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Review of  The Interpreting Studies Reader

Reviewer: Shaoxiang Wang
Book Title: The Interpreting Studies Reader
Book Author: Franz Pöchhacker Miriam N. Shlesinger
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 14.1663

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Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2003 14:48:37 +0800
From: Wang Shaoxiang
Subject: The Interpreting Studies Reader

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

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


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

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.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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.