some suggestions in the answer table below. As it is quite a long list, I have split the exercise in two. The first section takes you up to:  “Through an ambitious new biodiversity framework, under which commitments are made and actions taken by the whole of government, economy and society.”.

You may also like to spend some time producing a version of the speech in your mother tongue. Approach the task as if it were an interpretation (i.e. don’t produce a translation) but take the time to come up with idiomatic solutions in your mother tongue that really reflect the nuance of the original.

There is plenty of useful climate-related vocab in the text too, especially in the second half. Oh and finally, in case you spot it, the correct word is “disproportionately” not “disproportionally”!”

The speech transcript is here.

EXPRESSION USED IN TEXTYOUR SUGGESTIONS (in your mother tongue and/or in English)
Section 1
Moments which test us
Most people can’t help thinking of
shrunk
is just one manifestation of
deteriorating state
completely reconfigure
main cause of
our only choice is to
are being implemented
speeding towards
the crux of the matter is
predominantly
ambitious targers
crucial for
production
domestic
throw away
limited resources
modify our behaviour
Section 2
further developing
extract
strained
results effects
are ongoing
amounted to
is developing
a significant barrier
encourage
gradually eliminating
transferring
open up
be successful in the longer term
phase out their activities
incorporating

EXPRESSION USED IN TEXTYOUR SUGGESTIONS (in your mother tongue and/or in English)
Section 1
Moments which test ustrying timesdifficult/tough periods
Most people can’t help thinking ofminds turn tomost people’s first thought is
shrunkcontractedgot smaller
is just one manifestation ofis but one symptom ofis only one sign of
deteriorating stateailing healthworsening condition
completely reconfigureradically altercompletely transform/drastically reshape/improve significantly
main cause ofcore driver
No good here here but I couldn’t help stick in “engine of change” as an expression/ collocation.)
our only choice is towe have no option but towe must
are being implemented are coming online (I particularly dislike this expression, though it’s very common!)are coming into force
speeding towardshurtling towardsheading at full speed/advancing or moving rapidly
the crux of the matter isthe bottom line isultimately/the upshot is
predominantlyprimarilymainly/fundamentally
ambitious targerslofty ambitionsambitious/bold (?) goals
crucial forcritical toessential for/required by
productionoutputyield (?)
domesticintrastateinternal
throw awaydiscardthrow out/reject?
limited resourcesfinite capacitylimited means
modify our behaviourchange our waysadapt our behaviour/operate or do things differently
Section 2
further developingscaling upincreasing/stepping up/intensifying/expanding
extractgougescoop out/violently remove
strainedstressedput pressure on
resulting effectsattendant impactsresultant/accompanying effects
are ongoingare underwaythere are currently efforts
amounted tostood ataccounted for
is developingis unfoldingis appearing
a significant barriermajor impedimentsubstantial obstacle
encouragedrivepush
gradually eliminatingphasing outprogressively removing
transferringshiftingmoving
open upunlockprovide
be successful in the longer termstickbe permanent/long-lasting
phase out their activitieswind downreduce their activities/gradually shut up shop
incorporatingintegratingincluding

If your English is a B

Here are some ideas:

  • look out for the exercises that are specifically designed for English Bs in the module.
  • If your intonation and pronunciation need work, why not do a little bit of shadowing with one of the tailor-made speeches?
  • Use the reading exercises as an opportunity to pick up new idiomatic phrases in English.
  • Use the glossary as a shortcut to make sure you know the key terminology in a particular subject.
  • Use the tailor-made speeches as material for a reformulation exercise (EN>EN simultaneous). See how versatile your English B is by looking for alternatives and synonyms.
  • Take EN>EN notes and check that you have good symbols and abbreviations.

Here’s a taster of a simultaneous speech, from the module on taxation (available 1st October).

Sample tailor-made speech – tax module

If you’re a trainer

You are welcome to use E4T materials in the classroom as a teaching aid.

Please credit us, and don’t share your login details as this compromises the security of the site.

If you’d like a whole cohort of students or trainers to be able to access the materials in their own time, please contact us for pricing.

Here are some ideas for you:

  • If you have a topic of the week at your institution, your students could listen to some of the material in the Resources section to prepare.
  • Pick one of the exercises (reading or listening) for your students to do before class as preparation
  • Use one of the tailor-made consecutive speeches in class when you’re teaching consecutive.
  • Give your students one of the exercises or speeches to do as homework.
  • Use the speech transcript to help you when listening to students work in simultaneous.

Here’s a sample listening exercise, from our module on vaccination.

