Listen up!

Since I
started teaching interpretation, I have had to think a lot about what it means
to be an interpreter, what knowledge, skills and also talent are required, and
how to teach this to or, in the case of the talent, how to find out if they have it and
then coax it out of the students and help them develop it.

I have
found some books on techniques and exercises for the required skills (e.g.
speech analysis, collection and preparation of information, note-taking etc.), but I feel like there is only so much I can do in the
These kids
have never had anything to do with interpreting; everything surrounding it is
new to them; and one prejudice about their generation sadly shows quite obviously
with many of them: their ability to listen is quite poor, and it shows when they
have to actually interpret. 
Listening, and listening actively, however, is one of the essential skills for an interpreter! I’m not sure how I can help them more to train and improve this ability.  
I do
memory exercises at the beginning of each class to get the students to flex
their brain muscles,
and many of these are oral, i.e. I read something to them and they have to repeat it either orally or in writing once I’m done. We also do variations on “I’m going on a journey and I’m taking…”, where they also have to listen to each other. And I encourage them to listen to the radio, or better to podcasts or videos and then try to note down what they heard afterwards and check to see if they got it right. Whether they actually do it, I don’t know, but I would hope so (yes, I’m an incorrigible optimist…)!

But I would like to do more and be able to give them more suggestions, so my question to YOU, dear followers, readers and colleagues, is: 
Do you have any tips for me and ultimately for my students on how to become better listeners? If so, please share in the comments below. Thank you!!

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  1. When I studied translation in Italy fifteen years ago, we had a class (and an exam) in interpreting skills during our third term. As a homework, we had to transcribe a 5-minutes-long radio recording every week. It wasn't easy, but it really improved my listening and listening comprehension skills!
    A nice book about listening comprehension is moreover "Fertigkeit Hören" by Barbara Dahlhaus (Langenscheidt – Goethe-Institut materials for German as a foreign language).
    Good luck with your students!

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