Profiling today’s and tomorrow’s interpreters: Previous occupational experiences, levels of work and motivations


  • Jim Hlavac Monash University
  • Jennifer Commons Monash University


Interpreters, trainee interpreters, interpreter identity, self-determination theory


This paper has people as its focus, namely 80 trainee interpreters and 80 practitioners, with the following questions: where they come from occupationally – what their current/previous occupations are; how much they (wish to) work; and why they wish to become/remain an interpreter. Data were collected from Australia-based informants who will or currently work in public service interpreting. Matching the current occupations of trainees and the previous occupations of practitioners according to a classification system of occupations, we see that substantial percentages of trainees currently work in the ‘community and personal workers’ and ‘professionals’ categories, while for practitioners, their previous work belonged to the ‘professionals’ and ‘clerical and administrative workers’ categories. Projected and reported levels of work are often not full-time with only some indication that this is related to the general level of demand for work in their languages.  In relation to the feature of motivation, we employ Self-Determination Theory as a model to examine informants’ stated motivations and find that amongst trainees, this is extrinsic with a focus on community activism, while practitioners’ motivations are more intrinsic. By linking three key features in a cohesive way, this paper gives a comprehensive description of today and tomorrow’s interpreters.