Psycho-Affective Factors in Consecutive Interpreting

by Marcin Walczyński (Author)
©2019 Monographs 632 Pages
Series: Lodz Studies in Language, Volume 61


The book presents a study into the trainee interpreters' and certified interpreters' subjective experience of psycho-affective factors in consecutive interpreting. In the form of four case studies, the book offers an insight in how the subjective experience of anxiety, fear, language ego/language inhibition/language boundaries, extroversion/introversion, self-esteem, motivation and stress conditions and affects consecutive interpreting performance. What emerges from the study is that the interpreter's psycho-affectivity is a continually operating and intricate mechanism which may impact on nearly all constituents of the consecutive interpreting process and that its potential causes may lie in virtually all – even the seemingly unimportant – aspects of the interpreting process.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Interpreting in scholarly frameworks:definitions, models, approaches and theories
  • 1.1. Defining interpreting
  • 1.2. Typology of interpreting activity
  • 1.2.1. Typology of interpreting working modes
  • 1.2.2. Typology of interpreting directionalities
  • 1.2.3. Typology of interpreting channels
  • 1.2.4. Typology of interpreting professional statuses
  • 1.2.5. Typology of interpreting settings
  • 1.3. Interpreting as a communicative interaction situation/event/act
  • 1.4. Interpreting as a cognitive activity
  • 1.5. Interpreter and interpreter competence
  • 1.5.1. Interpreter competence
  • 1.5.2. Interpreter’s roles and functions
  • 1.5.3. Interpreter training: aptitude testing, curriculum and assessment
  • 1.6. Interpreting studies
  • 1.6.1. Historical sketch of interpreting studies
  • 1.6.2. Map of interpreting studies
  • 1.6.3. Approaches to studying interpreting: interpreting studies as an interdisciplinary research field
  • 1.6.4. Interpreter as a central research object: anthropocentric interpreting studies
  • 1.7. Chapter 1 summary
  • Chapter 2: Consecutive interpreting as a practice and research object
  • 2.1. Overview of consecutive interpreting practice and research
  • 2.2. Typology of consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3. Consecutive interpreting process
  • 2.3.1. Selected models of the consecutive interpreting process
  • 2.3.2. Memory in consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3.3. Note-taking in consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3.4. Comprehension in consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3.5. Processing in consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3.6. Production in consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3.7. Input variables in consecutive interpreting
  • 2.3.8. Consecutive interpreting strategies
  • 2.4. Consecutive interpreter competence
  • 2.5. Consecutive interpreting training: an overview of educational practices
  • 2.6. Consecutive interpreting quality and its assessment
  • 2.7. Chapter 2 summary
  • Chapter 3: Selected individual psycho-affective factors in interpreting
  • 3.1. Defining the scope of interpreter psychology
  • 3.1.1. Cognitive strand of interpreter psychology
  • 3.1.2. Psycho-affective strand of interpreter psychology
  • 3.2. Non-psycho-affective factors in interpreting
  • 3.3. Individual psycho-affective factors in interpreting
  • 3.3.1. Defining basic terms and concepts: “affect” and “individual psycho-affective factors”
  • 3.3.2. Selected individual psycho-affective factors in interpreting
  • Interpreter’s anxiety and its potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • Interpreter’s fear and its potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • Interpreter’s language ego, language boundaries and inhibition and their potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • Interpreter’s extroversion/introversion and its potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • Interpreter’s self-esteem (and related concepts) and its potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • Interpreter’s motivation and its potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • Interpreter’s experience of stress and its potential influence on the interpreter’s performance and output quality
  • 3.3.3. Interrelations of psycho-affective factors in interpreting
  • 3.4. Interpreter’s psycho-affective subcompetence
  • 3.5. Chapter 3 summary
  • Chapter 4: Methodological foundations of the case studies
  • 4.1. Rationale for studying the psycho-affective factors in consecutive interpreting
  • 4.2. Overview of interpreting research methodology
  • 4.3. Case study as a general framework for studying the psycho-affective factors
  • 4.4. Research methods used in the case studies
  • 4.4.1. Research questions
  • 4.4.2. Case study 1, 2 and 3 methodological frameworks
  • General characteristics of the data collection conditions
  • Input materials
  • Data collection methods
  • Audio-recording as a form of the observation method
  • Performance transcript as a form of the observation method
  • Notes as artefacts
  • Retrospection and the retrospective protocol as a self-observation method
  • Data analysis and interpretation methods
