You’ve probably heard of ‘salami technique’ (aka ‘chunking’ or ‘segmentation’).
This is a technique used in simultaneous to help the interpreter deal with the cognitive load of dense information and the differences in sentence structure between language pairs. Salami technique can also help you avoid linguistic interference, and it makes the message easier for the audience and relay-takers to digest.
It consists of breaking up long sentences (or rather, ideas) into smaller chunks in the target language, using ‘open syntax’ – by which I mean syntax that gives you many options for what to say next, rather than backing you into a corner. In practice, this means connecting ideas with coordinating conjunctions (‘and’, ‘but’, ‘so’ and their equivalents – ‘however’, ‘thus’, ‘in addition’), rather than connecting ideas with words like ‘despite’, ‘although’, or with relative clauses.
I don’t recall being taught specifically how to use salami technique. I think it was mentioned in passing: ‘break long sentences up into smaller ones’, but no-one broke it down into:
identify ‘units of meaning’
reformulate a unit of meaning into an independent utterance (in grammatical terms, this is usually a clause or sentence)
connect this to the next unit of meaning using coordinating conjunctions, making sure to preserve the logic of the original speech
I don’t want to turn this post into a very lengthy explanation of salami technique, so I’ll just make two important points:
people often worry that if they use salami technique, the output will sound childish. BUT a) you don’t have to use salami technique with every single sentence in the speech. It’s a coping strategy intended to help you deal with particular challenges, so you can use it judiciously. However, if you never practise it, you’ll find it hard to use. and b) salami technique relies on simple syntax (subject-verb-object with a few frills), but you can use technical, formal, or sophisticated vocabulary, and you can express complex ideas even if the grammar is straightforward.
people often imagine salami technique as being all about chopping long sentences into lots of short ones, but in fact, sometimes you don’t make a long sentence shorter at all; you just change the syntax to make it ‘open’, which makes your life as an interpreter much easier.
The first exercise (below) is intended to help you identify units of meaning, i.e. an idea, something that could stand alone as an utterance.
For example, in the sentence “Despite severe delays at Manchester airport this morning, most delegates have made it to today’s meeting.”:
“Despite” is not a unit of meaning.
“Despite severe” is not a unit of meaning.
“Despite severe delays” is not (quite) a unit of meaning – delays with what?
“Despite severe delays at Manchester airport this morning” IS a unit of meaning. You could turn it into “There have been severe delays at Manchester airport this morning”.
If you were ‘chunking’ the sentence, you could say:
“There have been severe delays at Manchester airport this morning, BUT most delegates have made it to today’s meeting.” (inserting BUT to preserve the meaning of ‘despite’).
Beginners tend to either wait too long (i.e. they don’t start their interpretation until they’ve heard the whole sentence, up to ‘today’s meeting’), or they launch into the sentence without knowing where they’re going (perhaps after ‘despite severe delays’). Neither technique is safe; if you systematically wait too long, you end up leaving out information. If you start too soon, you take unnecessary risks (what if an unknown word comes up?).
Exercise 1- text (basic level)
For this exercise, it’s best to have a paper copy of the text you’ll be working with. You can copy/paste it and print it off, download the article and print it, or whatever works for you!
The text is based on an article from The Guardian, but I added the first paragraph. It’s about racism in the UK.
What you need to do is read through the text, putting a forward slash wherever you identify a unit of meaning.
Here’s the first paragraph, but the whole text is in the PDF below.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, today I want to talk about the opinions of Diane Abbott, who is, or was, Britain’s first black Labour MP. In the papers at the weekend, she wrote an article in which she expressed the idea that the racism experienced by black people in the UK cannot be compared with, or is on a different scale than, the prejudice (as she called it) experienced by Jewish people in the UK, or Irish travellers, or other ethnic minority groups.
In other words, she was establishing a hierarchy of racism, where ‘my racism is worse than your racism’, and where she was almost minimising the significance of antisemitism, which is very much a sore point for the Labour party in the UK at the moment.
In fact, she actually likened the prejudice, as she called it – not ‘racism’- experienced by Jewish people and Travellers, with the same sort of thing experienced by people who have red hair.”
Here’s my version:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, / today I want to talk about the opinions of Diane Abbott, / who is, / or was, / Britain’s first black Labour MP. / In the papers at the weekend, she wrote an article / in which she expressed the idea that the racism experienced by black people in the UK / cannot be compared with, or is on a different scale than, the prejudice (as she called it) experienced by Jewish people in the UK, / or Irish travellers, / or other ethnic minority groups. /
In other words, she was establishing a hierarchy of racism, / where ‘my racism is worse than your racism’, / and where she was almost minimising the significance of antisemitism, / which is very much a sore point for the Labour party in the UK at the moment./
In fact, she actually likened the prejudice, as she called it / – not ‘racism’- / experienced by Jewish people and Travellers, with the same sort of thing experienced by people who have red hair.” /
A few notes:
I’m not sure ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ can be called an idea, but it’s certainly not dependent on anything else, so I’ve classed it as a unit of meaning (a form of address or greeting).
