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Review of  Interpretation

Reviewer: Ingrid Mosquera Gende
Book Title: Interpretation
Book Author: James Nolan
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 16.1813

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Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 21:51:23 +0200
From: Ingrid Mosquera Gende
Subject: Interpretation: Techniques and Exercises

AUTHOR: Nolan, James
TITLE: Interpretation
SUBTITLE: Techniques and Exercises
SERIES: Professional Interpreting in the Real World
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2005

Dr. Ingrid Mosquera Gende, Department of English Philology, University of A
Coruña, Spain


The book includes an introductory section of Acknowledgements in which one
can already notice the importance of the didactic function in the
elaboration and structure of the book, present from the very subtitle:
"Techniques and Exercises" – a very relevant aspect to take into
consideration due to the central position of the issue of practice in the
chapters, as we will comment on later. Therefore, one can say that the main
readership of this book would be composed of professionals within the field
of Translation and Interpretation Studies, as well as students and teachers
for which this book could provide a basis for a course on Interpretation

After this, there is a brief Introduction, four pages long, subtitled
"Frequently Asked Questions". In this section the author poses major
questions about interpretation, opening a great range of possibilities that
he develops in the subsequent chapters. As a course book would, this text
opens with questions related with the way of using the book, explaining its
structure and intrinsic necessity, as well as its mainly intended audience:
"It is meant to serve as a practical guide for interpreters and as a
complement to interpreter training programs, particularly those for
students preparing for conference interpreting in international
governmental and business settings" (1). Therefore this first section is
divided in several subsections in the form of questions which are central
and common when confronting the subject of interpretation from different
Why this book?
How to use this book?
What is interpretation?
How does interpretation differ from translation?
What is the difference between consecutive interpretation and simultaneous
Is it useful to specialize in a particular subject area?
Are some languages more important than others for translation and
Are there any formal professional requirements?
Is it advantageous to be bilingual?
Is simultaneous interpretation a stressful occupation?

The answers are concise and clear, providing the perfect basis for
beginning the reading and understanding the meaning and differential
features of Interpretation in few words.

The body of the volume comprises eighteen chapters:
1. Speaking
2. Preparation / Anticipating the speaker
3. Complex syntax / Compression
4. Word order / Clusters
5. General adverbial clauses
6. Untranslatability
7. Figures of speech
8. Argumentation
9. Diction / Register
10. Formal style
11. A policy address
12. Quotations / Allusions / Transposition
13. Political discourse
14. Economic discourse
15. Humor
16. Latinisms
17. Numbers
18. Note-taking.

These titles are very explicit in content and ideas, so that with just one
quick look it is possible to get an idea of the themes dealt within each of
them, giving us an overview of the aspects in which Nolan wants to make a
point, either due to their relevance or to their difficulty when
undertaking the task of interpreting. At the same time, each of these
chapters is divided into two main sections, the first one is an
introduction to its theme, about one to two pages long, even just one
paragraph in some cases, whereas the second one is dedicated to Exercises
and is far more extensive, underlining, once more, the practical approach
of the book, which makes it easy to read and follow the text.

The languages used in the examples and in order to propose the exercises
are English, Spanish and French. Examples in other languages are presented
through English. For instance, in the chapter entitled FIGURES OF SPEECH,
proverbs from very different linguistic sources are presented in English,
we have Italian, German, Malay, Latin-American, Egyptian, French-African,
Indonesian, Arabic, Russian or Chinese proverbs, among others. Therefore,
the sole usage of the three languages mentioned above does not prevent
Nolan from citing many other languages from all around the world. However,
when providing the typical linguistic example of the snow and its different
types, in the chapter entitled Untranslatability, he includes vocabulary
from Finland or Alaska, one of the few points in which we find other
languages directly reflected in the book.

The book undergoes a development from the very beginning to the end, from
general points to take into account, such as preparation or speaking, to
detailed aspects such as the treatment of numbers or Latinisms. Apart from
that, there are several chapters devoted to specific kinds of speeches and
tones: political, economic and humorous.

