Is grit the ‘X-factor’ for interpreters leaving the profession?

Jamie L. McCartney


This study uses the construct of grit, as measured by the persistence a person has to complete his or her goals, even when barriers are present (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). The population in this particular study was American Sign Language/English Interpreters, (current and inactive), and those who work in any type of setting (education and/or community). Participants were sent a demographic survey, as well as the 12-item Grit Scale developed by Duckworth et al. (2007). The author scored the Grit Scales based on the scoring guide by Duckworth et al. and measured the respondents’ grit scores to see if they had remained in the interpreting profession because they were high in grit. Competing factors that would have forced the person to remain in the profession were also analysed. Tests measuring the analysis of variance were run for variables such as gender, hearing and marital status, the presence of Deaf[1] family members, ethnicity, educational level, and past and present certifications. Additional variables included whether or not the respondent was still a current practitioner, years of experience, why they got out of the profession, if they were satisfied with the profession, if they had another vocation in which they were currently working, if they were the sole income provider for their family, and percentage of their total family income came from the respondents’ interpreting work. Respondents were asked if they had ever failed a test for sign language interpreters (American Sign Language/ English interpreters) in the United States. Those tests could be tests of knowledge (computer-based test used to test interpreting knowledge offered by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf to candidates for certification), or a performance-based test (like the one formerly offered by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) certification, or current tests such as the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessments (EIPA), Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI), or the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI)). Finally, qualitative analyses were assessed for the reasons respondents gave for initially choosing interpreting as a profession, as well as what motivated them to continue working as an interpreter.
There were two significant findings that were predictive of grit. The first finding occurred when education was grouped in three-tiers: 1) an Associate’s Degree; 2) a Bachelor’s Degree; 3) a Master’s Degree/ terminal degree as the highest achieved level of education. The second significant finding that was predictive of grit occurred with respondents who had NAD III certification. When qualitative responses were analysed for reasons the respondent gave for initially choosing interpreting as a profession, as well as their motivation to remain in the profession, there was a significant change in each of the following categories: intellectual, societal, and monetary.


grit, sign language interpreter, ASL/English interpreter, perseverance

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