Sample listening exercise – vaccination module

The source material for this exercise is a podcast called ‘Science vs’. The episode I’ve chosen is called ‘Vaccines – are they safe?’, and I’ve chosen it for two reasons: the presenter has an Australian accent, and her presenting style is quite informal (click on the image to access the podcast).

Vocabulary and comprehension exercise

  1. Listen to the podcast between -23.35 and -8.21. This section begins with ‘There’s another idea about how vaccines could be causing autism: Mercury.  Mercury… is sometimes used as a preservative in vaccines… in a form called thimerosal.’
  2. Listen out for unknown or interesting words or phrases.
  3. Read the following list. For each word or phrase, consider a) if you could give a definition, b) how you would render this in your A language, c) whether you know any synonyms in English. Do they have the same register or connotations?

  • kooky
  • to comb through
  • a raft of studies
  • freaking out
  • a debate that won’t die
  • a whack-a-mole game
  • cut and dry
  • their assessments lined up

You can find a transcript of the podcast here.

An exercise for English Bs

The presenter’s style in this podcast is very conversational. In places, she uses informal register.

Try using the podcast as a reformulation exercise. Start in the same place, and go all the way to the end of the podcast. See if you can raise the register so it is more formal.

When you’ve finished, think about what phrases you changed.

You may have changed scary, a big deal, kooky, freaking out, whack-a-mole game, and ‘do they stack up?’. You may also have changed ‘a bunch of’ and ‘WAY more than’.

In British English, ‘kids’ is fairly informal as well, although it is much more common in American English. As a British English speaker, if I wanted to be more neutral or formal, I would have changed ‘kids’ into ‘children’.

Where to find E4T

Here are the modules we’ve published so far. Just click on the links to find out more or to purchase.

Vaccination

Fake news

The gig economy

The circular economy

We publish a new module on the 1st of each month. Our next module, on taxation, is due for publication on 1st October.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief E4T taster. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions, or if you’d like to suggest a topic for a forthcoming module!

Should women be paid for doing housework?

This is an 8 minute speech based on an article I read on bbc.co.uk this morning.

If you’d like to read the source text, it’s here.

The speech is long for a consecutive, but not particularly complicated. It only contains one figure.

There are several ways you could use it to help with your English retour:

  1. Take notes from part or all of the speech. Then reformulate the speech in English.
  2. Do the speech in simultaneous (EN>EN). Decide in advance what you’re going to work on:
  • ‘chunking’ (salami technique): break the sentences up into shorter pieces.
  • editing/being concise: leave out redundances, try to summarise long-winded ideas.
  • reformulation: look for alternative phrasing and synonyms.

Remember to record yourself, then go back and listen to your performance. Are there infelicities in the use of English? What could you have said instead?

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Interested in more material like this to help you boost your retour? Why not join my monthly membership site, Rock your Retour, with tailor-made written materials and weekly live group classes (online)?

Interpreting Coach logo with strapline

Sophie Llewellyn Smith, writing as The Interpreting Coach, is a coach, interpreter trainer, conference interpreter, designer of online teaching materials, and creator of Speechpool. Follow the blog to pick up tips on how to improve your interpreting skills.

If you’re interested in personal coaching, why not book a free discovery call?

A reformulation exercise for English retourists

The purpose of this exercise is to help you work on the versatility of your English B and on deducing meaning from context and applying background knowledge.

I have chosen a short excerpt from a Guardian article, and blanked out some of the words.

Your task is to read each paragraph carefully, and come up with possible solutions to fill in the gaps. See how many options you can find.

If you like, you can be more radical, and change the whole phrase around that word.

Think about the solutions you’ve come up with. Are some of them lower register, or more formal?

Spoiler alert: I’ve given you the solutions under the text of the article, so avert your eyes if you want to make this a real exercise.

Text of the article

“MPs have criticised a project by academics that involved sending emails from fictitious constituents claiming they were concerned about financial support during the coronavirus lockdown.

Researchers at King’s College London (KCL) and the London School of Economics (LSE) sent emails to every MP’s inbox from characters including a cleaner and lawyer.

Copies of messages seen by the Guardian showed the senders – who with names including Paul, Thomas and Maryam – wrote that they worked for large companies but were “ about the long term” and saw “people all around me who are jobs or pay cuts”.

All emails ended with the request: “I’d like to know what you and the Conservative party are going to do to this crisis in the best possible way.” Some added they were a “Conservative supporter”.

in different MPs’ offices discovered the connection only when they replied with a standard question, asking for the sender’s address so they could confirm they were the right person to help, and received no response.”

Solutions – don’t read until you’ve done the exercise!

