Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Note-Taking in Consecutive Interpreting: New Data from Pen Recording

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Note-Taking in Consecutive Interpreting: New Data from Pen Recording

Article excerpt

Abstract: Note-taking provides a unique opportunity to investigate consecutive interpreting (CI). This study approaches note-taking from a cognitive perspective, combining product analysis with the process research method of pen recording. It investigates such variables as the choice of form, the choice of language, the relationship between note-taking and interpreting performance, and the relationship between note-taking and cognitive load in CI. In the context of CI between Chinese and English, the study finds that interpreters prefer language to symbol, abbreviation to full word, and English to Chinese regardless of the direction of interpreting. Interpreting performance is not directly related to either the quantity or the quality of notes; it is a function of both. Pen recording appears to be a powerful method to tap into the process of note-taking and CI, and the collected data could potentially serve as useful indicators of cognitive load.

Keywords: consecutive interpreting, note-taking, pen recording, cognitive load

1. Introduction

The research interest in cognitive processing in translation and interpreting is increasing, but the focus on consecutive interpreting (CI) is very limited to date. Note-taking is a distinctive feature of CI (i), and provides a unique opportunity to investigate the interpreting process. For over half a century, research on note-taking in CI has yielded fruitful results. A series of variables have been investigated, including the choice of form, the choice of language, and the relationship between note-taking and interpreting performance. However, existing studies on note-taking and CI are mostly product-oriented, revealing little information about the process.

This study attempts to address that limitation by combining product analysis with an investigation into the interpreting process. Using pen recording and a software called the Eye and Pen (ii), pen data during the note-taking process are recorded in great details. Pen strokes are measured in terms of distance, duration, and speed. Such a recording not only tells us what interpreters' note-taking choices are, but also shows us how interpreters carry out those choices. The pen data are further investigated from a cognitive perspective, with an aim to see if they can be used as indicators of cognitive load in note-taking and CI.

2. Note-taking in CI: a brief review

The large volume of literature generated by scholars' sustained interest in note-taking can be roughly divided into two streams: a prescriptive stream and a descriptive stream (see Chen (2016) for a more comprehensive review). At the earliest stage, a number of prescriptive works have introduced some well-known note-taking systems and principles (e.g., Kirchhoff, 1979; Matyssek, 1989; Rozan, 1956/2002). Later on, noticing the challenges brought by the teaching and learning of note-taking in classrooms, some scholars begin to observe how notes are actually taken by student interpreters (e.g., Alexieva, 1994; Gile, 1991). These studies represent the beginning of a shift in note-taking literature from being prescriptive to becoming descriptive. Some researchers have also investigated the cognitive and linguistic aspects of note-taking, pointing out a concurrent storage of information in memory and in notes (e.g., Seleskovitch, 1975) and that note-taking operates on a micro-level that stays close to the source text (e.g., Albl-Mikasa, 2008; Kohn & Albl-Mikasa, 2002). The more recent studies in the descriptive stream usually target specific note-taking choices, collecting data in simulated interpreting tasks and contributing valuable empirical evidence (e.g., Abuin Gonzalez, 2012; Andres, 2002; Dam, 2004a; Szabo, 2006). In all these studies, three variables have received the majority of the attention: the choice of form, the choice of language, and the relationship between note-taking and interpreting performance.

Interpreters make choices (although not always consciously) on the form of notes: whether to take notes in symbol or language, and if in language, whether to write the word in full or to abbreviate it. …

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