Language Justice Curriculum

Chapter 1: Recovery Techniques


Welcome + 30-Second Intro – 30 minutes 
What Is Happening?! – 10 minutes
Recovery Techniques – 20 minutes

Practice – 25 minutes
Close – 5 minutes

  • To review different recovery techniques that can be used during interpretation
  • To practice recovery techniques in warm-up games
  • To practice using recovery techniques in simultaneous interpretation
Materials Needed

WELCOME + 30-SECOND INTRO 30 minutes

Notes for facilitators: The 30-Second Intro exercise introduces participants to interpreting skills and principles (memory, recall, quick decision-making, using first person). It also gives participants the opportunity to deal with any stage fright they might experience. Facilitators may change the allotted time depending on the number of participants.

Step One: 

  • Facilitators welcome participants to the practice session.
  • Facilitators review the goals of the practice session: Discussing different recovery techniques and using those recovery techniques in warm-up games and simultaneous interpretation practice.

Step Two: 

  • Facilitators divide group into pairs.
  • Each pair is given a chance to introduce themselves to the entire group.
    • Partner 1 has 30 seconds to introduce themselves. Partner 2 listens actively.
    • After 30 seconds, the facilitator calls time.
    • At this point, Partner 2 will repeat Partner 1’s introduction as closely as they can recall.
    • Reverse the roles: Partner 2 introduces themselves for 30 seconds and Partner 1 repeats the introduction.
    • Go around the circle until every pair has introduced themselves.

A couple of guidelines: no talking, no notes, no helping. If participants get stuck, do not worry. Keep going. All results are acceptable – this is simply an introductory exercise. Facilitators may want to model.


Step Three:

  • At the end of the exercise, facilitators can ask the group:
    • How did that feel?
    • What did you notice?
    • Did everyone use the first person? (¡OJO! Interpreting should always be in the first person.)
    • How did it feel to be the person being interpreted for?
    • How did it feel to be the interpreter?
    • What skills or recovery techniques did you find helpful?

WHAT IS HAPPENING?! – 10 minutes

Notes for facilitators: Depending on the size of the group, facilitators may want to split participants into two smaller groups and ask each group to draw what they feel is happening in the body while interpreting. Subsequently, facilitators bring the whole group back together to share and reflect.
  • Facilitators have a drawing of a person on flip chart paper.
  • Facilitators ask the group to think about and name some of the things happening in the body while someone interprets.
    • For example: listening, speaking, breathing, pacing, coding and decoding, sweating, changing equipment batteries, crying, etc.
  • Facilitators write or illustrate these verbs on the drawing.

To close this section, facilitators may want to say something like: “Due to all of the things happening in your body, mind, and heart at the same time, there will be instances when it will be difficult to maintain the message (a.k.a. a veces se te va la onda). Recovery techniques are ways, or tricks, to recover the message so that interpretation can continue.”



Notes for facilitators: You can either list the techniques or devise other ways to share the list and discuss the different recovery techniques with participants. Facilitators can also show participants the first part of the Recovery Techniques CPC Language Justice Interpreter Toolkit video ( and then discuss.

Facilitators review list of common recovery techniques used by interpreters:

  • Expansion – Interpreter expands on a concept by offering a list of similar ideas or synonyms. For example, if someone says “muebles” the interpreter says “chairs, tables, dressers“.
  • Contraction – Interpreter contracts a concept down to fewer words or a single term. For example, if someone says “chairs, tables, dressers” the interpreter says “muebles”.
  • Interjection – Interpreter states into the microphone that they did not understand the speaker or message by saying “Interpreter did not understand.” This gives the participant the option to ask the speaker to please repeat.
  • Quick decision-making – Interpreters have to make split-second decisions; sometimes an interpreter simply gives it their best shot and keeps going. For example, if someone says “queen bee” the interpreter says “madre abeja“. It is not perfect, but it is close enough.
  • Definition – Interpreter defines the word instead of providing a translation. For example, if someone says “hangman” the interpreter says “el juego en que las personas tienen que adivinar una palabra y si no lo hacen empiezan a dibujar un muñequito colgado“.

Facilitators remind participants that these are recovery techniques that can be used in moments when the interpreter is struggling, cannot keep up, or cannot find the exact word. Interpreters can use these tricks from time to time but should not rely on these techniques the entire time they are interpreting.

Facilitators may also want to review other resources that can be helpful while interpreting:

  • Using a notebook to write down important words, numbers, years, etc.
  • Downloading the WordReference app.
  • Collaborating and working with your partner!
  • Drinking water. It’s important to stay hydrated!
  • Drinking coffee. It’s important to stay awake!
  • Facilitators ask participants to name other resources they find helpful.

PRACTICE – 25 minutes

Notes for facilitators: This exercise gives participants an opportunity to practice simultaneous interpretation in a lower stress situation; it is only for a couple of minutes and only in front of one person. Facilitators may want to adjust the time of this exercise depending on the experience of the participants and the size of the group. If there is additional time, the exercise can be repeated with a different partner.

At this point, participants will have an opportunity to put some of these recovery techniques into practice.

Step One:

  • Facilitators divide participants into pairs and ask them to sit with their partners.
  • Partner 1 tells a story for 6-7 minutes, depending on the size of the group.
  • Partner 2 interprets the story in simultaneous mode.
    • Partner 2 tries to use 2-3 of the listed recovery techniques if needed.
  • After 6-7 minutes, the facilitators call time.
  • The roles are reversed. Partner 2 tells a story and Partner 1 interprets it.

If participants are having a hard time thinking of a topic, facilitators can suggest topics, such as: telling a story about their best friend growing up, their first love, or their pets.

Step Two:

  • After both participants have had the chance to tell a story and to interpret, facilitators call the group back together to debrief.
  • Facilitators ask participants:
    • How did this exercise make you feel?
    • What recovery techniques did you use?
    • What other resources did you use?

CLOSE – 5 minutes

  • Facilitators ask participants to stand in a closing circle.
  • Facilitators ask participants to take turns naming one thing they are taking away from the practice session.
  • Facilitators thank everyone for coming!

We want to thank the Highlander Research and Education Center, Alice Johnson and Roberto Tijerina for bringing language justice into our lives. This chapter uses several activities and concepts from their Interpreting for Social Justice Curriculum.