  • Trainee interpreters’ output error analysis
  • Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ output delivery strategies
  • Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ notes
  • Interpretation of the trainee interpreters’ retrospective protocol answers
  • Data triangulation
  • 4.4.3. Case study 4 methodological framework
  • Survey as a data collection method
  • Analysis and interpretation of questionnaire-derived data
  • 4.4.4. Ecological, external and internal validity of the case studies
  • 4.5. Limitations of the case studies
  • 4.6. Chapter 4 summary
  • Chapter 5: Case study 1 – part-time undergraduatetrainee interpreters’ subjective experience of thepsycho-affective factors in consecutive interpreting
  • 5.1. Case study 1 methodology synopsis
  • 5.1.1. Case study 1 group description
  • 5.1.2. Case study 1 testing situation description
  • 5.2. Error analysis of the trainee interpreters’ outputs
  • 5.3. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ output delivery strategies
  • 5.4. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ notes
  • 5.5. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ retrospective protocols against the quality of their performance: data triangulation
  • 5.6. General observations concerning the first case study participants’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors: analysis conclusions
  • 5.7. Chapter 5 summary
  • Chapter 6: Case study 2 – regular undergraduate trainee interpreters’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors in consecutive interpreting
  • 6.1. Case study 2 methodology synopsis
  • 6.1.1. Case study 2 group description
  • 6.1.2. Case study 2 testing situation description
  • 6.2. Error analysis of the trainee interpreters’ outputs
  • 6.3. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ output delivery strategies
  • 6.4. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ notes
  • 6.5. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ retrospective protocols against the quality of their performance: data triangulation
  • 6.6. General observations concerning the second case study participants’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors: analysis conclusions
  • 6.7. Chapter 6 summary
  • Chapter 7: Case study 3 – postgraduate trainee interpreters’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors in consecutive interpreting
  • 7.1. Case study 3 methodology synopsis
  • 7.1.1. Case study 3 group description
  • 7.1.2. Case study 3 testing situation description
  • 7.2. Error analysis of the trainee interpreters’ outputs
  • 7.3. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ output delivery strategies
  • 7.4. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ notes
  • 7.5. Analysis of the trainee interpreters’ retrospective protocols against the quality of their performance: data triangulation
  • 7.6. General observations concerning the third case study participants’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors: analysis conclusions
  • 7.7. Chapter 7 summary
  • Chapter 8: Case study 4 – certified interpreters’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors in consecutive interpreting
  • 8.1. Case study 4 methodology synopsis
  • 8.2. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ factual data
  • 8.2.1. Certified interpreters’ age and gender
  • 8.2.2. Certified interpreters’ education and professional experience
  • 8.3. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ behavioural and attitudinal data
  • 8.3.1. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ typical pre-certified consecutive interpreting feelings
  • 8.3.2. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of anxiety
  • 8.3.3. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of fear
  • 8.3.4. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of language inhibition, language ego and language boundaries
  • 8.3.5. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of the impact of extroversion/introversion
  • 8.3.6. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of the impact of their self-esteem
  • 8.3.7. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of the impact of their motivation
  • 8.3.8. Analysis of the certified interpreters’ opinions about their subjective experience of stress
  • 8.3.9. General observations concerning the certified interpreters’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors: analysis conclusions
  • 8.4. Chapter 8 summary
  • Conclusions, implications and paths for further research
  • Book summary
  • Summary of findings
  • Answers to the research questions
  • Proposal of a revised model of consecutive interpreting
  • Implications for consecutive interpreting training
  • Paths for further research
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix 1: Consecutive interpreting (with note-taking) performance evaluation form
  • Appendix 2: Permission for using the data for scholarly purposes
  • Appendix 3: Consecutive interpreting test retrospective protocol
  • Appendix 4: The fourth case study questionnaire form
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • List of charts
  • List of photographs
  • Bibliography
  • Sources of the input materials used in Case study 1, 2 and 3

