Emotions, stress and related phenomena in public service interpreter and translator training


Guest Editors:

Rachel E. Herring, PhD, Century College (USA)


Marcin Walczyński, PhD, University of Wrocław (Poland)


Public service interpreters are regularly involved in emotionally-complex and high-stress situations as part of their jobs. Whether working in courts, hospitals, social services, schools, immigration and refugee services, or any of the settings in which they may carry out their jobs, they encounter situations that range from relatively-low-stakes to acute, high-stakes/high-tension, from tragic to joyful, and everything in between. Interpreting requires the interpreter to witness and re-present, with their own body, the spectrum of human experience and emotion (Herring, 2021; cf. Bahadir, 2010; Shlesinger, 2015; Bontempo & Malcolm, 2012). Interpreters and translators working in public service settings must, therefore, be well-prepared to confront and cope with emotions and stress. In the following paragraphs, we introduce four affect-related dimensions of interpreting which we believe are of central importance for training and preparation of interpreters and translators.

Over the last several years, a growing body of research has shed light on the effects of exposure to trauma and stress on interpreters, including the potential for interpreters to suffer from vicarious trauma and burnout (Bontempo & Malcolm, 2012; Lai, et al., 2015; Crezee, et al., 2015; Harvey, 2015; Schwenke, et al., 2014; Schwenke, 2015; Shlesinger, 2015; Mehus & Becher, 2016; Geiling et al., 2021). Interpreters’ experiences of such effects may be compounded if they have not been adequately prepared to anticipate and cope with them. Given the overall situation with regard to training and preparation of public service interpreters in many countries, interpreters working in public service and community settings may have minimal pre-service training (Bao, 2015; Kim, 2017; Mikkelson, 2017). In some cases, particularly in emergency or conflict situations (e.g., Tryuk 2016; Ali, Alhassan & Burma, 2019), interpreting services may be provided on an ad hoc basis by individuals with no specific training or preparation related to public service interpreting. In the case of interpreters who have received formal training, their programs’ curricula may or may not have addressed issues related to coping with emotionally-complex situations and the potential for vicarious trauma. Moreover, public service interpreters are often members of the migrant communities they serve, and through their interpreting work they may be repeatedly re-exposed to personal, family, and cultural trauma. Exposure to such situations without appropriate pre-service training can endanger the interpreter’s emotional stability and adversely impact their psychological well-being.

Interpreters’ ability to manage their own stress and emotion during performance is another important aspect to consider. Interpreters must be able to effectively regulate their emotional and stress responses in order to navigate emotionally-charged situations while continuing to effectively carry out the complex cognitive, social, and interactional processes and tasks involved in interpreting. A number of publications discuss interpreters’ experiences of stress and emotion during task performance, including topics such as stress, anxiety, fear, emotional stability, and self-care (e.g., Valero-Garcés, 2005; Ruiz Rosendo 2020; Rajpoot, Rehman & Ali, 2020; Korpal, 2021; Walczyński, 2021a; Korpal & Mellinger, 2022). Online self-regulation of emotion and stress in the area of public service/community interpreting has not, to date, been a major focus of scholarly inquiry, although Herring (2018) discusses interpreters’ online monitoring of their own and others’ affect during interactions. Various aspects of acquisition of interpreting skills—primarily in the context of conference interpreting—are well-documented in the literature (e.g., Setton & Dawrant 2016; Gillies 2017), but there is a lack of literature regarding acquisition and development of self-regulation of affect.

Third, interpreters’ ability to comprehend and reconstruct aspects of communication related to affect and stress plays a role in the effectiveness of their work and, therefore, in the success (or lack thereof) of the interactions they interpret. For example, interpreters’ awareness and rendition of rapport-building strategies in police interviews is discussed by Mulayim, Lai, & Norma (2015). Recent studies have also explored interpreters’ impact on empathic communication in medical consultations (Krystallidou, et al., 2020; Theys, et al. 2022) and rapport management in mental health consultations (Rodríguez Vicente, 2021).

The last aspect of emotion/affect in interpreter and translator training that we wish to address is that of stress and emotion in the context of teaching & learning. Stress, motivation, and affect play a role in learners’ process of skill acquisition, in their development of self-esteem and professional self-concept, and in their performance in didactic and practice activities. The role of emotions, stress, personality and other aspects of psycho-affectivity in interpreter and translator training has been discussed by scholars such as Jiménez Ivars & Pinazo Calatayud (2001), Johnson (2016), Prada Prada (2019), Walczyński (2021b), Schweda-Nicholson (2005), Bontempo and Napier (2011) and Timarová & Salaets (2011). The topic was also the focus of a panel convened by Walczyński & Paradowska at the 2022 Congress of the European Society for Translation Studies, which sparked much discussion and led to the framing of this call for papers.

