Achieve Total Intelligibility

When:15 Mar 2016, 3pm - 4:30pm
Venue:Mathews 309 (map ref F23)
Who:Elaine Flynn
Elaine Flynn


Ideally we speak and write all the languages we know with equal ease and fluency, but this is difficult to achieve. The American linguist Dorothy M. Chun describes the “intonation, rhythm and general melody” of a language as being an integral part of children learning their first language, but in adult foreign language learning, this “melody” is the last acquired skill (2002). How can we overcome this difficulty of lack of “melody” when learning other languages as adults? How can we replicate and condense the experiences we had as a young child, listening, watching and experimenting in our first language, before we started associating graphic representation with sound as we learned to read?

Today, because we are more knowledgeable about how the brain works, and in conjunction with available technology, it is possible to compensate for the missing post-birth exposure to our second, third or even fourth language, so that whatever language we speak, the listener assumes we are a native speaker of that language.

As professional communicators—such as for example a translator negotiating contract details via Skype, or an interpreter working in relay—I believe we have an obligation to work on our spoken intelligibility, comprehensibility and interpretability, knowing that our voices are distorted when transferred by technical equipment.

In this presentation you will learn how to improve your spoken fluency by means of relevant practice. It may not seem very important just now but when competing for work, if you can communicate confidently, knowing you are one hundred per cent intelligible, then this could be the deciding factor.

About Elaine Flyn

Born in England, Elaine Flynn found work in the Export Department of an international company which gave her her first translating and interpreting opportunities. She then worked for World Health Organisation in Geneva and Brazzaville. Just before heading off for work in Lebanon she met her future husband, an Australian, while working in Brussels, and so she thought it was "Goodbye" to overseas travel. But he was working in Sweden and was subsequently posted to Italy and India, so she could still experience interesting language and cultural challenges.

Based since 1969 in Canberra, Elaine has been involved in many different aspects of interpreting, translating and training, especially working for Telephone Interpreter Service and the Federal Attorney-General's Department. But her most unusual task was being invited to join the Sydney 2000 Olympics Language Planning Consortium, a think tank which found solutions to the anticipated translating and interpreting issues during the Games, while keeping within the Budget.

Just now she is teaching English to staff and spouses at the French Embassy and also teaching on the ACT government-funded course "Interpreting skills for Community Languages", which is running for the third time since 2012.

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