In this month‘s column, we‘re focusing on an interpreting mode that is often seen as decidedly low-tech or even no-tech: consecutive. And chances are that, due to the pandemic, you find yourself doing more consec than usual, and on online video platforms to boot! So if you want to brush up or enhance your note-taking skills, here are some tech-infused tips to get you started.

Get inspired by this online symbol collection

Interpreters love to compare notes. Literally. “Do you have a symbol for X?” or “What do you use for Y?” are frequent questions when interpreters talk shop. In the past, you would have had to rely on those informal exchanges with colleagues or official manuals like Rozan’s or Matyssek’s. In the internet age, however, inspiration is just a click away.

Enter “Symbol Tree.” This nifty project is run by Jan Sládek, an interpreting student at Charles University in Czechia, and can be found at If you’ve used an internet search engine before, you know how to use Symbol Tree: Just type in your search term (in Czech, English or German) and see the results pour in. Hit Enter to get the final list of options with the search term, synonyms, related words, and a clean black-on-white drawing of the symbol. Symbol Tree is a great source of inspiration for new and experienced interpreters alike.

Organize and memorize with visual flash cards

Language lovers have relied on flash cards for ages. Language A on one side, language B on the other: it’s simple, and does the trick every time. Needless to say, there are lots of great flash card apps out there (like Quizlet or Anki) that enable you to learn and practice anywhere, anytime. And the internet is full of glossaries made by fellow learners for all kinds of topics.

But have you ever considered using a flash card tool to organize and memorize your consec symbols? Apps like Verbatim or Kyoku (iOS), 3.14 Flashcard Maker (Android) or My FlashCards (Windows) let you do just that: Use a stylus or even your finger to draw a symbol on one side of the card and the meaning of the other. Not only is it fun and easy, you also get the cognitive benefit associated with writing by hand instead of typing. You can grow and develop your collection over time and use spaced repetition to practice.

Record your interpreting for deliberate practice

One advantage of consecutive is that you don’t really need a lot of equipment to do it. If you’re anything like us, you probably search the net or speech banks (like the Speech Repository or Speechpool) for material and pull it up on your computer or tablet. So why not add another little helper to the mix? Your smartphone has a decent microphone built right in that lets you record quality audio. Whenever you deliver a practice speech, make it a habit to tape a few minutes or the whole thing. Later on, listen back to identify areas to improve - and little successes to celebrate! By doing so you’re building an acoustic timeline of how you became better at consecutive.

If you want to take things up a notch, you can even run your recordings through speech recognition tools to obtain a written transcript, then jot down better alternatives for certain turns of phrases. And since some note-taking apps like Notability or OneNote allow both handwritten notes and audio-recording, you can keep everything in one place. But that’s a topic for another column 😉

This column was first published in the 312th edition (February 2021) of the Tool Box Journal.

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