Last year I wrote a post on the importance of Keeping up your source language skills in order to communicate more effectively with your clients. Recently, I found that I’m far from the only translator who fantasizes about doing some interpreting in addition to my regular translation work.
If you’re a translator and you’d like to dip your toe in the interpreting waters, you have a few options for finding audio media to help you practice. When I took a court interpreter orientation a few years ago, the instructors suggested interpreting radio news broadcasts. I think this could work well for many people, but in my case a) I’m really looking to practice interpreting from French into English, not the other way around and b) the radio has this issue that you can’t pause it or rewind it, which can be really frustrating if you’re at a very beginner level in simultaneous interpreting. These days, you can stream live radio broadcasts from almost anywhere in the world; for example this site lists French-language radio stations that stream over the web. This solves the language issue if you interpret into English; you can also find multiple sources of non-English podcasts, downloading and playing them back will allow you to pause and go over what you just heard.
If you’re past the beginner level and want to use professionally-produced court interpreter training materials, I’ve heard very good things about “The Interpreter’s Edge” from ACEBO, which is co-owned by renowned Spanish court interpreter Holly Mikkelson. ACEBO sells a non-language specific tape set as well as language-specific sets for Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian and Polish.
For those of us at the beginner end of the spectrum, another option is to use language instruction materials that are geared toward intermediate to advanced students. For example, in excavating my office closet I found several years worth of Champs Elysées CDs from my now-lapsed subscription. On the audio exercises CD for each episode (the same company produces home study courses for intermediate/advanced students of Spanish, Italian and German), there is a segment that is slowed down for intermediate level listeners. When I used the CDs to keep up with French news and culture, I always skipped over these slow-paced segments because they’re very irritating to listen to if you understand the normal speed segment. However, the slow-paced segments are perfect for the beginner simultaneous interpreter: not only does the person talk very (and I mean very!) slowly, but you can pause, rewind, look at the transcript if you need to and then once you’ve gone through the segment a couple of times, you can switch back to the normal speed version that is included on the main CD for that episode. I imagine that you could use almost any foreign language instruction materials in this way, and many are probably available from public libraries.
Personally, I find that taking conversation classes with a native French speaker is a much better way of keeping up my active French skills than listening to audio media, but if you want to have a go at interpreting in a situation where no one can hear you, podcasts and foreign language instruction CDs are very valuable tools!