Volume 22, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1384-6647
  • E-ISSN: 1569-982X
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This study examined the link between listeners’ perceptions of the quality of interpretation and their beliefs about the interpreter. Two groups of Mandarin-speaking participants were shown a video of a speech by President Obama being interpreted into Mandarin Chinese by a non-native Mandarin-speaking interpreter. The participants in one group were shown a photo of a Chinese-looking man alongside the video and those in the other group were shown a photo of a non-Chinese-looking man. The quantitative results showed that those who believed they were listening to a non-Chinese interpreter judged the interpretation more positively than those who believed they were listening to a Chinese interpreter. The qualitative results showed that the participants in the non-Chinese condition attributed the non-native features of the interpretation to the interpreter’s being a foreigner, and that they naturally used the language competence of non-native speakers as the standard of comparison. In this case, the participants’ perceptions of quality could also be explained by the interpreter’s perceived association with a highly esteemed group in China, and his ability to interpret into Chinese generated a sense of national self-esteem among the participants. Overall, the findings show that factors other than the features identifiable in an interpretation can influence the perception of quality of interpretation.


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