More info about this project in the great interview originally published in The Interpreter Diaries to Sophie Llewellyn Smith:

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Speechpool!

If you’ve been following the SCIC Universities conference in Brussels over the past few days, you may have already heard the big news: Speechpool, the dynamic, collaborative, multilingual website for interpreters to exchange practice material, has just been officially launched. When I first caught wind of this project in January, I knew that this was something that my readers would want to hear about, so I got in touch with Sophie Llewellyn Smith, the founder, to find out more. Here’s what I learned:

MH: Sophie, you have just launched Speechpool, a speech-sharing website for interpreters. Could you tell me a little bit about what it has to offer?

SLS: Speechpool will offer interpreting students, graduates and practising interpreters a forum to upload practice speeches and view other people’s. The idea is to create something truly collaborative in the form of a multilingual website and a Facebook page.Many students already give each other practice speeches in class, or in groups outside of class. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to record these speeches on a laptop, video camera or tablet computer, and allow others to benefit from them. If everyone gets involved, we could very quickly build up a large and dynamic bank of video clips.

MH: How did the project come about?

SLS: I spent several years as an interpreter trainer at the University of Leeds. Every year students would ask for good sources of practice material. Our main message to them was that they should prepare well-structured speeches for each other and practise in groups outside of class. Gradually we came to the idea of uploading audio files onto a file sharing website. We still had a problem with source language, though; sometimes our students were looking for speeches in a particular C language, but there was no native speaker of that language on the course. It occurred to me that students around the world were probably doing exactly the same thing. Surely it would make sense to pool all that material and make it freely available to everyone?

I have been working hard since last summer with a web developer to create a suitable website, and I have been very fortunate to receive financial backing from the NNI (National Network for Interpreting) in the UK, and a lot of help and goodwill from students and alumni of many interpreter training institutions. Now that the basics are in place, we are gradually working on adding more language versions to Speechpool, and starting to build up our stock of speeches!

The idea behind Speechpool is nothing new, but I hope the scale and ambition of the project and the features available on the website will make it a very useful and widely used resource.

MH: What target group do you have in mind? Are there any prerequisites that have to be met by those who’d like to become involved?

SLS: The website was designed with conference interpreting students in mind, but if the project is successful I would expect that other groups might take an interest, for example graduates wanting to maintain their skills or prepare for a test, practising interpreters trying to add a new language, interpreter trainers looking for material to use in class, or even language learners. It is also possible that the content of Speechpool might be of interest to public service interpreters, who make up a large proportion of the interpreting market in some countries and who don’t always have access to material (or even to training!).

We have set some limits on users who would like to upload material. This is to try to ensure that the speeches are of an adequate standard. You will need to be an interpreting student, graduate or practising interpreter to upload content, and you will need login details.

MH: Walk me through the website. How does it work?

SLS: First of all, I should say that the interface is multilingual, i.e. there will be parallel versions of Speechpool in English, French, Greek, and dozens of other languages. If you want to watch a speech in Hungarian, you simply go to the Hungarian version of the site (you can navigate from the home page).

To find a speech for interpreting practice, you will use a search function which allows you to search by topic (agriculture, finance, health etc.) and/or keyword. We hope this will allow users to refine their search and find the most relevant speeches.

To upload a speech, you will need to fill in an upload form with details of topic, keywords and links to background material. In order to avoid the site collapsing under the weight of massive video files, we have set it up so that speeches are actually uploaded to YouTube, then embedded in the Speechpool site. This means users will have to create a YouTube account.

For those who have concerns about privacy, YouTube allows you to adjust privacy settings to ‘unlisted’ so that the speech is only visible to those who have the link. It sounds rather complicated, but once you have a YouTube account, it’s really very quick and easy. We have counted on the fact that the new generation of interpreters is very comfortable with modern technologies, YouTube, Facebook and the like.

MH: What features or functions does Speechpool offer users?

