LINGUIST List 15.1726

Mon Jun 7 2004

Review: Translation: Brunette, et al. (2003)

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  1. Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy, The Critical Link 3: Interpreters in the Community

Message 1: The Critical Link 3: Interpreters in the Community

Date: Sun, 6 Jun 2004 19:33:57 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy <>
Subject: The Critical Link 3: Interpreters in the Community

Brunette, Louise, Georges Bastin, Isabelle Hemlin and Heather Clarke,
ed. (2003) The Critical Link 3: Interpreters in the Community, John
Benjamins, Benjamin Translation Library.

Announced at

Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy, National University of Ireland, Galway


The Critical Link 3 is the third book from the Benjamins Translation
Library in the Critical Link series, presenting selected papers from
the third international conference on interpreting in legal, health
and social service settings. In keeping with the theme of the two
earlier monographs, the editors introduce a collection of papers which
seeks to assist practitioners, academics and researchers to build a
more complete understanding of interpreting practices and stimulate
dialogue between interpreters, trainers, service providers and the
wider community.

The bilingual French and English preface reiterates the overarching
goal of the international Critical Link conferences (building a
network of professional experts and stimulating the dialogue among
community interpreters) and the theme of the 2001 meeting (addressing
the complexity of the profession) held in Montr�al. It is followed
by a short bilingual introduction summarizing the main themes of each
21 articles, and the five principal sections addressing the dynamics
of cross-cultural communication in interpreting theory and practice,
the interpreter interaction with the end-users as well as the service
providers, the needs and realities of interpreter training, the role
of the interpreter in various legal jurisdictions and finally the
complexity of the profession itself.

The first section collates theory, practice and empirical research and
starts with the results of an empirical study by Angelelli on the
interpersonal role of the interpreter in cross-cultural communication
based on data from Canada, the US and Mexico. She questions the
conventional model of the ''invisible'' interpreter and puts forward
an alternative model where the interpreter is viewed as an important
social actor influencing the communication process. In a similar vein,
Bot explores the theme of the ''neutral'' role of the interpreter as
usually defined in judicial settings. She submits empirical evidence
from psychotherapeutic studies suggesting that when involved in
particular professional contexts such as health care, interpreters
become active participants in what she calls a ''three- person
psychology''. She again challenges the ethical requirement for the
interpreter to remain a passive actor, acting as a mere ''voice box''
in the communication process and argues that depending on context, the
functionality of the interpreter varies. Using anecdotal examples and
scenarios, the final paper by Eighinger and Karlin proposes a more
socio-linguistic approach to the role of the interpreter by
demonstrating how interpreters can use feminist-relational event
management techniques such as value listening, consensus building,
cooperation and experience to promote empowerment and social justice
through their work.

B�langer opens the second section on compromise and collaboration in
the multidimensional communication processes by examining the
relationship between interpreters and those they work with. The
results of her qualitative study using ''communication mediated by a
French-Quebec sign language interpreter'' (p. 10) concur with previous
studies by Roy (1989) and Wadensj� (1992). By examining the
co-directed and multi faceted nature of the interaction/relationships
between the sender, the interpreter and the receiver, she demonstrates
how the interpreter influences the communication situation and create
multi-layered communication processes. Again, she challenges the
traditional linear relational communicative schema and proposes a more
triadic model, based on co- directing interaction while suggesting
that interpreter training should now incorporate pragmatic and
relational competences. Meyer et al. adopt a multi disciplinary
approach informed by the literature on functional pragmatics,
conversion analysis, interpreting studies and health sciences to
explore doctor-patient communication. They suggest that an
interdisciplinary approach to authentic discourse data can lead to an
enhanced understanding of the multiple dimensions and functions of
language in mediated doctor-patient communication. The final paper
could equally have been included in the following section on the
training of interpreters as it deals with the development and
implementation of training programs for service providers in the
health sector. While Teble's paper lacks some of the theoretical
insights of the earlier ones, it does demonstrate the role which
academics can play in improving the delivery of community interpreting

