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Assessing the scope of expertise-driven advantages in bilinguals: A comparison of interpreters and translators

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Prof. Liu Min-hua

B.A. (Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan), M.A. (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA), Ph.D. (The University of Texas at Austin, USA)

Full Professor & Associate Dean of Arts, Department of Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies and Office of the Dean of Arts

Collaborators:

  • Dr. Adolfo García (Co-I): Scientific Director, Laboratory of Experimental Psychology and Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive and Translational Neuroscience (Argentina)

  • Dr. Chia-Ming Damien Fan (Co-I): Assistant Professor, Graduate Program in Translation and Interpretation, National Taiwan University

Funding:

  • GRF ($600,320)

Introduction

  • Research suggests that interpreters outperform non-interpreter bilinguals in tasks measuring executive functioning. This has motivated the “interpreter advantage hypothesis” (García, 2014), which involves three central questions: 1) do the stringent demands faced by interpreters during bilingual processing lead to significant cognitive enhancements? 2) if yes, to what extent is such an advantage specific to simultaneous interpreting or general to other forms of expertise in inter-lingual reformulation (e.g., translation)? and 3) when does the advantage, if it exists, emerge during an interpreter’s training or experience? This project aims to answer these questions through a longitudinal study where student interpreters are compared with student translators and bilingual students without training in interpreting and translation. Professional interpreters and translators will also be tested as benchmarks against which students’ performance is assessed. Validated tests will be used to measure participants’ executive functioning, verbal working memory, and semantic processing. A dual-task methodology will be adopted to test how much participants rely on different working memory components when processing verbal information. Our study is unique in that the participants are more closely compared regarding the specific context where their two languages are used and in its choice of non-verbal memory components as potential areas of interest.