‘who is, or was, Britain’s first black Labour MP’. I’ve put a forward slash between who is / or was / Britains’ first…. Ideally, I would have used two colours, because in reality, ‘who is…Britain’s first black Labour MP’ is one unit of meaning, and ‘or was’ is another (stuck in the middle). In practice, when interpreting, you might choose to chunk the sentence by saying something like ‘Diane Abbott is Britain’s first black Labour MP, or rather…she was.’ By the way, I made a mistake at this point, because she was in fact Britain’s first black woman MP.
There’s a similar example in this passage: ‘cannot be compared with, or is on a different scale than, the prejudice (as she called it) experienced by Jewish people in the UK’. There are three units here, with one of them split into two by the phrase ‘or is on a different scale’: anti-black racism cannot be compared with the prejudice experienced by Jewish people in the UK. It’s on a different scale. And prejudice is the word chosen by Diane Abbott. You could interpret the three ideas very much as I’ve just listed them; or the end could be something like ‘and Diane Abbott deliberately uses two different words’ (you’ll convey the information more successfully with a bit of emphasis/intonation in the last part.)
‘she wrote an article / in which she expressed the idea that the racism experienced by black people in the UK’: you’re probably thinking that the second part of this is not a unit of meaning, because we don’t yet know what she says about the racism experienced by black people. However, this part of the sentence could be reformulated as something like ‘In her article, she talks about (or ‘she addresses’) the racism experienced by black people in the UK today’, and then you could continue with the next unit of meaning, for example, ‘and she claims it cannot be compared with….’
You could segment even further. For example, you could argue that ‘in the papers at the weekend’ is a unit of meaning, since you could say ‘some newspapers are published at the weekend. Diane Abbott wrote an article for a newspaper. In her article she says….’. But there comes a point where slicing the salami this thinly makes the output longer and less natural. 🙂
Please note the text below contains the ‘n’ word (in a quote), so please don’t continue reading if you find this offensive.
We’ll try this with a different section of the text, but you can of course go through the whole text in the same way.
Your task is, again, to go through and identify units of meaning. Then for each unit of meaning, see how you can reformulate it (out loud or in your head) to make an independent utterance (a sentence, or a clause that you connect to the next one as necessary).
Could you tackle the units of meaning in a different order?
*note: you can reformulate from English into English (if English is your A or B language), or from English into your A language.
“To counter her argument that the “prejudice” experienced by Irish, Jewish and Traveller people is not a patch on the “racism” suffered by black people, I cannot improve on the letter from someone whose family left a city in Poland where more than 99% of Jews were exterminated for their race and whose experiences of British antisemitism includes having Nazi insignia brandished in their face. As the anonymous writer says: “To compare those experiences to the struggles of redheads is incomprehensible.””
Here’s one possibility:
“Her argument is that Irish, Jewish people, and Travellers experience prejudice, but this prejudice is far less serious than the racism suffered by black people. The best way to counter this is a letter from someone whose family left Poland. They lived in a city where more than 99% of Jews were killed for their race. The author has experienced British antisemitism. For example they have had Nazi insignia brandished in their face. The anonymous writer says: “To compare those experiences to the struggles of redheads is incomprehensible.””
There are of course other ways of ‘chunking’ this text.
For example, you may notice that I have held ‘to counter [her argument]’ in my working memory until the second sentence. I’ve merged it with ‘I cannot improve on the letter….’.
Instead, you could say: ‘how can we counter this argument? The best response is a letter from….’.
Or: ‘how can we counter this argument? With a letter from….’ (here, we lose the idea of ‘best’).
You may also notice that I haven’t chunked every single unit of meaning. In theory, we could say “They lived in a city. In this city, more than 99% of Jews were killed. They were killed for their race.” Similarly, we could say “The writer is anonymous. The writer says:….” However, this is no more concise than the original, and is rather unnatural. This illustrates the fact that you don’t have to use salami technique 100% of the time, especially if it makes your output unnatural.
If you enjoyed this exercise, you’ll find plenty more where that came from in my programme for English retourists, Rock your Retour.
The website contains hundreds of articles and exercises designed specifically for interpreters with an English B, and you can also join weekly live practice sessions, where I give members feedback on their interpreting into English.
I’m sure you know the drill: your task is to fill in the blanks with words that are grammatically correct, of an appropriate register, and plausible in terms of meaning. The article I adapted is from the Guardian, and is about gene editing. Here are the headline and subheading:
One of greatest risks of gene editing tools ‘is that the people who would benefit most will not be able to access them’
The next generation of advanced genetic therapies raises______________ medical and ethical issues that must be _______________ to ensure the _______________ technology benefits patients and society, a group of world-leading experts has warned.
Medicines based on powerful gene editing tools will begin to _____________ the treatment of blood disorders, conditions affecting the heart, eyes and muscles, and potentially even neurodegenerative diseases before the end of the decade, but the cost will put them ______________ many patients.
