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Interpreting Studies

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Interpreting in different modes and setting serves as a medium to explore research and deliberate on different aspects, surrounding humanity. It is not until the 20th century that interpreting got recognition as a profession, though in actual sense, it was practiced in ancient times. According to Nicodemus and Swabey (2011), the evolution of a profession signifies academic pursuit and systematic reflection to ensure that research and profession are correspondingly linked up. Besides, interpreting has been considered as a type of translation, in a broader sense and that the field of interpreting studies has a place in the wider discipline of translation studies (Nicodemus and Swabey 2011).

Academic debate and the observation of interpreting market, make it apparent that the field of interpreting has grown and diversified over the past decades. From a research point of view, Pöchhacker (2004) has argued that the growth and diversification frequently comes with the risk of fragmentation along with diverging lines of specialization. According to him, for interpreting studies, growth should be a matter of growing simultaneously, rather than growing apart. In addition, he proposes for the convergence of research approaches and interaction amongst researchers from various areas of interpreting studies and various parts of the globe.  This essay will assess the extent, to which Pochhacker’s argument is agreeable together with the advantages and disadvantages of convergence in interpreting studies as opposed to specialization and possible fragmentation. The paper will also include a comparative description of different modes and settings of interpreting, their similarities and differences. Furthermore, the essay will include various difficulties of individual modes and settings, and some of the characteristics research questions that have been raised in relation to different modes and settings. The major questions that the essay seeks to address is whether the process of interpreting fundamentally differs in each mode and setting, and whether it would, therefore, make sense to have a different model of interpreting. Moreover, they essay will explore different set of research questions for each mode and setting or whether the different modes and settings share enough common ground for a convergent approach.

Certainly, Pöchhacker (2004) argument that for interpreting studies, growth should be a matter of growing together, rather than growing apart and proposes for the convergence of research approaches and interaction amongst researchers from various areas of interpreting studies and various parts of the globe may be very efficient, if it were applicable in the various settings of interpretation. This is based on the fact that convergence of research approaches may offer researchers with a more efficient way of ensuring that the different modes of interpretation are mutually employed in different settings. However, Pöchhacker argument has been opposed by other researchers, including Nicodemus and Swabey (2011), who argues that the settings of interpreting are diverse and they call for different modes of interpreting. Furthermore, the interpreters for these settings are also trained differently and their training depends with the type of setting as each setting deals with different kinds of persons.  In fact, studies have proven that the convergence model of interpreting studies signifies symmetry in the associations of those who are participating and equity in sharing information. However, communities and groups are not near this ideal. As put forth by some researchers, such as Nicodemus and Swabey (2011), interpretation is largely influenced by various factors, which are impacted by the various figures including the speaker, the interpreter, and the audience amongst other factors.

Over some basic methodological and conceptual common basis, there are numerous areas of mutual concern for interpreting scholars across various paradigms and domains. These areas usually focus on various aspects of interpreting studies including modes, settings and topics. Closely looking at the different interpreting setting, it is no doubt that the courtroom is essential in several ways. Though, the formality of the court proceeding and the application of specialized jargons in the process delivering information make it similar to a conference setting,  the existence of a defendants acting on their own behalf in the interaction and usually communicating, using a minority language is the most salient characteristic, defining a community interpretation (Pöchhacker 2004). Simultaneous interpretation may be used usually in the whispering mode in some states, thus, making the courtroom interpretation comparable to the conference interpretation.

A comparable crossing point among the different interpreting settings are the modern literature and media, which incorporate exhaustive description of the details that this  territory is shared by dialogue interpreters, simultaneous interpreters and signed language interpreters. Moreover, meeting in fields of trade and diplomacy are regarded as an avenue for interpreters with high-level qualification in the conference interpretation. All the same, talks of such nature take the format of face-to-face and the interpreter is expected to have adequate discourse management skills and mediation abilities. Simultaneous mode is another focal area of convergence. It has been very dominant in literature for many years. Most signed language interpreters use simultaneous mode of interpretation, though not exclusively make simultaneous mode an area of shared concern. This is reinforced by the fact that spoken language community interpreting also uses this mode of interpretation (Pöchhacker 2004). As indicated by research, the development of market in the modern society has affected the way, in which convergence impacts interpretation provision to individuals and this has necessitated regulators to both have high technical expertise, and also understand the development trends and structure of interpretation (Pöchhacker 2004).

