Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Is Grit the 'X-Factor' for Interpreters Leaving the Profession?

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Is Grit the 'X-Factor' for Interpreters Leaving the Profession?

Article excerpt


American Sign Language/English Interpreters (sign language interpreters) are necessary to interpret between those who are Deaf (or hard-of-hearing) and those individuals who are not deaf. The need for interpreters has burgeoned across the United States. This is due, in part, to the legislation requiring the presence of sign language interpreters for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people in this country. Places such as those that receive federal monies are not able to discriminate based on someone's hearing loss. Pieces of legislation that have made a difference for deaf people include the following: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Public Law 94-142 of 1975 (restructured and renamed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997); and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 (amended in 2008). Since these federal legislations, ASL/English interpreters have been in great demand to accommodate the growing numbers of deaf people in all facets of society.

Research in the field of sign language interpreting has revealed that there is a high turnover and burnout rate for those who work in the profession (Dean & Pollard, 2001; McCartney, 2006; Schwenke, 2012; Watson, 1987). Previously identified variables from past research included role conflict, role overload, poor working conditions, unrealistic expectations of the interpreter held by the interpreter him or herself and/or by others, a lack of skill of the interpreter, and work in video relay settings. Watson (1987) almost thirty years ago lamented that competent interpreters were leaving the profession more rapidly than new ones could be trained to enter the profession (p. 79). If interpreters continue to leave the field, the profession will be in worse need of people than it already is. The demand for interpreters and translators is expected to grow 46% from 2012-2022 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015).

The author first became acquainted with Grit Theory in the summer of 2012. After a review of the literature, the author discovered that there were no studies dealing with ASL/English interpreters or spoken language interpreters incorporating the construct of grit as defined by Duckworth et al. (2007). The purpose of the study was to see if ASL/English interpreters were leaving the profession due to low levels of grit and, conversely, were ASL/English interpreters still active in the profession due to high levels of grit?

Literature Review


"Grit is perseverance and passion for long-term goals" (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007, p. 1087). It can also be defined as determination and a willingness to persevere when an individual faces an obstacle. The authors define grit as being comprised of two traits: perseverance of effort and consistency of interest. Grit is also synonymous with perseverance, persistence, and motivation. Duckworth et al. studied grit scores for several groups of people: West Point Military academy, the National Spelling Bee, rookie teachers, and businesses to test the Grit Scale with the individuals. The goal of each study was to determine who was successful, why they were successful, and who finished the training, competition, year, or task to completion versus which individuals did not. The person who did finish the task to completion would be called a gritty individual. "Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course" (Duckworth et al., 2007, p. 1088).


According to Bontempo, Napier, Hayes, and Brashear (2014), "Personality is a mixture of values, temperament, coping strategies and motivation (italics mine), among other things. A personality trait is a habitual way of thinking or doing in a variety of situations" (p. 26). A number of studies have explored the traits, characteristics, and personality of signed language interpreters and/or spoken language interpreting students since Schein's (1974) study. …

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