I love Chopin, at the moment I am learning to play Nocturne in E Flat Op.9  no.2.

 When I practice the piano I use layered learning, breaking down the learning process into different steps.

How do I do that first I divide the piece into sections, sections that make sense like the end a phrase, which not necessarily the end of the line of music. Small sections work best.

I usually start by using separate hands and then putting the two together, but not until each hand on its own is perfect. There is a lot to consider, timing, rhythm, flow, phrasing and expression.  Usually I only aim for half an hour quality time with my piano, find little and often works best. My playing is not just about my pieces, I like a bit of variation:  warm up, an exercise, some sight reading.  My main aim is get a reproducible performance. Often when re-visit some of my old pieces i am amazed at the improvement.

Psychologists say:  A stimulus enters long-term memory (that is, it is "learned") after it has been attentively observed 7 times. But if an "incorrect" stimulus is first learned, it then takes an average of 35 (!) repetitions to learn the "corrected" stimulus. Learning it right the first time is five times easier than re-learning after learning it incorrectly.

Wow - it is better to learn something right first time around!!

Can the layered learning that I apply to my piano playing be applied to my interpreting? 
Answer yes!! - Its about breaking down the process into steps then repeating each until I can get a reproducible performance.

It is this type of learning that provides the deliberate practice that improves my interpreting performance not all at once but with time.

And the Chopin?...  I am getting there, but it takes time and commitment.


After a fantastic summer of sport in the UK, there were many outstanding performances and memorable moments.  But what is it that made those athletes a success? Is it just natural talent or is it something more?  Research tells us it is something more. Athletes that win gold medals win, not because they are different but because they train more effectively.

What does their training involve?

·         Setting goals

·         Getting  immediate feedback

·         Focusing on both technique and outcome

Recent research would indicate that expertise is achieved through deliberate practice (see Hunt 2006, Ericsson et al 2007). Research suggests it takes 10,000 hours of practice to develop expertise, that is years of hard work!

As an interpreter it is easy enough to acquire knowledge through training courses, skilled and knowledgeable teachers and specialist books, but is that enough? Is some deliberate practice a must for interpreters too?  

What is deliberate practice? What does it involve?  It needs a bit of passion for interpreting; it needs dedication and belief in self.  The most important thing here, well at least for me, is belief. I believe by doing CPD, which is properly designed, intended to focus on applying some knowledge, a new skill or a tip from a colleague, and practicing it until I can reproduce it, then my performance will improve.

The price of win a gold medal is extremely high and only a few achieve it, not everybody is willing to give up 10,000 hours in the pursuit of such achievement, but by understanding the key to being better  is to do some focused practice, then anyone can be better.

Is this an opportunity for a little bit of expertise development?

The NRCPD now “requires all communication professionals to record 12 hours of professional development activity to renew their registration in 2013” (NRCPD website 2012). This number rises to 35 hours from 2014 onwards.  

Ericsson et all (2007). The making of an Expert  The Harvard Business Review. 

Hunt, E.  (2006).  Expertise, Talent and Social Encouragement in Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert performance. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul Feltovich, and Robert Hoffman (Eds.).

http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/news.php?news_id=45 accessed 22nd November 2012


Ever had that feeling no matter what you do, you are just going around in a circle? You are not alone! An essential part of being an interpreter is about reflective practice, which involves thinking about and trying to make sense of the things that happen when we are working (Oelofson 2012). It is no easy task!

Reflective practice its roots in adult learning theory (Kolb 1984) and reflective thought (Dewey 1933). Reflective thoughts have many forms it can be about collecting information and analysing it, organising ideas and carrying them out.  It can be about observation, looking for patterns and connections piecing things together to form a complete picture. It can be innovative or intuitive. Put simply it is about paying attention and having ideas.  It is all about curiosity and there are many models of reflective practice around to give the curious interpreter a starting point. (see for example Gibbs 1998, Johns 1995, Schön 1978).

Brushing up on your reflective skills can be really useful as an interpreter and putting to use just some of the skills above can really improve your knowledge. But is reflective practice enough to improve actual interpreter practice?

We have just had a magnificent summer of sport in the UK with many great athletes winning gold. Athletes train for years and years before they win competitions and they are not alone. Musicians also need ten years of training before they win competitions (Ericsson et al 2007) does their approach to becoming an expert have anything to teach interpreters? - A question for another day. 

File Size: 13 kb
File Type: docx
Download File

Oliver Hardy was one half of the comic duo Laurel and Hardy, famous in the late 1920 through to the 1940 for their slapstick antics. Oliver Hardy often summed up his feelings of the duos comic calamities with his famous catch phrase.

Now imagine the following scenario; you are interpreting away, it’s all going well and then it happens, your deaf client looks at you with that expression that says “Yeah, and?”, you hear the laughter, your co-worker shrugs sympathetically, your shoulders slump, your confidence drops to your toes, you glance at the speaker and think “well here’s another nice mess you‘ve gotten me into”:  What happened - humour!

image from http://www.laurel-and-hardy.com/home/PICS/l&h2.jpg

Humour inhibites your effectiveness as an interpreter. When it comes to humour, I have often asked myself why, oh why do they do it! And what can I do about it. 

Humour is the subject of many an academic paper and having reviewed some, it seems that humour has a range of functions; it can be use to express solidarity, or power, as a defence strategy or as a coping strategy or simply to amuse. It would seem that these functions can be further subdivided to give an understanding of the strategy a speaker may use. By looking at some of the techniques used to create humour I have been more prepared for when it does happen, but what techniques do people use? Here is a partial list to get you started:

·         Self- effacement and in-jokes

·         Sarcasm, tongue in cheek comments

·         Wit

·         Exaggeration

·         Comic comparisons

·         Anecdotes

(Kahn 1989, Hay 2000, Holmes 1998, 2002, Lee 2006, Lynch 2002, Rogerson-Revel 2007, Thomas et al 1997). Humour is complex and diverse and as an interpreter I have to cope with all forms. Some kind of humour awareness is necessary and recognising why it is being used is the first step to being able to respond to it.  

This is a topic that I will return to again and again.


File Size: 11 kb
File Type: docx
Download File

Welcome to Reverie – An interpreters Blog

The idea behind reverie is to share some interesting morsels from my reflective journals, they are quite an eclectic mix, but it all relates to my work as a sign language interpreter, honest.

It was an interesting article in issue 73 of Newsli, July 2012 (Newsli is the magazine for ASLI) about how reflective writing can improve your interpreting practice, which got me started.  I found that writing things down helps me organise my thoughts and develop solutions. You know the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” even if you are only sharing with yourself. Starting this blog is just taking my writing one step further, and I think I will probably learn more from reviewing my journals, second or even third time around! 

I am sure you are aware that there are some issues within interpreting and professional practice to which there are no easy answers.  Some problems take longer to solve. Hence reverie – daydreaming, the title of my blog. It is about reflective thinking, contemplation, allowing my subconscious to be working away on the issues around interpreting. This is a good thing, creativity and the generation knowledge cannot be rushed!

What can you expect to find on Reverie? It’s an eclectic mix, but it will be about sign language interpreting, professional practices, and my personal experience from the areas where I work, which are mainly medical, education, and religious domains. The relationship between interpreters and client is confidential. No confidences will be broken and no secrets will be revealed here.

Thank you for reading my first post, you are welcome back anytime.