SLS: The website has a few interesting features. First of all, when you have watched a speech, you can leave comments about it. You could even leave a link to your own interpreting performance (on YouTube) and ask for feedback from another user.

One of the important features of the site is that speeches won’t be graded for difficulty by an outside authority. Instead, the users themselves will vote on the perceived difficulty of the speech (a bit like the TripAdvisor site where you can vote on hotels or restaurants). This cumulative assessment by users will give each speech a ‘star rating’ for difficulty. When you search for a speech, you will be able to sort the results by star rating, but also based on whether the speech is recent, or very popular.

We very much hope that users will upload high quality speeches, but to address any quality problems we have created an alarm button. If you watch a speech and feel there is a significant problem with sound or image quality, or the quality of the speech itself (i.e. its content) you will be able to click on the alarm button and send an email to the site administrators to have the speech removed.

We see Speechpool as an interactive site where users can meet, chat, and ask for feedback or help. To encourage interaction between users, we have created a Speechpool page on Facebook. The idea of this page is that users can ask for a particular speech. For example, you might post: ‘please could someone prepare a speech about EU fisheries policy in Portuguese?’

To make the material uploaded to the site even more useful, we are asking users to include two links to relevant background material, and we are working on a way to allow uploads of transcripts and glossaries.

MH: What languages, topics, and interpreting modes will the speeches cover?

SLS: I confess I have taken a maximalist approach here. I can’t vouch in advance for what the speeches will cover, because it depends on who gets involved and uploads speeches; but the website is designed to accommodate speeches suitable for consecutive or simultaneous, a wide range of topics, and a truly vast number of languages. We are currently working on versions of the Speechpool site in the EU23, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Croatian, Turkish, Icelandic and Macedonian. After that, we’ll see!

I should add that I expect Speechpool will include speeches given in a range of accents, including non-native accents. Many interpreters are called upon to interpret English, or French, or any other language, spoken in an unfamiliar accent or by someone who is not a native speaker. The Speechpool site is designed to offer speeches of this type; there will be an indication of whether the author of the speech is a native speaker, and what sort of accent he or she has. One of the exciting things about this project, to my mind, is that it could bring together interpreters from all over the world. Just one example: students from Ghana, Cameroon and Mozambique have volunteered to prepare speeches.

MH: There are already a few speech repositories available on the internet. What added value does Speechpool offer?

SLS: There are pros and cons to every speech bank. They serve different purposes.

In a sense, Speechpool isn’t ground-breaking: there are already speech banks on the internet set up by students to practise together. They tend to be small-scale and to use audio files. Some of them are short-lived; they grind to a halt when the founding students graduate. And at least one has been taken over by pornographic spam posts, unfortunately! Speechpool can offer something on a much larger scale: very wide language coverage, video clips, and hopefully more permanent!

Of the larger scale speech banks, some offer ‘live’ recordings of political debates or speeches only, while others are libraries of various speeches that were not prepared specifically as pedagogical material for interpreter training. The SCIC/EP repository (author’s note: access to this repository is restricted to selected users) offers a mixture of speeches, some of them recorded live in Parliament, for example, and some of them prepared by trainers as pedagogical material.

The idea behind Speechpool, on the other hand, is that it should largely contain speeches prepared by students for students (or at least by interpreters for interpreters), in video format. All the material will be original. There won’t be any video recordings of politicians’ speeches or parliamentary debates. There will be minimal ‘policing’ of the site, and users will be responsible for posting high quality content. If everyone joins in, it will be a very dynamic resource with a rapid turnover and a large number of speeches.

I see Speechpool as a more interactive site than many speech banks, and the Facebook page is a nice opportunity for users to chat and make requests. The fact that users will vote on difficulty is another distinguishing feature.

All in all I suppose the added value I see is that Speechpool allows students to take responsibility for their own learning, but with a much wider pool of partners than might otherwise be possible. In an idealistic way, I see Speechpool as a way of bringing the different strands of the interpreting community together and creating something genuinely collaborative for the common good. And I very much hope we’ll avoid obscene spam messages!