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“We all live at the mercy of our emotions.
Our emotions influence and shape our desires, thoughts and behaviors
and above all our destiny”

(T.P. Chia, undated)

“Emotions affect the whole person, and each emotion
affects the person differently”

(Izard 1991: 24)

Emotions are an inseparable part of human life – people experience them both in their private lives and in their professional endeavours. They experience emotions being in solitude as well as in other people’s company. Although some people try very hard not to be at the mercy of their emotions, they now and then fail to do so since emotions have the potential of influencing people’s thoughts and behaviours. The evaluation of emotions as positive, neutral or negative depends largely on an individual person and that is why it is true that different people respond to emotions differently. Furthermore, the perception of emotions is linked to what is sometimes known as “psycho-affective factors” which may be generally defined as people’s individual psychological properties manifesting themselves in a variety of emotional reactions and influencing very many aspects of life. Those individual psycho-affective factors have also been found to condition people’s work-related performance. Interpreters are therefore no exception in this regard for they also experience a variety of such psycho-affective factors.

This book is an outcome of the author’s interest in the consecutive interpreter’s psycho-affectivity, i.e. in the influence the psycho-affective factors have on the interpreter himself/herself as well as on the consecutive interpreting process and its product – the output. What served as a motivating force for investigating such issues is the author’s own experience of working as a professional (certified) interpreter who found that some of his psycho-affective variables helped him perform consecutive interpreting better whereas others – impeded it. Moreover, the author’s observations of a variety of linguistic and extra-linguistic behaviours which trainee interpreters exhibited during consecutive interpreting training, in particular, during the in-class consecutive interpreting tests, which could have stemmed from the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors provided another incentive to investigate this intriguing issue.

Examining the interpreter’s psycho-affectivity for a few years has resulted in the present book which is hoped to bridge – at least partially – the gap in the understanding of this dimension of interpreter psychology – a subfield of interpreting ←13 | 14→studies which deals with the generally understood psychology of the interpreter profession. What interpreter psychology studies is two broad and complex groups of phenomena – cognition and psycho-affectivity which – albeit often studied separately – are greatly interrelated and overlapping since they affect and accompany each other. However, while the interpreter’s cognitive dimension is fairly well studied with a continually growing body of research, the psycho-affective side seems to be underrepresented in the interpreting literature. For this reason, this study may contribute to this area of interpreting studies by offering an insight into how the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors can be reflected in consecutive interpreting performance.

What is more, given the fact that interpreting scholars seem to pay definitely more attention to researching numerous aspects of simultaneous interpreting, which at present appears to be the more preferred mode performed in a variety of international contexts and settings, consecutive interpreting, which is still employed as the major interpreting form in, for instance, community interpreting or courtroom interpreting, seems to be slightly put aside in interpreting research. For this reason, this book focuses on consecutive interpreting as an equally important mode worthy of scholarly attention and thorough research. Hence, the examination presented in this volume seeks to fill the void in the studies of consecutive interpreting.

This research can be described as representing the approach to interpreting studies which is sometimes known as “anthropocentric interpreting studies” since what it puts in the centre of the interpreting process is the figure of the interpreter. This study is, therefore, a good case in point illustrating the fundamental role of the interpreter in the interpreting process for it attempts at investigating the intricacies of the interpreter’s psycho-affectivity or, more precisely, the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors. Anthropocentric interpreting studies may be viewed as stemming from the concept of anthropocentric translation studies in which the translator as a key element of the translation system is in the centre of scholarly attention. That is why, to that end, wherever possible and grammatically justified, the word “interpreter” is preceded with the article “the” to give this profession its due and proper recognition. Furthermore, albeit interpreting studies also covers sign interpreting, the scope of this book has been limited to spoken language interpreting and that is why the issues concerning the figure of the sign interpreter and sign interpreting at large have been left unaddressed in this research project.

The entire study is based on the assumption that the interpreter’s psycho-affectivity is a continuously active, intricate and complex part of each interpreter’s psychological make-up which – because of its continuous operation and susceptibility – affects nearly all the constituent elements of the interpreting process and its outcome – the target text. Moreover, it is also assumed that the psycho-affective factors can be triggered by virtually each constituent element of the interpreting process, even the most minute one (e.g. the interpreter himself/herself, other participants of the interpreting act, the character of the source text, the setting ←14 | 15→etc.). Thus, the overall objective of this study is to investigate the selected issues of the consecutive interpreter’s psycho-affectivity. More specifically, this research aims at determining which psycho-affective factors affect the consecutive trainee interpreters’ and certified consecutive interpreters’ work, what the nature of those factors is, how they manifest themselves linguistically and extra-linguistically, whether they are somehow interrelated and whether the interpreters’ growing experience and expertise are in any way correlated with the subjective experience of those factors. To put it differently, the study is also an attempt to answer the question of whether the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors diminishes and becomes less impeding along with the interpreter’s increasing experience in performing consecutive interpreting. Therefore, four groups of interpreters – at different stages of their interpreting competence development (on the novice-expert continuum) – participated in the study.

Although several models of consecutive interpreting are presented in this book, it seems that the model of consecutive interpreting (along with its efforts) devised by Daniel Gile (1995) captures perhaps most comprehensively what really happens during the act of consecutive interpreting. Moreover, consecutive interpreting viewed from Gile’s perspective is clearly divided into two phases: (1) the listening and note-taking phase and (2) the output production (reformulation) phase. The research materials collected both during the listening and note-taking phase (i.e. notes) as well as during the output production phase (i.e. outputs) and during the post-production phase (i.e. the retrospective protocol) (in the first three case studies) offer a wealth of interesting data concerning the study participants’ subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors.

