Introduction from a new DJS Learner

Hello, my name is Layla and I am new to the blog. It’s nice to e-meet you all!

I am something of a collector of unusual hobbies, especially anything to do with language. Learning shorthand has been on my bucket list for years and, after one unsuccessful attempt, I am ready to try again!

Since high school I have used a simple “Shorthand” of my own to take notes since I am always writing. However my “shorthand” is really just a substitution code and doesn’t save much time. It’s also very crack-able, having been invented by myself and my girlfriends at the age of 14 and based upon the old internet language “leet” (1337).

I am learning DJS using the kit with the dictionary as a backup. One thing I have found to be very helpful is rewriting the practice sentences the same way they tell you to rewrite the new words: first once each in the order they appear, then twice each, then as many more times as will fit on the page. For me, that repetition has really helped to cement the forms in my mind. One thing I don’t want to do is progress too quickly, like I did last time, and confuse myself.

Are there are any little tricks like that, especially for learning to remember blends and specific letter combinations, that anyone can share–for DJS or in general?

Thank you,

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  1. Welcome to the blog, Layla. Have you started substituting shorthand for longhand in your own writing? Do you copy the lesson shorthand in your notebook? There are other things that you can do, such as reading out loud the outlines as you copy them; this helps associate sound with symbols, just like kids do when starting to read. Also, go back to previous lessons, and read them again. See if you can do it faster than before.

    I hope this helps.

    1. Thank you Carlos! I have been slowly starting to substitute shorthand for longhand and have been copying all the lessons. I have to look up most of the words so it's slow going for now 🙂

  2. Welcome, Layla!

    As much as I hate it, copying out the full text passages always helps me internalize outlines more than copying vocab. Having the outlines in context really helps me cement them.

    I also found replacing longhand with shorthand when possible helps a lot. But I'd recommend not getting hung up on perfection while you're still learning theory (as I did), because then you spend a lot of time hunting through a dictionary instead of writing what you want to write. Eventually that took some of the joy out of it for me. I think writing a "wrong" but legible outline has helped me internalize the correct outline better when I looked it up later, as opposed to interrupting the writing flow to get it perfect the first time.

    1. In the beginning phase, when you start substituting shorthand for longhand, you do it in the words you already know. In other words, don't write a word that you haven't seen before because you still don't know the theory behind it. A mixture of shorthand and longhand is not a bad thing at all, as long as the shorthand is correct! Always check your outlines, :-).

    2. Exactly! I keep wanting to stop and look up words I don't know and am a perfectionist probably more than I need to be. Unfortunately I don't often write longhand about trains, labor leaders, Erie, Pennsylvania, Mr. Peter Stevens, or any of the other topics I've re-done in the book so far… so I'm a little hampered for words at the moment! Thank you for the advice!

  3. Welcome! Read ahead. It's more fun that way. Read the samples here. They're a lot more interesting than the text, and the writers here (mostly Carlos) have a different style.

    If you're learning DJS, you can probably read most of Simplified.

    Read your own writing after it goes "cold". You'll see a lot more to fix.

    I divide my notebook (cheap school book) into 4 columns. I copy from the text to the first column, then let it sit. I often copy a few lessons at a time. Then, a week or three later, when I've forgotten it, I write from the first to the second. Actually writing forces me to pay attention. Then, usually in the same session, I copy 2 to 3 and 3 to 4. 3 is usually a bit faster.

    Join the Quote of the Day on Reddit : r/shorthand . New writers often see things experienced writers don't. You'll also see the common problems.

    1. Thank you for the advice, I will try that!! I do keep running into the problem of memorizing the sentences so that it makes it hard to tell if I'm really "reading" or just remembering the next word. 

      1. The kids' teachers said that still helps them learn, more than struggling through unfamiliar text. Point to each word so you really see it, and say it out loud so all your senses are involved. Copying your own writing takes longer, but is even more effective.

  4. Hi Layla! Welcome to the blog. Be consistent with your studies is my top tip. Lack of it is what prevented me from getting over the initial learning curve during previous attempts to re-learn shorthand.

