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Lexical competence of professional interpreters —An empirical research on interpreting competence—

Hyeyeon Chung 1 고효정 2

1충남대학교
2충남대학교 석사 독일어

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ABSTRACT

Professional interpreters are regarded as experts with ‘special’ abilities. However, these abilities -or more accurately, ‘the competence’, a psychological term for an innate ability system- are hard to identify. This paper focuses on one aspect of interpreting competence, namely lexical competence. The study builds the hypothesis based on the presumption that the lexical competence of professional interpreters is developed (specified) from the lexical system of bilinguals. The lexical system of bilinguals in turn is based on the lexical system of monolinguals. Based on the findings by researches that relate bilingual and interpreting qualities, this study set up the following hypotheses: The longer one acquires the interpreting competence (1) the more balanced are the L1 and L2 lexical systems (based on Kurz 1996), (2) the more similar are the L2 lexical structure to that of native speakers, (3) the stronger are the links between synonyms in L2 as well as in L1 (compared to non-interpreters) (based on Gerver et. al. 1989). These hypotheses are verified through the lexical transfer and words association tests. In this experiment 16 subjects(4 undergraduate students, 4 first years, 4 second year students of graduate school of interpretation and 4 professional interpreters with more than 5-year-experience) are tested for their lexical transfer and words association competence. In all related tests, the professionals showed the best results, while other groups yielded results that did not differ greatly from one another. This and the fact that undergraduate students who did not take regular interpreting classes, but had more interpreting experiences than first year students, showed constantly better results than the latter, indicate that interpreting experience, rather than interpreting education, has more influence on the development of professional lexical competence.

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