Para 2: the missing word is invented. You could have used fictitious or even fake. If you found made-up, be aware that this is more informal.

Para 3: the missing words are purported, signed themselves off, worried, losing, experiencing. You could use supposed instead of purported. You have several options for worried, including concerned – you just need to watch out for the preposition, which limits you. For experiencing pay cuts, you could try being hit by, being affected by, suffering because of…

Para 4: the missing phrase is get us through. You could have used overcome, tackle, address, get us out of (which is more informal), etc.

Para 5: the missing word is staffers, and you could simply have used staff.

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Interested in more material like this to help you boost your retour? Why not join my monthly membership site, Rock your Retour, with tailor-made written materials and weekly live group classes (online)?

Interpreting Coach logo with strapline

Sophie Llewellyn Smith, writing as The Interpreting Coach, is a coach, interpreter trainer, conference interpreter, designer of online teaching materials, and creator of Speechpool. Follow the blog to pick up tips on how to improve your interpreting skills.

If you’re interested in personal coaching, why not book a free discovery call?

An improvisation exercise for English retourists

The purpose of this improvisation exercise is to help you consolidate your knowledge and active use of verbs, phrases and expressions meaning ‘begin’ and to give you an opportunity to improvise a short presentation in English similar to something you might hear in a real meeting. You can also use this exercise to practise your presentation skills and get some feedback on your use of English.

The whole improvisation exercise should take you a maximum of 30 minutes, unless you want to do extra research on a topic area of your choice. You can tailor the exercise to suit your ability level and vocabulary lacunae; I have given hints as to how to do this. Be creative and have fun with it!

If you need a little more help with finding suitable phrases (and the right register), scroll down to the part of the post that is BELOW the exercise, for lots of suggestions.

Instructions

Choose between Option 1 (a short presentation) and Option 2 (playing the role of the Chairman of a meeting).

Option 1: prepare a short presentation

Pick onePick 2 or more adjectivesPick 2 or more verbs or phrasesPick 3 or more adjectives
PRODUCT LAUNCH: pair of smart glasses + smartphone app + trained assistants. Blind or visually impaired people wear the glasses and call an agent when they need help with everyday tasks (reading a recipe, separating laundry, buying an item in a cafe); the assistant can see what the blind person is seeing in real time. More info here: https://aira.io/

OR

CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN for an app to find the best way to get from A to B. The app can search bus routes, find taxis, buy train tickets, automatically post on carsharing websites, find hire cars and calculate the cost of fuel, and calculate projected CO2 emissions for the trip.

OR

a product, service, initiative, project or campaign of your choice
delighted
thrilled
honoured
excited
pleased
optimistic
gratified
daunted
nervous
elated
overjoyed
ecstatic
tickled pink
break new ground
pave the way for
blaze a trail
breath of fresh air
pioneer
usher in
initiate
launch
embark on
begin
start
originate
set about
groundbreaking
innovative
ambitious
unique
unprecedented
revolutionary
cutting-edge
pioneering
tantalising
trendsetting
radical
original
experimental
inventive
ingenious
state-of-the-art
creative
imaginative
inspired
visionary

Your task is to take the elements of your choice (type of presentation, adjectives describing feelings, phrases relating to ‘beginning’, adjectives describing your product or service) and prepare a 5 minutes oral presentation to pitch your product.

It is up to you to decide who you are selling or presenting your product to: potential investors? An NGO or charity?

Your presentation will have the following format:

  1. Brief intro to address the audience and introduce yourself and use your ‘feeling’ adjectives, e.g. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I am thrilled to have been invited to this conference to present our brand new product. I am, of course, a touch nervous at addressing such a knowledgeable audience, but I’m also confident that I will be able to convince you of the real benefits that our product can offer partially sighted people.’
  2. your presentation of the product/service/campaign, using the idioms and descriptive adjectives you have chosen.
  3. A conclusion or call to action (e.g. please invest/here is our website for further information/please spread the word etc.)

If you need a helping hand with the English: do some extra research by choosing a real product or service and visiting the website to pick up more vocabulary.

If your retour is already advanced: choose an area that you’re not very familiar with, and take the opportunity to increase your vocabulary in that field (e.g. robotics, engineering, IT, medicine).

Option 2: act as Chairman of a meeting

Depending on your level of English and knowledge of conference vocabulary, you can choose to keep it quite general, or much more specific.

