Ethical stress in interpreting and translation: A literature review


  • Diana Kalishchuk Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University, Ukraine



ethical stress, moral injury, vicarious trauma, burnout, professional dissonance, socio-ethical dilemmas


Ethical stress is occupational stress resulting from disparities between one’s ethical values and expected behaviours that can lead to dreadful consequences for individuals and even burnout. This review focuses on studies of ethical stress in translation and interpreting; individual and situational factors that may lead to ethical stress; its moral, emotional, psychological, and professional implications. The literature review is based on the search of articles in peer-reviewed journals published in the 21st century. This study has found that ethical stress in translation and interpreting occurs when the job requirements do not match the capabilities, resources, needs or values of the translator/interpreter due to linguistic demand factors and non-linguistic ones, including environmental, interpersonal, and intrapersonal demands. Taken together, the obtained results suggest that (a combination of) various individual and situational factors (working conditions primarily) may trigger moral distress, emotional exhaustion, vicarious trauma, burnout, and, eventually, ethical stress. However, the correlation between individual and situational factors and the level of their impact on translators/interpreters have not been sufficiently studied. Moreover, very little research has been carried out into psychological consequences for the translators/interpreters caused by socio-ethical dilemmas they face. Recent studies confirmed the positive relation between (the level of) ethical stress and job satisfaction and performance. Still, little is known about the correlation between (relative) autonomy to make decisions and judgments and the level of ethical stress and impact on performance. Thus, further research into the ethical stress of translators/interpreters under natural working conditions rather than in laboratory and agency settings and its implication on their performance and general well-being is essential.

Author: Diana Kalishchuk, 

orcid32.png  0000-0003-1952-5176 mail_image2.png



Download data is not yet available.


Abdallah, K. (2010). Translators’ Agency in Production Networks. In T. Kinnunen & K. Koskinen (Eds.), Translators’ agency (pp. 11-46). Tampere University Press.

Allen, E., & Bernofsky, S. (2013). Introduction: A culture of translation. In E. Allen & S. Bernofsky (Eds.) In translation: Translators on their work and what it means. (pp. xiii-xxiv). Columbia University Press.

Allen, K. (2012). Interpreting in Conflict Zones. NAJIT.

Apter, E. (2007). Translation-9/11: Terrorism, immigration, and the world of global language politics. The Global South, 1(1), 69-80.

Baker, M. (2010). Interpreters and translators in war zone: Narrated and narrators. The Translator, 16(2). 197-222.

Bancroft, M. A. (2017). The voice of compassion: Exploring trauma-informed interpreting. In C. Valero-Garcés, & R. Tipton (Eds.), Ideology, ethics and policy development in public service interpreting and translation, (pp. 195-215). Multilingual Matters.

Barghout, A., Rosendo, L. R., & Garcia M. V. (2015). The influence of speed on omissions in simultaneous interpretation: An experimental study. Babel: International Journal of Translation, 61(3), 305-334.

Berger, J. T. (2014). Moral distress in medical education and training. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 29(2), 395-98.

Bontempo, K., & Malcolm, K. (2012). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: educating interpreters about the risk of vicarious trauma in healthcare settings. In K. Malcolm & L. Swabey (Eds.), Our hands: educating healthcare interpreters (pp. 105-130). Gallaudert University Press.

Boscarino, J. A., Figley, C. R., & Adams, R. E. (2004). Compassion fatigue following the september 11 terrorist attacks: A study of secondary trauma among new york city social workers. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 6(2), 57-66.

Cadwell, P., & O’Brien, S. (2016). Language, culture, and translation in disaster ITC: An ecosystemic model of understanding. Perspective, 24(4), 1-19.

Canfield, J. (2005). Secondary traumatization, burnout, and vicarious traumatization: A review of the literature as it relates to therapists who treat trauma. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 75(2), 81-101.

Chiang, Y-N., (2009). Foreign language anxiety in taiwanese student interpreters. Meta: Translators’ Journal, 54(3), 605-21.

Chiang, Y-N., (2010). Foreign language anxiety student interpreters’ learning outcomes: implications for the theory and measurement of interpretation learning anxiety. Meta: Translators’ Journal, 55(3), 589-601.

