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Auteur: Yan DING

The Role of Subject-Area Knowledge in Consecutive Interpreting - a Semantic and Pragmatic Perspective

Abstract/Résumé: Interpreting is one of the most complicated human cognitive activities. Consecutive interpreting, in particular, has a high demand on interpreters’ memory skills, language skills, and subject area knowledge. Interpreters’ pre-acquired knowledge can affect the whole interpreting process, i.e., the comprehension process, the transferring process and the reproduction process. This influence is reflected not only in the quality of the interpretations, but also in the interpreting strategies employed. My hypotheses are that with a higher level of subject area knowledge, interpreters will have a more thorough and profound understanding of the source text; more readily avoid the interference from the source language structures; and therefore, produce higher quality target language output. In addition, equipped with more subject area knowledge, interpreters may be able to recur to higher level of interpreting strategies, that is, strategies on a macro level, or discourse level, instead of on a micro, lexical level. My paper reports the results of a pilot study that I conducted as a core part of my PhD research, with the aim of exploring the influence of subject area knowledge on student interpreters’ consecutive interpreting performance. Twenty two fourth-year English majors at Dalian University of Technology in China participated in the experiment. These participants, who are all comparable in regards to their English proficiency, education, previous knowledge on the topic and interpreting experience, were randomly divided into two groups—a control group and an experimental group. Before carrying out the interpreting task, both groups were given a terminology list, containing terms they might encounter in the English speech they were about to interpret into Chinese. The only different treatment the experimental group received was that they were given two hours to study a portfolio of background articles related to the speech topic. Data collected include participants’ demographic information, their English test scores, a pre-test on their knowledge level on the topic, their recorded interpretations, retrospective reports on the interpreting process as well as retrospective interviews on the interpreting task. Results indicate that with more background knowledge, participants perform better in specialized interpreting. In particular, they are more accurate in terms of the content, and more cohesive and coherent in terms of the target language output. In addition, the results also confirm that a higher level of English proficiency tends to predict a higher level of interpreting quality. Gender seems also plays a role, in that female participants outperformed the male participants.