Student interpreters show encoding and recall differences for information in English and American Sign Language


  • Jesse R. James Central Washington University
  • Kara I. Gabriel Central Washington University


sign language, interpreting, memory encoding, interpreter education


This study investigated whether student interpreters encode and recall words differently in signed and spoken languages. Participants viewed and then recalled word lists, half of which were related through specific encoding strategies (i.e., experimental lists), and half of which lacked the availability of those strategies (i.e., control lists). Total words recalled and the temporal recall order were compared across experimental and control lists. Student interpreters utilised different strategies to remember words in English and American Sign Language (ASL), suggesting that student interpreters do not default to first-language (English) spoken strategies when encoding second-language (ASL) signed lists. However, the total number of recalled words was lower in ASL than in English despite students’ use of encoding strategies in ASL that have been shown to be adaptive to signed languages. These findings underscore the need to provide memory training to student interpreters in order to improve recall ability as part of interpreter education.