The Linguist

The Linguist 54,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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8 Perceptions of prestige and the social value of interpreting 9 Perceptions of role 10 Considerations on the future of the interpreting profession. The most striking results concerned how interpreters see themselves (the internal perception) compared with how they think they are regarded by society (the external perception). First, respondents were asked which of four professional groups they would compare themselves to. 2 As shown in the graph above, 56.5% relate their status to that of medical doctors and university lecturers. This suggests that they believe that conference interpreting requires a very high level of education, is generally well remunerated, and that professionals have a high social standing – a consideration that is consistent with assumptions found in scholarly literature. 3 It is interesting to note that perceptions of status do not change according to the country of residence, which implies that status is not a context-dependent parameter but a universal one. 14 The Linguist Vol/54 No/3 2015 FEATURES Paola Gentile compares interpreters' perceptions of themselves with the way they believe that others see them In a recent study conducted by Dam and Zethsen, 1 conference interpreters were described as the 'stars of the translation professions', a definition which reflects the aura of prestige that has surrounded generations of interpreters. Since the birth of conference interpreting during the Nuremberg Trials, the work has caused marvel and amazement – and enjoyed higher status than other language professions, due to the supposed appeal of the lifestyle. According to the idealised picture portrayed in scholarly literature, few professions can be as fascinating: conference interpreters have the opportunity to combine a passion for foreign languages and cultures with the privilege of witnessing historical events, working in glamorous venues and meeting the most important personalities of the political and social sphere. The status and prestige of the profession has been greatly enhanced by these myths. However, interpreters today work in a market that is riddled with paradoxes and inconsistencies. Yet their professional status is one of the least debated issues in interpreting research, and attempts to assess the veracity of these myths empirically have so far been scant. At a time when the need for professionalisation is becoming increasingly pressing, and there is much debate in academia over codes of ethics, interpreters' neutrality and interpreting aptitude, we should not forget to ask a few simple questions: Who are the interpreters of today? Is interpreting still considered to be a desirable and gratifying profession? How has the profession evolved over the years and what kind of developments could we envisage for the future? As part of an ongoing PhD project, I attempted to answer these questions by using a survey to provide a snapshot of the current sociological profile of conference interpreters. Launched in May 2014, it obtained 803 responses worldwide – 75% of them from women, reflecting the increasing feminisation of a job that was once exclusively male. An analysis of the results showed how the profession has evolved over the years and what interpreters think the future of the profession will look like. The questionnaire comprised ten sections: 1 Demographics (sex, age, country of residence) 2 Professional identity (years of experience, professional associations, freelance/staff, full-time/part-time) 3 Opinions on public service interpreting 4 Education and opinions on research in interpreting 5 Remuneration 6 Exposure of the interpreting profession in the media 7 Perceptions of status The perception gap

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