Sight interpreting/translation

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Sight interpreting/translation is a cross-modal activity and a hybrid form of translation and interpreting. The information is received via reading, whereas the output is produced either in oral form or sign language. This mode of communication has taken on several names. Some scholars prefer sight interpreting, as it is mostly done in contexts that require real-time communication. Sight translation is also used and, aside from appearing frequently in the literature, the denomination does have some merits: it could seep into “oral translation” without time pressure as an exercise to develop interpreting skills, as an interpreting activity similar to the consecutive mode, or for language learning; it could also help quickly produce a translation and thus boost translators’ productivity. Accordingly, sight interpreting/translation (SiT) is advocated as the hypernym to account for the widest possible range of scenarios and to avoid confusion with Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) with text—mentioned as sight interpretation at times. The real issue is not terminological, but our understanding of SiT, and it seems to be still preliminary.

While previous research mainly sees it as a monologic exercise, recent studies are focusing more on its interactive nature, which is largely an uncharted territory. Even with the more familiar, monologic SiT, we begin to realise that what we thought about it has not entirely been supported by evidence. Current research has established some features of SiT, and we know that the major causes of difficulties are the permanent availability of the source text, the linguistic dissimilarities of the language pair involved, the fundamental difference between written and oral communication, and the crossover between the two. To address the issues, trainees, especially in such language pairs as English and Chinese, are encouraged to read faster and always read ahead while simultaneously producing output for previous segments. However, the suggestions have not always been supported by eyetracking studies. The behaviour that leads to better SiT output does not necessarily entail faster reading. In addition, while reading ahead is essential, the eyes are more likely to be drawn to what will be immediately rendered as reformulation takes place. That said, we only have some general picture of what SiT is and how it is done so far, without finer details about what really happens in every step along the way. To better understand this unique mode, we need to capitalise on inter-disciplinary collaboration, and we need comparisons across different language pairs as well.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Translation and Interpreting
EditorsJavier Franco Aixelà, Ricardo Muñoz Martín, Carla Botella Tejera
PublisherIberian Association of Translation and Interpreting Studies
Publication statusPublished - 04 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Ho Chen-En (Ted Ho) is Lecturer in Translation and Interpreting in the School of Arts, English and Languages, Queen’s University Belfast. With research interests spanning from cognitive studies of translation and interpreting, to T&I education and industry, and to public service interpreting, he currently focuses on the cognitive aspect of T&I and students’ learning motivation and employability.


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