Reviewed by: Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Exchange
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ONE SPEAKS FOR “THE OTHER”?
Traditional work on communication has focused on the interaction of individuals who speak the same language. Monolingual dyadic discourse has been assessed for implications on social relations, identity authentication, power, personal narrative, and style. However, not every interaction is monolingual.
In some bi- or multi-lingual interactions, interpreters are brought in to mediate communication, with the assumption that everyone will subsequently understand each other. Yet interpreter-mediated interactions are not necessarily transparent or always successful. Nor does interpretation always occur between languages and interactants of equal power, status or knowledge. Interpreters can not always equalize the interactants or enable mutual comprehension, although that is the intent.
In interpreted interactions, speaking turns are now mediated by a third party - the interpreter - who might augment or limit the turns, extents, and contents of speech among participants. Interpreters may interrupt the process in order to share cultural knowledge that allows for greater mutual understanding. In interpreter-mediated interactions, the interpreter is a dynamic third party to the communicative event, and thus the traditionally dyadic notion of speaker and hearer becomes a “communicative pas de trois” (Wadensjö, 1998).
Interpreters encounter the same issues of language, interaction, and culture that are studied in anthropology. However, there is a paucity of investigative anthropological work on the factors involved in interpreter-mediated encounters, including the impact of interpretation choices on interaction and the ramifications of speaking in the name of “another.”
In this roundtable, we hope to discuss the impact of communication through a third party who holds language ideologies, engages in professional decisions, and enters the setting with varying levels of bicultural knowledge and bi-linguistic expertise. We explore the implications of talking to “another” through an interpreter and the impact this may have on communication in a field which has traditionally studied dyadic monolingual interactions. Our purpose is to advance within the field of anthropology key issues regarding the implications speaking for “the other” may have in medical, legal, professional, and personal interactions.
Possible topics include: language ideologies of interpreters and/or participants; participation and footing; extralinguistic tasks of interpreters; cultural mediation; turn-taking; gaze; power and privilege of dominant language speakers in interpreted encounters; power and privilege of interpreters in interpreted encounters; power and privilege of non-dominant language speakers in interpreted interactions; contextualization cues/conventions between languages; shaping and renewing context in two languages; co-constructing meaning in two languages; intersubjectivity; role delineation; institutional talk; gender and identity differences between interpreters and participants; language brokering of immigrant children; community responses to interpreters; and agency, as delimited by interpreters; systemic and institutional supports for and impediments to providing interpretation services for limited English proficient persons and professionals.