MH: It all sounds very exciting! Do you see any potential pitfalls for this project?

SLS: Well, like any other collaborative project, the success of Speechpool will depend on its users. It will be interesting to see whether people are altruistic enough to make the project work; if no-one uploads speeches, the project won’t take off.

MH: Is the Speechpool site already up and running? Can people already use it to view and upload speeches?

SLS: The short answer to this is yes. We are busy testing the site, and some speeches have already been uploaded. The English, Greek and German versions are available, and we will be rolling out the other languages gradually. I expect the next few versions to include Italian, Spanish, French and possibly Hungarian and Macedonian.

MH: Where can my readers find out more?

SLS: I presented the project at the recent SCIC Universities Conference on 22nd March, and my presentation is available in the archive. A short clip introducing Speechpool has also been prepared by DG SCIC. The project was also featured in a recent video interview for the interpreting blog A Word in Your Ear.

As I said earlier, Speechpool also has a dedicated Facebook pageFacebook page. Click ‘like’ to receive regular progress updates and to become part of the Speechpool community. You can also follow Speechpool on Twitter (@Speechpool).

Most important of all, why not visit the site? You will find it at speechpool.net.

MH: How can people get involved in Speechpool?

SLS: The most important message I want to get across is that Speechpool will be free to use (though not to run…) and easy to access once you have login details, but the success of the project will depend on users!

If you can help us translate the content into another language, please get in touch at speechpool@gmail.com. More importantly, if you think this is a useful resource for interpreting students and you plan to view speeches and use them for interpreting practice, please upload a few speeches first!Speechpool is totally based on the principle of ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’. So get involved! Prepare a speech, upload it onto YouTube, and ask for your Speechpool login details. We’ll be happy to oblige!

The Interpreter Diaries.

Interpreting Martin Luther King


Let nothing happen by accident! Let everything happen by design!

The development of an ability to present not only information but an understanding of the image that is created by any presentation is essential in working with any audience. The presentation must use as many of the senses as possible to allow the audience to have a greater chance of first understanding and secondly retaining the information which you are going to present. Therefore there are two distinct areas to presenting to an audience.

The first is an understanding of the nature of creating an image and the second is being as sure as possible that the image that you are creating matches the aspirations and dreams of your clients. This means that everything that happens to your audience must be as far as possible designed by you and not left to accident. Indeed theatre is the most successful presenter of ideas and concepts. Theatre goes beyond giving information to people in purely written or verbal form but also employs a number of other devices to elicit a response from its audience. Here are some of the areas which should be considered in any presentation.

Analysis of the Audience

Before approaching the development of a presentation to an audience a speaker must analyse the audience to develop a profile of a typical member. It doesn’t matter if you are talking to one person or many, this allows the tuning of the whole piece to match the aspirations of the client. One way of analysing is to follow this SCHEPPT formula.

How is this audience structured socially?
Who are the power brokers?
What do they aspire to?
What is important to them?
Education Level?

What is the ethnicity of the group?
What are the customs for decision making?
What are the taboos?
What is culturally desirable?
Speech Pattern?

What is the average wealth and income?
What is the projected income?
Houses, cars, dress sense?

What are the local politics of the group?
Are they conservative, progressive, traditional?

What is the area they come from like?
Technical How do they cope with change?
How do they cope with technology?

The overall picture is important for your presentation to be accessible and enjoyable. It allows you to use humour which is acceptable and to tailor your language and conceptual base to suit your client. You can then go on to design how you are going to create the image which you desire for this audience.

The Performer

Every time you stand in front of a group of people you are creating an image and performing. An awareness of how you appear is essential to success. Initially the perception of you by the audience will be 55% on how you look, 38% on how you sound, and 8% on what you say. However as you begin to gain the audiences confidence, the look becomes less important and what you say becomes much greater.

