Student interpreters’ strategies in dealing with unfamiliar words in sight translation


  • Jing Fang Macquarie University
  • Jihong Wang University of Queensland


Sight translation, unfamiliar words, omission, inference


This research investigated student interpreters’ strategies in dealing with unfamiliar words in the source texts during English-to-Mandarin (B-to-A) sight translation. The study examined and compared different strategies adopted by 10 first-year beginner student interpreters who had not yet attained NAATI Professional Interpreter accreditation and 10 advanced student interpreters who, after studying for a year and a half, had achieved a credential as NAATI Professional Interpreter in Australia. The data collection involved an English vocabulary test, three English-to-Mandarin sight translation tasks and retrospective interviews. Results showed that both groups of student interpreters tended to omit the unfamiliar English words. The advanced student interpreters made more strategic omissions of unfamiliar words in the source texts than the beginner student interpreters, whose work showed more passive involuntary omissions of unfamiliar English words than that of the advanced student interpreters. Both groups also made attempts to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words. The predominant types of inference strategies were based on participants’ experience, reading-based contextual knowledge and collocation knowledge. As there has been little research on sight translation, this small-scale empirical study attempts to bridge this gap and inspire other researchers to further explore this area by carrying out larger-scale projects.