Interpreting can be seen as a form of language production, where interpreters extract conceptual information from the source language and express it in the target language. Hence, like language production, interpreting contains speech errors at various (e.g., conceptual, syntactic, lexical and phonological) levels. The current study delved into the impact of language proficiency, working memory, and anxiety on the occurrence of speech errors across these linguistic strata during consecutive interpreting from English (a second language) into Chinese (a first language) by student interpreters. We showed that speech errors in general decreased as a function of the interpreter’s proficiency in the source (second) language and increased as a function of the interpreter’s anxiety. Conceptual errors, which result from mistaken comprehension of the source language, decreased as a function of language proficiency and working memory. Lexical errors increased as a function of the interpreter’s tendency of anxiety. Syntactic errors also decreased as a function of language proficiency and increased as a function of anxiety. Phonological errors were not sensitive to any of the three cognitive traits. We discussed implications for the cognitive processes underlying interpreting and for interpreting training.
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