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I'm the CCO of a Brussels-based European trade group. The group has been around for over 40 years and has used interpreting services extensively, but much less so today than 20 years ago.

We used to have interpreters around for all our working group meetings, but we now conduct them in English only. We only buy interpreting services for statutory meetings, because of our articles of association. We also buy the cheapest interpreters on the market, because it doesn't really make any difference for that type of formal event anyway.

Interpreters and translators were a major cost factor in the budget - many years ago we even had up to 10 translators and 4 interpreters on our payroll - but it's also clear that using one language only has its downsides (communication problems mainly, or political problems when the biggest contributor to the group's budget uses another national language...).

Has the EU for instance attempted to assess the negative externalities of using one language only, in terms of increased misunderstandings, or loss of expertise overall? I'd be interested to know.

asked 05 Nov '11, 08:50

Bryan's gravatar image

Bryan
71123

edited 05 Nov '11, 09:09

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck
3.9k203350


Karin Reithofer (PhD-student at the University of Vienna) has carried out a study as part of her doctoral thesis:

"English as a lingua franca vs. interpreting: battleground or peaceful coexistence?"

She has just finished her thesis and the results have not yet been published. We're looking forward to the publication and we keep you posted. She has authorized this brief summary of her study:

The findings indicate that under appropriate working conditions, in a given setting of technical communication, professional simultaneous interpreting can ensure a higher level of audience comprehension than the use of non-native English.

  • Experimental audience: 58 native-German subject-matter experts who can be assumed to understand a speech in English just as well as in their first language – a claim frequently heard from conference organisers. The subjects were business students who were parallelised according to their gradepoint average and English skills and then randomised to ensure balanced groups.

  • In a simulated conference setting, the study participants were asked to listen to a presentation in their area of expertise. The speaker was an Italian professor of business studies who regularly uses English when teaching at his university, at conferences and in research publications.

  • Half of the subjects listened to the original speaker. The other half heard the speech in a professional interpretation into German.

  • After the lecture, both groups were asked to fill in a questionnaire with eleven comprehension questions on the content of the speech.

The comparison of the average scores of the two groups shows an exceptionally clear result: The group listening to the interpretation into their mother tongue understood the content significantly better than the group listening to the non-native original speaker, even though the subjects were highly proficient users of English with relevant subjectmatter expertise.

This confirms the hypothesis stated above that interpretation can potentially increase the comprehensibility of non native speakers.

permanent link

answered 08 Nov '11, 16:09

Angela's gravatar image

Angela
3.3k82448

edited 10 Nov '11, 15:56

Thank you to Sarah Bordes (who has promoted the study and helped me find the author) and to Karin Reithofer! Good luck!

(10 Nov '11, 15:54) Angela

Wish I could upvote twice, recruit Ms Reithofer for interpreting.info and looking forward to her published thesis

(10 Nov '11, 16:00) Vincent Buck

You can find another article by Reithofer here (pages 122-132): "English as a Lingua Franca and Interpreting" http://studia.ubbcluj.ro/download/pdf/574.pdf

(10 Nov '11, 16:11) Angela
3

Thank you for your interest and thanks to Sarah and Angela for passing the information on. The main article cited above is actually already retrievable in the Journal "The Interpreters' Newsletter" 15, 143-157. www.openstarts.units.it/dspace/handle/10077/4731

The thesis is written in German, though, and therefore probably not accessible for all. Sorry! Over 300 pages in English was just too much! I have the intention, however, to publish another, more detailed article on my work. If there is more interest, I could announce it on this plattform.

(22 Nov '11, 12:55) Karin Reithofer

Here is another article about English as a Lingua Franca:

Global English and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF): Implications for the Interpreting Profession

Author: Prof. M. Albl-Mikasa (University ZHAW, Zürich)

I quote the last paragraph:

It may be useful to make (beginner) interpreters aware of the implications of ELF, saving them from unrealistic expectations and preparing them for the difficulties that go along with the impact the spread of ELF has on their working conditions. At the same time, they should be helped to show great confidence in their unique and rightly admired skill and to be well informed so as to be able to reason with potential customers. They need to come up with strong arguments for the provision of interpreting services and adequate technical support, the combination of which is not so much a costly liability, but rather a valuable instrument in ensuring successful interlingual communication.

permanent link

answered 05 May '12, 12:48

Angela's gravatar image

Angela
3.3k82448

Thank you for your interest and thanks to Sarah and Angela for passing the information on. The main article cited above is actually already retrievable in the Journal "The Interpreters' Newsletter" 15, 143-157. www.openstarts.units.it/dspace/handle/10077/4731

The thesis is written in German, though, and therefore probably not accessible for all. Sorry! Over 300 pages in English was just too much! I have the intention, however, to publish another, more detailed article on my work. If there is more interest, I could announce it on this plattform.

permanent link

answered 22 Nov '11, 12:52

Karin%20Reithofer's gravatar image

Karin Reithofer
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question asked: 05 Nov '11, 08:50

question was seen: 3,333 times

last updated: 05 May '12, 12:48

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