Trials of gene editing in embryos will probably follow, researchers say, and while the procedure has limited clinical applications, some fear fertility clinics could ____________ the technology and offer gene editing services that _______ “a new kind of techno-eugenics”.
Professor Françoise Baylis, a philosopher at Dalhousie University in Canada, said the cost of the new therapies will be _________ high for much of the global population, a situation that could “seriously threaten” the __________ for all humans to be born equal.
The experts, who _____________ from geneticists and public health researchers to bioethicists and philosophers, expect a________ of gene editing therapies to reach clinics in the next five years or so. These will correct disease-causing mutations in patients’ tissues and organs and become more sophisticated as researchers work out how to make multiple edits at once and reach difficult areas such as parts of the brain affected by neurodegenerative disease.
The same technology ____________ for therapies to enhance healthy humans, to make them faster, smarter, stronger, or more ________ to disease, though enhancement is __________ than mending single faulty genes.
The previous summit, held in Hong Kong in 2018, was _________ by controversy when the Chinese scientist Jiankui He revealed that he had edited DNA in three embryos that developed into babies, including twin sisters named Lulu and Nana. He intended to make the children immune to HIV, but was ______ __________ as reckless by the scientific community.
At millions of dollars a shot, gene editing today is prohibitively expensive. But if costs fall ____________ in coming decades, there is a risk that IVF clinics could start offering services, whether the benefits are proven or not. __________ parents might feel _____________ to use it to give their child “the best life”, Baylis said, fuelling a “new kind of techno-eugenics”.
“The next generation of advanced genetic therapies raises profound medical and ethical issues that must be thrashed out to ensure the game-changing technology benefits patients and society, a group of world-leading experts has warned.”
for profound, how about serious, weighty, far-reaching, grave, or possibly acute?
you could replace thrashed out with resolved, discussed, settled.
for game-changing, you could use groundbreaking, or something like advanced, cutting-edge; or even new.
“Medicines based on powerful gene editing tools will begin to transform the treatment of blood disorders, conditions affecting the heart, eyes and muscles, and potentially even neurodegenerative diseases before the end of the decade, but the cost will put them out of the reach of many patients.”
instead of transform, you could say change, alter, improve, revolutionise, modernise.
there aren’t many other options for out of the reach of, since it’s preceded with ‘put them’; you could say will put them beyond the budget.
“Trials of gene editing in embryos will probably follow, researchers say, and while the procedure has limited clinical applications, some fear fertility clinics could embrace the technology and offer gene editing services that fuel “a new kind of techno-eugenics”.”
where the text says ‘fertility clinics could embrace the technology’, you could choose adopt, take up, take on board, or make use of.
Instead of fuel, you could say lead to, encourage, feed, create, or trigger.
“Professor Françoise Baylis, a philosopher at Dalhousie University in Canada, said the cost of the new therapies will be prohibitively high for much of the global population, a situation that could “seriously threaten” the aspiration for all humans to be born equal.”
prohibitively could be replaced with exorbitantly, excessively, extortionately, unacceptably, unrealistically.
aspiration is a difficult word to replace in this context. Words like principle, which express the idea rather well, don’t fit the grammar (with the preposition + infinitive for….to be born). I suppose you could say the desire for all humans…
“The experts, who range from geneticists and public health researchers to bioethicists and philosophers, expect a wave of gene editing therapies to reach clinics in the next five years or so. These will correct disease-causing mutations in patients’ tissues and organs and become more sophisticated as researchers work out how to make multiple edits at once and reach difficult areas such as parts of the brain affected by neurodegenerative disease.”
For range, vary from, run from, or go from would be grammatically correct, but I don’t any of them is superior to range from. If not for the ‘from….to’, you could simply say ‘who include geneticists etc… and….’.
Instead of a wave, you could refer to a range of or a series or variety of therapies.
“The same technology paves the way for therapies to enhance healthy humans, to make them faster, smarter, stronger, or more resistant to disease, though enhancement is trickier than mending single faulty genes.”
How about replacing paves the way with makes it possible, opens the way, or even sets the scene for or lays the foundation for. ‘Allows’ isn’t suitable, because the ‘for’ changes the meaning (see this RyR post).
Instead of trickier, you can say more difficult, more complex, more complicated, more delicate, more problematic.
“The previous summit, held in Hong Kong in 2018, was marred by controversy when the Chinese scientist Jiankui He revealed that he had edited DNA in three embryos that developed into babies, including twin sisters named Lulu and Nana. He intended to make the children immune to HIV, but was roundly denounced as reckless by the scientific community.”
For marred, you could use ruined, spoiled, or damaged.
denounced could be replaced with criticised, condemned, censured, vilified, rebuked, taken to task.Roundly, depending on context, means severely, bluntly, thoroughly, sharply, fiercely, violently, intensely,outspokenly, but these adverbs don’t all go with every verb. You could definitely say severely criticised or fiercely rebuked.
