LINGUIST List 14.1663

Thu Jun 12 2003

Review: Translation: P�chhacker & Shlesinger (2002)

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  • Wang Shaoxiang, The Interpreting Studies Reader

    Message 1: The Interpreting Studies Reader

    Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 14:19:42 +0000
    From: Wang Shaoxiang <>
    Subject: The Interpreting Studies Reader

    P�chhacker, Franz (2002) The Interpreting Studies Reader, Routledge, Routledge Language Readers (ed. by Miriam Shlesinger).

    Announced at

    Wang Shaoxiang, Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian Teachers University


    Are Interpreting and Translation Studies one and the same? Or is Interpreting Studies a mere offshoot and sub-discipline of Translation Studies? Or is Interpreting Studies a fledgling discipline struggling to establish itself in the face of the plethora of publications on Translation Studies? With the representative contributions of significant research on interpreting pieced together in this single volume, the Interpreting Studies Reader delivers a clear message: Interpreting Studies is making strides towards a full-fledged discipline in its own right.


    The clear-cut structure of the book falls into seven distinctive parts:

    Part 1 - ''Breaking Ground'' - as its name implies, comprise the groundbreaking works on conference interpreting, which was largely confined to the simultaneous mode in the early days, essentially concerned with the psychological and psycholinguistic issues. While psychologists took it up as a challenge to the prevailing theories on the limits of human processing capacity, psycholinguists seized upon it as a means of testing their hypotheses concerning the role of input segmentation as well as hesitations and pauses in speech production. The pioneering works in this part reflect the methodological dilemmas of experimentation on interpreting in general and the conceptual complexity of analyzing the interpreter's output and performance. While grappling for the first time with the qualitative dimensions of the task, these works paved the way for future research. (p.28)

    If we say Part 1 mainly consists of the works of the ''outsiders''-researchers with a background in psychology and psycholinguistics, then, in Part 2 - ''Laying Foundations'' - we find classics of the research literature on conference interpreting completely from the ''insiders'' - practi-searchers within the field of interpreting itself - such as Chervnov, Kirchhoff, Seleskovitch and Lederer. Coming from very different geo-academic traditions, but essentially sharing a common ground in interpreting and interpreter training, the four writers draw attention to the role of interpreting based on linguistics and extra-linguistic background knowledge, and to the ways in which the underlying meaning, rather than the surface form of the messages is at the heart of interpreting. (p. 97)

    Part 3 - ''Modeling the Process'' - is devoted to the overriding concern in conference interpreting research: the ''process'' rather than the ''product''. While focusing on the micro level cognitive processes ''inside'' the interpreter, the three papers in this part reflect considerable variety exhibited in interpreting scholars efforts to construct models for interpreting: B. Moser's ''cognitive-science-based model'' (information-processing model), Daniel Gile's ''intuition-based didactic model''(Effort Model) and Robin Setton's ''cognitive-pragmatic analysis'' of the interpreting process. (pp.144-146)

    In Part 4 - ''Broadening the View'' - the works on the wider-situational, interactional and sociocultural contexts, within which the activity of interpreting is carried out, are selected to broaden the analytical focus on interpreting in several different directions. Anderson views the interpreter's role from the sociological perspective, Boistra Alexieva provides a communication typology of interpreting studies and Fernando Poyatos focuses gives the comprehensive semiotic account of the nonverbal communication channels in simultaneous and consecutive interpreting.

    In Part 5 - ''Observing the Product and its Effects'' - we witness a shift from the research on the interpreting process to the product and its effects with the emergence of the significant line of quality- and product-oriented studies in interpreting. In the three papers of this part, source speech and the interpreter's rendition are not only looked as textual entities, but also examined from the advantage points of discourse studies, text-linguistics and pragmatics.

    Part 6 - ''Examining Expectations and Norms'' - explores underlying patterns of interpreter performance and its reception by the user. The pioneering study by Anne Schjoldager shows us the powerful methodological implications of the close linkage between interpreters' performance norms and their abilities to meet the cognitive processing requirements of the task at hand in a given situation. By way of introduction, Ingrid Kurz, ushers in the shift of emphasis from what interpreters consider good to what interpretation users actually expect. Angela Collados Ais demonstrates convincingly that the quality expectations and actual quality assessment are complementary.

