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Discovering new ways interpreters can use technology

Maha El-Metwally who gave the talk (AIIC, ITI, CIoL and ATA member. Conference Interpreter with Arabic A, English B, French and Dutch C)

No-one would even bother denying the fact that we live in the era of technology, but I wanted to find out more about how we, as interpreters, can use this to our advantage. Therefore, I attended London Metropolitan University’s event Technology for Interpreters: how do you optimise interpreting with a smart pen and Apps for your device? The event was extremely interesting and a valuable opportunity to meet other interpreters and to learn about this topic. It also allowed me to benefit from the fantastic insights and demonstrations provided by Maha El-Metwally who led the day.

The event covered technology we can use whilst interpreting as well as things to help us prepare for interpreting. Maha and other colleagues offered suggestions of useful time-saving apps to organise your day, your itinerary and your documents. Some of these which were new to me and I can’t wait to download are:

TripIt - an app where you forward your booking emails and it organises your itineraries - useful if you have multiple trips myLanguage - a bit like Google Translate with the image scanner Subway pass - route planner for most EU cities CamScanner - helpful for invoices Xpenditure - your accountant might appreciate this one!

Interplex - this allows for multi-glossary searching and sounds like a great tool

Of course this is a non-exhaustive list and there are plenty of apps out there that can make your life easier. Feel free to suggest some to us in the comment section.

Then we discussed the “paperless approach” to preparing and how learning to use your tablet wisely can be a great asset - allowing you to quickly flick between documents, split the screen and highlight parallel texts with the swipe of a finger which certainly can be a great aid. If you are concerned about compatibility definitely research the tablet you are using to make sure you will be able to connect a USB and open all the files as well as having enough battery and WiFi which should go without saying. Some helpful apps for preparation include:

Noteshelf - annotate your documents with text, drawing, audio… 7NotesHD - convert your handwritten notes to digital format

Many organisations now have portals and are encouraging the paperless approach so investing in this technology and embracing it will definitely work to our advantage - as well as saving trees!

Maha also introduced us to the concept of “Sim-Consec” using technology. For me this was the most fascinating, and potentially revolutionary part of the day! Having never heard of this term I was very intrigued about using anything other than my trusty notepad to aid my interpretation.

There are two different types of Sim-Consec that we learnt about. One method involves using your tablet as your notepad. This means you will need a good stylus and an app that converts your tablet into a notepad. Of course when you use technology you must always bear the ethical considerations in mind - what permissions the app requests and your contract with the client in terms of confidentiality. Through this method you can record the audio whilst taking notes so that you can listen back to it whilst giving your rendition - effectively hearing the original twice or clicking on sections you need to hear again to help give your best interpretation. This is a very interesting concept that would require practice, a great battery and a good stylus.

Before the event I personally tested out my tablet (a Google Nexus 7) with my stylus (a non-expensive stylus acquired online) and some notepad apps however I did not have much success. My tablet had a bit of lag so my notes would not appear at the same time as I touched stylus to screen and I found myself missing paper. I also had to click a little button to change “pages” which was a lot fiddlier than turning a page of paper. However, I think that with the right app, tablet and stylus this does have potential. At the event Maha used an iPad with the Apex Stylus and the Notability app and this seemed a million times better than my attempt. There are many tablets, apps and styluses out on the market so I think it really is a question of testing different options, practising your skills with them, and finding what suits you best.

The Livescribe pen and control panel

The final and most exciting piece of technology Maha showed us was the Livescribe Pen. I suggest you google it after reading this as my description will surely not do Maha’s demonstration justice. This is a pen that acts as a normal pen, records and replays audio and even has an infrared camera next to the tip. There are many other features, however, I will just look at the interpreting implications. The advantage of this compared to using only a tablet is that you can still have your paper notes should all else fail! The pen records chunks as and when you instruct it to do so and then replays these for you. This means that like the tablet version you can listen to the speech twice - once when taking notes and once when giving your interpretation. The pen also allows you to do something that let’s face it, is magical…. slow down the speaker during replay! The pen works with a sort of control panel printed on paper that allows you to choose the functions like stop, play, slow, etc. by placing the tip of the pen on the control panel which comes with the special notepads. You can also use as just a regular pen or just digitally without writing. This is a very interesting proposal and definitely worthwhile researching if you have not seen one in action. It would definitely require practice to use fluidly and to be an aid to the interpretation.

This event was extremely interesting and raised a lot of ideas about how technology can be used by interpreters. I think that it is great to embrace technology and use it to our advantage, it most certainly will not be replacing us, and even if some of the above ideas may not work in a conference booth yet (as you can’t have the speaker talking into the microphone on your tablet or pen) it can certainly be adapted to fit our needs and be an aid to us. I look forward to the next event organised by London Metropolitan University and would like to thank Maha for her hard work in making the event a great success!

A special thank you to Maha for your support and help with this blog post and the photo you provided.

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