Christodoulou-Fella, M., Middleton, N., Papathanassoglou E. D. E., & Karanikola M. N. K. (2017). Exploration of the association between nurses’ moral distress and secondary traumatic stress syndrome: implications for patient safety in mental health services. BioMed Research International, 1908712.

Cooper, C. L., Davies, R., & Tung, R. L. (1982). Interpreting stress: Sources of job stress among conference interpreters. Multilingua,1(2), 641-653.

Dam, H. V., & Zethsen, K. K. (2016). “I think it is a wonderful job”. On the solidity of the translation profession. The Journal of Specialised Translation, 25, 174-187.

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q. (2001). Application of demand-control theory to sign language interpreting: Implications for stress and interpreter training. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 6(1), 1-14.

DeTienne, K. B., Agle B. R., Phillips J. C., & Ingerson M. C. (2012). The impact of moral distress compared to other stressors on employee fatigue, job satisfaction, and turnover: An empirical investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 110(3), 377-91.

Dragovic-Drouet, M. (2007). The practice of translation and interpreting during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia (1991-1999). In M. Salama-Carr (Ed.), Translating and interpreting conflict. (pp. 29-40). Rodopi.

Drugan, J. (2017). Ethics and social responsibility in practice: Interpreters and translators engaging with and beyond the profession. Translation, Ethics and Social Responsibility, 126-142.

Eszenyi, R. (2016). What makes a professional translator? The profile of the modern translator. In I. Horváth (Ed.), The modern translator and interpreter (pp. 17-28). Eӧtvӧs University Press.

Fenton, J. (2015). An analysis of ethical stress in criminal justice social work in scotland: The place of values. British Journal of Social Work, 45(5). 1415-32.

Fenton, J., & Kelly, T. (2017). “Risk is king and needs to take a backseat!” Can social workers’ experiences of moral injury strengthen practice? Journal of Social Work Practice, 31(4), 461- 75.

Figley, C. R. (2002). Treating compassion fatigue. Routledge.

Fry, S. T., Harvey, R. M., Hurley, A. C., & Foley, B. J. (2002). Development of a model of moral distress in military nursing. Nursing Ethics, 9(4), 373-387.

Garcés, C. V. (2015). The impact of emotional and psychological factors on public service interpreters: Preliminary studies. The International Journal for Translation & Interpreting Research, 7(3). 90-102.

Gray, D. (2017). Developing professional resilience: The impact of working with violent offenders on criminal justice social workers working in Scotland. Portsmouth.

Grootergoed, E., & Smith, M. (2018). The emotional labour of austerity: How social workers reflect and work on their feelings towards reducing support to needy children and families. The British Journal of Social Work, 48(7), 1929-1947.

Gumul, E. (2021). Reporting stress in simultaneous interpreting. The analysis of trainee interpreters’ retrospective reports and outputs. Emotions in Translation and Interpreting. Special Issue VIII, 16-42.

Guttmann, G., & Etlinger, S. (1991). Susceptibility to stress and anxiety in relation to performance, emotion and personality. In C. D. Spielberger, I. G. Sarason, J. Strelau, & J. M. Brebner (Eds.), Stress and anxiety (1st ed., pp. 23-52). Taylor & Francis.

Heller, B., Stanfield, M., Stark, G., & Langholtz, D. (1986). Sign language interpreter stress: An exploratory study. Proceedings of the 1985 Convention of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association. ADARA.

Hetherington, A. (2010). Stress, burnout and vicarious trauma: the benefits of supervision for interpreters. Supporting Deaf People, Online Conference, February 3-6.

Hetherington, A. (2011). A Magical profession? Causes and management of occupational stress in the signed language interpreting profession. In L. Leeson, S. Wurm, & M. Vermeerbergen (Eds.), Signed language interpreting: preparation, practice and performance (pp. 138-159). St. Jerome Publishing.

Hubscher-Davidson, S. (2022). Ethical Stress in Translation and Interpreting. In K. Koskinen & N. K. Pokorn (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Ethics, (pp. 415-430). Routledge.

Jameton, A. (1984). Nursing practice: The ethical issues. Prentice Hall.

