Are translators right- or left-brained and does it really matter?

Are translators right- or left-brained and does it really matter?

It is common knowledge that there are two brain hemispheres, left and right, and they have different functions in processing information. Usually, it is believed, and I believed so till today, that if you are right-handed you are left-brained and vice versa (I’m left handed for that matter, but the right-brained description never actually resembled much of who I am and how do I behave).


Brain lateralization and handedness: it’s not as you think


Brain function lateralization is evident in the phenomena of right- or left-handedness and of right or left ear preference, but a person’s preferred hand is not a clear indication of the location of brain function.

Although 95% of right-handed people have left-hemisphere dominance for language, only 18.8% of left-handed people have right-hemisphere dominance for language function. Additionally, 19.8% of the left-handed have bilateral language functions.

Even within various language functions (e.g., semantics, syntax, prosody), degree (and even hemisphere) of dominance may differ. That means that left-handed people are actually more likely to be left-brained as well.


Hemispheric Dominance Test: which sphere is your dominant one?


Since handedness is no indication whatsoever, I researched further and found this test:

Hemispheric Dominance Inventory Test

Answering few questions gives a descriptive answer which hemisphere is the dominant one. Mine is left. But what does that actually mean?

Left Hemisphere Style

  • Responds to verbal instructions
  • Problem solves by logically and sequentially looking at the parts of things
  • Looks at differences
  • Prefers established, certain information
  • Prefers talking and writing
  • Prefers multiple choice tests
  • Controls feelings
  • Prefers ranked authority structures
  • Is logical, sees cause and effect
  • Draws on previously accumulated, organized information

Right Hemisphere Style


Hemispheres and languages: is anyone privileged?


What is the difference for people working with languages?
Linear reasoning and language functions such as grammar and vocabulary often are lateralized to the left hemisphere of the brain. In contrast, prosodic language functions, such as intonation and accentuation, often are lateralized to the right hemisphere of the brain. The processing of visual and audiological stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception, and artistic ability seem to be functions of the right hemisphere.

Left hemisphere language functions: grammar/vocabulary

Right hemisphere language functions: intonation/accentuation, prosody, pragmatic, contextual

Well, we have three possible combinations then:
1) Right-handed left-brained
2) Left-handed right-brained
3) Left-handed left-brained

In his book Right-Hand, Left-Hand, Chris McManus of University College London argues that the proportion of left-handers is increasing and left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. He says that left-handers’ brains are structured differently in a way that increases their range of abilities, and the genes that determine left-handedness also govern development of the language centres of the brain.

Are translators right- or left-brained?

My university group had 4 left-handed people in a group of 23. Our tutor was asking every group each year and she concluded that she’s always having more left-handed people when teaching translation than in any other group. Are translators right-brained or left-brained then?
I am left-handed and left-brained.
What about you? Can we find any regularities in there?


  1. Dominique , on Jun 10, 2011 at 11:26 Reply

    right-handed and right brained

  2. Daniela , on Jun 10, 2011 at 11:59 Reply

    This is a fascinating topic, thanks for sharing.
    I am mostly left-handed, but right-handed for certain sports like volleyball, and almost ambidextrous in some others, like tennis.
    Apparently I’m 100% left-brained, having answered all 18 questions of the test as a left-brained person according to the results…!

  3. marta , on Jun 10, 2011 at 12:18 Reply

    It’s amazing that you scored 100% left! I got 6 answers for right ant 12 for left…

  4. Marta Velychko , on Jun 13, 2011 at 20:05 Reply

    hi, Marta ๐Ÿ™‚ Very interesting topic. I’m right-handed and left-brained, according to the test with 100% score – didn’t know that

    • Marta Stelmaszak , on Oct 31, 2014 at 20:38 Reply

      It is interesting, isnโ€™t it โ€“ how we naturally favour one (or both) hands for specific tasks.

  5. Lucian Lupescu , on Sep 4, 2011 at 09:18 Reply

    Actually, there are four possible combinations, the fourth being right-handed right-brained – and that’s me ๐Ÿ™‚ Very interesting article!

  6. Eszter Hรกmori , on Nov 6, 2013 at 09:48 Reply

    Dear Marta, this is interesting ๐Ÿ™‚ I was just browsing your archives when I found this article. I am strongly left-handed and probably co-dominant: this test found me left-brained, another right-brained, and I do know I have a mix of verbal and spatial thinking (being both an interpreter and an architect).

  7. Esther Verweij , on Mar 4, 2015 at 10:41 Reply

    I just found this article, reading through your archives and found that I am left-brained (although only just). I am right-handed ๐Ÿ™‚

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