Tips for interpreters: exercises to improve short-term memory

Memory exercises should simulate the interpretation as best as possible since the intention of these exercises is to improve memory for interpreting purposes. However, this kind of exercise should not involve bilingual activities, since these lead to different problems that the mind tends to focus on. It is highly recommended that the exercises be done alternately in both of the interpreter’s languages.


Exercise 1: shadowing

The exercise of shadowing involves repeating what the speaker says, word for word, in the same language. For this exercise, the texts used should be relatively small but may increase gradually in size. If you work alone, record a text or use a speech on the television or radio. If you work in a group, one may read the text while the other repeats it.


Exercise 2: vizualisation

There are speeches that invoke visualization naturally and the interpreter should be able to identify them and use visualization to retain and recall them. For example, court interpreters often have to interpret descriptions that were described by a witness (a place, a suspect, etc.). These descriptions are ideal for the use of visualization to improve memory. Images should be visualized step by step and in sequential order, helping the interpreter recreate a whole scene.


Exercise 3: listening

Attentive listening requires identifying a speaker’s key points. You should be capable of listening to a short narrative or a descriptive text and answering the key questions “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?”. In this exercise, any descriptive or narrative texts may be used and you may record the text if you’re practicing alone, or you may ask a colleague to read it if working in a group.


Exercise 4: segmentation

This exercise is based on the concept that it is easier to retain a number of limited chunks with information than just one or two larger dense chunks. Segmentation involves breaking a larger chunk of information into two or smaller ones. This exercise can be performed using both oral and written texts. You should be able to read the sentence only once and, then, segment it. The texts should contain long sentences and dense information.

These exercises can be used by Over-the-Phone interpreters, Video Remote interpreters, and Onsite interpreters. This is a great way to keep fit the professional skills of a language expert.