    Finally, in Part 7, the growing professionalization of interpreting in non-conference settings is reflected in research aimed at ''(Re)defining the role'' of interpreters in interaction. The three papers in this part, all of them written by practicing interpreters and devoted to deontological issues centering on the interpreter's role, reveal a striking degree of cohesion and common ground, and clearly point towards increasing synergies within the broader field of Interpreting Studies.(p.340)

    Framing the two dozen papers in these seven thematic parts are two stand-alone pieces: a seminal essay by Alfred Hermann traces the history of interpreting in Antiquity and Michale Cronin's projections pointing to the future direction in interpreting studies. While pointing out the many historical, political and sociological implications which have yet to be explored, the paper culminates in an appeal for a ''cultural turn in Interpreting Studies''.


    The main asset of this book is its clear-cut and reader-friendly structure. Besides a detailed introductory essay reviewing the evolution of Interpreting Studies in Introduction, each thematic part begins with a succinct and lucid introduction hinting at what is going on in certain thematic fields of Interpreting Studies. Taken separately, they provide a summary of the thematic development in Interpreting Studies. Considered as a whole, they guide the reader through the evolution of Interpreting Studies and offer a panoramic view of the development of the discipline. We have every reason to believe that, with more endeavors invested in this respect, these introductions will in themselves make a perfect monograph on the history of interpreting studies. Moreover, the two stand-alone pieces framing the volume are original in choice, felicitous in nature and profound in meaning. While Alfred Herman's paper brings us back to the early history of interpreting and thus ushers in a historical perspective, Michael Cronin's points to future research directions with high potential for the dynamic development of the discipline. This rather open-ended ending of the book under review leaves the door wide open to new findings and insights into this dynamic and fast-growing domain. Furthermore, the brief background information about the contributors, the suggestions for further reading and the comprehensive bibliography provide a handy reference and will entice readers to follow further in this intriguing research.

    Another laudable achievement of the book is its interdisciplinary approach towards the selection of extracts. Interpreting scholars have stressed time and again that the scientific inquiry into this complex phenomenon requires the collaboration of researchers in established disciplines. Interpreting Studies did and will continue to borrow heavily from and expand its knowledge base with the research findings from cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, pragmatics, text linguistics, cross-cultural communication studies etc. With a view to highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of Interpreting Studies, the editors do not confine themselves to the inquiries made by practitioner and researchers. On the contrary, the book, documented in an extensive way, presents a fairly comprehensive picture of the ''rich and riveting literature'' on interpreting. The spanning of the multiple and diverse approaches to interpreting and the interplay of different voices is fascinating.

    While generally speaking I remain enthusiastic about this volume, not every aspect of the book is without its weaknesses, as any other works with similar ambitions may be. With great store set by the empirical and theoretical endeavors, the applied domains of the Interpreting Studies inevitably suffer or are even unfortunately left out. (Sure enough, the editors offer apologies for their exclusion.) (pp.10-11) Nevertheless, interpreting teachers and trainers with a strong interest in issues of pedagogy will no doubt be disappointed in the anthology which aspires to cater basically for the needs of empirically and theoretically minded readership. Given the ever-increasing market for the teaching and training of interpreters (The number of candidates sitting for the examination of Certificate for Translation and Interpreting in 2002 exceeds 14,000 in Shanghai alone (Sun Wanbiao, 2003)) back here in China, the inclusion of interpreting pedagogy and syllabus design will have a strong appeal to the expanding interpreting community. The improved teaching and training of interpreting, in turn, will also shed interesting light on the Interpreting Studies and fuel the momentum for further research.

    One more thing concerns with to what extent the theoretical foundations of Translation Studies would apply to research on interpreting. I wonder if it is a little too arbitrary to say that ''very few authors draw upon the concepts and theories generated by translation scholars''. Furthermore, the statement does not seem to be borne out by substantial research. Given the close connection between Interpreting Studies and Translation Studies, Interpreting Studies is hardly separately completely from the Translation Studies. Translation scholars, more often than not, touch upon Interpreting Studies as a subsection of their works on Translation Studies (e.g., Gutt, 2000; Hatim, 1997). And it is not that uncommon to see interpreting scholars to draw new insights from Translation Studies.

    To sum up, the reader is a comprehensive guide for interpreting scholars, researchers and practicing interpreters. Compiled with a historical perspective, I believe, the book is bound to be instrumental to the establishment of Interpreting Studies as an academic discipline in its own right, and as such it is worth revisiting time and again in one's career as a interpreting scholar. The book is timely and will trigger new research efforts in Interpreting Studies.


    Gutt, Ernst-August. (2000) Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context, Manchester & Boston: St. Jerome Publishing.

    Hatim, Basi and Mason, Ian. (1997) The Translator as Communicator, London and New York: Routledge.

    Sun Wanbiao. (2003) Translation Course. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.


    Wang Shaoxiang is a lecturer and doctoral candidate with the Foreign Languages Institute, Fujian Teachers University, China. His research interests include translating, interpreting and cultural studies.