When a model is defined as a method of representing a phenomenon through the identification of its various elements and the relationships amongst them, there seems without a doubt to be an agreement that interpreting may best be termed as comprising of two parts - as a triangular and tripartite structure (Carr et al. 1997). Nevertheless, there is a basic variation about the nature of the elements and this stems from the various diverse ways of interpreting as a social process or as a mental process. In the mental process, the triangle mirrors the main cognitive processing stages, whilst in the social process it represents the main parties, engaged in the interaction. With interaction roles and processing stages as the relevant central points, we can, therefore, talk of duality of tripartite models; interaction models, on one hand, and processing models (Cunico 2001). These diverse ways of modeling and seeing the phenomenon also attempts to explain the subsistence of different researches in interpreting studies. However, a joint model is merely a component of the regular basis, necessitated in a research community. Furthermore, members of a scientific community require sharing a set of values, basic assumptions and standard methods, for there to be a paradigm as put forth by some researchers (Carr et al. 1997). The notion of paradigm has been employed in the field of interpreting studies and it aims to illustrate the convergence of different strands.

There are different modes of interpretation ranging from liaison, simultaneous and consecutive interpreting. These modes of interpretation usually depend on the type of setting. Consecutive interpretation - in this mode of interpretation, the interpreter commences speaking after the source-speaker has finished. In most occasions, the interpreter is usually alongside the speaker and takes point of what the speaker is saying and reproduces the same, when the source speaker pauses or stops (Pöchhacker and Shlesinger 2001). The interpreter reproduces the exact message in the targeted language as if he was the one making the initial speech. It takes the form of either short or long consecutive interpretation. In short consecutive interpretation, the interpreter relies on his memory and the speaker, making his or her speech as brief as is practically possible, while in long interpretation, the interpreter takes point of the speech, made by the source speaker and renders the same to the recipient after the source speaker stops. Mostly, during the consecutive interpretation document sight translation is crucial (Pöchhacker and Shlesinger 2001). This combines both the translation and interpretation, and the interpreter is required to render the source document to the target language. Sight translation happens most of the times in medical work and legal proceedings.

Segments of speech interpreted in this mode are usually short, in most occasions, not more than twenty minutes. This is due to the fact that the recipient would feel uncomfortable, when going through long durations of listening to a speech they do not understand (Pöchhacker and Shlesinger 2001). Considering the different setting and the subject in question and depending on the interpreters’ ability to memorize, the interpreter may request the speaker to pause after every sentence or clause he makes. When interpretation is done, sentence after sentence chances of omission are lower. The main limitation of this mode of interpretation is that the interpreter may miss on important details of the message either by lack of useful context or missing the gist of the speech altogether (Carr et al. 1997). This mode is mostly applied in courts, when witnesses are giving their testimony, rendering recorded statements, job interviews and health setting.

Liaison interpretation - in this mode, no equipment is used and the interpreter relays message between two or more persons in sentence-by-sentence basis. It takes place under different settings, in which the interpreter works between two languages and it usually presents acting as a mediator between two or more individuals, speaking different languages. It is most apt in diplomatic meeting, education contacts, and sightseeing tours among others.

Simultaneous interpretation - in simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter conveys the message to the target group in the preferred language as the source speaker speaks. The speaker will pass on the message as fast as the interpreter can reformulate the message to the audience . In most cases, the interpreter puts on the headphones to perceive the message clearly. The message is rendered to the listeners through their headphones. Simultaneous interpretation is regular mode, used by sign language interpreters. This requires the recipient, the interpreter and the one, using the source language, to be in close proximity. There exist different types of interpretation as discussed below:

Conference interpreting: conference interpretation is interpreting that takes place in a conference environment. In such a setting, either consecutive or simultaneous interpretation may be applied, though this has become increasing difficult because of the existence of a multilingual audience, made possible by the development of technology that has made the world a global village. Conference interpreting is basically split into two main types of market; private and institutional market. Institutions, for example the United Nations, that have members from all over the world usually interpret from a variety of languages, use this type. This is due to the fact that there are multilingual audiences or participants. Private market, on the other hand, is usually composed of individuals, speaking their mother tongue with the interpreter, linking them.