Although the introduction to each of the chapters is short, as it was
stated before, the so-called practical part, the exercises, are much more
than a simple enumeration of activities. They include theory - sometimes in
form of rhetoric / non rhetoric questions - examples, interpretation tips
and the possibility of widening our knowledge and vocabulary, apart from a
considerable number of exercises on translation, based on English, French
and Spanish, as well as many role-playing type activities on interpretation.

At the end of the book there is a extensive bibliography, including many
titles published recently, divided into seven sections (non-numbered):
Works consulted
Illustrative materials used

Under Resources, the author includes "suggestions for further reading,
study and reference" (308), under the following headings:
Articles and documents
Collections of essays, monograph series, and conference proceedings
Dictionaries, glossaries and thesauruses
Handbooks of usage
Directories and guides
Periodicals, journals and series
Web sites

The titles and authors included in the bibliography are very various,
interesting and practical from several points of view, they can serve to
convince a political reader or an academic one, to deepen further in the
subject matter, to undertake self study and research or to serve as a
complement to practical courses, for students and teachers, and many other
kinds of readers would be delightful with this thorough bibliography. Some
of these subsections are even introduced by a line or two explaining their
contents. Special remark can be made on the subsection of web sites, very
practical and necessary nowadays, as well as to the subsection of Speeches,
where we can find the accurate reference to relevant political speeches,
such as the ones of Fidel Castro, Hillary Clinton, Alberto Fujimori, Felipe
González, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Paul II, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln
or Yitzhak Rabin, among many others, in concordance with the objectives
shown in the very first page of the book, in relation with international
political and commercial relations.

Although it could be taken for granted, it is also important to underline
the presence of an Index by which one can easily find references to
techniques as well as to relevant themes and concepts dealt within the book.


James Nolan is Deputy Director of the Interpretation, Meetings and
Publishing Division of the United Nations as well as Chief of the Verbatim
Reporting Service. He studied Translation and Interpretation at Geneva
University and at New York Law School.


Some minor criticism and personal opinions were made in the synopsis of the
book. On the whole, the book is a great, original, necessary and quite
novel approach to interpretation studies from a linguistic and an academic
point of view. Its structure is perfect from a pedagogical perspective, and
its practical basis and approximation seems logical in relation with the
theme treated. The exercises presented are numerous and varied in
methodology and objectives. The only possible drawback I could find would
be related to its form, not to its content, having to do with possible
complements in order to enrich the book. The languages used as a basis are
English, French and Spanish, but the examples and proposals are not given
in the three of them, and sometimes these translations could be useful,
perhaps they could have been included at the end of the book. More
important than that would be the inclusion of some more languages as basis
of the book in order to widen its direct usage by teachers and students.

In this same way, I would appreciate the inclusion of the original examples
cited from other languages, for instance in the examples of the proverbs
before mentioned, I think that the inclusion of the originals would enrich
the multilingual approach of the book, a relevant perspective due to the
subject matter of the text.

James Nolan effectively introduces the subject of Interpretation,
differentiates it from Translations, explains its main characteristics,
develops its techniques and exposes its concepts. We cannot talk about a
practical part of the book since the book is all practice in itself
achieving the best way of significant learning which is practising. I would
use this book both as a text book and as a reference book for my university
classes without doubt.


Ingrid Mosquera Gende teaches at the University of A Coruña, Spain. Her
Ph.D. is in English Philology; her Doctoral Thesis is about Edwin Muir:
"Early Poetry of a Late Poet: Analysis of First Poems". She has had several
research stays in Germany, Canada or Scotland, among others, supervised by
specialists such as Professor Cairns Craig and Robert Crawford. She is a
researcher of projects related to Translation Studies, Literature and
Education. She has many publications and contributions about Translation,
Scottish Literature, as well as other fields of study, including Education,
Irish Literature, and Spanish Literature. She teaches courses via the
internet in collaboration with The University of Islas Baleares, Spain, and
is a reviewer and translator for various universities.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 1853597910
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 328
Prices: U.K. £ 64.95
U.S. $ 119.95

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1853597902
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 328
Prices: U.S. $ 44.95
U.K. £ 24.95