    I'm a judiciary interpreter so my motivation for taking up shorthand was to improve my accuracy in consecutive interpreting, e.g. during the examination of a witness when I have to wait until an individual stops speaking before I render his words into the other language. Now that I'm halfway through the core book it's increasingly fun for its own sake. It feels like learning a secret code.smiley And I've been an amateur calligraphy nut my whole life so I love paper and pens and enjoy writing all the swirling lines and circles.


    1. Laura, have you tried Rozan's system for note-taking Consecutive Interpreting? Instead of writing each word they say, focusing on words, it focuses on concepts and connections. From the bit I've read, all the modern versions are based on Rozan's, changed a bit for different groups, and probably explained better.

      1. Hi CricketB!

        I've spent considerable time studying the theory behind Rozan's method. All the contemporary materials covering note-taking for consecutive interpreting seem to be based on it.  Often the training available for consecutive includes coverage of both this type of note-taking as well as improving cognitive processing skills. None of it has worked well for me. 

        It turns out, however, that in her book The Bilingual Courtroom, Dr. Susan Berk-Seligson cites an interpreter she met during her doctoral field studies whose accuracy was exceptionally high and attributes it to the fact the interpreter knew shorthand. When I read that, the light went on. Why continue struggling with a foreign note-taking system when I already have experience in shorthand? Resurrecting a skill I acquired in my high school years makes much more sense, especially since I find it fun.

        I also just have a great deal more faith in dictation vs. note-taking in the context of judiciary interpreting where the standard for accuracy is so high and so difficult to achieve. If I'm ever challenged during any type of proceeding, I'll have the original Spanish content recorded word-for-word; the court reporter only takes down the English content.

          1. I'm going to use Gregg simplified for both. (This was Carlos's excellent suggestion to match simplified with simplified.) 

            For consecutive interpreting one has to work both ways. Think of a non-English speaker on the witness stand during a trial.

            I sat in on a bilingual capital murder trial in early March and couldn't help noticing how that the presence of the interpreter impacted the proceedings. The entire flow of the questioning of witnesses by the attorneys was rendered awkward and choppy by virtue of the fact the attorneys frequently paused in the course of their dialogue to allow for interpreting. But this shouldn't have to happen. A court interpreter at the highest level should be able to wait several minutes in between pauses. 

            So, yeah – Gregg shorthand for the win! smiley

            1. One of my parents' friends was an interpreter. She was horrified at the idea of translating to her second language. This was in the 1980's, in ottowa, so I assume either government or international diplomacy. She said it was so you could use the exact right word and get idioms and cultural references right. That didn't make sense to me. You have to understand the cultural references in the source language to get those right. I've listened to a few panels for translating anime. Do you go with exact word translation, cultural translation or go for the same emotions? All three sides made good points.

              1. As I'm sure you can imagine, there's a whole body of academic debate about translation theory which I won't go into here. Suffice to say that in the realm of interpreting there are different standards of accuracy that correlate to diverse situations. One conference interpreter veteran of 20+ years explained to me that in conference interpreting, for example, you don't need to worry so much about getting every single technical term correct because the participants in the conference are subject matter experts and capable of filling in minor gaps or correcting minor inaccuracies. By contrast, what the federal government terms the "judiciary standard" is much higher since there is so much potentially at stake in a legal setting. It demands a rendering of a speaker's utterance with as much faithfulness to meaning as possible (including hedges, grammatical errors, whatever). A speaker's intention always trumps; literalness is acceptable only to the extent it conforms to this standard.

                That's a short answer to a very complex question but I hope you find it of value 🙂

              2. I’m thinking there might have been a confusion between written translation and interpreting. The universal rule for translators is to only write in their mother tongue, which makes sense because no matter how long you learn a language, your written output will never feel exactly as authentic as that of a native, especially in terms of adequately choosing the appropriate words in such and such context. However, in Quebec, conference interpreters (who only translate the spoken word, which is slightly less liable to linguistic scrutiny than a written text where the slightest mistake stubbornly stares at you for eternity) have always worked both ways between English and French, as far as I know.