“At millions of dollars a shot, gene editing today is prohibitively expensive. But if costs fall substantially in coming decades, there is a risk that IVF clinics could start offering services, whether the benefits are proven or not. Prospective parents might feel obligated to use it to give their child “the best life”, Baylis said, fuelling a “new kind of techno-eugenics”.”
substantially is relatively easy to replace with significantly.
prospective parents could be soon-to-be parents or, perhaps, future parents. We talk about ‘expectant mothers’, but I’m not so sure about expectant parents.
obligated: forced, compelled, duty-bound
If you’re interested in this type of material, why not join my membership site for English retourists, Rock your Retour? I regularly publish articles and exercises to help you polish your English B.
I ran a webinar recently about improving your retour (i.e. interpreting into a B language – a language other than your mother tongue), and I asked participants to send me any questions in advance, so I could tailor the content to their needs.
This is a useful exercise, as it often provides inspiration or discussion points for the webinar, but it can also be a double edged sword, because it’s not unusual to receive questions that you really don’t want to address, for whatever reason – they’re too controversial, they would take up too much time, they’re too specific, they don’t match your knowledge, expertise, or niche, and the list goes on.
On this occasion, one of the participants said this:
I’ve been on retour courses before, and the trainer nearly always suggests preparing speeches in your B language as a good exercise for improving your retour. Who has time for that?!
I confess this stung a little, as I do indeed often suggest speech preparation as a great exercise, and I was going to do so on this occasion as well! So I had to give extra thought to alternative exercises I could suggest; but my first instinct was to defend speech prep, and above all, to stress the fact that it doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and it can be fun and creative as well as beneficial! You can prepare a consecutive speech from start to finish in less than 20 minutes.
In this post, I’d like to explain why I think speech prep is such a great exercise for retourists, and give you some time-saving tips to make it less of a chore (if that’s how you think of it), whether you’re preparing a speech in your mother tongue or in your B language.
How speech prep can boost your retour
The bottom line for a good retour, as I see it, is this: if you can’t speak spontaneously on a given subject in your B language, using appropriate terminology and correct grammar, how can you hope to interpret someone else’s thoughts convincingly?
Doing a decent job of interpreting is a corollary of speaking well on a given subject; hence the importance of language enhancement work when you’re trying to develop your retour, as opposed to focusing exclusively on interpreting practice.
[On a side note: this principle, which appears self-evident to me, is generally unpopular with interpreting students, who tend to feel that anything other than practising interpreting from A>B is a waste of time.]
Speech preparation is therefore an excellent way of expanding the range of subjects on which you’re able to speak with authority.
I think it’s probably fair to say that the weaker your retour is, the more beneficial speech prep will be. If you already have a very strong retour or near-native competence in your B language, you can pick up important vocab in other ways.
Benefits of speech prep
Here’s a breakdown of some of the benefits of preparing speeches in your B language:
it improves your general and subject knowledge because of the research you have to do.
it’s an opportunity to practise and improve your public speaking skills (eye contact, pace, intonation).
it’s a great way to ‘activate’ vocabulary, i.e. make it part of your active vocabulary, rather than vocabulary you understand passively but never use.
if you prepare your speech in the form of interpreters’ notes, rather than bullet points, it’s a good way to improve your ability to decipher your own notes, i.e. it can help improve your consecutive skills.
similarly, if you’re working on consecutive, it’s a great way to introduce or consolidate symbols.
it’s a good way to prepare for an assignment on a specific topic.
learning to prepare well-structured speeches is a good way of improving your analytical skills and recognising structure in other people’s speeches.
By the way, all of these points are true of preparing speech in your A language as well, although in this case there will be less emphasis on vocabulary acquisition or consolidation.
So far, I’ve covered benefits that are related to your language or interpreting skills, but there are others:
speech prep can be important if you’re a member of a practice group, or you work with a practice partner. You can give speeches to each other!
if you’re an interpreter trainer, there’s a good chance you will give speeches to your students at some point, either because you can’t find suitable source material, or because you want to be in control of the type of challenge or level of difficulty of the speech.
Preparing speeches is an excellent way of ‘giving back’ to the interpreting community, by contributing to practice groups or repositories such as Speechpool.
A method for rapid speech prep
There are many ways to prepare speeches. I can’t possibly cover all of them, nor produce a framework that suits everyone.
Here’s an important caveat, for starters: I’m giving your advice for preparing the type of speech that you would have to interpret at an EU accreditation or retour test, or at a final exam in interpreting school. You would need to follow a different method if you were preparing practice material for certain types of public service interpreting, say.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at a simple method for preparing practice speeches.
Often, the hardest thing is finding a good topic! Once something catches your interest (on a news programme or podcast, for instance), you’re off and running.
if you’re preparing a speech for as a ‘swap’ for a practice partner, or for an interpreting practice group, why not choose a topic that will help you improve your subject knowledge (e.g. if you’re weak on finance, pick a financial topic)?
if you’re preparing a speech in your B language, think about areas where your vocabulary is lacking.
Another option would be to prepare a speech in your B language to prepare for an assignment where you already know the topic.
