By Dally Campos Molina - Student of English Teaching and Translation
The present generation of professionals is obliged to master basic computer skills. The younger the professionals are the higher literacy in technology is demanded. That also applies to translators and interpreters in the present day. But, curiously, textbooks on interpreting still emphasizes the note-taking process for consecutive interpretation as a traditional task performed with a notebook and pen or pencil (Russell & Takeda, 2018, p.105), and emphasis is set more on the technique and the fulfillment of objectives than in the use of technology (Xiangdong, 2019, p. 164). What has not been considered is the systematic use of apps to facilitate the note-taking process. The software market offers a considerable amount of note-taking apps with very diverse functions that can be helpful to interpreters, especially to those highly attached to technology. Therefore, this paper analyzes two advantages and one disadvantage of computer-based note taking in the interpretation process.
It is assumed that everybody knows how to use a normal pencil. That is the principle applied to the invention of the stylus pen, a device design to write on a screen as it is done on paper. The stylus market has been growing globally because of “growing digitization, high demand from the Asia-Pacific region, increasing internet penetration, and rising adoption of smart devices” (PR Newswire, 2021, para. 3). A stylus can be used in different types of touch screens, from mobiles to laptops. The advantage lies in the fact that the user can choose the size of the device in which he/she wants to use the stylus pen according to the best of its interest. Some people will feel comfortable with a cell phone because it fits in their hand, while others prefer a medium-sized device, like a tablet. Others would choose the laptop because of the best possible screen size. A particular brand of device is not needed as long as the instrument has a tactile screen.
The second advantage is the assorted market offer of applications for note-taking available to use along with the stylus. There are free and paid apps to fit the needs and the taste of the users. People can choose from simple apps with basic functions like underlying words and changing font color to more complex ones. A great example is OneNote, the Microsoft application for note-taking design to convert handwriting into text, insert images and connect with Internet search engines to look for particular topics. As Duffy (2021) explains, “OneNote is also one of the very few note-taking apps to still offer in-app audio recording, letting you capture entire lectures to listen to again when it's time to study.” The cited function is particularly useful for interpreters since it allows to record the original audio in case there is time to review it. Another exceptionally useful function is the protection of sensitive information by means of an encryption code, a must-have feature needed to assure that confidential data is being handled with care. Interpreters can explore the note-taking apps market to find the best one for different interpreting scenarios.
But such use of technology has some risks that the interpreter must take seriously because they can ruin a contracted job completely. For instance, being in an ambiance not suited to work with a tablet or a computer with a pen, running out of battery in the middle of an interpreting job, the sudden crash of the app, accidentally deleting the note in which the interpreter is working on, or the fortuitous damage of the stylus pen are possible adverse scenarios. Therefore, contingency plans are absolutely recommended, like carrying external batteries and having online automatic backups. Also, going back to basics is suggested: notebook and pencil should always be available in the interpreters’ briefcase.
In conclusion, technology is at the service of the interpreting profession. But experts should take the time to explore, practice, and master the use of the note-taking app of their preference in order to make the process faster and more professional. Furthermore, sharing the experience with other colleagues is fundamental to spread the knowledge, reaffirm the advantages and mitigate the risks of the use of this kind of technology. Undoubtedly, very soon, the note-taking process in consecutive interpretation will be digitalized entirely because that is what modern times demands.
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Duffy, J. (2021). The Best Note-Taking Apps for 2021. PC Magazine Digital Edition. https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-note-taking-apps.
PR Newswire. (2021). Stylus Pen Market to Reach $1.22 Bn, Globally, by 2027 at 5.5% CAGR: Allied Market Research. PR Newswire US.
Russell, D., &Takeda, K. (2018). Consecutive Interpreting. In Mikkelson, H. and Jourdenais, R. (Eds.), The Routdledge Handbook of Interpreting (96-111). Routledge.
Xiangdong, L. (2019). Teaching translation and interpreting courses to students’ lacks and wants: An exploratory case study of prioritizing instructional objectives. Círculo de Linguistica Aplicada a La Comunicacion, 78, 159–192. https://doi.org/10.5209/CLAC.64377.