At the Top of the Tree? Surveying Conference Interpreters as an Elite




conference interpreters, elite sociology, translation sociology, professional status, quantitative methods, survey-based methods


In spite of the crucial role that conference interpreters play in the world of international affairs and diplomacy, the concept of conference interpreters as an elite has not attracted significant academic interest to date. Building on the author’s previous work (Hoyte-West, 2021), which examined the historical and theoretical aspects of the intersection between conference interpreting and elite sociology, this article reports on the findings of an empirical study with practising conference interpreters. Given increasing interest in sociological aspects of the translational professions, this study is both necessary and timely. In terms of data gathering, snowball sampling was used to disseminate an internet-based survey among professional conference interpreters, with the aim of determining whether conference interpreters viewed themselves as members of an elite. The internet-based survey received 120 responses from freelance, staff, and retired conference interpreters. Using an overwhelmingly quantitative approach, the data was analysed and tabulated, before being subsequently discussed and compared with Khan’s (2012) framework of elite resource areas (political, economic, cultural, social network, and knowledge-based), which had previously been applied to the professional sphere of conference interpreting by the author. As such, it was noted that conference interpreters generally did not view themselves as members of an elite; however, further qualitative research in this area remains both desirable and necessary.