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The Interpreter’s Professional Status. A Sociological Investigation into the Interpreting Profession.

By Paola Gentile

Abstract

The professional status of interpreters is perhaps one of the most neglected topics in Interpreting Studies today. A review of the existing literature reveals that very few studies have investigated the status and the social prestige of the interpreting profession. One of the few attempts to study the status of conference interpreters empirically can be found in the study by Dam and Zethsen (2013), who compared EU staff interpreters’ and translators’ self-perception of status. The results of their survey showed that interpreters did not appear to have a high consideration of their profession, an outcome which begged for further research. As far as public service interpreters are concerned, several scholars (Angelelli 2004; Ricoy et al. 2009; De Pedro Ricoy 2010; Sela-Sheffy & Shlesinger 2011) have speculated that their status is generally low and that public service interpreting is still undergoing professionalisation, although these assumptions have never been empirically and extensively investigated. This doctoral thesis aims to fill this knowledge gap by investigating the self-perceived professional status of conference and public service interpreters. The theoretical framework hinges on the theories of the Sociology of the Professions (Andersen, Taylor & Logio 2014), which contributed to framing the concepts of status, prestige and profession; one of the main objectives of the present work is to determine whether interpreting can be regarded as a fully-fledged profession and, if so, on the basis of which sociological parameters. Almost one century after the birth of interpreting seen as a profession, what is the state of the art of the professionalisation process? What role do technology, the mass media, economic and social changes play in the sociological evolution of the interpreter’s professional status? What are the main challenges for the future generations of interpreters? At methodological level, the study is based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of questionnaires. Quantitative data on the interpreters’ self-perception of status were collected through the distribution of two surveys (one addressed to conference and one to public service interpreters), which gathered 1693 responses worldwide. The two questionnaires showed that a growing feminisation, rapid technological changes, the increasing use of English as a lingua franca and a complex labour market have influenced the way in which interpreters perceive the profession. Hence, the self-perceived status of conference and public service interpreters appears to be fraught with contradictions. On a brighter note, an increasing awareness of the social function fulfilled by the interpreting profession appears to be the driving force which motivates interpreters to follow the path towards full professionalisation.The professional status of interpreters is perhaps one of the most neglected topics in Interpreting Studies today. A review of the existing literature reveals that very few studies have investigated the status and the social prestige of the interpreting profession. One of the few attempts to study the status of conference interpreters empirically can be found in the study by Dam and Zethsen (2013), who compared EU staff interpreters’ and translators’ self-perception of status. The results of their survey showed that interpreters did not appear to have a high consideration of their profession, an outcome which begged for further research. As far as public service interpreters are concerned, several scholars (Angelelli 2004; Ricoy et al. 2009; De Pedro Ricoy 2010; Sela-Sheffy & Shlesinger 2011) have speculated that their status is generally low and that public service interpreting is still undergoing professionalisation, although these assumptions have never been empirically and extensively investigated. This doctoral thesis aims to fill this knowledge gap by investigating the self-perceived professional status of conference and public service interpreters. The theoretical framework hinges on the theories of the Sociology of the Professions (Andersen, Taylor & Logio 2014), which contributed to framing the concepts of status, prestige and profession; one of the main objectives of the present work is to determine whether interpreting can be regarded as a fully-fledged profession and, if so, on the basis of which sociological parameters. Almost one century after the birth of interpreting seen as a profession, what is the state of the art of the professionalisation process? What role do technology, the mass media, economic and social changes play in the sociological evolution of the interpreter’s professional status? What are the main challenges for the future generations of interpreters? At methodological level, the study is based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of questionnaires. Quantitative data on the interpreters’ self-perception of status were collected through the distribution of two surveys (one addressed to conference and one to public service interpreters), which gathered 1693 responses worldwide. The two questionnaires showed that a growing feminisation, rapid technological changes, the increasing use of English as a lingua franca and a complex labour market have influenced the way in which interpreters perceive the profession. Hence, the self-perceived status of conference and public service interpreters appears to be fraught with contradictions. On a brighter note, an increasing awareness of the social function fulfilled by the interpreting profession appears to be the driving force which motivates interpreters to follow the path towards full professionalisation

Topics: interpreting, profession, status, sociology, questionnaires, questionnaires, Settore L-LIN/12 - Lingua e Traduzione - Lingua Inglese
Publisher: Università degli Studi di Trieste
Year: 2016
OAI identifier: oai:arts.units.it:11368/2908044

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