Happy Birthday to my Blog!

It’s my blog’s first birthday today. Has it really been a year since I published my first post? Anyway, I thought I’d celebrate by sharing some of the more notable posts that have been published over the past 12 months. Here’s a selection:

A Blog is Born (my first post ever)

General Knowledge – How Much is Enough? (the all-time most popular post)

Learning Your ABCs – The Interpreter’s Languages, Part 1 (one of the most commented posts)

The Interpreter Diaries go a-blogging on IAPTI (the least-read post)

Half a Kingdom (my own personal favourite)

Only the stats, Ma’am

A visit to my statistics page tells me that the Interpreter Diaries has logged 46 posts, 515 comments, 1167 followers and just under 70,000 visits over the past year. And there’s also this lovely map of the countries showing recent views by country (wow!).

My thanks to all my readers, colleagues, friends and students who have made this past year such a rollicking ride for me, not to mention a valuable learning experience.  Here’s to another great year!

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The Versatile Blogger Award

Okay, I’ll admit it: when I first came across this Versatile Blogger business, I thought it was one of those self-perpetuating scams, like those chain letters that people used to get in the mail, where they were instructed to photocopy and resend the letter to 100 of their closest friends or a piano would fall on them (yes, spam existed before the internet era).

Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that the Versatile Blogger Awards are actually a useful tool for helping bloggers share their favourite bits of the blogosphere – much like the A ♥ for Language Blogs initiative by Translation Times, the results of which can be found here. Also, there was no menacing clause in the small print warning me that I had to produce my post within 24 hours or I would suffer the same fate as George Clooney. So that decided it!

And now that I have been nominated not  once, not twice, but three times, I guess it’s high time that I made my own contribution to the blog curation effort. So here goes …

The Rules

Life is full of rules and regulations, and the Versatile Blogger Award is no different. So let’s get that out of the way first:

1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

In my case I have to thank three bloggers for nominating me: Catherine Christaki (@LinguaGreca), Aida González (@aidagda) and Cristina Lozano (@crislocrispis). I enjoy their blogs, so I am pleased to see the feeling is mutual. Next …

Seven things you didn’t know about me

1. I was born to a Dutch father and French-Canadian mother (which explains the name). Despite my multicultural background, my upbringing was mainly monolingual, in English – foreign language learning not being a priority in 1970s small-town Western Canada. All that changed when I turned 17 and decided that languages were actually kind of neat. I think one day I will write a post about that.

2. My hero is my Oma, who recently turned 100 years old, and until last year lived on her own and still cooked and cleaned with only a little outside help. Truly an inspiration.

3. I got my first grey hair at age 22, and it has been all downhill since then. But even if I make it to 100 like Oma, I will never dye my hair.

4. I am left-handed. My right hand is a useless appendage – so much so, that I even shampoo the right side of my head with my left hand. It’s not easy – try it some time and see for yourself!

5. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian. This means that my life in Spain is full of restaurant meals consisting of tortilla española and ensalada mixta (“sin atún, ¡por favor!”). Arroz a la cubana (“¡sin salchicha!”) is also a good option.

6. I have the messiest desk this side of the Western Sahara. People who are used to me sending them instant replies to their emails (thank you, BlackBerry) are often surprised to find out that I can leave snail mail heaped on my desk, unopened, for months on end. If you don’t believe me, I will post a photo on my Facebook page to prove it.

7. I recently started doing yoga again, after many years away from my practice. When I signed up, I was given the option of doing yoga dinámico (which sounded scary) or yoga integral (which turned out to be a euphemism for “yoga for old biddies”). I immediately knew which one was for me – and now I spend every Tuesday morning doing yoga in the company of two lovely old German ladies (both of whom are named Renate, as it turns out).

Now comes the fun part…

I am not going to use this post to tell you about the interpreting blogs that I read, since I’ve already done that in my A ♥ for Language Blogs post. Instead, I’ll share with you some of the other blogs I enjoy checking out from time to time.

1. Not Exactly Rocket Science – My number one all-time favourite blog. I love everything about it. I particularly like the Friday posts entitled “I’ve got your missing links right here“. It is part of the Discovery science blog network.

2. Lessons From Sherlock Holmes – One of the many regular guest blogs that make up the Scientific American blog network, it offers psychology lessons from the greatest detective in literature.

3. Project Syndicate – Another major blog network, with a politics/economics slant. With regular contributors like Joschka Fischer (The Rebel Realist), Joseph Stiglitz (Unconventional Economic Wisdom) and Jeffrey Sachs (Economics and Justice), it could fill a 15-item list of its own.

4. Grantland – This is going to make you think I’m weird (assuming you don’t already), but from time to time this sports/pop culture blog network actually produces some entertaining stuff. I must have read their article on cricket at least three times – and I laughed louder each time.

5. Alexander Technique, Creativity and Health – Written by my friend, the AT expert and author Pedro de Alcantara. Full of interesting tips for musicians and writers, or anyone curious to know more about AT.

6. O Retrovisor – This blog has recently morphed from an antique photo blog into a collection of literary quotes from different sources.

7. 300 Words – refreshingly short posts (in German). Very well-crafted and always insightful.

8. roughly translated – The posts by dk provoke a ROTFL reaction in me. Every. Single. Time.

9. Diary of a Mad Patent Translator – Let’s face it, this blog is good. And well-written. And the author knows what he’s talking about. What more can you ask of a blog?

