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Poster A3, Thursday, August 16, 10:15 am – 12:00 pm, Room 2000AB

How attention relates to consecutive interpreting performance: the importance of processing rather than storage

Junyan Wei1,2, Yulei Gao1, Shuyi Liu1, Chuanbin Ni1;1Nanjing Normal University, 2McGill University

Consecutive interpreting is a process of transferring meaning from one language to another. During consecutive interpreting, interpreter listens to the speaker and takes notes. When the speaker pauses, the interpreter then convey the meaning of his talk into the target language to the listeners. Since there are so many tasks but the time is limited, it is important for interpreters to filter the most crucial messages into information processing procedure, focuse on it, but at the same time allocate their energy among different tasks. Therefore, consecutive interpreters need good attention abilities. The interdisciplinary topic of the role of attention in interpreting has been studied since the 1960s. Attention has by far been considered a well-established predictor for individual variation in consecutive interpreting performance. However, there are different aspects of attention, namely, processing of attention (which can be subdivided into focused and divided attention) and storage of attention. How these different aspects of attention relate to consecutive interpreting is still unclear. In the current study, the contribution of focused attention, divided attention and attention span to the performance of consecutive interpreting were investigated. 40 students majored in English/Chinese translation and interpretation took part in the experiment. Two groups of tests were conducted. The first group was the attention test, which included focused attention, divided attention and attention span tests. The second group was the English-Chinese(E-C) and Chinese-English(C-E) consecutive interpreting test. For attention test, focused and divided attention were measured by a dichotic listening program. Attention span was measured by a visual attention span test. For consecutive interpreting test, participants were asked to interpret two articles from Chinese to English, and two from English to Chinese. Their speeches were recorded and graded. The total score of interpretation performance was combined by three aspects, accuracy of information, fluency of speech, and pragmatic correctness. Correlation, ANOVA and regression were applied for data analysis. Results showed that (1) Focused attention had a close relationship with both E-C and C-E consecutive interpreting, especially the fluency of interpreters’ speech. Interpreters who were better at focusing attention could be more fluent in consecutive interpreting. (2) Divided attention was not correlated to either E-C or C-E consecutive interpreting. Interpreters who had better ability to divide attention among tasks did not necessarily perform better in consecutive interpreting. (3) Attention span and consecutive interpreting was not correlated either. During consecutive interpreting, broader attention span might not help interpreters achieve better performance. Based on the results, it can thus be concluded that not all aspect of attention plays equal important roles in consecutive interpreting. Processing aspect of attention, especially the ability of quickly focusing on crucial information, is more important than the storage of attention in predicting the performance of consecutive interpreting.

Topic Area: Control, Selection, and Executive Processes