Critical Listening: A Tool in the Interpreter’s Toolbox

As interpreters, we tend to follow current affairs as part of our professional awareness, as often taught and advised in our formal education. It is indeed beneficial to know what is happening across the world as well as in our own country.

However when it comes to practicing speeches, political speeches are often too difficult for students, they are very tricky even for professional interpreters. A blossoming student may be discouraged by the nature of such speeches.

What can we do instead is to listen to these speeches critically and analyse them. Critical listening involves analysing the information being presented, taking note of patterns of use, understanding the arguments and eventually thinking about how you would render it if you were to interpret it. If there is chance to listen to the interpretation of the speech too — as we often try to share speeches both in their original language as well as the interpreted versions at our account — you can then listen to the interpreting, taking note of what was great, which part of it can you adopt in your own interpreting? What part should you do differently? How would you have rendered if you were in the same situation? What were the tricky phrases, expressions and ideas that were used, so that you understand them and be prepared for dealing with them next time you are in the booth.

Deliberate practice is one of the ways to continue professional development. Guidance from instructors at the universities, joining professional associations, receiving feedback from peers and seniors, mock conferences are other ways that can benefit interpreters.

Since accurate analysis is key to accurate rendering in interpreting, critical listening and analysing is yet another tool to be added to the interpreter’s toolbox.