Your voice then is extremely important. Here are six important parts of creating good speech:

  1. Tone: Use the sound of the word to help create its feeling (onomatopoeia) slash, thud, solemn, integrity.
  2. Tune: Normal Range is two and a half octaves. Use the essential tune of any phrase. Falling tune in ‘Ladies and Gentlemen …..’ gives authority. Use variety for each phrase or descriptive word to vary and contrast each thought. Let the tune help the image. “Up the hill”
  3. Pause: Use before something important to create attention. Like a billboard, gives punctuation. Lead up with a rising cautionary and then pause before a lower executive and then a pause before you go on. This gives the audience time to see the picture and for you to read the audience. eg: Churchill – trimmed, rhythm, use of pause and phrases “the Battle of Britain is about to begin.” “Hitler knows he will have to break us in this island”
  4. Pace: Gloss over unimportant things quicker Important things must be slower Variety is important. About 120 words per minute average.
  5. Volume: Variety: Invite people to listen by backing off volume Use of a microphone.
  6. Clarity: Lips, Tongue, Teeth, Breathing, Vocal Chords. Lazy Speech, (Somethink, Nothink, Haitch) Dipthongs (Wide, Side, etc.)

Movement should reflect the statement. Use triangles. Make movements encompass all the audience. Gestures should match phrases in size, direction, length and speed. Control your Body Language- fidgeting, walking, getting up from a chair, stance, nervous reactions. (O.K., Scratch etc.) When to look at audience. T-T-Timing!

Paint pictures for people that they understand. Use mime to create not only an image but also a feeling. Your face says as much as your words about attitude. Use a range of facial expressions. Push yourself past ‘normal’ gesture. Use your body to highlight ideas. Part of Total package

Be careful about putting yourself “on the line.” Create a character which you can control, hide behind and stay objective. Uncontrolled emotional reaction is dangerous. Smile. Maintain eye contact, look around your audience.

Personal Presentation

Costume should reflect what you’re talking about. Costume should initially help audience to create an image initially. Using costume to put together ideas. Your dress says a lot about your attitude to life. Costume can often help to add something different to your performance. Think about style, colour (conservative or other).

Style, Neatness, Length, Colour. Facial hair (shadow). Other eg. Nose and ear.


Importance of eyes and mouth. Distance is important (10 metres limit). Base to remove skin blemishes and shine. Be aware of lighting. Be careful of street makeup.


Audience view Left to Right, Front to Back, Down to Up.
Entrances and exits.
Levels of audience and speaker. Above, Below, Level.
Stage locations.

Colour, Intensity, Direction, Type.
Highlight therefore control view.
Change to help idea.
Atmosphere control by lighting.
Sun location.

Use of sound before to set mood before or after.
Microphone levels (bounce from walls).
Mics offer variety.
Low bass high treble.
Microphone legs.
Microphone technique (popping, Height, Type). Hand held elbow lock.

Setting of stage.
Using a lectern or behind table.
Use scenery to highlight ideas. eg. Photos, Posters but watch control.
Colour of scenery as per other decisions eg. Costume.
Interesting scenery, Paintings, Roadways, Aeroplanes.
Use of curtains.
Slides and overheads (KISS) and practise timing.
Paint their picture. (Eg Retirement home)

Hand props to tell the story.
Create the Character.
Symbolise your idea. (Puppetry).

Heating or cooling.
Entrances for you and for audience.
Time for entry for you and for audience.
Floor Type.
Staging available


Things that stop people performing well:

Lack of subject knowledge.
Self Consciousness
Fear of mistakes
Sound of their voice
Bad previous experience
Lack of knowledge of technical equipment
Size of the audience
Unfamiliar surroundings

Ways to Present Well: Well Before
Write the date down.
Arrive early or visit before planning (photo of venue).
Ask where to park.
Take an umbrella.
Check about technical equipment. (Mic, lights, lectern, etc.).
Write out your introduction in full, double spaced and large type.
Number your cards.
Write speech triple spaced in phrases in bold type.
Practise with your video.

