Emotional labour and affective skills in public service interpreting: expanding the competence models





Public service interpreting, Interpreter competency, Affect, Emotional labour, Interpreter training


Extant approaches to interpreter competence appear directed at performance measurement, mainly in relation to cognitive skills. These approaches are reinforced by notions of professionalism underpinned by prescriptive ethical standards. Overall, the model largely neglects emotions as irrelevant and even contrary to good interpreting.

This article discusses emotions in the context of public service or community interpreting and how the interpreters’ emotional labour and, in particular, emotion regulation to meet the requirements of the role, influences service provision and interpreter wellbeing. Data from 14 interviews with interpreters suggest six contextual factors increasing such emotional labour, namely lack of dedicated training, assumptions about clients, ethical dilemmas, unclear role boundaries, client trauma, and identification with the clients. These raw or untrained emotional responses can lead to interpreter interventions outside the traditional scope of the role and psycho-emotional distress among practitioners. A holistic approach to interpreter competence including affective skills is suggested, alongside a model for teaching emotion regulation to interpreters.


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