Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Stress and Fatigue in Foreign Language Professionals: Implications for Global Security

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Stress and Fatigue in Foreign Language Professionals: Implications for Global Security

Article excerpt

Abstract

Information critical to the security of nations is embedded in an array of foreign languages. Foreign language professionals must often analyze complex information from different language sources, and the integrity of their analyses can significantly affect corporate and government decision-making, policy development, and response to world events. Psychological stress and fatigue can degrade the performance of foreign language professionals resulting in errors that may adversely affect security. Optimal design of work organization and work environments, individual stress management training, and augmented cognitive linguistics may facilitate the performance of foreign language professionals. Strategic assessment and management of stress and fatigue in foreign language professionals can improve the integrity of information analysis, facilitate decision-making, and enhance global security.

Introduction

The security of nations depends on timely and accurate analysis of complex information which is often derived from sources in different languages and dialects. Global security is supported by private sector and governmental foreign language professionals who provide detailed multilingual analysis of information critical to matters of commerce, state, justice, intelligence and defense. The performance of foreign language professionals and the integrity of their analyses can be severely compromised by psychological stress and fatigue. Inaccurate linguistic analyses can have catastrophic effects on corporate and governmental decision-making, policy development, and response to world events. Prevention and management of stress and fatigue in foreign language professionals can significantly improve security in globalized economic, diplomatic and security environments.

Foreign Language Professionals in Difficult Work Environments

Foreign language professionals are multilingual workers who facilitate decision-making in important matters of global security. Working in the public and private sectors, these professionals are often required to perform essential duties under highly challenging conditions. For example, some assignments are characterized by especially high workloads, complex duties and difficult work environments. It is common for foreign language professionals to travel, at times in hostile and hazardous environments, experiencing separation from family and other social support networks. Foreign language professionals must sometimes work in emotionally-charged situations involving communication of significant anger or conflict. It is not always possible for foreign language professionals to insulate themselves from the emotional content or context of their target material. Some decisions resulting from foreign language analyses involve extraordinarily high stakes, where accurate and timely performance can contribute to mission success and protection of human life. Conversely, inaccurate performance of foreign language professionals can sometimes fail to avoid extraordinary loss.

These and other sources of psychological stress can be embedded within a general context of occupational strain and lack of perceived organizational justice. Although foreign language professionals must often use high levels of executive judgment to interpret ambiguous or complex communications, their organizational advancement and career trajectories are not always sufficiently commensurate with their importance to mission success. For example, translators in combat zones are often exposed to imminent personal harm, yet their essential role in the organizational hierarchy is not always fully recognized. These multiple sources of stress can have cumulative adverse effects on the performance and health of the foreign language professional.

Stress and Fatigue

The scientific literature on human performance suggests that certain cognitive processes can be degraded by psychological stress and fatigue, including challenges associated with difficult work environments and assignments. …

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