Perceptions of bilingual competence and preferred language direction in Auslan/English interpreters
Issue: Vol 2 No. 2 (2005)
Journal: Journal of Applied Linguistics
Given that the study of interpreting can be considered as an applied linguistic activity, this paper details a small-scale study which investigated 56 Australian Sign Language (Auslan)/ English interpreters’ perceptions of their bilingual status and compared these to their preferences for working into Auslan or English. The impetus for the study came from discussions with interpreter educators, researchers and practitioners in which it was asked ‘how bilingual’ an interpreter must be in order to interpret effectively. Interpreters are assumed to have a high level of proficiency in both their languages and traditionally interpret into their dominant language. An email survey that questioned interpreters’ perceptions about bilingualism in general, their own bilingualism and their preferred language direction was administered to accredited Auslan/ English interpreters in Australia. The results showed that for many of the interpreters, perceived bilingual status and preferred language direction when interpreting contravened established practice, preferring to interpret into their non-dominant language. The findings are discussed in relation to implications for the education and practice of signed and spoken language interpreters worldwide, and highlight the need for further study of the nexus between bilingualism and interpreting.
Author: Jemina Napier, Meg Rohan, Helen Slatyer