The central importance of emotions and stress in public service interpreting and translation and the relative lack of literature focused on this topic emphasize the need for further research. The editors of this special issue therefore seek contributions related to affect, stress, and self-regulation in the context of training of interpreters and translators for public service settings, touching on one or more of the four aspects described above. We encourage prospective contributors to consider the following themes:

  • aspects of affect and personality as they relate to aptitude for public service interpreting and translation
  • the role of the affective dimension in skill acquisition and learning, including aspects such as motivation, self-esteem, stress, and emotional self-regulatory capacity
  • studies of affect and self-regulation of affect in trainee public service interpreters and translators, from the perspective of cognitive translation studies
  • approaches to preparing learners for emotionally-charged situations they will encounter in their work as public service interpreters and translators, including aspects such as service providers’ discourse patterns, empathic communication, and rapport-building
  • methods of teaching public service interpreting with reference to emotions and their self-regulation
  • studies related to vicarious trauma and self-care, including interventions focused on increasing learners’ awareness, self-reflexivity, and coping strategies
  • explorations of affective and self-regulatory dimensions in remote/online contexts, both in terms of learning and of performance
  • developing interpreters’ autonomy with respect to psycho-affectivity management strategies
  • psychological profile of public service interpreting training candidates and public service interpreting training graduates vs market reality

The guest editors encourage contributions from scholars working with public service interpreters and translators in all types and modalities of language combinations and in all training and education settings, ranging from workshops and short non-academic courses to university level programs to professional development/continuing education settings.

Interested colleagues are invited to submit their paper proposals to both guest editors in the form of abstracts of 350-500 words (excluding references), in MS Word format, by 30 June, 2023. The editors’ email addresses appear at the beginning of this call for papers.

Timeline & Important Information

  • Timeline:
    • Proposals (350-500 words, excluding references) due to guest editors: 30 June, 2023
    • Editors’ decisions on proposals sent to authors: 15 July, 2023
    • Submission of full manuscripts to editors: 15 October, 2023
    • Reviews/comments sent to authors: 15 December, 2023
    • Submission of revised manuscripts to editors: 31 January, 2024
    • Final decision on acceptance sent to authors: 29 February, 2024
    • Publication of special issue: April, 2024
  • Additional important information:
    • Proposals may be submitted in English or Spanish.
    • Finished articles should be between 5,000 and 8,000 words.
    • Additional information for authors will be provided to authors of proposals that are accepted for inclusion.


Ali, H., Alhassan, A. & Burma, I. (2019). An investigation into the interpreters’ challenges in conflict zones: The case of Darfur region in Sudan. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 3(3), 37–50. http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol3no3.3

Bahadir, S. (2010). The task of the interpreter in the struggle of the other for empowerment: Mythical utopia or sine qua non of professionalism? Translation and Interpreting studies 5(1), 124-139. https://doi.org/10.1075/tis.5.1.08bah

Bao, C. (2015). Pedagogy. In Mikkelson, H. & Jourdenais, R. The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting (pp. 400–416). Routledge.

Bontempo, K. & Malcolm, K. (2012). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Educating interpreters about the risk of vicarious trauma in healthcare settings. In L. Swabey and K. Malcolm (Eds.), In our hands: Educating healthcare interpreters (pp. 105–130). Gallaudet University Press.

Bontempo, K. & Napier, J. (2011). Evaluating emotional stability as a predictor of interpreter competence and aptitude for interpreting. Interpreting 13(1), 85–105. https://doi.org/10.1075/intp.13.1.06bon

Crezee, I., Atkinson, D., Pask, R., Au, P., & Wong, S. (2015). Teaching interpreters about self-care. International Journal of Interpreter Education 7(1), 74–83. https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/ijie/vol7/iss1/7/

Geiling, A., Knaevelsrud, C., Böttche, M., & Stammel, N. (2021). Mental health and work experience of interpreters in the mental health care of refugees: a systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology 12 (710789), np. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.710789

Gillies, A. (2017). Note-taking for Consecutive Interpreting: A Short Course, 2nd edition. Routledge.

Harvey, M. (2015). Reaping the benefits of vicarious trauma. International Journal of Interpreter Education 7(2), 5–20. https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/ijie/vol7/iss2/3/

Herring, R. E. [@herring_r_e]. (2021, February 23). Interpreters are people who witness (and re-present, with their own bodies) the spectrum of human experience, from the most public [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/herring_r_e/status/1364275068973514758

Herring, R. E. 2018. ‘I Could Only Think About What I Was Doing, and That Was a Lot to Think About’: Online Self-Regulation in Dialogue Interpreting. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Geneva, Switzerland. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:108626

Jiménez Ivars, A. & Pinazo Calatayud, D. (2001). “I failed because I got very nervous” Anxiety and performance in interpreter trainees: an empirical study. The Interpreters' Newsletter 11, 105–118. https://www.openstarts.units.it/handle/10077/2452

Johnson, J. E. (2016). Effect of mindfulness training on interpretation exam performances in graduate students in interpreting. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of San Francisco. https://repository.usfca.edu/diss/305

Kim, M. (2017). Research on translator and interpreter education. In C. Millán & F. Bartrina (Eds). The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies (pp. 117–128). Routledge.