The studied psycho-affective variables are the following: anxiety, fear, language ego/language inhibition/language boundaries, extroversion/introversion, self-esteem, motivation and stress. These components of psycho-affectivity are also quite frequently studied by applied linguists with reference to language learning/acquisition processes and since consecutive interpreting is fundamentally linked to the use of languages, those factors are also assumed to be of significance in the interpreting process.

The first studied factor is anxiety which – in this book – is understood as people’s reactions to the subjectively perceived negative events. Unlike anxiety, fear is defined as people’s reactions to the real threat, jeopardising them in some way. Language inhibition is another psycho-affective factor examined in this book. It can be defined as people’s inhibited linguistic behaviours resulting from their awareness of the deficits in their language skills and knowledge. Language inhibition arises as a result of people’s unstable language ego and firm language boundaries. In other words, because of language inhibition, they tend not to take the risk of experimenting with language use for fear of making potential mistakes since such errors may be thought of as threatening to their fragile language ego. Likewise, extroversion and introversion viewed as two extreme dimensions of human personality with differing exponents are examined with reference to the trainee interpreters and certified interpreters engaged in the consecutive ←15 | 16→interpreting process. The next psycho-affective factor is self-esteem which can be understood as people’s certain thinking, evaluation as well as feelings towards themselves, their skills, the situations in which they happen to be, the tasks which they are to perform as well as the surrounding environment. What follows is the study of motivation – of the internal and external forces motivating people to perform some work or, as it is in this case, to perform consecutive interpreting. Finally, stress is considered to be an element of the trainee interpreters’ and certified interpreters’ psycho-affectivity and – for the purpose of this research project – it is defined as people’s physical and physiological bodily reactions to a given situation. All of those seven psycho-affective factors are under scrutiny in the research project: firstly, they are defined and discussed at some length as psychological concepts and psycho-affective factors which may condition interpreting performance (cf. Chapter 3) and secondly, they are analysed on the basis of the data collected from four groups of interpreters: three groups of the trainee interpreters pursuing their interpreting education in various forms at the University of Wrocław, Poland, and one group of Polish certified interpreters of English.

Owing to the fact that there are basically two types of research subjects – the trainee interpreters and the certified interpreters – there are two different methodologies used. Generally speaking, the study represents the qualitative approach and is organised into the format of four case studies. The first three case studies follow the same methodological organisation, an important aspect of which is data triangulation. The trainee interpreters’ linguistic, statistical, behavioural and attitudinal data were collected from several sources within the frameworks of an in-class consecutive interpreting test, which is believed to capture the broader spectrum of the studied psycho-affective phenomena. The fourth case study was carried out as a questionnaire-based survey with no linguistic data. Thus, only statistical, behavioural and attitudinal data were obtained from the certified interpreters. Moreover, the entire study also represents action research for it involves the analysis of the problems which the trainee interpreters and certified interpreters encounter in their interpreting practice. For this reason, the four case study participants assume the roles of practisearchers – interpreting practitioners who – by reflecting upon their consecutive interpreting performance and upon the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors conditioning their work – provide an insight into their real-life obstacles which they have to deal with while interpreting consecutively. Furthermore, this study is also – at least partially – associated with the grounded theory approach since it is the analysis and interpretation of the data that lead to certain conclusions, upon which a local theory related to the studied samples is offered. It means that the data analysed are not used to verify some existing theories.

The book is organised into two major parts: the theoretical part which presents various aspects of interpreting and interpreting studies and the empirical part which is devoted to the analysis and interpretation of both linguistic and extralinguistic data (i.e. statistical, attitudinal and behavioural data) concerning the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors which the four groups of case ←16 | 17→study participants had while performing consecutive interpreting. Hence, the first three chapters of this study are more theoretically oriented, one chapter addresses the methodological foundations of the case studies and the remaining four chapters present the case studies.

