In previous blog posts I have explained the challenge posed by Portuguese, the first language I am attempting to add as a trained interpreter. When I began training to become an interpreter, the focus was on developing the skills required to do the job, given that I had a sufficiently high level of comprehension in my two C languages (French and Italian).
Portuguese, however, presents a fresh challenge, as the process is essentially the same albeit the other way around. I have the tools to interpret Portuguese but am yet to source the raw materials.
I began formally learning the language when I enrolled in a month-long intensive course in Lisbon on 15 March 2015, two years ago yesterday. The key word throughout this journey has always been when.
When will I be able to hold a decent conversation?
When should I stop taking lessons?
When should I take the EU accreditation test to add Portuguese to my language combination?
When will my Portuguese reach the same standard as my French and Italian?
By far the biggest question I encountered, however, was When should I start interpreting practice from Portuguese?
This has proven very hard to gauge and was not a consideration I had with my previous two languages.
I was admitted to a conference interpreting masters degree and, as such, "cleared" to begin training to become an interpreter. While my French and Italian were undoubtedly stronger then than my Portuguese is now, for much of my MA I was not technically able to interpret speeches "properly" due to the usual reasons (inadequate note-taking, sub-standard simultaneous technique, lack of experience etc).
I did not once question my linguistic ability with regards to interpreting practice with French and Italian. Conversely, I have spent large periods of the past two years wondering whether it is the right time to begin interpreting practice with Portuguese. Whereas I often understood entire speeches during my MA, there were times when I barely rendered 70% of their content due to flaws in technique.
Ironically, though there are large gaps in my Portuguese vocabulary, I would argue that some of my practice recordings from Portuguese are a superior "product" to a number of my performances from French and Italian during my training. I am now able to draw upon the experience of thousands of hours in the booth, speak with authority and confidence and have developed coping mechanisms.
I have since realised that I actually started practising long after I could - or perhaps should - have. I now know there is little reason to only begin practice once you think you can interpret all of a speech.
Interpreting practice can actually become a useful part of the adding process from very early on, even before you have fully mastered the language, provided you do the following:
- Review your performance and note down the words you missed.
- Analyse what it is about the speech that makes it difficult.
- See whether you are more comfortable from one mode of interpretation.
Interestingly, I have found my performances to be better in consecutive interpretation as opposed to simultaneous. I tend to miss certain things when focusing too hard on trying to analyse the content in the latter and get frustrated when there is something I do not understand.
Interpreting practice only became a regular feature of my routine after around 18 months of learning Portuguese, though in hindsight it would have made more sense to start within the first year.
Curiously, I am learning as much about how to add a C language as I am the Portuguese language itself!