Pick EITHER agenda 1, OR agenda 2 plus EITHER the product launch OR the crowdfunding campaignPick 2 or more adjectivesPick 2 or more verbs or phrasesPick 3 or more adjectives
AGENDA 1:
General Session of the AFB Leadership Conference 2018 —How Leading Tech Companies Are Raising the Bar for Blind and Visually Impaired Users
Panelists: Sarah Herrlinger, Director, Accessibility Policy and Initiatives, Apple; Mark Lapole, Lead Product Developer, AIRA (assistive technologies for the blind); Megan Lawrence, Accessibility Technical Evangelist, Microsoft; and Jeffrey Wieland, Director of Accessibility, Facebook
Description: Representatives from the world’s leading technology companies will share their insights on how they operationalize accessibility, engage with assistive technology users, and improve opportunities for persons with visual impairments.

OR

Agenda 2:
Adoption of the agenda, Minutes of previous meeting, Item 1 (presentation by Mr Michael Miller followed by Q&A), Item 2 (recent developments in the industry).

PRODUCT LAUNCH: pair of smart glasses + smartphone app + trained assistants. Blind or visually impaired people wear the glasses and call an agent when they need help with everyday tasks (reading a recipe, separating laundry, buying an item in a cafe); the assistant can see what the blind person is seeing in real time. More info here: https://aira.io/

OR

CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN for an app to find the best way to get from A to B. The app can search bus routes, find taxis, buy train tickets, automatically post on carsharing websites, find hire cars and calculate the cost of fuel, and calculate projected CO2 emissions for the trip.

OR

a product, service, initiative, project or campaign of your choice
delighted
thrilled
honoured
excited
pleased
optimistic
gratified
daunted
nervous
elated
overjoyed
ecstatic
tickled pink
break new ground
pave the way for
blaze a trail
breath of fresh air
pioneer
usher in
initiate
launch
embark on
begin
start
originate
set about
groundbreaking
innovative
ambitious
unique
unprecedented
revolutionary
cutting-edge
pioneering
tantalising
trendsetting
radical
original
experimental
inventive
ingenious
state-of-the-art
creative
imaginative
inspired
visionary

Your task is to chair the first five minutes of a meeting where an invited guest will be presenting an innovative new product/service/crowdfunding campaign.

If you chose Agenda 1:

You are the moderator of a general session at the AFB Leadership Conference (American Foundation for the Blind).

Your presentation will have the following format, but feel free to take liberties.

  1. Open the session
  2. Welcome panellists
  3. Introduce the first speaker, Michael Miller, CEO of the company that has created smartglasses for visually impaired people (more info here: https://aira.io/how-it-works or see below). Use your ‘feelings’ adjectives to describe how excited you are that he is here, and your idioms and other adjectives to say a few words about his product.
  4. Give Michael Miller the floor.

Description of the AIRA smart glasses: pair of smart glasses + smartphone app + trained assistants. Blind or visually impaired people wear the glasses and call an agent when they need help with everyday tasks (reading a recipe, separating laundry, buying an item in a cafe); the assistant can see what the blind person is seeing in real time.

If you chose Agenda 2:

  1. Decide what kind of meeting this is. You can keep it general, or be very specific (for example if you want to do some extra research and widen your vocabulary in a specific area).
  2. Start your oral presentation: go through the agenda as if you were in a real meeting (e.g. ask if the agenda can be adopted, ask if anyone has comments about the minutes of the previous meeting, maybe say a few words about how you intend to tackle items 1 and 2).
  3. Make a few housekeeping points of your own devising, for instance about timings of coffee breaks, colleagues who are absent, etc.
  4. Turn to Item 1, and introduce the first speaker, Michael Miller, who will be presenting the product of your choice (or the smart glasses or travel app). Use your ‘feelings’ adjectives to describe how excited you are that he is here, and your idioms and other adjectives to say a few words about his product/service/campaign.
  5. Give Michael Miller the floor.

4 ways to use your presentation:

  1. If there’s no-one at home who can listen to you, deliver your speech out loud to practise your delivery and presentation skills. Use a mirror or the camera on your smartphone!
  2. Record an audio file of yourself and post it in the RyR Facebook group. Ask other members for feedback on your use of English and delivery.
  3. Film yourself and put the speech on Speechpool for others to use as practice material.
  4. If you’re a member of a practice group with people who have an English C, give them the speech as practice material!

Extra help with vocab

Here are some suggestions to help you with the exercise.
Some of these phrases are very useful during meetings, e.g. when the chair takes the floor for the first time, or when a speaker is presenting a new proposal or project. You may know most or all of them already, but this way you have them all in one place!

Getting down to business

First, a few expressions a chairman might use first thing in the morning, when the meeting begins, to indicate a general readiness to start work.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think it’s time to make a start.

