Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jerry G. Gebhard, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.


This interview study looks at the learning, life, and experiences of 15 professional Korean English interpreter/translators, exploring influences on their career choice, their education and upbringing, and their perspectives on their careers now. The following research questions guided the study: (1) What kind of background experiences led to these interpreter/translators’ interest in the field? (2) What kinds of language and cultural learning experiences have they had? (3) What experiences do they say have been the most useful, and the most challenging, regarding the work they do now? (4) What advice can they offer to those interested in following them in their chosen career? Initial interviews of 15 interpreter/translators’ life histories were conducted. More focused second interviews continued with 12 candidates, and 7 were interviewed a third time. The results include selected interview transcripts addressing major issues selected from more than 40 hours of recorded interviews, addressing specific topics suggested by the research questions and others that came out of the conversations, as well as analysis of the transcribed conversations. The results from the thematic analysis of the life experiences indicate that Korean English interpreter/translators’ career choices, learning and lives, followed some common patterns that say much about not only the field, but the specifics of the field in Korea. More specifically, the study indicates that despite negative opinions of the career by others, as a low-prestige career, particularly for males, those who stayed with it did so because of an urge to help others communicate – “to be a bridge,” as one put it. The study finds the Korean English interpreter/translators commonly had unique educational and career paths, leading them to break free of many of the expectations of Korean society, particularly for those who work as free-lance interpreter/translators. Though many see the work as a low-status service profession, albeit high-paying at the top levels, nearly all talked about satisfaction from challenge of their work. The work, the life, and the challenges, as well as the shadow of stress and burnout, were all issues of concern for these professionals. The study advocates more research into the changing English-language education field in Korea, as well as looking into the issues of social status and prestige, the predominance of women interpreter/translators in Korea in contrast to other parts of the world, and continuing the burgeoning trend in Korea of looking into the challenges of communicating between Korean and English-speaking cultures.