The impact of non-native accented English on rendition accuracy in simultaneous interpreting

I-hsin Iris Lin, Feng-lan Ann Chang, Feng-lan Kuo

Abstract


Accent is known to cause comprehension difficulty, but empirical interpreting studies on its specific impact have been sporadic. According to Mazzetti (1999), an accent is composed of deviated phonemics and prosody, both discussed extensively in the TESL discipline. The current study seeks to examine, in the interpreting setting, the applicability of Anderson-Hsieh, Johnson and Koehler’s (1992) finding that deviated prosody hinders comprehension more than problematic phonemics and syllable structure do. Thirty-seven graduate-level interpreting majors, assigned randomly to four groups, rendered four versions of a text read by the same speaker and then filled out a questionnaire while playing back their own renditions. Renditions were later rated for accuracy by two freelance interpreters, whereas the questionnaires analyzed qualitatively. Results of analyses indicated that 1) both phonemics and prosody deteriorated comprehension, but prosody had a greater impact; 2) deviated North American English post-vowel /r/, intonation and rhythm were comprehension problem triggers. The finding may prove useful to interpreting trainers, trainees and professionals by contributing to their knowledge of accent.

Keywords


accent; non-native English; listening comprehension; simultaneous interpreting; phonemics; segmentals; prosody; suprasegmentals阿施

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