The major aim of Chapter 1 is to present interpreting, in its various forms, as a complex phenomenon of intricate nature which is examined from several perspectives within broadly understood interpreting studies. Therefore, this part of the book may be viewed as a review of interpreting studies literature. Moreover, this chapter deals with interpreting studies at large which is becoming richer and richer in different concepts, approaches and perspectives, being at the same time a continually developing and dynamically evolving subfield of translation studies. The thematic scope of Chapter 2 is narrowed down to consecutive interpreting seen both as a professional practice and as a research object. This chapter should therefore be viewed as an expanded discussion of the selected aspects of consecutive interpreting which – in this study – is the primary research object. The main concern of Chapter 3 is the psycho-affectivity of interpreters. With this end in view, the chapter presents an outline of a field of interpreting studies dealing with psychology which, for the purposes of this study, has been called “interpreter psychology”. Generally speaking, the purpose of this chapter is to introduce the theme of the psycho-affective factors and to present them from the angle of psychology and interpreting studies. The case studies discussed in the further parts of the book heavily rest on the definitions of concepts and constructs introduced in this chapter. Chapter 4 offers an insight into the methodological foundations of the case studies which form the empirical part of the book. That is why, understanding the research frameworks of the empirical studies is crucial in following the author’s argumentation and train of thought of the next parts of the volume. Chapter 5 is devoted to the discussion of the results of the analyses carried out within the frameworks of the first case study. The participants of this study were nine third-year part-time undergraduate students of English, majoring in interpreting whose audio-recorded outputs are examined in terms of the errors made, the interpreting strategies used, the notes taken and then juxtaposed with the data obtained from the retrospective protocol responses concerning their subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors. What the outcomes of this case study bring to light is that although the students declared the subjective (mostly negative) experience of the psycho-affective factors, their psycho-affectivity does not seem to have had any substantial influence on the quality of their performance and target texts. The methodology of data collection and data analysis in Chapter 6 follows the methodological frameworks used in Chapter 5. The second case study, which Chapter 6 presents and discusses, was carried out among 21 third-year undergraduate students of English pursuing their regular study programme (with classes held from Monday to Friday). Thus, Chapter 6 presents the outcomes of the study of another group of trainee interpreters, the results of which clearly point to the influence of their psycho-affectivity on the consecutive interpreting process and product. Chapter 7 discusses the linguistic, statistical, behavioural and attitudinal ←17 | 18→data obtained from 29 third case study participants – the students pursuing their postgraduate studies in translation. The results of the analyses carried out in the third case study confirm the typically negative influence of the trainee interpreters’ psycho-affective variables on the manner, in which they interpreted consecutively Polish source texts into English as well as on the very target texts. For this reason, Chapter 7 offers an insight into another group of trainee interpreters whose subjective experience of the aforementioned factors appears to be even more intense than that of the previous groups. Chapter 8 presents the fourth case study carried out among a sample of 76 Polish certified interpreters of English. On the whole, this chapter offers an analysis of the respondents’ opinions on their subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors supported by the textual evidence taken from the respondents’ responses. Moreover, it also demonstrates that there are quite many interrelations among those factors – that one can lead to another and that one can result from another, showing at the same time that the interpreter’s psycho-affectivity can have both a positive as well as negative impact on the interpreter, his/her performance and output quality.

What is important, although this study pertains to some psychological concepts, it should be viewed more as a contribution to interpreting studies rather than to psychology since no psychological instruments were used in the examination of the psycho-affective phenomena. Instead, the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors was examined and – in the first three case studies – accompanied by the analysis of the linguistic material collected in the form of the audio-recorded target texts generated by the trainee interpreters. Several reasons justify the scholarly affiliation of this research project to interpreting studies. First of all, the fact that it is interpreting studies that provides the major scholarly scaffolding for this research is seen in the research object – in consecutive interpreting. Secondly, it is the consecutive trainee interpreters and certified interpreters who provided the research data on their subjective experience during the practice of consecutive interpreting. Thirdly, the outcomes of this study have some implications for interpreting practice and training. Therefore, despite the rather interdisciplinary character of the study, it can be safely situated within interpreting studies.

As above-mentioned, the study is an attempt at finding the answers to several questions concerning the subjective experience of the psycho-affective factors which both the trainee interpreters and certified interpreters had during the practice of consecutive interpreting. It is therefore hoped that the results of this study can turn out to be of use to both interpreting practitioners, interpreting researchers and interpreting students. What is also hoped is that this book will contribute to stirring interpreting scholars’ interest in the role of the interpreter’s psycho-affectivity in interpreting as well as to initiating some more in-depth discussion of the fact that interpreters do experience a variety of emotions resulting from the psycho-affective factors while rendering their services despite the theoretical idealisations, according to which they should be emotionless, invisible and transparent interlinguistic communication mediators. As this research has shown, more often than not, interpreters are at the mercy of their emotions which ←18 | 19→frequently guide their thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, the investigation into the interpreter’s psycho-affectivity and its subjective experience may be seen as an important area of inquiry which is undeniably relevant to the essence of the interpreter profession, in which, those psycho-affective phenomena occur on a regular basis.←19 | 20→

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Chapter 1:Interpreting in scholarly frameworks: definitions, models, approaches and theories

Although the majority of research projects undertaken within translation studies refer to different aspects of “written” translation, interpreting (i.e. “oral” translation) is gaining ground, contributing thereby to giving more prominence to this type of linguistic activity within broadly understood translation studies. Moreover, since interpreting has recently become a more and more prolific area of this field, it is justified to speak about translation and interpreting studies rather than translation studies. This greater focus on interpreting is manifested in the increasing number of different concepts and terms which are used with reference to the phenomena involved in the process of interpreting. Chapter 1 sheds light on various understandings of different interpreting concepts and – at the same time – clarifies them and points to those definitions which are often invoked or referred to in the subsequent parts of this study. Thus, the aim of this chapter is to delve into the basic concepts of interpreting studies as they are used in the further chapters of this book.

