PhD Research School in Linguistics and Philology

Elisabet Tiselius

Simultaneous conference interpreters’ development of interpreting competence and, possibly, expertise

Main content

Initial project description:

"1. Introduction
Ericsson (e.g. 1996) studied successful performers in different fields (e.g. highly ranked tennis or chess players) and has mapped an expert profile. Experts, independent of field, use certain techniques to achieve expert knowledge such as deliberate practice, clear goals and regular feed back from peers. In order to study experts in fields where there is no ranking available it is necessary, according to Ericsson, to define the expert performance in that field. This may not be an easy task, for expert interpreters criteria such as stamina, information transmission, clear interpreting, intelligible interpreting, pleasant voice and voice level can be considered to define expert performance. All those criteria are difficult to evaluate and has features of subjectivity. Many interpreting researchers (e.g. Moser-Mercer, 2000, Ivanova, 1999 and Hoffman, 1997) have studied expertise among interpreters

2. Aim
The aim of the project is to map very experienced interpreters performance compared to less experienced interpreters and thereby hopefully present a proposal for an expert profile for conference interpreters.

3. The project
In my first study I compare three categories, laymen participants (n=3) (no interpreting training, no interpreting experience), participants with interpreting training and short experience (n=3) and participants with training and very long experience (n=3) (possible experts). I analyze this material both in terms of process and in terms of product. I use two different methods, Ivanova, 1999, and Carroll, 1966. Ivanova's method consists of identifying processing problems (through retrospection) that the interpreters have experienced and then classify those processing problems on the basis of used strategies. Her method also identifies instances of monitoring of the process or the product. Carroll's method consists of two scales (Intelligibility and Informativeness) for evaluating the product. Carroll used it to evaluate the quality in machine translation and I have adapted the scales to interpreting. I have had four different groups of graders (n=30) evaluating the product.

In my second study I use the same method but I apply it to four interpreters and explore how they have developed since interpreting school fifteen years ago and until today. They were recorded at interpreting school and today they are recorded while interpreting the same speech as then and also a new speech. Furthermore, these interpreters participate in in depth interviews where I try to map their professionalization, preparation, learning strategies and so forth.

Carroll, J.B. 1966. An Experiment in Evaluating the Quality of Translations. Mechanical Translation 9 (55-66)
Ericsson, K.A.(ed.). 1996. The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in Arts and Science, Sports and Games. Lawrence Erlbaum. Mahawa, NJ.
Hoffman, R. R. 1997. The Cognitive Psychology of Expertise and the Domain of Interpreting. Interpreting 2: 1/2 (189-231)
Ivanova, A. 1999. Discourse Processing During Simultaneous Interpreting: An Expertise Approach. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Cambridge.
Moser-Mercer, B., Fraunfelder, U.H., Casado, B., Kunzli, A. 2000b. Seraching to Define Expertise in Interpreting. In: Englund-Dimitrova, B. och Hyltenstam, K. (Eds.).Language Processing and Simultaneous Interpreting. Interdiciplinary Perspectives. John Benjamins. Amsterdam. (1-21)"

Tiselius successfully defended her thesis on 26 November 2013.