Retrospective protocols: Tapping into the minds of interpreting trainees

Marwa Shamy, Raquel de Pedro Ricoy


Interpreting Studies has witnessed a growing interest in language specificity and its role in cognitive processing during simultaneous interpreting. The aim of this study is to establish trainee-interpreters’ perceptions of language-pair-specific difficulties when working from English into Arabic in simultaneous mode. Fifteen postgraduate interpreting students were asked to perform two simultaneous interpreting tasks, into which language-pair-specific problem triggers had been incorporated. Process data was generated by applying the method of retrospection, the objective of which was to ascertain whether the problem triggers were perceived by the participants as such, and to identify the strategies, if any, that they employed to deal with them. Subsequently, a comparison was drawn between the perceptions that the participants verbalized and their actual performances.

Although the limitations of the method will be acknowledged, the use of retrospection yielded interesting data that can help enhance language-specific interpreter training. This approach is particularly innovative in the context of the language combination English-Arabic, which has received little scholarly attention to date. The information that can be gleaned from the application of the method can contribute to process-oriented research in interpreting pedagogy: “tapping into the minds” of trainee interpreters can help researchers and educators determine the factors that encumber students’ performances and gain a better understanding of the development of strategic competence.



Simultaneous interpreting, retrospection, interpreting pedagogy, Arabic, language-pair specificity, problem triggers

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