1.1.Defining interpreting

Interpreting, also referred herein to as interpretation, is a highly complex mental, psycho-affective and linguistic activity which involves the use of a multitude of skills, competences and knowledge. It is sometimes argued by laypeople that this is just the production of the output in the target language whereas this is definitely not merely the production of a message in the target language in the oral form.

It seems that defining interpreting is a difficult task and – as in the case of translation – there are quite many different approaches to the definition of interpreting. Owing to the fact that interpreting studies is a relatively young discipline, until recently it was common to define interpreting with reference to translation, classifying it as a type of translational activity. For instance, while referring to interpreting, Jeremy Munday calls it “oral translation” (2001: 4) and only then does he use the term “interpreting”, Kirsten Malmkjær and Kevin Windle talk about “translating speech” (2011: 3) when discussing different types of interpreting and Daniel Gile (2009: 45) observes that “[w] hile most scholars stress that translation and interpreting essentially fulfil the same function – many especially interpreters – consider that the two are very different, even incompatible professions”. The fact that, albeit similar to a certain extent, translation and interpreting differ in quite many aspects can be easily corroborated by different ←21 | 22→translation/interpreting task- and process-oriented approaches that the representatives of both professions need to employ. Additionally, while translators deal with written texts and therefore need to have properly developed writing skills, interpreters work with spoken language and thus have to have properly developed speaking skills. When translators can easily refer to other sources of knowledge during the process of translation (e.g. dictionaries), interpreters do not have time for that while interpreting and that is why they are expected to have prepared for the interpretation before it takes place. Those differences also concern the decision-making process which is inherent in both translation and interpreting – translators can have some time to think over their translation choices, or even rectify them if there is such a need, whereas interpreters work much faster and their interpreting choices cannot be so easily corrected due to the fact that they are produced “here and now” and thus in the majority of cases the interpreting output is not available later, unlike the translation which can be accessed any time. What is more, as is shown in the further parts of this study, translators and interpreters need to have different sets of skills, competences and knowledge.

The fact that sometimes interpreting is approximated to translation in terms of the definitions is additionally supported by the terminology used in various languages. On the one hand, there are languages in which those two activities and their practitioners are referred to by separate names (e.g. in English: “interpreting” and “interpreter” vs. “translation” and “translator”, in Spanish: “interpretación” and “intérprete” vs. “traducción” and “traductor”). However, in some languages this distinction is not so obvious as, for instance, in French, there is the general term “traduction”, used at times as a hyperonym, and to distinguish interpreting from translation, the following terms need to be used: “interprétation” and “interprète” vs. “traduction” and “traducteur/traductrice”. Similarly, in German there is also the general term which may refer to both translation and interpreting. However, the word “Übersetzung” usually means “translation” (“Übersetzer” – “translator”) whereas the word “dolmetschen” means “to interpret” (“Dolmetscher” – “interpreter”). As far as such languages as, for example, Polish or Russian are concerned, the type of translational activity is specified by adding the adjective standing for either “oral” or “written” because the Polish term “tłumaczenie” or the Russian word “перевод” are rather general and most often they mean written translation (in Polish: “tłumaczenie ustne” and “tłumacz ustny” vs. “tłumaczenie pisemne” and “tłumacz pisemny”, in Russian: “устный перевод” and “устный переводчик” vs. “письменный перевод” and “письменный переводчик”).

Franz Pöchhacker, a renowned and widely cited professor of interpreting studies working at the University of Vienna whose contributions are included in the most important interpreting studies handbooks and encyclopaedias, in his Introducing Translation Studies (2004: 9) also seems to share the view that translation and interpreting are to some extent similar; he claims that “[i] nterpreting is regarded here [in his book] as translational activity, as a special form of “Translation””. Indeed, interpreting is a special form of translation and what distinguishes it from translation proper, i.e. written, is among other features ←22 | 23→presented above, the channel, via which the input message is transformed into the output message. When making an attempt at defining interpreting, Pöchhacker rightly observes that one of the most prominent properties of interpreting which distinguishes it from other translational activities is its immediacy as “(…) in principle, interpreting is performed “here and now” for the benefit of people who want to engage in communication across barriers of language and culture” (Pöchhacker 2004: 10). Thus, from the above quotation, it might be concluded that interpreting is a temporary linguistic activity which involves the transfer of information from one language into another by means of the oral communication channel. However, this definition seems to be reductionist in nature and rather one-faceted because it does not shed light on the high complexity of the nature of interpreting (nor does it include sign interpreting1). This drawback is also noticed by Pöchhacker who discusses a number of other approaches to the definition of interpreting, claiming that:

“interpreting” need not necessarily be equated with “oral translation” or, more precisely, with the “oral rendering of spoken messages”. Doing so would exclude interpreting in signed (rather than spoken) languages (…) from our purview, and would make it difficult to account for the less typical manifestations of interpreting (…). (Pöchhacker 2004: 10)

Apart from the above-discussed definition, Pöchhacker (2011a: 9) has also characterised interpreting more comprehensively, stating the following:

By definition, then, interpreting can be seen as a function between socio-cultural entities and a distinct professional profile and a service rendered in an institutional context and a set of interactional behaviors and a text comprehension and production task and a cognitive processing skill and a unique pattern of neurophysiological activity, and as such it eludes any single or uniform research model.

The above approach shows interpreting from the angle of interpreting research, stressing its various aspects, functions, contexts or participants that are subject to scientific inquiry in interpreting studies. Moreover, this definition also highlights the complex nature of interpreting, both from the social, cultural, professional, institutional or cognitive and neuropsychological points of view.

Immediacy inherent in interpreting (i.e. time factor (Schäffner 2004: 1)), to which Pöchhacker referred in one of the previously presented definitions, is also stressed in the criteria distinguishing interpreting from other types of translation elaborated by Otto Kade (1968), a German interpreter and interpreting scholar, who ←23 | 24→views interpreting as a type of translational activity meeting two criteria: (a) the input message is delivered once only with no possibility of reviewing or replaying it; (b) the output message is generated in time-limited circumstances, thus allowing for no/little correction. Accordingly, the availability of both the source and target message is limited in time. Those two criteria can also be met by sign interpreting. Commenting on this approach to interpreting, Pöchhacker says that:

his [Kade’s] definition elegantly accommodates interpreting from, into or between signed languages and also accounts for such variants of interpreting as “sight translation” (…), “live subtitling” or even the on-line (written) translation of Internet chats. This vindicated the general characterization of interpreting as immediate type of translational activity, performed “in real times” for immediate use. (Pöchhacker 2004: 11)

Having those two criteria in mind, Pöchhacker (2004: 11) offers another definition of interpreting which holds that: “[i]nterpreting is a form of Translation in which a first and final rendition in another language is produced on the basis of a one-time presentation of an utterance in source language”. This approach strictly relies on the immediacy of input delivery and output generation. However, for this study, this definition, albeit interesting and not so much reductionist, is still insufficient as it does not cover the entire complexity of interpreting.

Perhaps one of the first scholars to notice the complexity of interpreting was David Gerver who observed that interpreting is “a form of complex human information processing involving the perception, storage, retrieval, transformation, and transmission of verbal information” (1975: 119). This view, as claimed by Pöchhacker (2005: 684), “did much to establish the view of interpreting” and that “[it] is widely held in the interpreting (research) community to this day”.

A more extensive definition of interpreting has been offered by James Nolan (2012: xi) who stated that:

Interpretation can be defined in a nutshell as conveying understanding. Its value stems from the fact that a speaker’s meaning is best expressed in his or her native language but is best understood in the languages of the listeners.

In the art of interpretation several complex interrelated processes make it possible to convey the semantic and emotive contents of a message from one language and culture into another. The complex interaction of these processes and the difficulty of coordinating them simultaneously in the oral/aural mode require alertness, sensitivity, intense concentration and mental agility.

This definition offers a broader look at the complexity of interpreting, stressing that a number of simultaneously occurring processes are involved in this activity. Thus, interpreting is viewed by Nolan as a multi-faceted activity requiring much more than just language and transfer skills.