If you regularly prepare speeches, it’s a good idea to keep a note of topics that inspire you. You could have a document on your computer (or use a Notes app) to keep track of links to interesting blog posts or newspaper articles. (Back in the day, interpreter trainers sometimes kept a file with newspaper clippings to turn to when they needed inspiration.)
Once you’ve found a topic or looked for one by browsing the news headlines, you can get to work designing your speech. I’ll give you a 4-step process for doing this,
Step 1: Researching your speech
The amount of research you do will depend on the purpose of your speech, and your existing background knowledge.
You may not need to do much (or indeed, any!) research if:
the speech is for interpreting students who are beginners. If they are just starting to pick up consecutive without notes, in particular, you may be able to give a speech based on your existing knowledge of a topic, or your opinions, since you won’t want to include many names, dates, or figures.
the speech is rather philosophical or based on your opinions or reactions to a film or book. You already have all the knowledge you need to outline this speech!
You will want to do more research if:
the speech is designed as a simultaneous (for an EU accreditation test, this would be 10-12 minutes long, instead of 5-6 minutes for a consecutive). That amount of material usually requires an outside source of information!
you’re preparing a speech in a B language, and you want to make sure you’re using appropriate vocabulary.
you’re preparing a speech on a technical subject or one that is unfamiliar to you.
In my next blog post, I’ll give you three shortcuts for researching a topic quickly and efficiently.
An exam-style speech typically contains a range of challenges, e.g. contrasting opinions (to check the interpreter is conveying them accurately), some facts and figures, a personal comment or opinion, and perhaps a reference to current affairs, to check the interpreter’s background knowledge.
So when you’re doing your research, you might want to look for:
a few facts and figures about your topic – you’ll only need a few for a consecutive, more for a simultaneous
a ‘hook’ from the newspapers, i.e. some event in the news that make this topic relevant and interesting
how different people or organisations feel about this topic
your own opinion!
You can find relevant information in all sorts of places: the news, an article you’ve read in a magazine, a podcast episode, a blog post, a conversation with a friend or colleague. Or you could build a speech based on your reflections about a film you’ve just seen, for example, or a book you’ve read.
When you’ve done the research, jot down your ideas, arguments, figures, dates, etc. on a piece of paper. At this stage, it doesn’t matter if the material isn’t organised.
Step 2: Structuring your speech
Speakers organise their material in all sorts of ways. I’ll stick to three simple speeches structures:
linear. Typically, this would be a chronology, or a story that starts at point A and finishes at point B.
pros and cons. You can either list all the pros, then all the cons; or you could give one ‘pro’, then a matching ‘con’, and so on. This ‘opposites’ structure is particularly suited to consecutive without notes, because it’s very easy to remember.
an logical argument that leads the audience from a premise or hypothesis to a conclusion, using logical connectors like ‘and, ‘but’, ‘so’.
Realistically, most speeches contain a mixture of several structures: perhaps a more narrative introduction (linear), then the argument.
Think about your research: does your material lend itself to a pros and cons structure? Or is it a story (linear structure)? Do you want to make an argument that will persuade the audience or win them over to your opinion, in which case you’ll need to be very clear about cause and effect or other logical connections between your ideas, and have a strong conclusion?
Step 3: Create a detailed outline of your speech
People do this in different ways. Some people like to produce a spider diagram or mind map; others visualise their speerch as a tree with a trunk and branches; and still others write a bullet point outline. This is the most common way of organising material, I think, although something like a mind map can give a speaker more freedom when giving a simultaneous speech.
Now’s the time to organise your facts, figures, explanations, details, etc. into a legible outline. Make sure your bullet points are connected clearly with links.
Once you’ve organised your material, you can write a conclusion. This often follows on logically from the body of your speech.
Personally, I often add the introduction at the end of this process, because by that stage, I know where I’m going and what I want to say, and it’s easier to find a good ‘entry point’ into the speech. The introduction is a good place to say something personal to ease the audience into the speech quite gently, and to engage them and make your speech more relatable. Or you can use the introduction to mention an event in the news which makes your speech topic relevant.
Step 4: Rehearse your speech
How much you rehearse your speech will depend on its purpose.
If you’re an interpreter trainer giving a speech for an interpreting exam, you’ll obviously want to go through it several times to make sure the timing is right.
Be careful not to overrehearse: this removes all the spontaneity from a speech and makes it very dense, and often rather too fast.
And on that subject: I do know some colleagues who write out their entire speech in longhand, or type it out, rather than having a bullet point outline. While I understand that this makes them more confident, particularly when they’re giving an exam speech, personally I much prefer to speak (semi-)spontaneously from an outline. This produces something more conversational and closer to normal speech, rather than read-out material; it’s usually much more engaging, and means the speaker makes more eye contact with the audience.
Speech prep in a B language
If you’ve read this far, you’ll have realised that almost everything I’ve said applies to preparing speeches in your mother tongue or in a B language.
So what’s different or special about preparing speeches in your B language?
The process is exactly the same, but the emphasis is different.
