Using Stimulated Recall to Probe Note-taking and Note-related Difficulties Perceived by Professional Trainee Interpreters


  • Yuxuan Zheng The University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Haiming Xu Shanghai International Studies University, China
  • Ting Hu Shanghai International Studies University, China



stimulated recall, immediate post-stimulated-recall interview, professional trainee interpreters, perceived difficulties in note-taking, causes of note-taking difficulties, underlying causes


This study is an attempt to explore note-taking and note-related difficulties perceived by six professional trainee interpreters (PTIs) during a Chinese-English consecutive interpreting task and the possible causes behind them. It deployed “stimulated recall” (SR) and an immediate post-SR interview to elicit and collect data from the PTIs. Analysis of the two differing yet cross-checking data sets reveals that the difficulties perceived by the participants are: 1) trainee-related difficulty: their partial or complete failure to recall the source information (SI) because of the deficit in memory capacity and the subsequent failure to jot down notes; 2) context-related difficulty: inability to re-identify the notes from whose cues to retrieve the encoded SI for delivery; and 3) task-related difficulty: improper ways of note-taking. Further analysis of the same data sets indicates that the difficulties with note-taking and note-related interpreting activities are largely occasioned by cognitive and non-cognitive factors. The cognitive factors include the participants’ limited working memory capacity and ineptness in managing the distribution of restricted cognitive resources between listening and writing whereas the genre-specific linguistic structures of the SI, the densely embedded propositions within the task materials, the hidden inter-sentence links and the participants’ unfamiliarity with the subject matter and maladjustment to the genre constitute the non-cognitive factors. The findings of this study provide insights for interpreting training.


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