The next section focusing on realities, needs and challenges posed by
interpreter training occupies a central place with no fewer than six
papers addressing issues such as the selection, evaluation, training,
as well as the contentious issue of certification and
regulation. Three of the papers offer reviews of current practices and
challenges in specific ''geographies''. Beltran Avery reports on the
experiences with respect to the certification of basic level
competence of medical interpreters in Massachusetts and includes a
detailed description of the prototype assessment tool used. As a case
study of interpreter assessment, it does provide useful insights into
the contribution of assessment theory to developing reliable models of
certification. Dubslaff and Martisen investigate standards of
community interpreting skills provided for refugees and immigrants in
Denmark using a representative survey among interpreters and service
providers. The results highlight the poverty of existing training
programs and the paradoxical impact of training on standards. while
the authors suggest that the solution must be comprehensive (quality
training, assessment, facilities) and viewed as a long-term effort and
investment from either the community and/or the interpreter. Fiola
explores the challenges of selecting, training and evaluating
interpreters when dealing with minority languages in Canada, which
rely primarily on oral tradition, barely using the written word such
as in the aborigine culture. He stresses the role and the impact of
culture on the interpreting process when dealing with language
policies, linguistic equivalence, socio-cultural and ethnographic
differences. Valero Garc�s highlights the challenges placed on
interpreting services in a rapidly and forever changing political,
cultural and social settings in Spain.

The other two papers in this section look at the demands, which a
particular interpreting context or setting places on the training of
interpreters. Oda and Joyette consider the unique requirements of the
quasi-judicial setting in their work on interpreting with perpetrators
of domestic violence. Their study highlights the need for interpreting
theory to provide actionable knowledge to address the realities of
interpreter selection and screening for specific circumstances. One of
the most interesting papers is the detailed account by Straker and
Watts of their experiences of building a university level certificate
and diploma in interpretation, pointing to the need for a
partnership-based approach drawing on the wider target community as a
basis for success.

The role of interpreters in the police and court environments is the
subject of the penultimate section. Here the expressed ethical and
professional dilemma faced by interpreters are mostly based on case
studies drawn from the UK, Malaysia, Denmark and Venezuela. In a small
case study, Fowler focuses on the role of the interpreter when faced
by police interviewing techniques. She points towards discrepancies in
the theory and practice of recording interpreted statements and the
subsequent ethical and linguistic dilemmas the interpreters face. By
contrast, the larger sample size analyzed by Ibrahim and Bell offers
interesting insights into the decline of what was in the past a well
developed legal and court interpreting service in Malaysia. Changing
economic, population, educational and cultural patterns, language
planning policies have combined to reduce the number of interpreters
available and this in turn affects all levels of the judicial
system. From this macro level of analysis, we move to a more
micro-focus and probably one of the more thorough analyses of
interpreting dynamics with Jacobsen examining additions made to source
messages by Danish court interpreters in their efforts to maintain a
faithful version of the original message while Vilela Biasi comments
on the new role taken by Venezuelan interpreters following recent
legal changes in the criminal legal system.

The final section appraises the status of the interpreting profession
with particular reference to the complexities and challenges it now
faces. Crezee explores cross-cultural communication barriers faced by
interpreters and patients in the health care system In New Zealand,
and the solutions which have emerged from their practice. Using a
mixed research approach involving a case study of health interpreting
service and a small sample survey of health interpreters, she brings
forward recommendations for improving the community interpreting
services and offers advice to both policy makers and
practitioners. Bowen and Kaufert take a more economic approach and
examine the financial costs involved when setting up health
interpreter programs and the impact cost rationalization have on the
right to an interpreter in the health services. Chesher et al. in
association with the Australian FIT describe a worldwide community
based interpreting survey from the interpreter's perspective in
relation to the challenges the profession faces and how interpreters
view their role within the community. Corsellis et al. report on the
Grotius project funded by the EU, the only comparative study on the
status of legal translation and interpreting services provided in the
15 member states with the aim to harmonize standards. The closing
paper by Thomas reflects briefly on the professional status of
interpreters in international post-conflict areas, including their
role, protection and security, using the service of interpreters in
Kosovo as a case study.

Finally an extremely useful bibliography of the works cited in all
papers is to be found at the end, written in a very economical and
clearly laid out manner. The index refers to works cited in French and
English respectively in the original language, followed by the lists
of tables, figures and appendices as well as the Benjamins Translation
Library titles - a useful tool indeed for all neophytes wishing to
research the topics of translation or interpreting.


