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Interpreter Fatigue

Barbara Brasel's 1976 publication of her 1969 research still guides interpreting policy to this day.

Brian Cerney

on 1 March 2012

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Transcript of Interpreter Fatigue

Abie Abrams
Brian Cerney
Laura Hoock
Tiffany Marble
Keith Prestano
Beth Staehle
Revisiting Brasel (1976):
Q -> Should We Switch Every 20 Minutes?
A -> It Depends (or - "yes" -)

Barbara Babbini Brasel (B3)
One Interpreter (Case Study)
Two long tasks (almost 90 minutes for each)
English to ASL
ASL to English
English to ASL
ASL to English
20 Minutes
30 Minutes
60 Minutes
90 Minutes
Five Interpreters
Four Judges
"Interpreter Fatigue
During Extended Assignments"
Abrams, Cerney, Hoock, Marble, Prestano & Staehle - 2011
120+ NTID Staff Interpreters
14 Subjects
20 Complete Data Sets
3 different recordings in the same setting
each recording is 40+ minutes long
Indicators of Fatigue
Posture Changes, Stretching, Restrained Yawns, etc.
41 People had schedules with one hour of lecture interpreted solo.
18 Consented to participate the study.
14 were able to have completed data sets within the time span for data collection.
Analysis #1
Biomechanics and
Evidence of Fatigue
Analysis #2
Incidents of Self-Repair
Type #1 - Self Correction
Type #2 - Re-Statement
August 24, 1925 - October 24, 2002
Four portions of each interpretation
were intensively investigated:

Clip #1 = between 10 & 15 minutes;
Clip #2 = between 30 to 35 minutes;
Clip #3 = Between 50 to 55 minutes
Clip #4 = Between 74 to 79 minutes
10-15 mins
30-35 mins
50-55 mins
74 to 79 mins
Dennis Cokely's research
provided a starting point:
Look at omissions
& processing time
How do we define
"Interpretation Quality"?
5 min
10 min
15 min
20 min
25 min
30 min
35 min
40 min
45 min
So What Does
All of That Mean?
a - ALL of the research shows a deterioration in job performance as the assignment continues.

b - ALL of the research shows that after 30 minutes there is no recovery of performance.

c - There is nothing magical about the number of 20 minutes, but two pieces of research show that by 25 minutes the deterioration does not reverse itself.
What DON'T We Know?
1 - NONE of this research has actually investigated TEAMED interpreting. We DO know that solo interpreting deteriorates over time... We DON'T know that teaming offers a solution to that deterioration.

2 - Does fully-supported team interpreting also cause fatigue? In other words, would the old-school version (tag-teaming) actually reduce stress/fatigue over time?

3 - Would a teamed interpretation demonstrate less fatigue if the "B" team members begin with full-monitoring of the source and target texts but later in the task "ease off" and physically/mentally rest between "A" turns?
What DO We Know?
What ELSE DON'T We Know?
What actually causes/influences our fatigue?
Unorganized presenters
Disfluent/Accented Source Texts
Inability to make predictions about Source Text
Inattentive consumers
Physical setting (lighting/acoustics/temperature)
Mental rest from processing
Physical rest from movement
So What's The Final
Take-Away Message?
We can control a few of the variables that lead to fatigue:
Physical Productions (phonemics)
Mental Processing
[Processing Levels]
Recent = 0-5 Years at NTID DAS
Medial = 10-15 Years at NTID DAS
Long = 20+ Years at NTID DAS
Hypothesis Generation:
What effect would you expect fatigue to have on the number of Omissions in a Target Text? (more or fewer omissions?)

What effect would you expect fatigue to have on the amount of PROCESSING TIME to generate a Target Text? (longer or shorter processing time?)
How do you know when you are getting fatigued? (what physical evidence is generated to show fatigue?)

What are the causes of fatigue in your own work?
(physical fatigue)
(mental fatigue)
Research Questions
Full transcript