During the process of interpretation, there is a lot of information that is registered to the interpreters’ short-term memory. If the interpreters do not do anything with this information, it will soon disappear. This is one of the reasons why the interpreters discard the form of the source text. Short-term memory has a very limited duration. We can remember six or seven items only as long as we give all of our attention to them. If interpreters try to retain the form of a source utterance their short-term memory will be quickly filled with individual lexical items, which may not even compose a full sentence. If the interpreter then attempts to find a corresponding lexical item in the target language for each of the source language forms in their short-term memory all of their attention will be wasted on translating these six items rather than attending to the incoming message.

Note-taking in Consecutive Interpreting

Therefore, note-taking techniques are essential to support short-term memory in consecutive interpretation:
“Firstly, notes improve concentration; prevent distraction, thus facilitating the reception and analysis of the speech. Secondly, notes help the interpreter relieve the memory. Thirdly, as a mnemonic, notes activate the memory of the interpreter with cues or signals that call up the information in the speech. With notes, the main ideas, the secondary elements, and the links among them become clear and easier for the interpreter to visualize. Finally, notes can also be used to highlight missing details, inconsistencies within the speech, and anything implausible that needs attention later. Thus, notes play an important part in consecutive interpreting.

How mind mapping works in note-taking

Different people have different ways of thinking; this is due to the fact that the brain works in different ways. Our thinking and reasoning follow a structure that is personal to us. There are certain “programs” loaded in our consciousness. According to experts in mind mapping, these programs are like our “natural thinking software”. The brain works according to certain basic principles, and we can use mind maps to take advantage of them to improve our creativity and memory.

Humans are born with special “brain programs” to be able to learn and memorize everything they experience during their lifetime. We have one “brain program” to remember special occasions, one program that remembers pictures, one that remembers structures, etc. The fantastic thing about mind mapping is that it uses these existing “brain programs” and refines them. Mind mapping simply optimizes the power that you already have in your mind. Therefore, mind mapping is one of the very best methods to optimize one’s learning capacities and understanding of how the elements of complex structures are connected.


Now we proceed to the relation between mind mapping and note taking in interpreting. Mind mapping as mentioned above is the technique to optimize the power that we already have in our minds. The question is HOW. Then we shall see how the mind mapping techniques work in consecutive interpreting.

Once the speaker starts speaking, the interpreter should register the information to their brain. The information in their head is like a map that is not yet arranged. Then, they should arrange the information and organize them fast in their mind and write it down in their note. It is of course impossible to write down all the information in words due to the limited time. The interpreters should write down the main points only and connect one event or category to another. The use of abbreviations will help. There is no such a must rule in abbreviation. It is up to the interpreters; they have their own way of managing with abbreviations.

Consecutive interpreting deals with memorizing more information compared to the simultaneous one. Accuracy is of top priority because when the speaker pauses the interpreter will take turn to produce the interpretation and the audience will clearly hear the interpretation without intervention from another speaker. In this case, the interpreter should remember the message and organize them well. And mind mapping will play an important role in this kind of situation.


Here are the steps to mind mapping with taking notes during consecutive interpretation.

Relax your mind.

Register the information from the speaker and concentrate well. Do not let all other things distract you. Focus is a must.

Recognize the main point of the utterances, and write it down fast in short (can be by abbreviating them or just writing some important words in the limited time). It is impossible for interpreters to write long sentences. That will be a waste of time. Some interpreters make a note in the target language and some others in the source language and translate it directly while they are producing the interpretation and taking a look at their note for some time. Others mix the languages (SL and TL) in their note. We shall choose which one we feel convenient with. Sometimes, the interpreters may get stuck retrieving the information from their memory about the equivalent of a certain word in TL. If this happens, it is necessary to just write the SL and when the time comes to give the interpretation and we still forget, just use descriptive sentences.

As soon as the next sentence is uttered by the speaker, jot down the other and supporting points. Then, draw lines to connect the points. Remember to note the specific information like numbers. Date, address, proper nouns, etc.

We have discussed why note-taking is important, the advantages, and the steps in note-taking. We also have discussed the power of mind mapping in note-taking. However, we should remember that every theory needs practice as the saying: practice makes perfect. Theories may be different from reality. Therefore, the more we practice, the better the result will be. Register for Translating and Interpreting courses at the Journalism Foreign Language Center to receive instructions from expert interpreters and practice the above exercises with your friends to improve your level.




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