Dispelling Myths About Study Buddies

As some of you are already aware, this September I embarked on the Master’s in Conference Interpreting program with Glendon College at York University. At the time of this posting, a month will have already gone by. Time flies when you’re too busy to think!

Because I am in this program, and because for the next two years I’m going to be drowning—excuse me, I mean, swimming—in the waters of graduate school, you’ll probably be hearing about it a teensy bit when I blog. #sorrynotsorry. So for those of you hoping to obtain a vicarious degree, look no further! I’m happy to share everything I’m learning (but I’m sorry to say there is no substitute for the hours of studying…so you’re actually going to have to go out and implement these tips if you want them to work).

The beauty of being in a program like this one is that suddenly I’m surrounded by language and interpreting geeks just like me, and they all want to study too! So it is my desire to start my Vicarious Grad School blog post with one of my favorite topics: Study buddies. Our courses suggest specific ways to get the most out of study partnerships, and you can even find those tips in textbooks like this one (which I would highly recommend, by the way, if you need any guidance in community and medical interpreting).

Myth Number 1: It is hard to find a study buddy. 

Reality: Look no farther than the internet! I have had study buddies in three different time zones, and some of them I have never actually met in person. Facebook is a great place to start.  It may take a couple tries to find someone with whom you are compatible, but I can assure you it’s well worth the effort. Check out the Facebook groups if you haven’t already, or look for regional interpreting/translating groups in your area. I sent an email to the NAJIT listserv and ended up with a federal exam study partner who lived 20 minutes away! A word to the wise: we got to be such good friends that we sometimes forgot to study.


Myth Number 2: It’s a waste of my time to study with someone who doesn’t have my language pair.

Reality: It will probably always be best to find someone who interprets your language (and, ideally, whose mother tongue is opposite to yours). If you are a LOTS interpreter and you do speak the same language, it can be especially useful to create language-specific materials together (for more on that, see this post). However, if you don’t speak the same language, you can still help each other with all kinds of skills, including note-taking, attentive listening, delivery and grammar in English, memory, and more. And, most importantly, you can hold each other accountable! In all honesty, that’s half the benefit of having a study partner, to begin with.

Myth Number 3: Getting told our mistakes is no fun.

Reality: Okay…this one might actually be true. But there are ways to make feedback more pleasant! Follow the tips below and you will actually find yourself enjoying the process:

  • First, every study session is a real simulation. One person interprets, the other person only listens; no feedback or help until the end! The interpreter can use headphones for a simultaneous recording while the listener notes down errors on a transcript, or they can role play consecutive while the listener takes notes.
  • Always allow the partner who has just interpreted to go first. None of us like to be told what we have done wrong if we know it ourselves, and having the chance to speak first stops us from “breaking frame” in the middle of an exercise to excuse ourselves while interpreting.
  • Always start with the positive. This makes us feel good and be more open to criticism, yes, but it is also genuinely important to know what we do well so that we can keep doing it! Make your partners acknowledge your compliments and recognize the things they do well.
  • When you get to the things that can be improved, frame your feedback in a positive light while being as specific as possible. Say exactly what you heard, and precisely what you suggest could be different. As our textbook says, it’s exciting to find our mistakes because then we know exactly what to fix.
  • When receiving feedback, focus not on yourself but on your work product. You and your partner are working together to make your interpretation as good as it can be. How cool is that?!


Alright then…I think that’s it! Look out for next month, A day in the life of a grad school student. Or something like that. I’ll figure the title out as time keeps flying by.

[Also published at www.najit.org/blog on October 5th, 2018]

Share This:  

Leave a Reply


Subscribe to my Newsletter

Please join the mailing list to receive the latest news and information about my course offerings.

You have Successfully Subscribed!