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Note taking

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1

THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES
The use of a technique is always dependent upon the application
of a certain number of principles. This is what we call the instructions.
One need not follow the rules recommended in such instructions.
Indeed the product, device or system for which they were devised may
well work even if they are not observed, but will do so less efficiently.
Furthermore, the simpler the instructions, the more likely the user is to
follow them. The same applies to note-taking. A few very simple
principles give this system its sound base and precision, and make
using it straightforward. There are seven of these principles; in order
they are:
1 Noting the idea and not the word
2 The rules of abbreviation
3 Links
4 Negation
5 Adding emphasis
6 Verticality
7 Shift
Some of these principles have already been explained by Jean
Herbert in his Interpreter’s Handbook1.
1. Noting the idea rather than the word
Take any French text and give it to 10 excellent english
translators. The result will be ten very well translated texts, but ten
very different texts in as far as the actual words used are concerned.
The fact that we have ten good translations, but ten different texts,
shows that what is important is the translation of the idea and not the
word. This is even truer of interpretation since the interpreter must
produce a version of the text in another language immediately. He
must be free of the often misleading constraints that words represent.
1

Georg & Cie, Geneva, 1956.

2

It is through the analysis and notation of the ideas that the interpreter
will avoid mistakes and a laboured delivery.
Example: Let us take the following, from French into English:
„Il y a des fortes chances pour que...../ There is a very good chance
that...” If we base our notation of this expression on the words, the key
word is chance. If we base it on the idea, it is probable.
The notes will have to be read 20 minutes – even an hour2 – after
the idea was originally expressed. In the first example it would be
very easy to make a mistake. Having noted chance the interpreter
might, if the context allowed, render it „there is a chance that” or „by
chance”. If on the other hand he noted probable the mistake cannot be
made. The issue of style is also dealt with in the second example
where one would automatically say (interpreting into English), „It is
probable that”, or „it is likely that”, or „in all likelihood” whereas in
the first example even if the interpreter had correctly recal...
1
THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES
The use of a technique is always dependent upon the application
of a certain number of principles. This is what we call the instructions.
One need not follow the rules recommended in such instructions.
Indeed the product, device or system for which they were devised may
well work even if they are not observed, but will do so less efficiently.
Furthermore, the simpler the instructions, the more likely the user is to
follow them. The same applies to note-taking. A few very simple
principles give this system its sound base and precision, and make
using it straightforward. There are seven of these principles; in order
they are:
1 Noting the idea and not the word
2 The rules of abbreviation
3 Links
4 Negation
5 Adding emphasis
6 Verticality
7 Shift
Some of these principles have already been explained by Jean
Herbert in his Interpreter’s Handbook
1
.
1. Noting the idea rather than the word
Take any French text and give it to 10 excellent english
translators. The result will be ten very well translated texts, but ten
very different texts in as far as the actual words used are concerned.
The fact that we have ten good translations, but ten different texts,
shows that what is important is the translation of the idea and not the
word. This is even truer of interpretation since the interpreter must
produce a version of the text in another language immediately. He
must be free of the often misleading constraints that words represent.
1
Georg & C
ie
, Geneva, 1956.
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