If you’re preparing a speech in your B language, your primary aim is likely to be vocabulary acquisition or consolidation.
To this end, when you’re researching the topic (reading a couple of articles, or listening to a podcast), make sure you note down a few key words, phrases, or idioms that strike you as useful in other contexts.
Incorporate them into your speech. The more you say them out loud and hear yourself saying them, the more likely they are to become part of your active vocabulary.
I find when I’m preparing a speech in my B language that
I research it more (i.e. I read several articles, or listen to more material, rather than just working with the ideas that are already in my head).
I write down whole chunks, or sometimes whole sentences, to reuse in my speech.
I rehearse it more.
The risk, in your B language, is that you will end up reading out a speech that you’ve basically rehashed from a newspaper article, rather than ‘digesting’ the material and reformulating it.
Have I made it sound long and complicated? Probably! 🤣
In fact, it’s probably taken you longer to read this blog post than it would be outline a consecutive speech.
I’ll leave my examples and shortcuts to a second blog post, so that my word count doesn’t explode!
The exercise is based on an article in The Guardian (theguardian.com), with minor adaptations.
Your task is to find suitable words or expressions to fill in the gaps, taking into account syntax as well as register, and bringing to bear your background knowledge.
I have given some suggestions following the exercise.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly ___________ that a treaty of neutrality may be on offer; and he is right to do so. For two things have been made absolutely clear by this war: that Russia will fight to prevent Ukraine becoming a military ally of the West, and the West will not fight to defend Ukraine. In view of this, to keep open the possibility of an offer of Nato membership that Nato has no intention of ever _______________, and asking Ukrainians to ____________, is worse than ______________.
As to “demilitarisation” and “denazification”, the meaning and terms of these will have to be negotiated. Demilitarisation is obviously unacceptable if it means that Ukraine must unilaterally _______________ its armed forces; but the latest statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested that Russia would accept a ban on missiles based in Ukraine. This could be _____________ on a similar guarantee to the US that ended the Cuba Missile Crisis.
There remains the demand for recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Here, respect for international law (slightly ambiguous in the case of Crimea, which was only transferred from Russia to Ukraine by Soviet decree in 1954) must ______________ considerations of reality, the prevention of future conflict, and the interests of ordinary people in the region – which is essentially what we have been asking Russia to do in the case of Kosovo.
These proposals will be ____________ as “_____________ Russian aggression”; but if Putin’s original aim really was to ___________ the whole of Ukraine, then by such an agreement Moscow would ___________ maximal goals. Moreover, such an agreement would give Russia nothing that it had not in practice already achieved before launching the invasion. The West is morally right to oppose the monstrous and illegal war ____________ Russia and to have imposed exceptionally severe sanctions on Russia in response, but would be morally wrong to oppose a decision by Ukraine to ___________with a reasonable agreement that would end the invasion and _____________the people of Ukraine terrible suffering.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has publicly hinted that a treaty of neutrality may be on offer; and he is right to do so. For two things have been made absolutely clear by this war: that Russia will fight to prevent Ukraine becoming a military ally of the West, and the West will not fight to defend Ukraine. In view of this, to keep open the possibility of an offer of Nato membership that Nato has no intention of ever honouring, and asking Ukrainians to die for this fiction, is worse than hypocritical. [You could say suggested instead of ‘hinted’. Stated or declared are grammatically correct, but the meaning is different. For ‘honouring’, since the meaning here is close to ‘keeping a promise’, you could say fulfilling, or making good on. You may have struggled to find a solution for ‘die for this fiction’, because you may not have had enough information to go on. Other options include asking Ukrainians to sacrifice themselves or to make the ultimate sacrifice or to fight to the end. ]
As to “demilitarisation” and “denazification”, the meaning and terms of these will have to be negotiated. Demilitarisation is obviously unacceptable if it means that Ukraine must unilaterally dissolve its armed forces; but the latest statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has suggested that Russia would accept a ban on missiles based in Ukraine. This could be modelled on a similar guarantee to the US that ended the Cuba Missile Crisis. [You could replace ‘dissolve’ with disband or do away with, and ‘modelled on’ with based on.]
There remains the demand for recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. Here, respect for international law (slightly ambiguous in the case of Crimea, which was only transferred from Russia to Ukraine by Soviet decree in 1954) must betemperedby considerations of reality, the prevention of future conflict, and the interests of ordinary people in the region – which is essentially what we have been asking Russia to do in the case of Kosovo. [‘tempered by’ means ‘softened by’, but you might be better off here with alternatives such as go hand in hand with, be reconciled with, leave room for.]
