Simultaneous interpreting and working memory capacity
The aim of the present exploratory correlational study was to test whether a relationship exists between working memory capacity (WMC) and simultaneous interpreting (SI) performance measures in a sample of professional interpreters. Twenty-eight professional interpreters, aged 25–55, were tested on WMC tasks (letter span, Corsi task, complex span) and on several measures of SI (lexical, semantic and syntactic processing, temporal delay, vocabulary richness and dealing with speed). Additionally, general cognitive ability, age and interpreting experience were considered. There are two main findings. First, WMC in this sample shows predictable patterns in the structure of interpreters’ working memory: there was a dissociation between verbal and spatial memory and a negative relationship between age on the one hand and WMC and general cognitive ability on the other. This negative relationship goes against the hypothesis of WMC enlargement with interpreting experience. Secondly, WMC measures were only marginally significantly related to SI measures, and then only to those which have a predictable high memory component, such as figures and lists of nouns. The results suggest that WMC, where the focus is on storage and maintenance, may not be as important for professional SI as previously thought.