It’s time to start today’s meeting.

Let’s begin the meeting.

Lower register and grumpy, verging on the rude and impatient, would be let’s get on with it.  Let’s get this show on the road! is idiomatic but rather conversational; you could perhaps use it if the speaker was being humorous or flamboyant. In most meetings, you wouldn’t get away with it’s showtime!

showtime

To show that his introduction or general remarks are done with, and it’s time to talk about the actual subject of the meeting, the chairman would use one of the following expressions (listed here in rough order of how specific they are).

Let’s get straight to it.

Let’s get down to business.

Let’s get down to brass tacks.

Without further ado, let’s turn to today’s agenda.

Shall we turn to the first item on the agenda?

Let’s start with an item of other business.

Let’s get straight on with the main point on today’s agenda.

Before we get to the nitty gritty, I want to give the Commission the floor on an item of other business.

First things first, I have a few points of housekeeping to discuss, before we move on to the agenda proper.

And to make sure that the beginning is auspicious, the chairman might say:

Let’s start as we mean to go on, and limit ourselves to two minutes’ speaking time each.

Who’s going to make the first move?

Someone has to be the first to speak in a debate. Here are some options for you in these circumstances:

Who’s going to get the ball rolling? Who’s going to set the ball rolling?

Who’s willing to kick off our discussion? *NOTE that willing to does not mean the same thing as wanting to!

The floor is open for your comments. Who would like to take the floor first? Who would like to comment first?

Who’s going to open the discussion?

Who wants to be the first to speak on this point?

Who’s going to break the ice?

Who’s going to dive in?

Chairman, I want to jump in at this stage, to clear up a misunderstanding.

A few verbs

The verb begin has many synonyms. Let me try to give you some hints on usage and nuance, so that you can decide when to use begin, start, originate, set about, usher in, embark on, launch, inaugurate, initiate and commence.

  • Begin is the most general verb, and start is a near synonym. They are virtually interchangeable. You can use both of them with an object or without:

We’ve begun our analysis of the text. We’ve started our analysis of the text.

The lecture begins at 9 a.m. The lecture starts at 9 a.m.

  • In some contexts, you can use get underway (meaning begin to happen) as a synonym when begin or start are intransitive; however, it is less concise than begin/start.

The lecture got underway at 10 a.m. The project got underway in 2012. The festival gets underway on 20th August. The Party Conference gets underway tomorrow in Cardiff.

  • To talk about the origin or inspiration of a proposal or project, use originate (intransitive). Avoid using originate with an object (i.e. don’t say who originated this expression? but rather where did this expression originate? or who coined this expression?)

The disease was thought to originate in Africa. This technology originated in the US.

  • Initiate is a formal way of saying cause something to begin. It needs an object, and often collocates with words meaning conversation, discussion, negotiations, consultations, but also goes well with words meaning initiative. You can use it in the passive voice as well:

The peace talks were initiated by the special envoy.

Our company initiated talks with competitors last year.

Arsenal ‘have initiated talks’ to sign Lille striker Nicolas Pepe in the January transfer window.

The minister was credited with initiating a series of welfare reforms.

  • Commence is also a formal or technical way of saying begin, and can be used either with or without an object. Familiar contexts for commence are space travel (commencing countdown…) and military activities (commence firing!). You will see from the examples that it sounds stilted in normal conversation, and is chiefly used in contracts or on very formal occasions.

Construction work is expected to commence in two weeks.

Legal proceedings will commence immediately.

The policy will commence under the abovementioned conditions.

The wedding ceremony will commence at noon.

  • Set about means begin doing something and takes a gerund (the -ing form of a verb):

He set about cleaning out the garage.

  • Embark on means to start a project, the nuance being that it is likely to be time-consuming or complex. It collocates well with nouns that mean journey (metaphorically), project, or venture, e.g. adventure, endeavour, programme, pursuit, undertaking, experiment.

She embarked on a new career at the age of 40.

The company has embarked on a risky new venture.

  • Inaugurate takes an object, and suggests the beginning of a significant era or of some formality. Personally, I would use usher in rather than inaugurate in the sense of usher in a new era.

The new political regime was meant to inaugurate a new era of peace and prosperity.

The peace envoy helped to inaugurate the new round of peace talks.

  • Usher in collocates well with nouns meaning era, such as period, cycle, season, spell, or time.

The political reforms ushered in a period of economic prosperity.