These proposals will be denounced as “rewarding Russian aggression”; but if Putin’s original aim really was to subjugate the whole of Ukraine, then by such an agreement Moscow would fall far short of its maximal goals. Moreover, such an agreement would give Russia nothing that it had not in practice already achieved before launching the invasion. The West is morally right to oppose the monstrous and illegal war prosecuted by Russia and to have imposed exceptionally severe sanctions on Russia in response, but would be morally wrong to oppose a decision by Ukraine to sue for peace with a reasonable agreement that would end the invasion and spare the people of Ukraine terrible suffering. [For ‘denounced’: criticised, reviled, decried; for ‘rewarding Russian aggression’: pandering to. For ‘subjugate’: conquer, vanquish, crush, tame, triumph over, bring to heel, rule over, keep under his thumb – but the word order is getting a little dodgy here. For ‘fall far short of its maximal goals’: fail to achieve, be thwarted in its maximal goals. For the war ‘prosecuted by’, you could say waged by; or you could say initiated, started, or launched. The sentence containing ‘sue for peace’ is a little tricky. You could replace ‘sue for peace’ with seek a diplomatic settlement or seek an agreement with Russia or something of that ilk, if not for the following phrase (‘with a reasonable agreement’). I suppose you could say something like a decision by Ukraine to move forward with a reasonable agreement, or a decision by Ukraine to put an end to the conflict with a reasonable agreement. As for ‘spare the people of Ukraine’, there are not many other options; save is one of them.]
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)?
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.
This week, Nicolas Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, rather unexpectedly announced her resignation.
You may be called upon at some point to interpret a Minister or President’s resignation speech. This is the kind of task that is less daunting if you have some useful set phrases to draw on. Let’s see if we can build up a ‘toolkit’ for you to use if you’re ever in this situation again.
Exercise 1 – activating your vocabulary
Grab a pen and paper, set a timer for 5 minutes, and write down all the phrases you can think of that might be useful if you were writing a resignation speech.
When you’ve finished, you can compare your list with mine.
it has been a privilege
it has been the honour of my life
I have given my all
I have given it everything
when I look back
I am proud of what we have achieved
we have achieved a huge amount
we have faced tremendous challenges
my position is no longer tenable
I am stepping down
time will tell
history will judge
for the good of my party/the country
to know when it’s time to go
I wish to thank the Italian/British/Greek people
with privilege comes responsibility
a fresh set of shoulders
I did what I thought was right
Exercise 2 – terminology mining
Here is an edited version of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation speech. Go through it with a highlighter (if you’ve downloaded and printed it), or just write down some of the phrases she uses that you could repurpose in somebody else’s speech. Think about what effect she is trying to achieve.
“Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming along. I’m sorry to break into your half-term break. The First Minister of Scotland is, in my admittedly biased opinion, the very best job in the world. It is a privilege beyond measure, one that has sustained and inspired me in good times and through the toughest hours of my toughest days. I am proud to stand here as the first female and longest serving incumbent of this office, and I’m very proud of what has been achieved in the years I’ve been in Bute House.
However, since my very first moments in the job, I have believed that part of serving well would be to know almost instinctively when the time is right to make way for someone else. And when that time came, to have the courage to do so, even if to many across the country and in my party it might feel too soon. In my head and in my heart I know that time is now. That it is right for me, for my party, and for the country. And so today I am announcing my intention to step down as First Minister and leader of my party. I have asked the national secretary of the SNP to begin the process of electing a new party leader and I will remain in office until my successor is elected. I know there will be some across the country who feel upset by this decision and by the fact I am taking it now.
Of course, for balance there will be others who will – how should I put this – cope with the news just fine. Such is the beauty of democracy. But to those who do feel shocked, disappointed, perhaps even a bit angry with me. Please know that while hard – and be in no doubt, this is really hard for me – my decision comes from a place of duty and of love. Tough love, perhaps, but love nevertheless, for my party and above all, for the country.
Let me set out as best as I can my reasons. First, though I know it will be tempting to see it as such, this decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures. Of course, there are difficult issues confronting the government just now. But when is that ever not the case? I have spent almost three decades in frontline politics. A decade and a half on the top or second top rung of government when it comes to navigating choppy waters, resolving seemingly intractable issues or soldiering on when walking away would be the simpler option. I have plenty of experience to draw on. So if this was just a question of my ability or my resilience to get through the latest period of pressure, I wouldn’t be standing here today. But it’s not. This decision comes from a deeper and longer term assessment. I know it may seem sudden, but I have been wrestling with it, albeit with oscillating levels of intensity, for some weeks.
Essentially, I’ve been trying to answer two questions. Is carrying on right for me and more importantly, is me carrying on right for the country, for my party, and for the independence cause I have devoted my life to. I understand why some will automatically answer ‘yes’ to that second question. But in truth, I have been having to work harder in recent times to convince myself that the answer to either of them, when examined deeply, is yes. And I’ve reached the difficult conclusion that it’s not.
Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less.
But in truth, that can only be done by anyone for so long. For me, it is now in danger of becoming too long. The First Minister is never off duty, particularly in this day and age. There is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted, like going for a coffee with friends or for a walk on your own becomes very difficult. And the nature and form of modern political discourse means that there is a much greater intensity – dare I say it? – brutality to life as a politician than in years gone by. All in all, and actually for a long time without being apparent, it takes its toll on you and on those around you. And if that is true in the best of times, it has been more so in recent years.
