Profession, Identity and Status: Translators and Interpreters as an Occupational Group
  • ISSN 1932-2798
  • E-ISSN: 1876-2700
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China’s sudden emergence as a major player in the global economy has generated enormous new demand for translation and interpreting. With the development of formal training, certification and research activity, both mainland China and Taiwan are seeing the first signs of professionalization. This article reports the findings of a survey, the first of its kind, on patterns of professional practice, self-perceptions, job satisfaction and aspirations of translators and interpreters in Shanghai and Taipei and their perceptions of their role and contribution at a time when English and Chinese look set to become the languages of the twenty-first century. In terms of professional identity, most respondents choose the generic term 翻译 (‘translation’) to describe their main occupation, with slightly more specification among interpreters (as 口译 , ‘interpreter’). Only a small minority are members of professional associations. Job satisfaction is high, particularly among interpreters, who enjoy higher status. Views about training, testing and certification are mixed. Attitudes to loyalty, neutrality, toning-down and other role-related norms appear to be close to the international professional consensus, pending future contrastive studies; most respondents express a down-to-earth attitude to their role and contribution to society, downplaying ‘cultural mediation.’ The survey was planned and conducted as a practical introductory exercise in the methodologies of interpreting studies within the PhD program at the Graduate Institute of Interpretation and Translation (GIIT) of Shanghai International Studies University (SISU).


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Chinese; interpreters; professional identity; professionalization; translators
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