Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1384-6647
  • E-ISSN: 1569-982X
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Among spoken language interpreters, a long-standing question regarding directionality is whether interpretations are better when working into one’s native language (L1) or into one’s ‘active’ non-native language (L2). In contrast to studies that support working into L1, signed language interpreters report a preference for working into L2. Accordingly, we investigated whether signed language interpreters actually perform better when interpreting into their L2 (American Sign Language, ASL) or into their L1 (English). Interpretations by 30 interpreters (15 novice, 15 expert), delivered under experimental conditions, were assessed on accuracy (semantic content) and articulation quality (flow, speed, and prosody). For both measures, novices scored significantly better when interpreting into English (L1); experts were equally accurate, and showed similar articulation quality, in both directions. The results for the novice interpreters support the hypothesis that the difficulty of L2 production drives interpreting performance in relation to directionality. Findings also indicate a disconnect between direction preference and interpreting performance. Novices’ perception of their ASL production ability may be distorted because they can default to fingerspelling and transcoding. Weakness in self-monitoring of signing may also lead novices to overrate their ASL skills. Interpreter educators should stress misperceptions of signing proficiency that arise from available, but inappropriate, strategies.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): accuracy; American Sign Language; articulation quality; directionality
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