First of all, I can’t believe how close I am to finishing this challenge. It has been a little over three months already. More than the stats about how much time I’ve put into Chinese this year (61 hours), what has surprised me the most is how much visible progress I’ve made. In terms of words, I’ve been adding about a word a day according to Skritter. But actually, what has let me see how far I’ve come can only be described as a tipping point.
Writing is key
Last month I wrote 5 texts about random topics that my teacher assigned and one that I chose: my family, my hobbies, a typical day, an object I like, and about the Foreign Officer selection process.
Let me just say, if you haven’t started practicing writing, it’s important to start now.
On the one hand, writing allowed me to realize that I have an extremely clear grasp of the grammar of Chinese and this gave me a huge surge of confidence. Sometimes you speak and notice the other person understands, but it’s hard to tell if what you’re saying sounds natural or not. When you write things down you can easily analyze your grasp of the grammar. On the other hand, writing allowed me to pinpoint my weakest areas: precision of vocabulary. It’s one thing to write correctly with regards to grammar, but it’s quite another to write elegantly or even compellingly.
And then easter came and went and something quite unexpected happened.
I got two inquiries within a couple days to do some simultaneous and consecutive interpreting in Chinese-English and Chinese-Spanish. Until that moment, I had never seriously considered getting certified in Chinese-English or Spanish interpretation. After looking around the internet I found out that there are no schools that have a Chinese-Spanish simultaneous interpretation program.
Immediately seeing a possible career opportunity, I began to look for ways to train simultaneous interpretation. There’s actually all kinds of tools. The best one I found was the Online Resource for Conference Interpreter Training. What I learned from this (aside from the fact that to become a simultaneous interpreter you’d probably have to get some sort of formal training) was that these exercises are a great way to spice up your language learning and challenge yourself.
These are some of the exercises you can incorporate into your language learning at any stage, provided you choose level appropriate content:
- Pick an audio/video. Listen to a sentence, stop the audio, think about how to interpret it, continue with the next sentence. It’s best to start off with short 3 or maximum 6 minute audios (there is a whole repository of speeches organized according to level by the European Commission here).
- Shadow a speech word for word.
- Shadow a speech paraphrasing.
- Learn by heart 5-10 lines of well written text as often as you can.
- Collect files of articles on topical issues. This is really important for learning specialized or niche vocabulary.
- Play word association games to learn and practice collocations.
- Translate the text of a speech.
After listening to a couple of interpreters and translators speak about their training and experiences, I’ve come to the conclusion that training like an interpreter is an excellent way to break through that comfort level and begin to sound more natural, nuanced and eloquent.
So what do you guys think, any other suggestions for advanced learning?