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 resource, a 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