The Heat is On

How can you tell it’s final exam season? Nerves are on edge, tensions are running high, and the university libraries are packed with students busy with last-minute cramming. My own students on the MIC will be taking their finals in about a week. This is a good thing: they’ve worked hard over the year, and it’s time they had a chance to show off everything they’ve learned.

It’s hard to know what sort of advice to give to interpreting students who are about to go into their exams. They’ve heard all the tips at least a thousand times already in class, and saying it once more isn’t going to help them at this point: either they’ve internalized the message or they haven’t. Over the past few days, my main message to students has been that it’s time for them to stop worrying so much about the length of their décalage or the breadth of their terminological knowledge and start thinking about getting into the right mindset for their exams.

This means what? Well, among other things, it means getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking regular breaks, in order to let what they’ve learned sink in. One fellow instructor told me I should order them to go to the beach! Not a bad idea …

Did I mention we had a heat wave last week?

If you happen to be preparing for your own final interpreting exams these days, then you probably already know that, in addition to the sage advice offered above, exam preparation also means thinking about such issues as stress management (which I featured in a blog post a few months back), channelling your nerves (the topic of this video interview with interpreter trainer Helen Campbell) and engaging in some positive thinking. However, it does NOT mean making radical changes to your lifestyle or consumption habits.

I mean it: now is not the time to start experimenting with memory-enhancing herbal preparations, energy drinks or the like. If you haven’t been a regular drinker of Red Bull, popper of brain booster pills or consumer of Rescue Remedy in the past, the day of your final interpreting exam is NOT the time to start playing with these things. Likewise, if you are having a hard time falling asleep the night before the big test, do NOT decide to borrow one of your roommate’s sleeping pills, no matter how badly you need to get some shut-eye.

There’s a simple reason for this: you don’t know how you will react, and the last thing you want is to experience an adverse effect (lack of concentration, upset stomach, trembling hands, double vision) during your exam. Even having one or two more coffees than usual might put you off kilter. At this point, it’s best to just stick with what you know.

But how will I stand the heat?

If you’re feeling the pressure of trying to get through the exams and wondering how you are ever going to survive the stress of the working interpreter’s lifestyle, don’t lose heart. Instead, I urge you to check out the following resource by the National Network for Interpreting. It’s entitled “Stamina”, and when I first saw the title, I thought it would contain advice along the lines of “practice all alone in the booth for hours on end, then half-hour turns will seem a cinch in comparison”. Of course, it doesn’t. Instead, the NNI offers some sensible advice about eating right, staying fit, and basically just taking care of yourself over the long term. Wise words. After all, we all want to lead healthy, happy lives as interpreters, not burn out under all the constant heat, right?

Stamina, by the National Network for Interpreting

Assessment Criteria at Exams: A Hot Topic These Days

There have been some exchanges lately in the blogosphere about the evaluation criteria applied to conference interpreting students at their final exams. This is natural – it being exam season and all, people (and by people, I mean both students AND their trainers) are thinking hard about what is to be expected of students at their final exams and if they are going to be able to deliver.

Think positive!

I’d like to make my own modest contribution to this debate, which was started by Jerome (@jamizuno) at the 2interpreters blog in his post on Graduation exams evaluation, was picked up in a post by Elisabet (@tulkur) on Research on Quality in Interpreting and led to an interesting exchange on Twitter. (The post What Every Client Wants? that came out on Lifeinlincs last week is not directly related to our discussion, but touches upon a similar topic.)

I won’t tell you what I had to say in response to Elisabet’s and Jerome’s posts – for that, you can read their comment sections. I’d just like to keep a promise I made to Jerome to share with readers the guidelines* that external examiners are asked to apply at the exams here in La Laguna. Here they are:

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Mind Your Manners!

Conference interpreters must be a very poorly behaved bunch. Why else would there be so many resources out there dedicated to teaching us proper manners? There are seemingly countless articles, slide presentations and videos explaining the dos and don’ts of interpreter etiquette, as well as the inevitable cartoons poking fun at those interpreters who don’t seem to have consulted any of the former before stepping into the booth. Today, I’d like to go through some of what’s out there.

To me, minding your manners as an interpreter should essentially be a matter of common sense: try to treat your colleagues how you would like them to treat you. However, for the novice interpreter, it’s not always clear just exactly how one would like to be treated, or what constitutes good and bad etiquette in the booth.

I still have vivid, and mostly painful, memories of some of my own slip-ups during my first few weeks in the booth. One day, I had to be reminded by a senior colleague not to munch my sandwich in full view of the delegates (“but I was on my break, what harm could a quick snack do?”). On another occasion, I was told never – NEVER! – to touch another interpreter’s console (“but your turn was over, I thought I’d just switch off your mike for you!”). Needless to say, these are lessons that I will never forget.

Fortunately, thanks to all of the resources available, interpreters these days should not have to learn the hard way. Let’s take a look.

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