Jameton, A. (1993). Dilemmas of moral distress: moral responsibility and nursing practice. Clinical Issues in Perinatal Women’s Health Nursing, 4, 542-551.

Jiménez, A., & Pinazo, D. (2001). “I failed because i got very nervous”. Anxiety and performance in interpreter trainees: An empirical study. The Interpreters’ Newsletter, 11, 105-118.

Jones, F. R. (2004). Ethics, aesthetics and decision: Literary translating in the wars of the Yugoslav succession. Meta: Journal Des Traducteurs, 49(4), 711.

Jordan, K. (2010). Vicarious trauma. Proposed factors that impact clinicians. Journal Of Family Psychotherapy, 21(4), 225-37.

Kahane, E. (2007). Interpreters in conflict zones: The limits of neutrality.

Kallay, E., & Vlădut C. I. (2010). Work stress, personal life and burnout. causes, consequences, possible remedies. Cognition, Brain, Behavior. An Interdisciplinary Journal, 14(3), 261-280.

Kallay, E. (2011). Coaching and stress management in interpretation. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai Philologia, 56(1), 65-70.

Kalvemark, S., Hoglund, A. T., Hansson, M. G., Westerholm, P., & Arnetz, B. (2004). Living with conflicts-ethical dilemmas and moral distress in the healthcare system. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 1075-1084.

Kao, P-C., & Craigie, P. (2013). Evaluating student interpreters’ stress and coping strategies. Social Behavior and Personality, 41(6), 1035-44.

Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, 285-307.

Karasek, R. A., &Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy work: Stress, productivity, and the reconstruction of work life. Basic Books.

Karimi, L., Leggat, S. G., Donohue, L., Farrel, G., & Couper, G. E. (2014). Emotional rescue: The role of emotional intelligence and emotional labour on well-being and job-stress among community nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(1), 176-86.

Kenworthy, J., Fay, C., Frame, M., & Petree R. (2014). A meta-analysis review of the relationship between emotional dissonance and emotional exhaustion. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44(2), 94-105.

Klonowicz, T. (1991). The Effort of simultaneous interpretation: It’s been a hard day. FIT Newsletter X/4, 446-457.

Korpal, P. (2016). Interpreting as a stressful activity: physiological measures of stress in simultaneous interpreting. Poznan Studies in Contemporary Linguistics, 52(2), 297-316.

Korpal, P. (2017). Linguistic and psychological indicators of stress in simultaneous interpreting. Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu.

Kurz, I., (2002). Physiological stress responses during media and conference interpreting. In G. Garzone & M. Viezzi (Eds.), Interpreting in the 21st century (pp. 195-202). John Benjamins.

Kurz, I., (2003). Physiological stress during simultaneous interpreting: A comparison of experts and novices. The Interpreters’ Newsletter, 12, 51-67.

Ledoux, K. (2015). Moral Distress: A Study of Personal and Organisational Factors. London (Ontario).

Loewenberg, F. M., Dolgoff, R., & Harrington (2000). Ethical decisions for social work practice. F. E. Peacock.

Mӓӓttӓ, S. K. (2015). Interpreting the discourse of reporting: The case of screening interviews with asylum seekers and police interviews in Finland. Translation and Interpreting, 7(3), 21-35.

Mangoulia, P., Koukia, E., Alevizopoulos, G., Fildissis, G., & Katostaras, T. (2015). Prevalence of secondary traumatic stress among psychiatric nurses in Greece. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 29(5), 333-8.

Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 2, 99-113.

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 397-422.

McLennan, V., Ryan, K., & Randall. C. (2018). Ethical dilemmas experienced by australian rehabilitation counsellors. Online Journal of Health Ethics, 14(1).

Mehus, C. J., & Becher, E. H. (2016). Secondary traumatic stress, burnout, and compassion satisfaction in a sample of spoken-language interpreters. Traumatology, 22(4), 249-54.

Mertens-Hofmann (2001). A Study of workload and burnout in simultaneous interpreting. Integrative Summary Report. Mertens-Hofmann.

