The interpreter’s role generally assumes three dimensions: the interpreter’s own attitudes towards his/her role, the institutional requirements specified in the codes of conduct for professional interpreting, and the expectations and attitudes that interpreting service users have of the interpreter. With the role descriptions of the three parties compared and contrasted, this paper attempts to draw a real picture of the interpreter’s role through empirical studies from a sociolinguistic perspective. It is observed from real life interpreting events that an interpreter usually acts simultaneously as a translator (an animator with no turn management), a discourse process coordinator (an animator or author with some turn management), and a discourse co-constructor (an author with substantial turn management), exerting certain influence on the direction and/or outcome of the interaction in an explicit or implicit way. Such a role performance often deviates from the role descriptions of the institutional norms and interpreting service users. It is the paper’s conclusion that given the complexity of both the macro and micro context of an interpreter-mediated encounter and of the relationships between the interpreter and each client, the interpreter’s role can be ambiguous, complicated and multidimensional and defies any simplified and decontextualized definitions.
About the Speaker:
Prof. Dr. REN Wen is the vice dean of the College of Foreign Languages and Cultures, Sichuan University. She was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Wisconsin, Madison between 2001 and 2002, and a visiting scholar at Peking University between 2007 and 2008. She is the team leader of English/Chinese Interpreting Course at Sichuan University which has been rated as a national-level Excellence Course by the Ministry of Education since 2008. In 2009 she was invited by the SIM University in Singapore to be the external assessor of the English/Chinese Simultaneous Interpretation courses for its B.A. degree program. In the past few years she has also been the trainer of the Interpreting practice/teaching/research workshops organized by the Chinese Translators Association.
For many years, she has been teaching interpreting at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and has rich consecutive as well as simultaneous interpreting experience. The senior foreign politicians and dignitaries for whom she had interpreted include former Prime Minister of Australia Robert Hawke, former Prime Minister of New Zealand Mike Moore, former UN under Secretary-General Jeffrey Sachs, former USTR Robert Zoellick, former US ambassador to China Joseph Prueher, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Sri Lanca Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, etc. She has been invited to be the judge at the English speaking competitions and English interpreting competitions at the provincial, regional and national levels. She also coached students who won champions at the national English speaking and English interpreting competitions.
Her major areas of research include interpreting studies, translation studies and EFL public speaking. She has published about 30 papers, one monograph, two translated works and 5 textbooks, with two more being compiled.
Interpreters’ Multiple Roles: A Sociolinguistic Perspective