Interpreters are committed to lifelong learning per se, because every assignment, every topic is new and must be prepared conscientiously. We need to translate technical terms in real time, as we don’t have the opportunity to look it up in the dictionary. But how can you make everyday learning easier? Research shows that there are different types of learners who learn in different ways. I personally rely on a mixture of everything, so it doesn’t get boring ;-)
THE 4 LEARNING TYPES
Auditory learning is the process of learning through speaking and listening. An auditory learner learns by sound, so I usually tend to record my glossaries on my iPhone (Voice Memos app) - similar to audio language courses: English or French vocabulary, pause, German vocabulary; and then I put my headphones on and test myself on the train or in the car. Also, I often search for footage of guest speakers at the event I was booked for - if you have never dealt with Ugandan English before, you should first "listen in", otherwise you may quickly break out in a sweat when interpreting! But there are also many opportunities to learn a new language. I am currently attending an Italian course and can only warmly recommend switching your sat nav to the appropriate language - it always amazes me how quickly certain phrases stick with me, and I soak up the correct intonation like a sponge. There are also countless podcasts in various languages to keep fit, e.g. on the BBC for English, Radio France for French or Radio Colonia for Italian.
Visual learners use more pictures and images that have information in them. I usually ask clients for company brochures or a demonstration (and explanation!) of a machine on site, so that I can better understand how they work. Also, I fairly often find demo films on my clients’ websites - this also helps with understanding and preparation.
Sometimes, when my head’s just full, I give my colleague a call. Since we will be sitting in the same booth, we’re sharing the same glossary as well. All it takes is just some small talk about the event, a few questions about the topic-specific vocabulary or the exchange of tried and tested mnemonic devices, and then I’m good to go again. Because when I explain something to someone else or when they give me an explanation, my brain will form new connections. Gone is the chaos in my head! Besides, it's good to hear that colleagues also have a learning blockade sometimes ;-)
Kinaesthetic learners are the physical ones that remember things best when they use their hands and are very good at learning through movement. So, the best thing, of course, is when I can get some hands-on experience: when I get to use the hair straightener at a hairdressers’ trade fair, look through the viewfinder when a new digital camera is introduced or test the stock removal of abrasives at a grinding workshop. This quickly helps to answer most questions and makes interpreting much easier. I always write down new words and expressions instead of just listening to them - preferably with pen and paper and not on my iPad. I find that it sticks better in my head that way...
I hope that these tips will help you, too, in your field. And never forget: learning can be really fun.