In selecting the issues raised by the various presentations, the
editors' aim are twofold: to bridge the gap between theory and
practice in community interpreting and simultaneously to provide
useful insights into the specific nature of their task as community
interpreters for those who collaborate with them or those who employ
them. It is to be used as much as a tool for the practice of
community interpreting as a set of theories about interpreting in the
legal and health and social strata in multi-jurisdictional
settings. The wide variety of papers portrays the interpreter as the
pivot of cross-cultural communication processes without which
communication itself cannot occur. From a practical point of view, the
logical structure of the book facilitates a rapid consultation by
sections or articles, allowing the reader to select articles
independently without having to read the text in its entirety.

The analysis of some of the papers, in particular in the third section
where five of the six papers used what might be loosely termed as case
study based research approach need to be further explored. As such
they provide rich and useful insights into particular settings or
jurisdictions but one wonder if the time is not ripe for larger
samples or more longitudinal studies which findings may have wider
applicability. The debate to date on interpreter training is
characterized by a large number of ''once off'' studies and what some
in the more traditional vein might call anecdotal evidence. If more
widely applicable actionable knowledge on the question of interpreter
training is to emerge, it will require researchers to take the
tentative research conclusions that are emerging from this type of
work and test them in larger sample settings.

There are no doubts that community based interpreting reflects complex
social events, which cannot be studied in isolation. The sheer
messiness of the legal and health environments is bound to influence
the linguistic as well as social and cultural dynamics between the
interpreter and the other actors involved in the communication
process, thereby re-defining the communication model and hence the
role and function of community interpreters as proposed by some
authors (Angelelli, Bot, B�langer). However many of the research
issues concerning interpreting and arising in this volume lack
testable hypotheses which can capture the complexity of these dynamics
though most authors make highly commendable attempts to do so (Oda and
Joyette, Straker and Watts, Jacobsen). Indeed, the problems we face
when researching such complex contexts is the multiplicity and choice
of methods one need to use to analyze the complexity of the

Should we apply quantitative or qualitative methods or use both, as
did Creeze, to obtain a more holistic perception of the intricacies
involved when acting as an interpreter? Overall the proceedings focus
on the anthropological, sociological, interpersonal issues arising in
the profession as opposed to linguistic problems (Fiola). What is
important though and what the volume does impart well is that
self-awareness of the difficulties and challenges of some of the
research issues is the first step towards improving the quality of
interpreting provided for and to the community. I am a strong believer
that in such type of applied research involving various fields and
professionals, discovery and not justification is the key to solving
any problems arising in the field of interpreting. Researchers,
students, professional must embark together upon a voyage of discovery
to find out what need to be changed. In-depth fieldwork consisting of
interviews, observations, and case study analyses, such as the ones
carried out, are necessary to identify issues concerning the
complexity of interpreters in the community and create actionable
knowledge, prompting a model of service delivery and not just language

There is no doubt that the proceedings of Critical Link 3 truly
reflects the strong social and community commitment of those involved
in the Critical Link conferences, evidenced in the range and diversity
of the papers selected for the monograph. They provide a continuous
contribution to practices and challenges faced by the interpreting
profession while highlighting the paucity of professional community
interpreters and the underdeveloped system of formalized interpreting
supports they continue to face. This collection is an asset for
anyone interested in researching the profession of interpreting as
opposed to the dialectic of interpreting. It is more a tool of
reference for community interpreting professionals, which they can
refer to tackle the various obstacles encountered in the complexity of
their daily work rather than a research tool conceived for the
theoreticians of interpreting. No doubt that the professionals
involved in the Critical Link will continue to stimulate and expand
the debate on community interpreting.


Roy, C. B. (1989) A Sociolinguistic analysis of the Interpreter's Role
in the turn exchanges of an Interpreter Event. PH. D. diss.,
Gerogetwon University, Washington D.C.

Wadensj� C. (1992) Interpreting as Interaction: on Dialogue
Interpreting in Immigration Hearings on Medical Encounters.
Link�ping Studies in Arts and Science: 83, Link�ping: Tema


Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy is a lecturer in law (Legal French) in the Law
Faculty of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her research
publications, presentations and interests concentrates on
intercultural legal and business communication, legal interpreting and
translation, legal semiotics and language and the law.
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