Effect of language proficiency and degree of formal training in simultaneous interpreting on working memory and interpreting performance: Evidence from Mandarin-English speakers

Yeh Zu Tzou, Zohreh Eslami, Hsin Chin Chen, Jyotsna Vaid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)


The influence of second language proficiency and length of formal training in interpretation on simultaneous interpreting (SI) performance and working memory was examined in Mandarin-English student interpreters with one year (n = 11) or two years of formal training in interpretation (n = 9) and in 16 Mandarin-English untrained bilingual controls. SI performance was significantly better in Year 2 than in Year 1 student interpreters, and in Year 1 interpreters relative to bilingual controls. SI performance was also better in advanced L2 users and in high-memory span individuals, whether trained or not in SI. Both Year 1 and Year 2 students outperformed bilingual controls in L1 and L2 reading span. Although Year 2 students tended to show higher working memory span than Year 1 students, the difference was not significant. Finally, working memory span was higher in individuals with greater L2 proficiency. It is concluded that differences in language proficiency may underlie observed differences in both interpreting performance and working memory and that language processing skills (rather than working memory) may be enhanced by formal training in interpreting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-227
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes



  • digit span
  • reading span
  • simultaneous interpreting
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics

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