Certainly, in a conference interpreting state, the independent variables are many. Various researches carried out have been presented and they are linked to the modality of interpreting, to speakers, speeches, interpreters and settings. The various variables of a conference interpreting situation encompass the organization or individual, requesting the services of an interpreter, a speaker, target language listeners and source language listeners. Furthermore, Wadensj (1998) expands Pochhacker’s (2004) classification who divides the role of the client into two - the client and the initiator, by adding the sponsor, who is responsible for providing the required finances for the event. These figures are deemed important and they determine the features of the conference and, thus, have an effect on the interpreting service.

In this kind of interpretation setting, research has put forth that the level of inconsistency is very high . This is proved by the fact that speakers may present their own perceptions, may be first-timers or experienced speakers, may use a foreign language or their own, use different accent, read a written script or may give an impromptu speech. On the other hand, the interpreter’s degree of expertise may differ, depending with their levels of training and experience. The quality of the interpreting service, on the other hand, may be swayed by preparation, health conditions, working conditions amongst other factors. Besides, it is vital to consider audience composition, and this encompasses interpreting to small or large groups of persons, who are native or foreign language speakers.

Court interpretation: court interpretation or what is commonly referred to as legal interpretation takes place in a legal setting, where there is a legal proceeding. It may take the mode of consecutive interpretation, where the witness statement is interpreted or be simultaneous interpretation, where the proceeding is interpreted through electronic means (Angelelli and Jacobson 2009). Interpreters work individually, when providing consecutive interpretation or as a team if it is simultaneous, though this varies, depending on the standards and regulation of the state in question. Court interpreters are expected to have immense knowledge on legal matters and well acquainted with the legal proceedings (Angelelli and Jacobson 2009).

Escort interpretation: in this type of interpretation, the interpreter usually referred to as escort interpreter accompanies a person to the setting, where the exchange of message takes place. This may be a meeting, an interview, a tour or even a visit (Gile et al. 2008). The most commonly mode of interpretation used is liaison interpretation.

Community interpretation: this is also referred to as public service interpretation and takes place in setting such as health services, social services, education welfare or even environmental health. In this type of interpretation, there exist factors that affect the delivery of services or production such that two or more groups are warring, there is emotional discontentment or polarization and the relationship between the participants is pegged on the interpreters’ sense of responsibility .

Medical interpretation: this type of interpretation is closely related to community interpretation and involves the communication between a medical practitioner and a patient. The interpreter should have adequate knowledge in medicine and the normal procedures of the clinic or hospital to be able to serve both parties.

Sign language interpretation: in this type of interpretation, the interpreter upon hearing the speaker’s message will convey the meaning to the other party (Nicodemus and Swabey 2011). In most occasions, the other party is usually deaf. Consequently, when the deaf people sign, the same is conveyed in words to the hearing party. The most commonly used mode of interpretation is consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. The interpreters will position themselves in a space that will give them room to observe the deaf participants and hear the hearing participants clearly (Nicodemus and Swabey 2011).

Deaf persons may also serve as interpreters. They position themselves alongside the hearing partner and provide interpretation to the deaf individuals who because of one reason or another may not share the same standard sign language, used in the given context (Angelelli and Jacobson 2009).

Media: media interpretation takes the form of simultaneous mode, based on its nature. It is mostly used in taped and live interviews with sportsmen, politician, artists or individuals in the business world and in live television broadcast (Gile et al. 2008). The interpreter has to be a soundproof booth, which makes it possible for them to see the speakers from a monitor. The interpreter renders the interview or the live coverage to the audience who are basically the viewers.