Given the above definitions and approaches, interpreting is viewed throughout this book as a complex mental activity, involving the linguistic, pragmatic, communicative, cognitive and psycho-affective processes, whose core is the linguistic transfer of meaning from one language (i.e. the source language) received in the ←24 | 25→form of an aural input into another language (i.e. the target language) generated in the form of an oral output, characterised by its immediacy, occurring in specific settings and under specific conditions. This definition is, arguably, more comprehensive as it refers to many characteristic features of this type of linguistic activity. First of all, it stresses that interpreters are involved in interpreting at several levels: at the linguistic level, because they have to operate their language competence and performance first to aurally comprehend the input, then to process it and finally to orally generate the output. This linguistic level thus encompasses the receptive skills in the source language necessary for input reception, the interpretative skills in one of the languages or in both of them (as professional practice shows, some interpreters process the input in their native (i.e. first, A) language whereas others prefer to do it in their foreign (i.e. second, B) language) used for input interpretation and processing and productive skills needed for generating the output orally in the target language. The pragmatic and communicative levels encompass all the pragmatic rules of communication which need to be followed for interpreting to be a successful communication act. In other words, the interpreter who should be familiar with the pragmatic rules of communication of both the source and target languages also adheres to those rules, first when listening to the input (the knowledge of those rules allows him/her to properly comprehend the source message) then processing it (in the processing phase, the interpreter decodes the meaning properly by referring to its embedding in the pragmatic context), and finally generating the oral output (the application of the pragmatic rules of communication in the target language leads to successful communication between the source speaker and the target audience). The cognitive level of the process of interpreting is related basically to processing which in turn is linked to such aspects as memory or retention while the psycho-affective one – to the interpreter’s experience of various feelings, emotions and attitudes towards the interpreter himself/herself, the participants and other elements of the interpreting process. As aforementioned, the core of interpreting is the linguistic transfer, which should be understood as the performance of the basic function of interpreting – conveying the message meaning. One of the characteristic features of interpreting is that is occurs immediately. Thus, immediacy needs to be an important element of the definition. What is more, the external factors such as the setting in which the interpreting activity is pursued and specific conditions (e.g. in the booth, in the case of conference interpreting) also matter. As emerges from the above clarification, the above definition also includes, though rather implicitly than explicitly, the fact that interpreting is actually a translational activity, in which the message meaning is converted from the source language into the target one. This definition is, therefore, adhered to in the remaining parts of the study.

1.2.Typology of interpreting activity

All interpreting activities can be subdivided into several categories, depending on the adopted criterion. However, what is shared by all types of interpreting is that ←25 | 26→they are communication acts taking place in “the social context of interaction” (Pöchhacker 2004: 13). Those social contexts can be divided into two types: inter-social (between representatives of different linguistic backgrounds and therefore sharing no language) and intra-social (within a single community, in which a few languages may be in use) (ibid.), both of which form a kind of inter- to intra-social continuum (cf. Pöchhacker 2004: 15). When speaking about the former type of interpreting, Pöchhacker refers to, for instance, business interpreting, diplomatic interpreting or military interpreting as the examples of the inter-social contexts of interpreting because in the majority of cases, the interpreter is employed to enable communication between the speakers of different languages intending to enter into commercial or diplomatic relations or wanting to communicate on war-related matters (i.e. ceasefire, truce etc.). Court, educational, healthcare interpreting activities are all the examples of intra-social contexts which are present in multilingual communities which strive to provide all their citizens, regardless of what mother tongue they speak, with equal access to their institutions. The intra-social settings also encompass sign language interpreting. The setting which is on the verge between inter- and intra-social is media interpreting (also known as TV or broadcast interpreting) because, as claimed by Pöchhacker (2004: 15), “[it] is essentially designed to make foreign-language broadcasting content accessible to media users within the socio-cultural community”. For instance, an English-speaking guest appearing in a broadcast on Polish TV is interpreted into Polish so that the Polish audience could understand the guest. Thus, those two social dimensions can be observed here: the inter-social setting (the foreign guest’s utterances are interpreted into the community’s native language) and the intra-social setting (a given TV channel broadcasts in a language known by the socio-cultural community). Consequently, media interpreting constitutes “a hybrid form on the inter- to intra-social continuum” (ibid.).

The division into the inter- and intra-social settings can be regarded as the background of the further typological classifications of interpreting into several categories, with clearer typological criteria. The next sections present the typologies of interpreting activities with reference to some of the criteria used by Pöchhacker (2004). They involve the following: working mode, directionality, channel (i.e. technology) and professional status. One more category is added – setting – which pertains to a variety of intra- and inter-social contexts, in which interpreting is practised. Pöchhacker (ibid.) also speaks about language modality but because of the fact that this study is concerned with spoken language interpreting rather than sign language interpreting or tactile interpreting, this typology is skipped here.

1.2.1Typology of interpreting working modes

The type of a working mode is perhaps the most common criterion invoked in discussions about interpreting. As mentioned by Pöchhacker (2004), this classification was not present before the 1920s since it is then that there was a ←26 | 27→need to name a new working mode of interpreting, i.e. simultaneous interpreting2. Before that time, all interpreting was consecutive in nature.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
interpreting studies consecutive interpreting psycho-affective factors interpreter's psycho-affectivity trainee interpreters certified interpreters
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 628 pp., 21 fig. b/w, 60 tables, 57 graphs

Biographical notes

Marcin Walczyński (Author)

Marcin Walczyński, Ph.D., is assistant professor in the Department of Translation Studies (Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław, Poland), in-house business English trainer, certified translator and interpreter of English as well as translation and interpreting trainer. His scholarly interests include: interpreting and translation, languages for special purposes (especially business and legal English), sociolinguistics and creolistics.


Title: Psycho-Affective Factors in Consecutive Interpreting
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634 pages