Foreign Language Anxiety and Learning in Interpreter Training Classes

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In undergraduate interpretation classes, the students’ linguistic skills are still immature. Anxious feelings connected with language may arise, which may interact with other learning factors in affecting students’ achievement. According to Tobias (1989), anxious persons tend to engage in self-directed, derogatory cognition rather than focusing on the task itself. These task-irrelevant thoughts compete with task-relevant ones for limited cognitive resources. Since interpreting is a highly complex cognitive activity which requires interpreters to “listen, analyze, comprehend, translate, edit and reproduce” (Moser-Mercer, Küzli & Korac, 1998, pp 47), anxiety can interfere with each of these by creating a divided attention scenario for anxious students (MacIntyre, 1995). This study intends to investigate the impact and sources of language anxiety in Hong Kong tertiary interpretation classes. The participants are 126 students from two universities. A survey study and focus group interviews have been conducted. A foreign language anxiety scale for interpretation classes is designed to measure students’ language anxiety levels; the correlation between language anxiety and interpretation learning achievement is examined; gender and grade level differences are investigated; other factors and sources of stress in the interpreter training process are identified. The findings will help researchers understand the nature of anxiety in the interpreter training process, provide great insights for teachers and enhance the quality of teaching in interpretation classes.

MacIntyre, P. D. (1995). How does anxiety affect second language learning? A reply to Sparks and Ganschow. The Modern Language Journal, 79(1), 90–99.

Moser-Mercer, B. Künzli, A. & Korac M. (1998). Prolonged turns in interpreting: Effects on quality, physiological and psychological stress (pilot study). Interpreting, 3(1), 47-64.

Tobias, S. (1986). Anxiety and cognitive processing of instruction. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-related cognition in anxiety and motivation (pp. 35–54). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Keywords: Interpreter Training, Language Anxiety, Undergraduate Interpretation Programs, Anxiety and Learning
Stream: Literacy, Language, Multiliteracies; Languages Education and Second Language Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Jackie Xiu Yan

Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Dr. Jackie Xiu Yan obtained her BA from Shanghai International Studies University, MEd and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, USA. Specializing in language learning, translation and interpretation studies, she has been teaching both undergraduate and graduate language (English and Mandarin), Interpretation and Applied Linguistics courses in universities in China, US and Hong Kong. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include affective factors in language learning, translation studies, and interpreter training. She has conducted various funded research projects exploring problems associated with students’ language learning anxiety.

Ref: L09P1116