10. Daniel Greene’s Blog-o-Rama – I recently discovered this blog by an ASL interpreter when the author used a post of mine as inspiration. Very interesting.

11. Field Notes – This blog by conference interpreter Ewandro Magalhaes has been dormant for a while. However, the other day a post came out that I took straight to my Portuguese class, since I couldn’t understand a word of it. As it turns out, it’s full of Brazilian slang that even my teacher couldn’t decipher in some cases!

12. Language Hat – This is a very recent discovery. The author apparently speaks many languages and owns several hats (13 and 9 respectively, by his own count). This blog still makes me feel a bit dizzy when I read it. I can’t believe this man posts daily.

13. 1000 Lives in 100 Words – This community blogging project is worth checking out. If you look closely enough, you may see a couple of familiar faces among the 100-odd contributors to the project so far.

14. Mox’s Blog – I need a laugh from time to time, and this is where I get it (when there’s nothing new on roughly translated).

15. Chemistry 335 – This is my brother’s blog (no, I’m not the only blogger in the family!). In this blog, he replies to comments and queries from his senior chemistry students. I have to admit I don’t actually read this one, since I haven’t a clue what my brother is on about 99% of the time (scratch that: 100%).

So there you have it, that’s my list! All that is left to do now is notify the lucky winners that they have been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award. I can’t wait to hear back from Joschka, Jeff, Joe and company (not to mention my dear brother…).

Portrait of a Conference Interpreting Course

This week, classes started on the Master’s in Conference Interpreting at the University of La Laguna. By now, students will have received the course outline and schedule, met their fellow students and some of their teachers, and will have a rough idea of what to expect over the next nine months.

Since the next several entries in my blog are going to discuss various aspects of interpreter training using mainly this course as my reference, I thought it might be useful to share some of this basic information with my readers. What I’m going to do today is offer a general outline of the Master’s in Conference Interpreting (or MIC, as we like to call it). This “portrait” of the course will be more like a pencil sketch than a full-blown, life-sized portrayal, but my intention will be to add colour and detail to this sketch over the next few months.

The MIC started this past Monday and will run for 33 weeks, stopping only for Christmas, Easter and a couple of bank holidays. The first four weeks will be dedicated exclusively to memory exercises, after which there will be a five-week introductory module for consecutive interpreting. The introduction to simultaneous technique comes in the last week of November, and from then on classes will alternate between consecutive and simultaneous technique. The (non-eliminatory) mid-term exams for consecutive are held in February and the mid-terms for simultaneous are scheduled for April. The finals will be held in the first week of June.

Each week, a different topic will be the focus of the speeches and exercises given in class. This is to help students broaden their general knowledge and learn preparation and terminology-building skills. Topics range from such “light” matters as tourism, education or culture in the first few weeks to the “heavier” fields of science and technology, energy, trade, fisheries and agriculture nearer to the end of the course.

Every year, the MIC also includes a trip to Brussels to visit the EU institutions, student mobility exchanges with other Master’s courses in Europe, and classes and lectures by visiting trainers from the EU, UN and private markets.

A Week in the Life of the MIC

Classes on the MIC run from Monday to Friday, starting each day around 9 a.m. and running until lunchtime (which in Spain means around 2 p.m.). An average week will include classes in consecutive and simultaneous technique from all of the students’ passive languages into their active languages, as well as a lecture on the European institutions (first term) or Economics (second term). This year, I will also be running a monthly lecture series that I launched last year which looks at different aspects of the theory and practice of interpreting (you will be hearing more about that in future posts, I can assure you!).

Afternoons will generally be spent on self-study, either individually or in groups. This will be guided by teachers in the beginning, but students will increasingly be responsible for organising this self-study on their own.

The Student Body

The MIC generally accepts 16 to 20 of the 100-odd candidates who apply to attend the course in any given year. This year, there will be 19 students. The majority of students at the MIC work in the Spanish booth, but other booths (such as English, German and Italian) have also been trained at the MIC. This time around is no exception: I will have four English booth students to work with (picture Michelle rubbing her hands in anticipation)!

The passive languages offered on the course vary from year to year and depend on the students’ language combinations. This time, we will have German, French, Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese and Greek; in other editions, the MIC has covered passive Polish, Slovene, Dutch, Danish, Czech and others.

An interesting note: the vast majority of students on conference interpreting courses are women, but this year there will be five men on the MIC, which means they will represent more than 25% of the total. That’s got to be some sort of record! Without wanting to reveal any personal details of individual students, I will add that the age range for this crop of students is between 22 and 41, with five students over the age of 30 (if you’re wondering why this matters, read this post I wrote on when to study). Also, the academic backgrounds of three of the students are in fields other than language studies or translation/interpreting.

One Portrait Among Many

Now that I’ve told you about the Master’s in Conference Interpreting at the University of La Laguna, I want to hear from you about other training courses. I know many of my readers either study or teach on similar courses around the world, or have done so in the past, and what I would like to know is what those courses are like. As you were reading the above description, what did you notice was the same as or different from the way things are done on your course? Please share your observations in the blog comments section below (or on my Facebook page, if you prefer).

On a related note, Lourdes, the conference interpreter responsible for the video series on interpreting to be found on YouTube at Lourdesaib, just recently interviewed one of the senior instructors on the MIC. Here’s the video, for those readers who might have missed it: