Working Memory Performance of Expert and Novice Interpreters
Received: Jan , 2011; Revised: Feb , 2011; Accepted: Feb , 2011
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
As in any field of specialization, simultaneous interpreting requires expertise which distinguishes the conference interpreters from other bilinguals. Involved in coordination and regulation of ongoing processing of information, working memory may be one of the factors that constitute the expertise of conference interpreters. The aim of this study is to investigate the working memory performance of interpreters and the effect of their working memory performance on the capacity to mediate communication under time constraints. Under such an assumption, the working memory spans of two groups of conference interpreters – seven interpreters in the Experienced Group with more than ten years of working experience and sixteen interpreters in the Novice Group with less than three years of experience – were measured. In addition, a survey was conducted to assess the topic knowledge of the two groups of interpreters. English into Korean simultaneous interpreting experiment was carried out to investigate the implications of working memory performance on the interpreters' ability to transfer information from the source language to the target language. The interpreters' ability to transfer information was measured in terms of their ability to transfer meaning segments referred to as Idea Units and Essential Idea Units in the texts. The results of the experiment showed that the Experienced Group was able to transfer a higher percentage of both Idea Units and Essential Idea Units than the Novice Group. There was higher correlations between the Novice Group of interpreters’ working memory performance and their ability to transfer information while higher correlations was seen between topic knowledge and ability to transfer information among the Experienced Group of interpreters.