Moser-Mercer, B., Künzli, A., & Korac, M. (1998). Prolonged turns in interpreting: Effects on quality, physiological and psychological stress (pilot study). Interpreting, 3(1), 47-64.

Moser-Mercer, B. (2005). Remote interpreting: The crucial role of presence. Bulletin VALS-ASLA, 81, 73-97.

Nathaniel, A. K. (2006). Moral reckoning in nursing. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 28, 419-438.

Nelson, K. R., & Merighi, J. R. (2002). Emotional dissonance in medical social work practice. Social Work in Health Care, 36(3), 63-79.

Ndongo-Keller, J. (2015). Vicarious trauma (VT) and stress management. In H. Mikkelson & R. Jourdenais (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting (pp. 337-351). Routledge.

O’Donnell, P., Farrar, A., Brintzenhofeszoc, K., Conrad, A. P., Danis, M., Grady, C., Taylor, C., & Ulrich, C. M. (2008). Predictors of ethical stress, moral action and job satisfaction in health care social workers. Social Work in Health Care, 46(3), 29-51.

Pugh, S. D., Groth, M., & Hennig-Thurau, T. (2011). Willing and able to fake emotions: A closer examination of the link between emotional dissonance and employee well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 377-90.

Pym, A. (2015). Translating as risk management. Journal of Pragmatics, 85, 67-80.

Rafael, V. (2010). Translation in wartime. In M. Baker (Ed.), Critical reading in translation studies (pp. 383-390). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Riccardi, A., Marinuzzi, G., & Zecchin, S. (1998). Interpretation and stress. The Interpreters’ Newsletter, 8, 93-106.

Roberts, G. (2015). Public service interpreters: The emotional and psychological impact of interpreting within public service settings. Cardiff University.

Schwenke, T. J., Ashby J. S., & Gnilka P. B. (2014). Sign language interpreters and burnout: The effects of perfectionism, perceived stress, and coping resources. Interpreting, 16(2), 209-32.

Schwenke, T. J. (2015). Sign language interpreters and burnout: Exploring perfectionism and coping. JADARA, 49(2), 121-144.

Shay, J. (2014). Moral injury. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 31(2), 182-91.

Swain, M. (2011). The professional interpreter in transitional justice: An empirical study. University of Cape Town.

Takeda, K. (2016). Guilt, survival, opportunities and stigmata: Japanese interpreters in the post-war occupation period (1945-52). In K. Koskinen & N. K. Pokorn (Eds.), New insights in the history of interpreting (pp. 225-246). John Benjamins.

Taylor, M. F. (2007). Professional dissonance. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 77(1), 89-99.

Todorova, M. (2016). Interpreting conflict mediation in kosovo and macedonia. Linguistica Antverpiensia New Series: Themes in Translation Studies, 15, 227-40.

Tommola, J., & Hyӧnӓ, J. (1990). Mental load in listening, speech shadowing and simultaneous interpreting: A pupillometric study. Foreign Language Comprehension and Production, 179-188.

Tryuk, M. (2017). Conflict. tension. aggression. ethical issues in interpreted asylum hearings at the office for foreigners in Warsaw. In C. Valero-Garcés & R. Tipton (Ed.), Ideology, ethics and policy development in public service interpreting and translation (pp. 179-194). Multilingual Matters.

Ulrich, C. M., Taylor, C., Soeken, K., O’Donnell, P., Farra, A., Danis, M., & Grady, C. (2010). Everyday ethics: Ethical issues and stress in nursing practice. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 66(11), 2510-2519.

Valero-Garcés, C. (2015). The impact of emotional and psychological factors on public service interpreters: Preliminary studies. Translation and Interpreting, 7(3), 90-102.

Wang, B., & Xu, M. (2016). Interpreting conflicts and conflicts in interpreting: A micro-historical account of the interpreting activity in the Korean armistice negotiations. Linguistica Antverpiensia New Series: Themes in Translation Studies, 15, 186-204.

Zeier, H. (1997). Psychological stress research. Interpreting 2(1-2), 231-249.




How to Cite

Kalishchuk, D. (2023). Ethical stress in interpreting and translation: A literature review. East European Journal of Psycholinguistics, 10(1).



Vol. 10 No. 1 (2023)