Resources for practicing French interpreting

As I mentioned on a recent Speaking of Translation podcast about goal-setting, one of my medium-term goals is to improve my French interpreting skills. Because…well…everyone needs one big, crazy dream, and this is mine. Back in the day (think 2002-2003ish), I did a small amount of interpreting work and really enjoyed it. However I let it drop because it wasn’t very compatible with working from home when my now-teenage daughter was little. Flash forward 13 years, and I’m working toward getting back into interpreting. Because I’m a goal-oriented person, I’ve set a goal of perhaps taking the State (State of Colorado, not Department of State) court interpreter exam in 2019 or 2020.

So…what does this kind of effort look like? Is there hope for a 46 year-old translator with once-solid but now-rusty spoken French and very minimal interpreting skills? The jury’s still out on that, but in the meantime I thought it might be helpful to share some of the resources I’m using, and resources that other people have suggested. And whether or not you are interested in interpreting, perhaps you can apply some of these tips to your own goals.

My first resource recommendation is a person: Athena Matilsky, a Federally-certified Spanish court interpreter and State-certified French court interpreter who currently lives in Quebec. This whole endeavor was sparked by my attending Athena’s presentation on memory development for consecutive interpreting at last year’s ATA conference. I had two realizations there: first, that I could actually (kinda-sorta) do some of the exercises, and second, that I needed to follow my own mantra: when is someday? If I’m thinking of working on my interpreting skills “someday,” when is that?

Armed with those two epiphanies, I started doing one-on-one coaching with Athena about once a month. We started out by talking about interpreting and about my goals, and now we actually practice interpreting during the sessions. It’s extremely helpful, and Athena also has great resources on her website, such as French-English audio glossaries (I am very bad at these, but I do them while I’m folding laundry or washing the dishes), Quizlet slide decks that you can use to test yourself, and links to various other specialized glossaries.

Athena also runs a Facebook group called French Interpreting Corner, which is a great forum to share resources.

If you’re studying for any flavor of court interpreting exam, your Bible is going to be Acebo, and their flagship product The Interpreter’s Edge. This takes you through the three modes of interpreting that you need to master (simultaneous, consecutive, and sight), and includes instructional material, memory development exercises, and interpreting exercises. If you’re lucky, Acebo will have a language-specific study set for your language. Otherwise, you’ll use the Generic edition and interpret into your other language. There is no Acebo set specifically for French, so I use the Generic edition and it’s still very helpful, it just involves a lot of dictionary searches for the many court-related terms that I don’t know.

Portuguese translator and interpreter Cris Silva sent me some very helpful resources:

Tamara Muroiwa, a Spanish-English translator and interpreter in the UK, sent me a great resource for conference interpreting. It’s ORCIT: online resources for conference interpreter training, and is essentially a free, self-paced online course for beginning conference interpreters or those wanting to brush up their skills. The course includes video lectures and practice exercises. Additionally, the course itself is available in English, Czech, French, German, Greek, Lithuanian, Slovenian, and Spanish. If you work in one of those languages, it presents the opportunity to develop your interpreting skills and your language skills by doing the course in that language.

Finally, no mention of interpreter resources would be complete without Speechpool. Speechpool is a community-driven repository of speeches in various languages. Each speech has some helpful identifying information (i.e. the speaker’s native language or accent, the subject matter of the speech, a community rating of the speech’s difficulty, etc.). One nice thing about Speechpool is that it deliberately includes speeches recorded by non-native speakers; a situation that certainly occurs in an interpreter’s real life but not often in interpreter training materials.

Wherever you are on the interpreting journey, I highly recommend the podcast Troublesome Terps for some much-needed insight and levity. Hosted by conference interpreters Alexander Drechsel, Alexander Gansmeier and Jonathan Downie (yes, they know that they’re a “manel” in a female-dominated profession, and they have a sense of humor about that too..), the podcast covers topics from the thought-provoking (machine interpreting), to the absurd (interpreting President Trump), to the enlightening and humorous (dream and nightmare booth-mates). You can listen on their website or subscribe to them wherever you get your podcasts.

Readers, over to you: other thoughts on interpreting resources or big, crazy dreams?

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