Ways to Present Well: Just Before
Move your seat out.
Plan route to stage.
Don’t look until you’re ready.

Ways to Present Well: After
Finish and move.
Don’t peter to a finish, upward inflection.
Don’t spoil by long thank you.
Move off quickly and be invited back for questions.

Robert Motton

Aurelio ARTETA: contra una injusta política lingüística

Una de las necedades mayores en política lingüística es sostener que no hay que politizar la lengua. En primer lugar, porque las políticas lingüísticas referidas a las lenguas minoritarias en España (catalán, euskera y gallego) son nacionalistas. Los nacionalismos étnicos son nacionalismos lingüísticos, lo que significa que se basan en un silogismo como éste: si toda nación tiene derecho a la soberanía y la nación se caracteriza por disponer de una lengua propia, entonces debemos tener una lengua, para así llegar a ser una nación y por tanto proclamar nuestro derecho a la soberanía. Pero, en segundo lugar (y precisamente frente a esos nacionalismos), aquella afirmación es estúpida porque hará falta presentar alguna justificación política bien fundada a fin de defender los derechos lingüísticos de los ciudadanos. En definitiva, porque habría que alcanzar una justicia lingüística.

1. Entre nosotros hace tiempo que florecieron una falsas justificaciones de esas políticas. Las insidias habituales han comenzado por servirse de expresiones tramposas (lengua propia, lengua minorizada); han fomentado emociones de culpa por haber perdido una lengua o de venganza por haber dejado que nos la arrebataran; han cantado las excelencias del bilingüismo, cuyo atractivo primordial se sostiene de hecho en las mayores oportunidades de empleo público; han revestido esta política de la mentirosa aureola de progresismo política y superioridad didáctica; y la han confirmado, en fin, ante la opinión pública mediante un falseamiento sistemático de las encuestas sociolingüísticas.

Aquí pasamos revista a los argumentos mayores que suele emplear la política lingüística del nacionalismo. Tratamos así de rebatir defensas como la presunta igualdad de todas las lenguas (y la consiguiente propuesta de la necesaria discriminación lingüística para las menos extendidas), el hipotético valor de la pluralidad lingüística y, en fin, el no menos hipotético valor intrínseco de la lengua en tanto que soporte de la identidad individual o grupal. Naturalmente todo ello se condensa en la tesis de que la pérdida de una lengua implica por principio el empobrecimiento del mundo, igual que sucedería con la desaparición de algunas especies animales.

2. Las conclusiones ilegítimas no se hacen esperar. Dejaremos de lado los presuntos derechos de la lengua (y deberes hacia ella), como si la lengua en abstracto pudiera ser un sujeto moral o político. Bajo el influjo del nacionalismo, se hablará de unos derechos históricos a la lengua, pero los muertos no mandan sobre los vivos. Se mencionará también el derecho de una colectividad a la lengua, pero no reconocemos sujetos supraindividuales de derechos. Y admitido un derecho individual a esa lengua, sus defensores nacionalistas sostienen que es un derecho que va con su sujeto allá donde éste se desplaza. Lo que es más, sostendrán asimismo que es un derecho que asiste a todos y a cualquiera, lo mismo a sus hablantes como a los aspirantes a conocerlo…

3. Es hora de pasar a las justificaciones verdaderas, esto es, a los fundamentos de una política lingüística legítima. Lo inmediato es dejar sentado que, frente a su valor identitario, el valor primordial de una lengua es el instrumental o comunicativo y que el problema político que se plantea es el de cómo los individuos ejercen su libertad con respecto a la lengua.

