Investigating tolerance of ambiguity in expert and novice translators and interpreters: an exploratory study


  • Alexandra Rosiers Ghent University
  • June Eyckmans Ghent University and Vrije Universiteit Brussel


tolerance of ambiguity, translator, interpreter


In recent years socio-psychological language research has influenced the fields of translation and interpreting studies resulting in a growing interest in personality traits such as extraversion, emotional stability, self-efficacy and risk-taking as relevant constructs of translator competence and interpreter aptitude (Hubscher-Davidson, 2009; Bolaños Medina, 2014). A personality trait that has received limited attention, especially in relation to interpreting, is tolerance of ambiguity (TA). TA is generally described as the ability to manage situations that are new, complex or insoluble (Budner, 1962). As these types of situations seem to be inherent to the translation and interpreting practice, the construct has interesting potential. This study aims to shed some light on the level of TA in novice and expert translators and interpreters. To this end, we have administered the Tolerance for Ambiguity Scale (Herman, Stevens, Bird, Mendenhall & Oddou, 2010) to two groups of student interpreters (n=20) and translators (n=20) and two professional populations of interpreters (n=20) and translators (n=14). The results indicate a significant difference between interpreters and translators at the professional level regardless of age. This seems to suggest that the nature of the interpreter’s job aids the development of tolerance of ambiguity.