Glossary-building, like note-taking, seems to be one of those things that every interpreter does differently. Really, all that matters is what works for you. The way I build glossaries is certainly not the only way to go about it, but it works for me. To me, the most important thing about glossaries is being able to use the information, particularly being able to learn terminology efficiently. Here’s where I’m going to show you how I’ve managed to streamline learning terminology. You may have heard of SRS or spaced repetition (check out this article from The Guardian for a detailed explanation of the science behind it!). It’s a particularly popular technique amongst language learners, the polyglot community (here’s just one example) and even medical students because of the scientific approach it uses to help learn and memorise terms and concepts.

Spaced repetition is, essentially, a more advanced form of flashcards. Although flashcards are a great way of learning vocabulary, how do you know when you really know a word? That’s where spaced repetition comes in. It’s based on research in psychology about optimal learning and the “spacing effect” to determine when particular flashcards should appear. It seems fairly obvious that if you know a word well the first time you see it, you shouldn’t bother reviewing it. However, the longer you go without seeing that word, the more likely you are to forget it. Spaced repetition helps you by reminding you of those words right before you forget them. This is great for learning terminology because it stops you for forgetting really important terminology, particularly if you are just starting out in a particular specialty or have difficulty with certain concepts and want to get them out of your short-term memory and into your long-term memory.

You might be wondering how to turn this technique into something you can implement practically. There are multiple ways you could go about it. You could do it manually making flashcards and putting words into different piles based on difficulty remembering, or you could use software to do it for you. This is where computer programs like Anki (free for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android; US$31.99 for iOS) or Mnemosyne (free; Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Android, iOS) come in. You can use these programs to create digital flashcards, and then they will test you on content using complex algorithms that remind you of words you’re about to forget and help you learn new words. All you have to do is click on a button saying how hard it was to remember the word. While I’m partial to Anki, myself, there are quite a few different programs that will let you learn and memorise your own interpreting terminology. Even websites like Memrise and Duolingo are based on the same basic concept.

In part two, I’ll show you how you can streamline the process of learning interpreting terminology even more by importing your glossaries from Excel and other spreadsheet software directly into Anki!

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