Interpreters’ notes: on the choice of language

This post reports on a small-scale empirical study on note-taking in consecutive interpreting. As data, the study draws on the notes produced by four subjects while interpreting one Spanish source text consecutively into Danish, on the one hand, and one Danish source text into Spanish, on the other.

The aim of the study is to explore what governs conference interpreters’ choice of language for their notes. The categories traditionally used to discuss, describe and explain this choice are those of source language and target language, and these categories are therefore subject to particular scrutiny here.

Helle V. Dam, Aarhus School of Business

Those who recommend using the target language do so basically for two reasons: for one thing, the target-language option logically forces the interpreter to move away from the surface form of the incoming speech and should therefore ensure better processing of the speech; for another, writing in the target language is thought to facilitate production of the target speech.

Business colleagues having meeting in conference room in modern office

The relatively smaller group of authors who question the TL recommendation tend to do so on the grounds that writing notes in the target language requires language conversion during note-taking and therefore adds to the number of functions that the interpreter has to perform during the listening phase — a phase characterized by being paced by the speaker, unlike the production phase, and theoretically also by a higher degree of complexity, insofar as it is assumed to comprise more capacity-consuming components than the production phase .

In spite of this fundamental disagreement on the question of language choice, there is general agreement that the relevant categories when it comes to talking about the language of interpreters’ notes are those of source language and target language.


  1. Be open to the idea of getting expert advice. Warehouse design has changed a lot in recent years, as large distribution centers have moved away from single channel to multichannel inventories and even smaller warehouses have begun to automate many operations.

    1. I wouldn’t try to convince anyone to the contrary, and indeed, I would recommend you to engage a reputable external specialist to help you, unless of course, yours is a large organisation with plenty of internal expertise in warehouse design. I hope though, that the points set out above will give you some idea of the primary considerations.

  2. Sharing is caring. By sharing real-time warehouse information with key staff throughout the organization, you can realize significant improvements in cycle times while avoiding the need to field distracting “where is my stuff” calls from the rest of the organization.

    1. Finally, concerning the structural and capacity requirements of individual warehouses, some of the most important things to think about are your service offering, the characteristics of your products, and types of activity that you expect to conduct within the facility.

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