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