An investigation of cognitive efforts in simultaneous interpreting into Arabic

A case study of Egyptian undergraduate students

Authored by: Sama Dawood

The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138958043
eBook ISBN: 9781315661346
Adobe ISBN:


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One key contribution in the field of simultaneous interpreting (SI) is Gile’s Effort Model (2009) which views the process of SI as a task that cannot be fulfilled if certain efforts are not available at certain amounts. But while many studies have used Gile’s Effort Model (EM) as a conceptual framework to analyze the output of professional interpreters or to compare their performance with that of novices, only few scholars have attempted to use it as a tool to identify the directionality-related, cognitive difficulties that learners of SI encounter. This chapter attempts to curb that defect by detecting the obstacles that learners of SI face in an English-Arabic context. It focuses on the two significant efforts of listening and production, and tries to relate them to the controversial issue of directionality. A sample of Arab university students enrolled in an introductory interpreting course were asked to interpret an English speech into Arabic, and then to answer a questionnaire about the difficulties they faced while interpreting from their own perspective. The questions of the questionnaire are designed in such a way as to prove or refute the commonly held belief that the available processing capacity while interpreting into an A language (the mother tongue) usually meets the required processing capacity. The chapter hypothesizes that being a native speaker of a language does not necessarily imply that interpreting into that language poses few challenges, and that Arab learners of SI face considerable linguistic difficulties when they interpret into their mother tongue. The findings of the study show that the subjects in the study, although they were all Arabs, showed differences in their ability to fluently use the Modern Standard Arabic (supposedly their A language) while interpreting. This is attributed to the fact that Arabs in their everyday life use a variety of dialects that differ, to varying extents, from the Modern Standard Arabic, which is usually understood but not intuitively spoken by all Arabs. It is concluded that directionality is not a matter of being a native speaker of a language; it rather depends on how much the users of that language are exposed to it, especially if it has different dialects such as Arabic. It is recommended, therefore, that developers of SI training programs for Arab learners address the different needs of these students and their various high school backgrounds.

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