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Review of  The Critical Link 3: Interpreters in the Community

Reviewer: Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy
Book Title: The Critical Link 3: Interpreters in the Community
Book Author: Louise Brunette Georges Bastin Isabelle Hemlin Heather Clarke
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 15.1726

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Date: Sun, 6 Jun 2004 22:35:02 +0100
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

Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy, National University of Ireland,


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 Montréal. 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.

Bélanger 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 Wadensjö (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 services.

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 Garcés 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, Bélanger). 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 profession.

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 delivery.

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.

Wadensjö C. (1992) Interpreting as Interaction: on Dialogue
Interpreting in Immigration Hearings on Medical Encounters.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science: 83, Linköping: 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.