Interpreters’ perceived characteristics and perception of quality in interpreting
This study examined the link between listeners’ perceptions of the quality of interpretation and their beliefs about the interpreter. Two groups of Mandarin-speaking participants were shown a video of a speech by President Obama being interpreted into Mandarin Chinese by a non-native Mandarin-speaking interpreter. The participants in one group were shown a photo of a Chinese-looking man alongside the video and those in the other group were shown a photo of a non-Chinese-looking man. The quantitative results showed that those who believed they were listening to a non-Chinese interpreter judged the interpretation more positively than those who believed they were listening to a Chinese interpreter. The qualitative results showed that the participants in the non-Chinese condition attributed the non-native features of the interpretation to the interpreter’s being a foreigner, and that they naturally used the language competence of non-native speakers as the standard of comparison. In this case, the participants’ perceptions of quality could also be explained by the interpreter’s perceived association with a highly esteemed group in China, and his ability to interpret into Chinese generated a sense of national self-esteem among the participants. Overall, the findings show that factors other than the features identifiable in an interpretation can influence the perception of quality of interpretation.
Keywords: perceptions of quality, reverse linguistic stereotyping, non-native accents, consecutive interpretation
Published online: 10 April 2020
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