Out of the frying pan into the fire: The impact of the pandemic on the listening environment of public service interpreters in Finland as experienced by interpreters themselves


  • Anu Viljanmaa Tampere University




Public service interpreters; Listening process; Face masks; Listening filters


This article looks at the impact of the pandemic on the work environment of public service interpreters in Finland from a listening-oriented perspective. The rapid switch to remote interpreting in all public service interpreting settings, i.e., the use of virtual meeting tools such as Teams alongside traditional telephone interpreting, affected the listening conditions of public service interpreters dramatically during the spring and summer of 2020. Later during the year, interpreters were able to return to face-to-face interpreting, but encountered yet a new interaction and listening reality: interpreting with face masks. The theoretical framework of this study consisted of the stages of the relational listening process (Halone & Pecchioni, 2001), and the concept of external listening filters in dialogue interpreting (Author, 2020, pp. 481–488). The focus was on the interpreters’ experience of working in three different interactional settings that involved external listening filters: remote interpreting via the phone, remote interpreting via video link, and interpreting in-situ while wearing a face mask. The research data consisted of 357 individual answers from 41 practising interpreters to an electronic survey on the topic carried out in November 2021. The results of the qualitative content analysis show that interpreters have mixed feelings about the technical solutions used during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Some respondents have come to prefer remote interpreting, whereas others rather interpret in-situ, despite having to wear face masks. All three interaction modes have both negative and positive aspects from the interpreter’s perspective. Most respondents considered interpreting with face masks difficult in many ways. Research is needed on the long-term effects of the use of face masks on interpreters’ wellbeing.


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