Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Do you have the right personality to be an interpreter?

To be a good interpreter, you need to have complete mastery of two or more languages and… ” How would you finish that sentence? Chances are, the words, “You need to have the right personality” would not be the first thing to jump to mind. However, this month’s featured resourcea paper that looks at interpreter personality types, examines exactly this question.
The researcher, Nancy Schweda Nicholson from the University of Delaware (USA), used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in order to see which personality types would be most common among a sample of interpreter trainees (individuals who self-selected as having the right skills to do the job of an interpreter).
For those who are unfamiliar with it, the MBTI is a psychometric questionnaire based on the theories of Carl Jung in his book, Psychological Types. The 16 types are based on four areas — how people focus their energy, how they make decisions, how they perceive the outer world, and how they deal with the outer world.
Nicholson had a relatively small sample, but found that the trainees in her sample displayed an array of different personality types. She found that the most common type for interpreter trainees was ISTJ(Introverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judging), making up about18% of the interpreters in the sample. By comparison, other studies have shown that individuals with this personality type make up about 6% of the general population. If Nicholson’s findings are valid, it would appear that this type is more common among interpreter trainees.
Nicholson’s line of research raises many other questions: Do different types of interpreting (e.g. conference interpreting, legal interpreting, medical interpreting) attract interpreters with different personality types? Does interpreter personality type affect quality? Are some personality types more likely to make some types of mistakes (such as omissions) than others (such as embellishment)? Are certain types more likely to “step out of the role” of the interpreter? Are the best interpreters introverts or extroverts? It will be the job of researchers to more fully explore these kinds of questions. Source: proz.com