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Simultaneous Interpreting with Accented Mandarin: A study on the perception of quality in Taiwan


This study investigates the perception of simultaneous interpreting (SI) quality among accented Mandarin interpreters in Taiwan. Four hundred Taiwanese individuals were recruited online for a controlled experiment, where participants were randomly assigned, in equal numbers, to listen to one of four SI versions. Each version was distinguished solely by accent: Taiwan Mandarin, Chinese Standard Mandarin, Malaysian Mandarin, and US-accented Mandarin. Subsequently, participants were asked to evaluate the SI quality using a nine-item questionnaire, and optional comment sections were available for them to provide written feedback. Ratings were analyzed quantitatively, while comments were subjected to qualitative analysis. Results indicate that SI quality was evaluated less favorably in terms of comprehensibility and performance satisfaction with increasing markedness of accent. The Chinese Standard Mandarin accent was regarded as the suitable stylistic choice because of its “standard” prestige. However, it also faced some criticism, particularly for what certain participants perceived as mispronunciations. Among the non-Taiwanese Mandarin accents, Malaysian Mandarin was perceived as the most favorable for comprehensibility and satisfaction, likely due to its perceived similarities with Taiwan Mandarin. In contrast, American-accented Mandarin received the lowest ratings for comprehensibility. Nevertheless, there was a general sense of support for the US interpreter, possibly suggesting that perceived deficiencies in SI were attributed to factors beyond the interpreter’s control, such as their non-native background, as inferred from their accent. This study reveals that accent significantly influences interpreting quality perceptions, challenging prior beliefs of its minimal impact and underscoring its importance in interpreter training and development. The interpreting market is affected by complex dynamics involving diverse stakeholder biases towards accents, so interpreters face the dual challenge of adapting to a neutral accent to satisfy client expectations while preserving their own accent identity. However, increasing global and local focus on linguistic diversity may enhance accent tolerance and reduce accent-based judgments.


interpreting quality, Mandarin, accent, accent stereotype, simultaneous interpreting


Author Biography

Boon Yee Lim

Boon Yee Lim is an accredited conference interpreter but currently works as the Director of the Research and Planning Department at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation. She was born in Malaysia and received her master’s degree in interpretation from National Taiwan University.


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