The process of interpreting differs, depending on the mode and setting, under which interpretation takes place. When we delve into the question whether the different modes and setting share a common ground for convergent approach, we have to comprehensively look at what makes a given mode fit in a given setting and not in another (Gile et al. 2008). Basically, different settings are best suited by a given mode, for instance, if we look at conference interpretation, the source language may be in a written format or the input is available in machine readable format, it becomes difficult to put the interpreters output in a similar format (Gile et al. 2008). This, therefore, becomes a handicap, limiting the extent of convergence of the different modes.

Although technology has advanced to an unimaginable degree, there still exist obstacles, when it comes to matters of methodology. This is due to the fact that transcription remains a labor intensive process . Setbacks do not arise only due to transcription alone, but also due to the fact that some elements of spoken language are so subjective and delicate to totally ignore description. Transcription, however, is the process that provides us with adequate knowledge or at least a representative of the interpreters output as long as linguistic is concerned, its deficient to give us parallel paralinguistic is a key bottleneck . This will continue to be a challenge up to the time, when the technological advancement allow us to represent sequential features in a machine readable format and the one that will be easy to recognize, including those salient features that make interpreting different from other forms of oral communication . It is also of great importance to establish a shared system of conventions for the purpose of encoding auditory information.

The idea of converging modes of interpretation in interpreting studies should be extended to include setting covering up to three collections of the texts in the same language (Nicodemus and Swabey 2011). These are the written translation of the message, the original communication, made in a given setting, and the interpreted speech or text. There are many paradigms that are meant to study interpreting, though only those that limit themselves to cognitive psychology seem to provide more hope in exhaustively analyzing interpretation; the main challenge being the most apt methodology to apply. The meticulous study being conducted revolving around psychological experimentation seems to miss the point . A scenario created the textual, situational and contextual variables. While researchers agree that there is a need to have a bridge between the two and that controlled experimentation is necessary, there still arise issues to do with methodology. Such setbacks are not rare to disciplines that involve cognitive study, as there are elements out of touch with reality and every day activities. Proponents of experimental method purport that ongoing research will yield important results despite the said setback and that ecological validity does not necessarily call for neglecting experimental method. For example, looking at simultaneous interpretation, ecological validity is not of more important than generalization.

When conducting interpretation research, the fixing experimental procedure in total disregard to the conference setting, which is said to maim the ecological validity (Angelelli and Jacobson 2009). A deliberate attempt to interfere with the material setting is thought to defy logic and purpose, for which the research was meant to achieve. Simultaneous interpretation encompasses use of defined, contextualized materials, while the use of decontextualized materials puts the whole process of experimental method into doubt, the results are expected to be unreliable or worse still not in touch with reality (Nicodemus and Swabey 2011). All the same, the use of a defined setting like the laboratory, use of already recorded linguistically controlled materials has demonstrated to be crucial for the examination interpreting, whereby large variables are involved.

Study being conducted to test the way, in which memory functions in the mode of simultaneous interpreting, based on presentation, problems have emerged, requiring control of variables such as frequency and length of words, semantic features and phonological patterns. Evidently, conference presentations are not likely to surrender enough concentration materials.

It is apparent from the above analysis that interpreting studies is a field that has attracted the attention of various researchers. Interpreting in its different modes and setting serves as a medium to explore research and deliberate on different aspects, surrounding humanity. Academic debate and the observation of interpreting market make it apparent that the field of interpreting has grown and diversified over the past decades. This has brought about various arguments from the researcher, with some, such as Pöchhacker (2004), arguing that interpreting studies growth should be a matter of growing together, rather than growing apart and proposes for the convergence of research approaches and interaction amongst researchers from various areas of interpreting studies and various parts of the globe. However, according to studies, this is not possible due to the fact that there are various modes and settings of interpretation, meaning that the models, used in such settings, are different. The different modes of interpreting studies, as pointed out above, encompass consecutive, liaison, and simultaneous interpretation. The types of interpreting, on the other hand, include conference, court, escort, community, medical sign language, and media interpretation. All these modes have been employed in the contemporary society in different settings by various organizations. Ideally, the idea of converging modes of interpretation in interpreting studies should be extended to include setting, covering up to three collections of the texts in the same language. These are the written translation of the message, the original communication, made in a given setting, and the interpreted speech or text.

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