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Assessing source material difficulty for consecutive interpreting

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Motivated by the need for better control of standards of a certification examination for interpreters in Taiwan, this exploratory study aimed at identifying indicators that may be used to predict source material difficulty for consecutive interpreting. A combination of quantifiable measures — readability level, information density and new concept density — was used to examine different aspects of three English source materials. Expert judgment was also used as a more holistic method of judging source material difficulty. The results of these analyses were compared with two groups of student interpreters’ performance on consecutive interpreting of the source materials into Mandarin Chinese. The participants’ assessment of speech difficulty after the interpreting task was also compared with the other measures and the expert judgment. The quantifiable measures all failed statistically in predicting source material difficulty, possibly due to the very small sample size of the materials or to the fact that the materials were very similar in the aspects assessed by these measures. A trend emerged to suggest that information density and sentence length may be potentially useful indicators for predicting source material difficulty. It was also shown that source material difficulty affected the performance of lower-skilled interpreters more than that of higher-skilled interpreters.
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Keywords: consecutive interpreting; difficulty; expert judgment; information density; readability; source material

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 2, 2009

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  • International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting
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