Doctoral dissertation

Anu Viljanmaa: The professional listening competence of dialogue interpreters

Anu Viljanmaa
Anu Viljanmaa’s doctoral dissertation provides a listening-oriented perspective to dialogue interpreting as a special form of interpersonal communication. It examines and defines core elements of the professional listening competence of dialogue interpreters.

Dialogue interpreters work across a wide variety of settings which range from legal offices, police stations and courtrooms to various healthcare environments, amongst others. They interpret source language utterances of one primary speaker into the target language of the other, and vice versa.

Anu Viljanmaa’s doctoral dissertation describes and explains the elements that constitute the professional listening competence of dialogue interpreters working face-to-face with their clients. The adopted stance of the researcher is the point of view of the practitioners themselves. The research data consist of 22 thematic in-depth individual interviews with practising dialogue interpreters working in Finland.

Dialogue interpreters listen in a very specific way that is distinct from other listening situations; this is evident based on the listening activities of the interviewees, as described in their narratives concerning their work habits as well as in their real-life anecdotes. One constant element of the professional listening competence of dialogue interpreters is the effective management of internal and external listening filters.

The results also indicate that the professional listening activity of the dialogue interpreter during various stages of the listening process can differ greatly depending on the actual communicative situation and context. The interpreter's professional listening competence necessitates, in part, the selection of a listening behaviour in each stage that either helps move the communication forward in general, or is best suited to help reach the communication targets set by a certain institutional context or the primary parties. The most effective listening behaviour may differ depending on the institutional context, the individual communicative situation or individual participants.

Finally, the results also indicate that most interpreters interviewed had learnt how to listen effectively as interpreters mainly in the field, employing either a 'learning by doing' method, or a 'trial-and-error' method. This is hardly surprising, since interpreter education has until now been lacking a listening-oriented approach. In the future, interpreting students will gain much by learning about listening filters and how to manage them, already while in training.

The doctoral dissertation of M.A. Anu Viljanmaa in the field of Translation Studies (German) titled Professionelle Zuhörkompetenz und Zuhörfilter beim Dialogdolmetschen will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences on Saturday12 December, 2020, at 12 o'clock in the auditorium Pinni B 1096, Kanslerinrinne 1, Tampere. Professor Mira Kadric-Scheiber from the University of Vienna will be the opponent while University Lecturer Marja Kivilehto from Tampere University will act as the custos.

Because of covid-19, a limited number of places is available in the lecture hall and those places have already been reserved. The audience can follow the event via a virtual connection.

Dissertation information

Photo: Jarkko Viljanmaa