The Interpreting Student’s Reading List

One should never underestimate the value of book learning. It’s true that almost everything can be found on the internet these days (more on that in next week’s post), but that doesn’t mean that the printed word no longer has anything to offer.

If you read my post on general knowledge, you will already know that I am a big fan of books as a form of background reading and as a way to broaden your knowledge base. Today, I want to look at “how-to” books on interpreting techniques which I consider to be must-reads for anyone who is studying conference interpreting.

The One and Only

I’ll come clean right now: Roderick Jones is my hero. My former students know it, and my future ones will as well. If you only read one how-to book on interpreting in your whole life, let it be Conference Interpreting Explained. Buy it, read it, mark it up, sleep with it under your pillow. And when your teachers give you some bit of advice that you feel needs corroboration, look it up in Jones’ book – chances are, it’s there!

Conference Interpreting Explained is available new from the publisher St Jerome, or used on Amazon. Trust me, it is the best 18 quid (20€) you will ever spend!

The Classic

You can’t talk about how-to books on interpreting without mentioning La prise des notes en interprétation consecutive by Jean François Rozan, originally published in 1956 and considered by many to be the definitive guide to consecutive note-taking. As far as I can tell, the original French version is now out of print, but thanks to the efforts of our friends in Poland, there is now an English and Polish translation available. At 35 zloty (about 8€), it’s a real steal.

The New Kid on the Block

Andrew Gillies, interpreter trainer at ISIT Paris, coordinator of AIIC Training and the man behind the Interpreter Training Resources website and Facebook page, has somehow also managed to find the time to write books on interpreting (note: the “new kid” moniker only applies because Gillies came after Rozan and Jones, but that doesn’t make his works any less relevant). In addition to being responsible for the English translation of Rozan, Gillies is the author of Note-Taking for Consecutive Interpreting: A Short Course. A little birdie has told me that there may be a new book coming out soon, so watch this space for news of that.

But wait, there’s more …

Of course, those aren’t all the books that have been written about conference interpreting technique. There is a much more complete list of recommended reading, complete with book reviews, to be found on the Interpreter Training Resources site. Also, the inimitable Nataly Kelly has prepared a list of books for interpreters and translators right on Amazon – and you can purchase them all with just one click of the mouse!

However, I have chosen to highlight just a few titles in this post, because I know that if I tell my students to go out and read dozens of books on interpreting, they may feel overwhelmed and end up not reading any at all. If I insist, on the other hand, that there are a handful of books which they absolutely shouldn’t miss out on, they might just go out and read one or two of them.

Of course, if readers have favourite books of their own that they’d like to share with me, and don’t see them on the lists above, please let me know in the comments section. I’m always on the lookout for fresh material!

In my next post, I am going to look at online resources for interpreting students. I will be holding a workshop on this very topic this coming Friday, where I have asked students to come with some favourite links of their own – so my hope is that in an upcoming post, I’ll be able to share with you what I’ve learned.

12 thoughts on “The Interpreting Student’s Reading List

  1. I agree about Roderick Jones (especially the part about having it under the pillow ;)). I also love James Nolan’s Intepretation: Techniques and Exercises (Professional Interpreting in the Real World) – with numerous examples from real speeches and useful exercises (mainly for English, Spanish and French).
    Although interpreting studies are more practice oriented, I think some theoretical bases need to be laid down in order to understand why and how we do as we do, as with the driving skills.

    • Thanks for your contribution, Jana. I definitely agree with your last comment that practice and theory should go hand in hand!

      As for Nolan’s book, I have never read it myself, but I have heard so many good things about it that I might have to put it on my own reading list ;).

  2. Thanks for a great and useful post! When looking for Roderick´s Conference Interpretation Explained on, several sellers say it does not include supplemental materials or cd. Does the new book carry such materials?

    • That’s a good question! My copy is the old edition. I saw that a new edition had come out, but to tell you the truth, I don’t know if there is a CD to go along with it. I’ll ask around, In the meantime, if any readers know the answer to Isabel’s question, please let us know!

      • Isabel, I’ve been asking around and as it turns out, the new edition is just like the old edition, i.e. no CD or other add-ons. And I’m pretty it is available for cheaper directly through the publisher St Jerome.

  3. Thanks for another interesting post!

    As for learning note-taking techniques, it might be worth pointing out that many students bury their heads in the literature (e.g. Rozan) thinking that what is said about symbols, abbreviations and ways of noting an idea down are set in stone. On the contrary, any good interpreting teacher will tell them that the most important thing is to capture the idea, and at the end of the day each interpreter will develop their own individual way of doing this.

    Of course, there are some fundamental principles behind note-taking that appear in the literature and these should be followed by all interpreters. However, sometimes it can be easy to think, ‘if it says it in the book, that’s the way it must be done’. With note-taking however, as well as certain other aspects of interpreting, it is often a matter of finding one’s own solution (with the guidance of colleagues and teachers, of course).

    This underscores the obvious fact that interpreting can only be learnt by following a taught course and not by simply reading books, essential though they are.

    • Hi, Joe, and thanks for the comments. Let me just start by saying that I agree with every single word you write – you’ve obviously learned your lessons well ;)!

      I guess I should clarify that in this post, all I’m doing is giving a list of recommended reading. My discussion of consecutive note-taking will come a bit later (at which point I might just cut and paste your comments and use them in a post 😉 ).

      The reason why I recommend that students read Rozan is not because I think everyone’s notes should slavishly follow his ideas – this wouldn’t be possible, or even recommendable, for the reasons you explain so well above. But I do think that all students should at least have been exposed to the work of the man who essentially invented note-taking. Not reading this book would be like trying to become a psychoanalyst without reading Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.

      Here I guess I am expressing, once again, my view that any practical interpreter training course should be underpinned by some minimum amount of theory. I would hope you would agree with that ;).

      • Hi Michelle,

        Yes, being exposed to such an important work is definitely necessary and the reading list you provide is essential reading for any interpreter (as I remember discovering last year in La Laguna). I just thought I would point out a couple of potential pitfalls that I have seen others fall into and which I came close to diving into myself before receiving guidance during my Masters.

        I agree with what you say about theory underpinning any training course. And yes, feel free to cut and paste any of my comments.

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