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 TEXT
|YOUR SUGGESTIONS (in your mother tongue and/or in English)
|Moments which test us
|Most people can’t help thinking of
|is just one manifestation of
|main cause of
|our only choice is to
|are being implemented
|the crux of the matter is
|modify our behaviour
|a significant barrier
|be successful in the longer term
|phase out their activities
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
- 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.’
- Listen out for unknown or interesting words or phrases.
- 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?
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.
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.
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!