  • Launch means to set in motion. It takes an object and implies a deliberate act (as opposed to a phenomenon that occurs spontaneously). Speaking literally, you would launch a vessel, such as a rocket or a ship; metaphorically, you could launch a career, a business/company, an initiative/campaign, a project/programme/scheme, a new radio station/TV station, a product or service, and finally an attack/assault. You can use almost any synonym of the nouns I have listed with the verb launch, which is very versatile.

Being innovative

So… finally you’ve got something started: a project, a campaign, whatever. But are you a leader or a follower? Here are some phrases that can help express the idea of being innovative.

The early bird catches the worm.

Our company is blazing a trail.

We are spearheading this campaign. – when it’s not used in a military sense (to spearhead in invasion), spearhead means ‘lead a course of action’ and collocates with nouns meaning campaign, initiative, project.

Our pioneering work will pave the way for others to follow.

Our product breaks new ground.

This market needs new blood. Our company is shaking things up.

This young start-up is like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant market.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Our CEO pioneered this type of marketing.

Starting over

If you’re starting something all over again, you might be starting from scratch, starting over, going back to the drawing board (for example, when designing a product or drafting a text), or going back to square one.

These are all useful phrases in meetings if the proposal on the table is doesn’t suit the negotiating parties, for example.

If a person is beginning a new life or adopting a different attitude, they might be starting over, wiping the slate clean, starting afresh, turning over a new leaf (which implies behaving more responsibly), or making a clean break (cutting ties with bad influences, for instance, or moving on from a divorce).

Horses and races

A couple of idioms related to races:

We’re under starter’s orders means we are ready to perform a task. Here is an example from the news:

Potential buyers of a country house which boasts its own racing stables are under starter’s orders in an online auction which ends next month.

The starting gun/ the starting pistol has been fired, and we need to come up with a solution immediately.

The starting gun has been fired in a brutal leadership contest.

Hurrying up

There is a plethora of expressions meaning ‘hurry up’, many of which are fairly colloquial. The common theme here is that the speaker is urging someone to do something or go somewhere. These are generally unsuitable in a conference situation, either because of context (they don’t describe the act of beginning to examine a document, say) or register.

Let’s get moving!

Let’s get going!

Get a move on!

Shake a leg!

And something you might say to family members or your children: Get a wriggle on! Chop chop!

Here is an example of a suitable context for these phrases:

We have to leave the house before 5 o’clock, or we’ll be late for the show. Let’s get going! (or: Shake a leg! Get a wriggle on! etc.)

If you want to watch some TV this afternoon, you need to do your homework first. Get a move on!

Wow! That was epic! I hope this post has given you plenty of ready-made solutions to use in meetings.

Interested in more material like this to help you boost your retour? Why not join my monthly membership site, Rock your Retour, with tailor-made written materials and weekly live group classes (online)?

Interpreting Coach logo with strapline

Sophie Llewellyn Smith, writing as The Interpreting Coach, is a coach, interpreter trainer, conference interpreter, designer of online teaching materials, and creator of Speechpool. Follow the blog to pick up tips on how to improve your interpreting skills.

If you’re interested in personal coaching, why not book a free discovery call?

Self-care for interpreters during the pandemic: 5 supertips

5 supertips blog post image

I’m first and foremost an interpreter and trainer, but some of you may know I have a background in fitness training and complementary therapies.This means I’ve always had an interest in stress management and relaxation, which has led to developing webinars and seminars about self-care for interpreters.

Generally, I like to think I manage stress quite well.

However, the pandemic and lockdown have meant I’m less this:

… and more like this:

The pandemic has challenged all of us in many ways, and I won’t dwell on them here except to say homeschooling? Just no. According to my children, that is. Personally, I quite enjoyed learning about the Black Plague and prime factors, although it did, admittedly, make it almost impossible to get any actual work done!!

And breathe…

Now, I recently asked my interpreter trainers’ Facebook Group what they were most stressed about, and the responses were partly to do with factors beyond the respondents’ control and the reliability of the technology we’re now all dependent on, and partly related to the fact we’re joined at the hip with computers for hours every day, with resulting effects on fatigue, eyesight, and our hearing.

Pausing for a moment to give some thought to how interpreters have been affected by the pandemic and the resulting switch to home working (either in the form of RSI or attending training sessions online, teaching online, translating from home, etc.), I’ve drawn up a list of some of the main consequences of the fact that we’re more sedentary, more uncertain about the future, and largely glued to a computer screen.