                1. As an aside, when I was going to college, my university offered a masters in translation (they still do), but while I was taking French, they started offering an Spanish-to-French translation course. Students were saying that the course (taught by a French native speaker) was much more difficult than translating from French to Spanish (taught by the same professor!); this is understandable because most students were native Spanish speakers! I think that to be good translating or interpreting in both directions, one has to live with both languages for quite some time and be able to change "fonts" so-to-speak on the fly, without thinking.

                  Also, there are language subtleties that are not really taught in books and are only understood when one has to communicate with other native speakers in their language. This is one of the reasons I often cringe when they do the Spanish-to-English and viceversa translations in international beauty contests. They usually leave out something, or use the wrong word or verb tense.

                  1. What you've touched upon, Carlos, is the reason why, on the rare occasion I do English-to-Spanish translation (usually a volunteer project for a local non-profit), I always get a native Spanish speaker to collaborate with me and check my work. Always. 

        1. Hi Laura,

          I’m a conference interpreter myself and I started learning Gregg in the hope of gaining speed in consec (while still retaining the Rozan method). I have finished the basic manual, so I "know" the theory, but recently I tried to jot down just a few isolated words in consec only to find out I had to focus way too hard on how to write my outlines to be able to still pay enough attention to the speech.

          This made me realize that in order to be able to use shorthand in consec, you probably have to not only be able to write shorthand fluently, but beyond that, to be able to write it fluently with half your brainpower (the other half being dedicated to comprehending the source speech).

          Is this something you have tried on the job?

          Also, when you say you have the original Spanish word-for-word, does it mean you write what your client says in the source language, and then go on to do a sight translation from Spanish shorthand into English?

          I hope I’m not deviating too much from the original topic…


          1. Hi Aymeric,

            Yes, you have it right: my goal is to record a speaker's utterance in the source language and then sight translate into the target language.  I haven't tried it on the job yet, no. I won't do that until sometime next year, probably.

            I also believe you're absolutely right that it will demand a high fluency in shorthand in both languages to pull it off. But I'm convinced I can make it work in the context of witness examination and depositions. 

            I have a solid study habit now of 2+hours a day, every day. It's as much a part of my morning routine now as coffee with breakfast. That will go a long way toward my goal!

            It's fantastic to meet another interpreter! Where I live there isn't a local translators/interpreters association of any kind so I rarely get to interact with others in the profession.

    2. I would love to learn calligraphy! I tried once by buying a kit from Crayola. But I guess I didn't read the fine print (ha ha) because it turned out to be "Crayola-igraphy" or something like that…basically how to write "dancing baseline" text with Crayola markers. Ah, well. It was fun while it lasted!

      I'm finally trying fountain pens and very excited to see how that goes. I love words that end in double r's like "library" because it's so fun to do all the swoops in a row 😀

  5. I agree with replacing longhand with shorthand when possible. Meaning, use the words you know in your shopping list, to-do list, etc.

    If you keep a journal or diary, you can start substituting the shorthand words you know. 

    And, practicing reading shorthand as much as possible. When you have progressed enough that you want to try reading stories, go to the top of this site where it says "Reading material." Print them out if you have a printer. Then you can write on the copy. Write notes on it. Circle words you can't figure out and ask for help here. 

  6. Layla, to get a jump on reading the posts to this blog, I'd suggest looking ahead in the textbook, beyond where you're currently studying, to get a sense of the more advanced theory. I did that when I was learning, and found that I could start reading stories, though slowly and struggling, after about the fifth lesson. (Of course don't ignore your systematic study.)

    There are not a lot of posts here in DJS, but there are a few in Series 90, a lot in Centennial, and a lot in Simplified. You will probably be able to read in these series about as easily as in DJS, with the exception that Simplified has some blends and short forms that DJS doesn't have.

    At present you should probably ignore the posts in Anniversary and Pre-Anni, unless you want to wrestle with a giant.

    1. Thank you for that!! I couldn't figure out which of the posts would be easiest to understand from a DJS perspective and was making myself a little crazy trying to figure it out. I appreciate the help!

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