Pues el sujeto primero de los derechos lingüísticos es el hablante, bien sea esa lengua la suya materna u otra adquirida en virtud de necesidades de convivencia o de supervivencia (por ej., para acceso al trabajo y ejercicio de otros derechos). O, lo que es igual, el sujeto de derechos es el miembro de la comunidad lingüística de que se trate y sus derechos no rebasan los límites de esa comunidad. De suerte que el principio básico de una política lingüística justa es el de adecuación a la realidad sociolingüística, no el de atenerse a un principio de adecuación a la demanda ni de libre opción lingüística. Así lo considera la Carta Europea de Lenguas Regionales y Minoritarias, de 1992, ratificada por España en el 2001. Se consagra, pues, la primacía del uso, lo que significa que (al contrario que otros derechos) el derecho lingüístico nace del uso efectivo de la lengua. En cada caso, la política lingüística de un país con respecto a una lengua regional habrá de asegurarse que exista un número suficiente de hablantes y de contar con recursos económicos suficientes para atender sus exigencias. Las demandas del mero aspirante a aprender esa lengua habrán de ser comparadas con otras necesidades de mayor amplitud, gravedad o urgencia de la comunidad. A fin de cuentas, entre nosotros lo primero que revela nuestra realidad sociolingüística es que los españoles tenemos una lengua común, lengua mayoritaria de conocimiento y de uso incluso entre las comunidades con lenguas propias o particulares.

4. Algunas aplicaciones prácticas de todo lo anterior.

a/ En la enseñanza pública

Por una parte, no a la inmersión lingüística (Cataluña), por lo que entraña de abandono de la lengua común y, con ello, de la lengua materna española de los alumnos. Por otra parte, no a la libertad de elección lingüística (Euskadi y Navarra). Porque nuestro derecho es a elegir nuestra lengua, la de nuestra comunidad lingüística, no a optar entre nuestra lengua y otra que los sujetos no hablamos, que apenas se habla o que nunca se ha hablado en esa comunidad; igual que el derecho de los padres es a hacer constar la lengua real de sus hijos, no la deseada por sus padres…

b/ En el acceso al empleo público

En las oposiciones a la Administración Pública no cabe exigir niveles de conocimiento de una lengua, ya sea como requisito o como mérito, para aquellas plazas cuya función no los requiere o no los requiere en la proporción abusiva que se pretende. Lo contrario sería hacer una selección contra toda justicia.

Aurelio Arteta.- Catedrático de Filosofía Moral y Política de la UPV

MIC 25º aniversario

Hace muchos años que colaboro con el Máster de interpretación de conferencias de la Universidad de La Laguna, MIC, en Tenerife, España. Judith, su responsable de redes sociales, me planteó hace un tiempo hacer un vídeo en el marco del 25º aniversario de la escuela. Este vídeo, filmado en el TEA, cuenta mi trayectoria personal.

Este vídeo es el primero de una serie: el MIC invita a todos sus ex alumnos a contar sus historias. Más información sobre el tema en sus redes sociales del MIC.

Anotación personal: Me gusta mucho el ángulo y la luz de este museo de los arquitectos Herzog y De Meuron, el vídeo adquiere en este entorno una atmósfera especial.

Sopa de coliflor i api-rave, cintes de calamar saltejat, pera i un toc de llima i fonoll.

At El Pla Restaurant in Barcelona, Catherine provides Catalan into English whispered interpretation of the owner describing a mouthwatering recipe!
Catherine, en el Restaurante El Pla de Barcelona, nos hace una interpretación susurrada de catalán al inglés de una fantástica receta que abre el apetito!

Anotación personal: esta serie de vídeos con Catherine, socia de AIB intérpretes de Barcelona, pretende mostrar cómo pueden llegar a trabajar los intérpretes algunas veces fuera de la cabina, o sin cuaderno de notas. La comida que nos prepararon, cambiando de tema, estaba buenísima.

The Speech Repository

Katerina explains what the Speech Repository is.
Katerina nos explica qué es el Speech Repository.

La importancia de la voz

¿Qué valora un delegado, cliente o usuario de servicios de interpretación? Pedro nos lo cuenta.
What do delegates and customers of interpretation services value most? Pedro explains.
Images© European Union