Korpal, P. (2021). Stress experienced by Polish sworn translators and interpreters. Perspectives 29(4), 554–571. https://doi.org/10.1080/0907676X.2021.1889004  

Korpal, P. & Mellinger, C. (2022). Self-care strategies in professional community interpreters: An interview-based study. Translation, Cognition & Behavior 5(2): 275-299. https://doi.org/10.1075/tcb.00069.kor

Krystallidou, D., Bylund, C. L., & Pype, P. (2020). The professional interpreter’s effect on empathic communication in medical consultations: A qualitative analysis of interaction. Patient Education and Counseling 103(3), 521–529. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2019.09.027

Lai, M., Heydon, G., & Mulayim, S. (2015). Vicarious trauma among interpreters. International Journal of Interpreter Education 7(1), 3–22. https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1107&context=ijie

Mehus, C. J., & Becher, E. H. (2016). Secondary Traumatic Stress, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction in a Sample of Spoken-Language Interpreters. Traumatology 22(4), 249-254. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/trm0000023

Mikkelson, H. (2017). Community interpreting. In C. Millán & F. Bartrina (Eds). The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies (pp. 389–401). Routledge.

Mulayim, S., Lai, Miranda, & Norma, C. (2015). Police investigative interviews and interpreting: context, challenges, and strategies. CRC Press.

Prada Prada, C. E. (2019). Estrategias metacognitivas de regulación empleadas por intérpretes en formación y su relación con las manifestaciones de la ansiedad [Metacognitive regulation strategies employed by trainee interpreters and their relationship with signs of anxiety]. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Universidad Autónoma de Manizales, Colombia.

Rajpoot, A., Rehman, S. & Ali, P. (2020). Emotional and psychological impact of interpreting for clients with traumatic histories on interpreters: a review of qualitative articles. WikiJournal of Medicine, 7(1):3. https://doi.org/10.15347/WJM/2020.003

Rodríguez Vicente, N. (2021). Dialogue interpreting in psychological medicine: an exploration of rapport management practices. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.

Ruiz Rosendo, L. (2020). The role of the affective in interpreting in conflict zones. Target, 26. https://doi.org/10.1075/target.18165.rui

Setton, R., & Dawrant, A. (2016). Conference Interpreting: A Complete Course. John Benjamins.

Shlesinger, Y. (2015). Vicarious Trauma. In F. Pöchhacker (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies (pp. 434–435). Routledge.

Schweda-Nicholson, N. (2005). Personality characteristics of interpreter trainees: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The Interpreter’s Newsletter 13, 109–142.

Schwenke, T. (2015). Burnout. In F. Pöchhacker (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies (p. 38). Routledge.

Schwenke, T. J., Ashby, J. S., & Gnilka, P. B. (2014). Sign language interpreters and burnout: the effects of perfectionism, perceived stress, and coping resources. Interpreting 16 (2), 209-232. https://doi.org/10.1075/intp.16.2.04sch

Theys L, Wermuth C, Hsieh E, Krystallidou D, Pype P, Salaets H. (2022). Doctors, Patients, and Interpreters’ Views on the Co-Construction of Empathic Communication in Interpreter-Mediated Consultations: A Qualitative Content Analysis of Video Stimulated Recall Interviews. Qualitative Health Research 32(12), 1843–1857. https://doi.org/10.1177/10497323221119369

Timarová, S. & Salaets, H. (2011). Learning styles, motivation and cognitive flexibility in interpreter training. Self-selection and aptitude. In F. Pöchhacker & M. Liu (Eds.), Aptitude for Interpreting (pp. 33–54).  John Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/bct.68.02tim.

Tryuk, M. (2016). Interpreting and translating in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series: Themes in Translation Studies 15, 121–141. https://doi.org/10.52034/lanstts.v15i.386

Valero-Garcés, C. (2005). Emotional and psychological effects on interpreters in public services. A critical factor to bear in mind. Translation Journal 9(3), n.p.  http://www.translationjournal.net/journal/33ips.htm

Walczyński, M. (2021a) Polish-English certified interpreters in psycho-affectively challenging contexts. Current Trends in Translation Teaching and Learning E, 359–448. http://www.cttl.org/uploads/5/2/4/3/5243866/cttle202112.pdf

Walczyński, M. (2021b). “Will I make it or will I make a fool of myself”: Polish-English certified interpreters’ experience of anxiety. Onomázein – Numer specjalny VIII: Emotions in Translation and Interpreting, 4–103. https://doi.org/10.7764/onomazein.ne8.03