Consolidating the professional identity of translators: The role of citizenship behaviors

Taeyoung Yoo and Cheol Ja Jeong
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

The literature on translators’ professional identity has focused on role-related factors, such as traits and power, paying little attention to extra-role activities. The present study fills this void by examining the role of citizenship behaviors in consolidating the translators’ professional identity. The regression analysis of the survey data on 352 translators and interpreters in South Korea shows that citizenship behaviors inside and outside of the profession, such as voluntary services in community events or at a professional association of translators, positively affect their identity. It is also noteworthy that citizenship behaviors, particularly those within the profession, partly moderate the influence of trait factors such as master’s degree and income on identity. This study indicates that participation in social activities beyond the boundaries of one’s translation job can benefit both individual professionals and the professional group as a whole, reinforcing professional identity. This will ultimately contribute to society, in addition to the profession.

Publication history
Table of contents

Identity, which deals with the question of “who am I?”, is a fundamental issue of human beings and relates one to others and to organizations and environments (Gioia 1998). Studies on the professional identity of translators and interpreters (hereafter “translators” is used to include both) have examined identity in two dimensions: traits (e.g., Witter-Merithew and Johnson 2004) and power (e.g., Ju 2009; Tseng 1992). “Traits” refers to a set of qualities or characteristics of an individual to perform a requested task (Katan 2011), including education, experience, income, and gender (Pym et al. 2012; Ruokonen 2013; Setton and Liangliang 2009). In contrast, “power” highlights institutional legitimacy toward a certain direction (DiMaggio and Powell 1983), such as certification (Tseng 1992). Given “the defining characteristics of ‘profession’ as distinct from ‘occupation’, namely expertise, credentialism, and autonomy” (Rudvin 2007, 53), higher levels of education and a collegial body for certification are expected to positively affect translators’ professional identity.

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