Now there are two further reflections that have weighed in my decision. These, I suppose, are more about our political culture and the nature and impact of the dominance and longevity that come from success in politics. And the first I hope my party will take heart from. One of the difficulties in coming to terms with this decision is that I am confident that I can and would lead the SNP to further electoral success. We remain by far the most trusted party in Scotland, and while for every person in Scotland who loves me, there is another who, let’s say, might not be quite so enthusiastic, we are firmly on course to win the next election while our opponents remain adrift. But the longer any leader is in office, the more opinions about them become fixed and very hard to change. And that matters.
Now, a couple of final points before I take a few questions. While I am stepping down from leadership, I am not leaving politics. There are many issues I care deeply about and hope to champion in future. One of these is the promise, the national mission so close to my heart, to improve the life chances of care experienced young people and ensure they grow up, nurtured and loved. My commitment to these young people will be lifelong. And obviously there is independence. Winning independence is the cause I have dedicated a lifetime to. It is a cause I believe in with every fibre of my being. And it is a cause I am convinced is being won. I intend to be there as it is won every step of the way.
Lastly, there will be time in the days to come for me and others to reflect on what has been achieved during my time as First Minister. I’m pretty certain there will be plenty of commentary on my mistakes as well. There is so much that I am proud of. But there is always so much more to be done. I look forward to watching with pride as my successor picks up the baton.
There will also be time in the days to come for me to say thank you to a very, very long list of people without whom I would not have lasted a single day in this job, let alone eight years. I won’t do so today. I might inadvertently forget someone, or perhaps more likely start to cry. But there are a couple of exceptions. Firstly, my husband and family. Few people understand the price families of politicians pay for the jobs we choose to do. Mine have been my rock throughout. And of course the SNP since I was 16 years old. You have been my extended family. Thank you for the honour of being your leader. And it seems to me that eight emphatic election victories in eight years isn’t a bad record together. Finally, and above all, the people of this beautiful, talented, diverse – at times disputatious – but always wonderful country, we faced the toughest of times together. I did everything I could to guide us through that time. Often from my very familiar podium in St Andrew’s house. In return I was sustained through that period by a wave of support from you that I will remember and value for the rest of my life. So to the people of Scotland, to all of the people of Scotland, whether you voted for me or not, please know that being your First Minister has been the privilege of my life. Nothing. Absolutely nothing I do in future will ever come anywhere close. Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart.”
What did you come up with? Here are mine:
It is a privilege beyond measure
I am proud to stand here as the first woman…
longest serving incumbent of this office
I’m very proud of what has been achieved
to know almost instinctively when the time is right to make way for someone else
In my head and in my heart I know that time is now
And so today I am announcing my intention to step down as First Minister and leader of my party.
I have asked the national secretary of the SNP to begin the process of electing a new party leader
and I will remain in office until my successor is elected.
I know there will be some across the country who feel upset by this decision
my decision comes from a place of duty and of love
Let me set out as best as I can my reasons.
this decision is not a reaction to short-term pressures
almost three decades in frontline politics.
I have been wrestling with this decision for some weeks
Is carrying on right for me and more importantly, is me carrying on right for the country, for my party
Giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it.
The country deserves nothing less.
it takes its toll on you and on those around you
Now there are two further reflections that have weighed in my decision.
we are firmly on course to win the next election while our opponents remain adrift.
While I am stepping down from leadership, I am not leaving politics.
It is a cause I believe in with every fibre of my being
there will be time in the days to come for me and others to reflect on what has been achieved during my time as First Minister.
There is so much that I am proud of. But there is always so much more to be done.
I look forward to watching with pride as my successor picks up the baton.
Few people understand the price families of politicians pay for the jobs we choose to do. Mine have been my rock throughout.
Thank you for the honour of being your leader.
I did everything I could to guide us through that time.
So to the people of Scotland, to all of the people of Scotland, whether you voted for me or not, please know that being your First Minister has been the privilege of my life. Nothing. Absolutely nothing I do in future will ever come anywhere close. Thank you. From the very bottom of my heart.
Organising your resources
You should now have a good list of expressions that you can group into categories. How about a table like this? I’ve filled in a few phrases, just to start you off. You can do the rest.
what we’ve achieved
reasons for resignation
it’s been a privilege
it’s time to go
what happens next
– I am very proud to stand here as the first woman…
– there is so much that I am proud of
– let me set out my reasons -there has been a lot of speculation… – I have wrestled with this decision…
– it has been the privilege of my life
– in my head and in my heart, I know the time to go is now
– as my successor picks up the baton -while I am stepping down from the leadership, I am not leaving politics
– thank you from the very bottom of my heart
You may of course have more or fewer columns, or slightly different ones.
Now, at last, it’s your turn!
Use your table of expressions to write your Prime Minister/President’s resignation speech. You could keep it quite general, or if you like, brainstorm or research the main achievements of their time in office, to make it more realistic.
If you like, film or record yourself and post your recording in the RyR group!
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)?
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.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.