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Our children still need to master handwriting skills

by David V. Appleyard

Despite our ever-increasing dependence on computers. tablets and smartphones, children's capacity to write clearly and legibly with more traditional tools can play a decisive role in how well they end up doing in school exams. If words fail to flow from their pens, they may not be able to get down all they know within the time allowed and so lose vital points. Further marks will be lost if there is no clear distinction between letters which look alike, such as o and a, v and u, or m and nn.

Writing practiceClear handwriting involves the eyes as much as the hands, so both must work in perfect co-ordination. Just as when we learn to play the piano, the many fine muscles of the hand need to be strengthened, something only achieved through plenty of practice. Every opportunity should therefore be given for children to write things down—and preferably on a daily basis.

A key point to bear in mind is that they themselves should feel there is a real purpose in what they are doing—they will soon get tired of repetitive exercises only aimed at improving certain strokes. One good idea is to let them keep a diary to be filled in at bedtime. Another is to have them write shopping lists when food items run out.

The advice of experts on the subject is sometimes age-specific. For example, when older kids draw pictures they should be encouraged to make less use of "undemanding" marker pens, and greater use of crayons and colored pencils.

In the case of very young children, however, practice sessions need to be kept relatively short, as their delicate hand muscles and movements need more time to develop.

So then, lasting benefit is sure to come if the emphasis is placed on regularity rather than the duration of the practice sessions. And be sure to make it fun!

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What does an interpreter do?

Original article by Neil Payne  |  Adapted by David V. Appleyard

InterpreterMany people get confused as to the difference between an interpreter and a translator. There is a common tendency to think translators interpret, or that interpreters translate. In fact, these are two separate jobs requiring rather different skills. To illustrate who and what an interpreter is, as opposed to a translator, I shall here set out the main differences between them.

On a basic level it would appear that there is little difference between an interpreter and a translator. One translates spoken words and the other written words. However, there are differences in how the jobs are carried out, the skills and talents required and the pressures involved.

A translator must be able to write well and be able to express words, phrases, innuendos and other linguistic nuances on paper. He or she has the luxury of time, access to resources such as dictionaries and other reference materials, as well as the freedom to take a break when needed. The pressures they face are relatively limited.

Translators only work into their native languages to assure accuracy in both linguistic and cultural senses. It could therefore be argued that they are not completely bilingual. They may be able to deal effectively with written sources, but when it comes to oral translation different types of skill are called for.

Translators are said to have a one-dimensional aspect to their work. They deal with written words and language that come from paper and return to paper.

Interpreters, on the other hand, have to be able to translate spoken words in two directions. They do this using no resources or reference materials bar their own knowledge and expertise.

An interpreter is required to find linguistic solutions to problems on the spot. The pressure can be quite intense.

In addition to interpreting, the interpreter must act as a bridge between people, relaying tone, intentions and emotions. In cases where interpreters are caught up in crossfire they need to demonstrate great professionalism and diplomacy. Their role is complex as they have to deal with both language and people.

There are two ways of interpreting: consecutive and simultaneous. Simultaneous interpreting involves interpreting in ‘real time’. Many will have seen an interpreter sitting in a booth wearing a pair of headphones and speaking into a microphone at a conference or large diplomatic gathering, such as the EU or UN. A simultaneous interpreter has the unenviable task of quickly digesting what one person is saying before immediately translating it for others. One of the key skills simultaneous interpreters must acquire is decisiveness. They must think quickly and remain on their feet.

Consecutive interpreting is carried out in face to face meetings, in speeches or court cases. A speaker will usually stop at regular junctures—say every few sentences—and then have the interpreter translate, before proceeding. A key skill involved in consecutive interpreting is the ability to remember what has been said.

So what do you need, a translator or an interpreter?

In short, if you want someone to translate something that is written, you need the services of a translator. And if you want someone to translate the spoken word, you should hire an interpreter.

  • Neil Payne is Director of Kwintessential, a London-based consultancy providing a range of cross-cultural service, including interpreters.