There’s been a big push from the interpreting community to professionalize. We seem to be moving from the neutral language-elephant in the room to a value-adding aspect of what businesses, governments, and individuals do. This is all super cool, but making that shift means it’s important for interpreters to reconsider all of the tools we use in designing value, just like we’ve already done with headphones and booths. Here, we take-on one of the least celebrated – but most important – tools an interpreter uses: The Notepad.
What goes into a good notepad? It should be easy to use, look professional, and be as cost effective as possible. Most find that ‘Steno Pads’ (short for Stenographer’s Notepad) are a good option, but having a customized notepad can do so much more.
How can I make my own custom notepads?
The bits and bobs of a notepad are pretty simple. Here’s what goes into making one, along with what we recommend, should you decide to make one yourself.
Customizing your pad means thinking about even its most mundane parts. You’ll select the paper’s brightness, weight (thickness), size, color, and any pre-printed stuff like horizontal writing lines (rules) or vertical margin lines. We recommend paper that’s not too ‘bright’ to mitigate strain on the eyes. 20lb paper is pretty good to write on – it doesn’t tear or shift and can be printed on any printer. The regular size, 8.5”x11”, works fine as well, because two pad-sized pieces can be cut out of it. My personal preference is to use blank white ‘multipurpose’ paper, with a single printed line down each notepad’s page. Here’s a PDF if you’d like to check out how this looks.
The Back and Front
For backing, we recommend something thicker than the 24-point chipboard we originally purchased. This turned out to be too thin, so we’re doubling up on these sheets for now so that the pad doesn’t warp while being held. As for the front, we purchased 5.5”x8.5” postcards with custom printing on the front. These are customized with images, like the interpreter’s name and company logo.
The binding mechanism is the hinge on your notepad. There are several types, each with their own features. We chose the type called Wire-O, because pages don’t tend to get clogged up when flipped back and forth, larger sizes (9/16”) can hold up to 100 sheets of paper, and the look is refined. There are cheaper types of binding, such as spiral binding, but we find these don’t work as well. We use 3:1 pitch (that just means there are three holes per each holed inch), but 2:1 pitch might be usable as well.
Paper Trimmer Machine
This guillotine-like device trims the paper, back and front sheets to your preferred size. We chose Yescom’s 400 sheet capacity trimmer. It handles, at one time, all the pieces that go into a single notepad, and consistently cuts well.
Like Paper Trimmers, Binding Machines come in a range of prices and quality levels. We opted for the Akiles Wiremac-M Manual Wire-O® Binding Machine. The main things we considered here are the ‘pitch patterns’, from which you can choose either 3:1 or 2:1, its ability to choose which holes are punched and which aren’t, the ease-of-use of the binding device, and overall robustness.
Is it worth it?
The initial cost is pretty high. We spent about $420 for the machines, and each pad costs about $1.25 to produce. A comparable quality store-bought pad would cost about $5.50, so this means that we will break even after about 100 pads. After that, we’re saving money, and using pads that are efficient to make and use.
Best of all, our clients know that we mean it when we use the term: professional interpreter.
Face to face settings have been the cash cows of interpretation for generations. We go to a place, and do our voodoo. Things today are going in a different direction. We still dabble in the ancient art of word voodoo, but where and how we do it is changing.
My first foray into this was my first few assignments doing telephonic. I had avoided it for as long as possible, after hearing horror stories from a friend that did some pay-by-the-minute medical interpreting jobs.
Her take: It’s a rat race. Just-in-time service. Low pay. Monotonous topics from one conversation to the next. A pure commodity play.
I got interested when an affiliate offered an opportunity to work on a few higher-profile projects, which were quite different from what my friend had been doing, because the pay was higher, the phone call was scheduled, and the topic was complex.
What I got was an excellent opportunity to provide interpreting services to people that weren’t in the same physical location, albeit with a little stretching and bending on my part. It’s can be a great option for people who need a real conversation with someone halfway around the world-as long as the interpreter has an understanding of these and other best practices.
Telephonic is different because of…
While interpreting (consecutively), I prefer that the speakers and I can see each other. I’ve spoken about this here before. The idea is that it’s easier for an interpreter to establish rapport and for all parties to know the best time to start/stop speaking. Telephonic means that speaker transfer happens without the benefit of visual cues (as happens when an interpreter looks up from their notes to signal they’ve finished interpreting, for example). Recommendation: Focus on designing clear and consistent intonation change in your voice as your interpretation ends.
Getting Down to Business
Calls tend to be focused on the business at hand. This is different than face-to-face environments, where people tend to chat about whatever before and even during meetings. The phone calls I’ve been on have tended to be short, concise, and focused purely on business-at-hand topics, which can shift rapidly (questions can fly out from anywhere at almost any time). Recommendation: Treat telephonic with the same, or better, care of preparation as you would in a face-to-face environment.
Telephonic Interpretation happens in both simultaneous and consecutive modes, but I’ve focused on the latter here. Interpreters who are thinking of venturing into the higher echelons of this market should check their confidence and skills to remain dynamic throughout the entire conversation, and be prepared for gigs to be cancelled outright or cut short. It’s cool, this brave new world of telephonic, but it’s also a challenge.
'Old Couple' picture courtesy of jantik