We've been huge proponents of tablets for interpreting since the iPad was released in 2010. And when the first tablets came out, we wondered how this new technology could be used for interpreting -- we're curious about everything, like all interpreters!
So we started poking around and discovered countless reasons why tablets make great interpreting companions.
First, they are small, lightweight and take up very little space in your bag or in the booth. They're also silent -- no more noisy computer fans! The battery usually lasts for an entire day without any problems. Plus, powerful apps help to streamline our work.
For note-taking, modern slates offer less noticeable page turns, "unlimited paper," easy storage, portability, and multitasking possibilities -- plus the ability to use them for a hybrid interpreting technique called Sim-Consec.
In the booth, tablets help you quickly look up a term or concept or annotate a document in drafting meetings.
In this article, we share some of our favorite ways to use tablets for preparation, consecutive interpreting and in the booth.
Preparation on a tablet
Tablets are excellent preparation tools.
Fewer and fewer people are printing documents, and not just for environmental reasons: Learning to work with digital documents on your tablet will also save time and headaches. Get the documents sent to you while you're in the booth or on a business trip with no printer in sight? Simply download them to your tablet and you're ready to work on them.
And that's just the beginning. Capitalize on digital search to research topics and grasp background knowledge quickly. Leverage built-in dictionaries to find definitions and translations in a heartbeat. Annotate your documents so they're ready to go when you start interpreting. Use technology to quickly prepare a glossary, then practice your terms before an assignment.
Using tablets for consecutive interpreting
When we tell colleagues that we use our tablets to take notes, we sometimes hear questions like, "But, does that mean you type your notes? Why would you do that?"
The truth is: We don't. Taking notes on a tablet is actually incredibly similar to taking notes on paper. You just grab your stylus, open a digital notepad, and...start taking notes. (Here's a brief demo.)
This takes a little getting used to, but it offers tons of additional benefits. For example, you never have to worry about running out of paper or ink again. (Make sure to charge your tablet and stylus before your assignment. 😉)
Tablets are highly portable, and allow you to keep everything you need -- meeting documents, dictionaries, glossaries -- on a single device.
It's also easy to store and organize documents. If you work for a client regularly, you can quickly find the notes from your last assignment.
Josh's research has shown that clients find interpreters who use tablets to be more professional and memorable.
Plus, you can easily view meeting documents, glossaries, fact sheets, and other materials alongside your notes using multitasking mode. (More on this in our free mini-course on tablets - check out the iPad, Android, or Windows edition!)
Tablets as digital boothmates
Tablets are easy to pop into a purse or briefcase. Plus, you generally don't need to bring along bulky chargers, stacks of reference materials, or heavy dictionaries! 🏋️♀️
Accessing reference materials on your tablet during a simultaneous assignment is easy. Grab your stylus and highlight key terms, underline important passages or write in new wording suggested by participants. Use search to find the right page, quotation, or reference in next to no time. Or try split-screen mode to see meeting documents alongside reference materials, glossaries, or search tools, or view an original document and its translation side by side. (Check out this short video to see some of these features in action.)
You can also use your tablet as a notepad, and jot down numbers and names for yourself - or your colleague. (If your handwriting isn't great, consider using the keyboard! 😉)
If your assignment combines various interpreting modes - like simultaneous, consecutive, and whispered interpreting -- a tablet is perfect. Use the keyboard to quickly search while in the booth, then pop it off for a lightweight device you can easily rest on a table or your lap for note-taking.
The last word
In this article, we've covered just a few of the reasons why we love tablets. But this is just the beginning!
Tablets are also great productivity tools. For example, it's easy to read your email or fire off a few responses when you're on the go, use text replacement to save keystrokes, or scan your physical notes or receipts and file them to speed up bookkeeping.
For educators, a tablet can be a robust tool for demonstrating techniques, identifying weaknesses, recording audio and notes in real time, and teaching students in both online and virtual settings.
But these are topics for another column!
For now, we'd recommend you pick one skill you'd like to explore, then give it a shot on your tablet. Practice on your own or with colleagues before you roll out these new skills on actual assignments, and gradually incorporate new techniques into your interpreting practice. Before you know it, you'll be well on your way to mastering tablet interpreting!
This article was originally posted in the May 2021 edition of the ToolBox Journal.
Free course: Tablets for wordsmiths - Five tried and tested tips to boost your productivity
Interested in using a tablet for work? Check out our free mini-course: Tablets for Wordsmiths -- Five tried and tested tips to boost your productivity.
You'll learn to set up multiple languages and keyboards, get online without wifi, use more than one app at a time, and more!