Teaching Interpreting Online… Means Overcoming Misunderstandings

We made a unique decision when we were setting up the Master of Conference Interpreting on the Glendon Campus of York University, in Toronto, Canada. We decided to offer the first year of the program entirely online.

Doing so gave us tremendous advantages. We can recruit students from all over the world. We can hire instructors who have experience in any market, and with any international organization. We train students to be at the forefront of the use of technology in our field.

Yet training online also has drawbacks. This is because people come to us with a number of misconceptions about remote learning. In this video, we discuss three misunderstandings that we have to work against:

  1. Online learning is easier or less demanding than onsite learning;
  2. It’s hard to build connections between people online; and
  3. The online environment is simulation of the physical environment and should be understood that way.

All of these ideas are wrong. Before we can make progress with our students, we need to convince them that this is the case. Continue reading

Symbols: dos and don’ts

When note-taking for consecutive interpreting is mentioned the first thing that student interpreters ask about are symbols. And although it is true that knowing a reasonable number of very useful symbols can make our lives much easier, please don’t forget that symbols are relatively unimportant and certainly not a panacea for consecutive interpreting problems. If you don’t have a structured, consistent and meaningful note-taking system then no amount of symbols is going to help you.

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Language enhancement exercises for conference interpreters

“At advanced levels, where grammar has been more or less mastered, the main difference between foreign students and native speakers is that the latter have been exposed to their language for many years, over thousands and thousands of hours. As a result they have a wider cultural and contextual understanding of the language, a wider vocabulary and a commands of a wider range of registers. Constant contact with the language and the subjects that are discussed in that language mean that native-speakers have a huge head start on foreign learners.” (From Conference Interpreting – a Student’s Practice book, Andrew Gillies)

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Intonation in simultaneous interpreting


“Intonation is not a luxury. It’s a crucial part of communicating well. Getting it wrong in languages with little or no verb conjugation or noun declension (like English) can lead to being understood less well.  The moral of the story… make an effort to speak normally and with normal intonation patterns when in the booth. Record yourself onto a dictaphone to check how you’re doing”. Continue reading


Pues así, sin darnos cuenta, había llegado la semana de la visita a Bruselas. La semana que todos (yo desde luego sí) imaginábamos mientras enviábamos nuestros documentos de inscripción para la prueba de acceso al MIC. Ya estábamos allí, con nuestros trajes y nuestras libretas. Continue reading