  • stress and anxiety: the causes are obvious, from fear about coronavirus to anxiety about our professional future, career prospects, and income.
  • headaches: stress-related or caused by a poor home office set-up, bad sound when attending Zoom or other meetings, or eye strain from staring at a screen for hours.
  • dry, tired eyes: too many hours in front of a screen, exacerbated by poor lighting in the home office.
  • back, shoulder or neck pain or stiffness: from hunching over a laptop, an unergonomic set-up in the home office, or sitting down for too many hours every day.
  • tinnitus or other hearing problems: caused or exacerbated by stress or poor sound.
  • weight management issues: arising from different dietary habits due to lockdown, being less active, and feeling more stressed.

Now, I’m not saying everyone is experiencing all of these. Some people have taken the lockdown as an opportunity to get fit, quit drinking, clean up their eating habits, learn a language, and take up fantastic new hobbies. Kudos to them!

But if you’re finding it difficult, I’d like to share a few tips about self-care for interpreters.

When I first started thinking about this blog post, I instinctively thought of the simplest, most important tips for good health; those that underpin everything else. Because there’s little point twisting yourself into a pretzel with yoga, or getting a delightful back massage, if the basics aren’t in place.

However, it’s true that the basics sound…well…rather dull: get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Eat healthily.

Everybody knows all of this, right?

And yet, plenty of people don’t do these things, or they don’t understand the full benefits.

Self-care for interpreters

So I decided to list for you my 5 self-care supertips, which are highly effective if you’re consistent with them, as well as being multi-purpose.

Yes: apply these 5 tips, and you’ll be addressing several of the stressors I identified above in one fell swoop! All these tips are simple, easily integrated into your lifestyle, and don’t take a lot of time. And perhaps when you’ve read the explanations, you’ll agree that they’re worth trying out, rather than dismissing them for being too basic.

Water

Drink enough water.

I’m sure you’ve heard that even mild dehydration can affect your energy levels. In fact, it can lead to increased feelings of fatigue, and, importantly for interpreters, reduced focus and alertness, and reduced short term memory.

Dehydration can also contribute to headaches and increase your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. There’s a bit of a vicious circle here: stress causes dehydration, and dehydration adds to stress.

Now, once upon a time when we were all working in the booth, I’m not sure this was much of a problem, because we all had a bottle or cup of water. But perhaps you’re like me, and you find it hard to drink enough when you’re at home.

If so, here are some simple tricks:

  • measure out 1.5 l – 2 l water into a large bottle or jug in the morning. That way, you know how much to aim for during the day.
  • Add something more interesting if you’re not a big fan of plain water (by which I mean slices of cucumber, lemon or strawberry, not gin!).
  • Drink herbal teas – they’re also a nice opportunity to take 5 minutes and clear your mind.

If you prefer high tech solutions, you can use reminder apps such as Waterly or My Water – Daily Water Tracker.

Sleep

Sleep enough.

Again, you’re probably thinking this is fairly basic advice. Everybody knows that you need to sleep enough to feel less tired.

There’s a little bit more to it, though.

Inadequate sleep can actually increase your body’s production of stress hormones. There’s another vicious circle at play here: stress can interfere with good sleep, but poor or insufficient sleep messes with your stress hormones (especially cortisol).

Elevated cortisol levels, in turn, can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain (among other nasties like compromised immune system, chronic inflammation, and chronic disease).

There’s a lot to say about improving the quality of your sleep. I’ll stick to just two points here:

  • your sleep before midnight is more restorative.
  • the consistency of your sleep patterns is important, so try to get to bed and get up at roughly the same times.

Eat for energy

Being stuck at home during lockdown can be a double edged sword when it comes to eating healthily.

On the one hand, you’re at home, potentially with a fridge stocked with healthy veggies, and the ability to whip up nourishing, nutrient-rich meals.

Or, you’re a mixture of bored and anxious, a packet of biscuits always within easy reaching distance, none of your usual daily structure, and plenty of reasons to comfort eat.

Take your pick. I know which side I’m on, alas.

Diet could be the subject of not one, but an infinite number of blog posts, so I’ll offer just one main tip:

Consume protein at every meal or snack.

Why? Because protein will help you keep your blood sugar levels steady, so you’re less likely to reach for extra snacks or eat compulsively, and less likely to feel anxious.

Protein is also filling (more so than carbohydrates), so it helps you avoid overeating.

When I mention protein snacks, people often ask me what that might look like. After all, if muffins, cakes and biscuits are off the menu (or reserved for an occasional treat), most people will probably go for a fruit (high in sugars) instead.

Of the many options, some of which may seem very unusual (a boiled egg as a snack?? A chunk of cheese?), one that I think works well at home is yoghurt. Specifically, plain Greek yoghurt (0% fat). It has a very creamy texture and is very filling, but it’s also low fat, relatively low in carbs, high in protein, and – surprisingly – good for your teeth (because of the probiotics it contains, and because calcium-rich foods protect teeth from erosion caused by acidic environments). You can always add a dash of cinnamon, a dusting of cocoa, or a few drops of Stevia if you like it a little sweeter.

Take short, regular breaks from the computer

Sitting at a computer for hours at a time can easily cause you eye strain, neck strain, headaches, and potentially hearing problems (depending on the quality of sound you’re getting).

Take regular breaks!

If you’re staying seated in your home office, try this:

  • do a few seated stretches to work the stiffness and kinks out of your neck.
  • Spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away (ideally, you should do this every 20 minutes!), to make sure your eyes get a break from focusing on the same point all the time.
  • Close your eyes, drop your shoulders, take 3 deep breaths, and try a short mindfulness exercise. Focus on each of your senses in turn, and ask yourself: What can I hear? What can I smell, taste, see, and touch?
self-care for interpreters
Whether it’s to practise mindfulness, connect with nature, give your eyes and ears a break, or get some exercise: get outdoors!

If you’re able to leave your desk, so much the better! Go outdoors and focus on something in the distance to give your eyes and ears a break. Ideally, get some exercise, which has proven effects on stress levels, mental health (e.g. depression), weight management, and more. The fight or flight response caused by stress puts pressure on nerves and blood vessels, which in turn can affect the inner ear and cause tinnitus. Conversely, exercise is good for your ears! Cardio (walking, running, cycling) can help the internal parts of your ears stay healthy and work to their full potential, as long as you don’t strain or hold your breath. Or listen to incredibly loud music in the gym.

Make your office more ergonomic

You could do an hour of stretching every day, but it would have little effect if your office isn’t set up properly.

Having your device screens at the wrong height or in the wrong place, using a chair that can’t be adjusted to your height, having the wrong kind of lighting in the office, and using a keyboard that doesn’t suit you are all things that can contribute to lower back pain, neck pain, wrist pain, eye strain, and headaches.

Many physiotherapy clinics now offer home office ‘check-ups’ by video link, so you can have an expert assess your workspace and let you know what changes you can make.

I promised you 5 supertips for self-care, and you’ve had them, but I’ll throw in a sixth as a bonus for you to think about – the underlying evidence is less persuasive, though.

Use a humidifier

Whether it’s because of dry air caused by your central heating during the colder months or lack of moisture in the atmosphere because of the climate where you live, your health can be affected in a number of ways, the most obvious of which include headaches, sinus problems, a dry throat, and irritated eyes.

You may find a humidifier helpful in your home office to counteract the effects of dry air and the associated symptoms.

Caveat: too much humidity is as bad as not enough, and your humidifier must be kept scrupulously keen. It’s also not a good solution for those with allergies or asthma.

Want to find out (much) more?

A short blog post doesn’t give me enough scope to investigate the ways in which our current lifestyle, and the pandemic, are affecting our stress levels and health as interpreters.

I’d love to share more tips and knowledge with you.

In order to do that, I’m organising a Virtual Summit for interpreters from 11th-13th January.

The whole first day is devoted to self-care for interpreters!

I couldn’t be more excited about my lineup of speakers. You’ll be hearing from a vocal coach, a Pilates teacher, a nutritionist, and a physiotherapist.

You’ll have an opportunity to try out yoga for back health, a sound bath, some vocal warm-ups, relaxation exercises, and more. We’ll be discussing how to improve your interpreting with movement, how to organise your office ergonomically, how to eat for energy, how to avoid lower back problems, how to manage your stress effectively, how to assess whether you’re looking after your ears adequately, how to boost your confidence, and much more.

All of the sessions have been designed specifically with interpreters in mind, and you’ll be walking away with practical information and action steps to help you make changes straight away.

If you’d like to be the first to know when registration is open and free tickets are available, click on the button!

p.s. there are plenty of treats in store on days 2 and 3 as well, when our focus changes and we’ll be tackling tech, business skills, and how to take the next steps with your interpreting skills.

References:

https://www.news-medical.net/health/How-Does-Mild-Dehydration-Affect-the-Body.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-stress-reduction#

Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/sleep-newzzz/202004/the-effects-cortisol-your-sleep

Interpreting Coach logo with strapline

Sophie Llewellyn Smith, writing as The Interpreting Coach, is a coach, interpreter trainer, conference interpreter, designer of online teaching materials, and creator of Speechpool. Follow the blog to pick up tips on how to improve your interpreting skills, and check out the website for digital material to complement your face-to-face learning and empower you to take control of your learning.

If you’re interested in personal coaching, why not book a free discovery call?

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