The Myth of an 'Invisible Mediator': An Australian Case Study of English-Japanese Police Interpreting

Ikuko Nakane


Abstract

Recent studies have challenged the assumption that the interpreter is an ‘invisible’ mediator and have demonstrated a departure from the ‘conduit’ role often assigned to interpreters in their professional ethics guidelines (e.g. Russell 2000, Wadensjö 1998, 2004; Yoshida 2007). In this paper, I address the issue of interpreter’s role as an invisible mediator through an examination of interactional ‘repairs’, one of the key aspects of interaction management mechanisms in the tradition of Conversation Analysis. The context of interpreting is Australian Federal Police interviews mediated by Japanese-English interpreters. While some repair sequences in interpreter-mediated police interviews followed common patterns of monolingual police interviews, there were also some features of repairs specific to interpreter-mediated discourse. In particular, due to the interpreting of each turn, in some cases, it is not always possible to ascertain whether it was the primary speaker’s turn or the interpreted version that was the source of ‘trouble’ leading to an interactional repair. The paper demonstrates interpreters’ vulnerability to being identified as the ‘troublemaker’ in repair sequences and consequential face-saving strategies. These strategies included modifying the primary speaker’s utterances or providing explanations for why a need to repair was perceived or why a repair sequence failed to rectify a problem. It is demonstrated that in engaging in these types of problem solving activities, interpreters at times shift roles, sometimes pushing the boundaries of their professional ethics. The paper argues that, while interpreters are often viewed as operating within a third ‘invisible’ space between interlocutors, this invisibility needs to be questioned. It is suggested that the expectation of a completely invisible, or neutral, third space is unrealistic, and that interpreters as cultural and linguistic mediators, and as social beings, continuously negotiate their identity with their clients while interpreting.

Keywords

Japanese; Conversation analysis; Legal interpreting; Repair; Interpreter roles; Discourse analysis; Face

Full Text

PDF

References

Angelelli, C. 2004, Revisiting the Interpreter's Role: A Study of Conference, Court, and Medical Interpreters in Canada, Mexico and United States, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/btl.55

Angermayer, P. S. 2005, 'Who is You?": Polite Forms of Address and Ambiguous Participant Roles in Court Interpreting, ' Target, vol. 17, no. 2, 203-26." http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/target.17.2.02ang

Berk-Seligson, S. 1990, The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Berk-Seligson, S. 2002, 'The Miranda Warnings and Linguistic Coercion: The Role of Footing in the Interrogation of a Limited-English Speaking Murder Suspect, ' in Language in the Legal Process, ' (ed.) J. Cotterill, Palgrave, New York. 127-43.

Eades, D. 1996, 'Legal Recognition of Cultural Differences in Communication: The Case of Robyn Kina, ' Language and Communication, vol. 16, no. 3, 215-27. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0271-5309(96)00011-0

Forrester, M. A., & Ramsden, C. A. H. 2001, 'Discursive Ethnomethodology: Analysing Power and Resistance in Talk, ' Psychology, Crime & Law, no. 6, 281-304.

Gibbons, J. 2003, Forensic Linguistics: An Introduction to Language in the Justice System, Oxford, Blackwell.

Goffman, E. 1981, Forms of Talk, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.

Hale, S. 2004, The Discourse of Court Interpreting, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/btl.52

Heydon, G. 2005, The Language of Police Interviewing, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills.

Hyland, T. 2008, 'The Ballad of Chika Honda, ' The Sunday Age, 10 February, 13.

Jacobsen, B. 2008, 'Interactional Pragmatics and Court Interpreting: An Analysis of Face, ' Interpreting, vol. 10, no. 1, 128-58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/intp.10.1.08jac

Kurzon, D. 1995, 'The Right of Silence: A Socio-pragmatic Model of Interpretation, ' Journal of Pragmatics 23, 55-69. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0378-2166(94)00036-E

Laster, K., & Taylor, V. L. 1994, Interpreters and the Legal System, The Federation Press, Sydney.

Leung, E. S. M. & Gibbons, J. 2008, 'Who is Responsible?: Participant Roles in Legal Interpreting Cases, ' Multilingua, vol. 27, 177-91. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/MULTI.2008.010

Levinson, S. C. 1983, Pragmatics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Melbourne Case Attorneys. 2001, Melbourne Case: The Individual Communications. Melbourne Case Attorneys Team, Osaka, Japan.

NAATI Official Website. N.d., 'Accreditation Standards for Translators and Interpreters in Australia.' Online, available: http://www.naati.com.au/at-accreditation.html (Accessed 1 December 2008).

Nakane, I. 2007, 'Communicating the Suspect's Rights: Problems in Interpreting the Caution in Police Interviews, ' Applied Linguistics, vol. 28, no. 1, 87-112. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/applin/aml050

Newbury, P., & Johnson, A. 2006, 'Suspects' Resistance to Constraining and Coercive Questioning Strategies in the Police Interview, ' The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, vol. 13, no. 2, 213-40.

Petite, C. 2005, 'Evidence of Repair Mechanisms in Simultaneous Interpreting: A Corpus-based Analysis, ' Interpreting, vol. 7, no. 2, 27-49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/intp.7.1.03pet

Roy, C. B. 2000, Interpreting as a Discourse Process, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Russell, S. 2000, 'Let Me Put it Simply...": The Case for a Standard Translation of the Police Caution and its Explanation, ' Forensic Linguistics, vol. 7, no. 1, 26-48."

Russell, S. 2002, 'Three's a Crowd": Shifting Dynamics in the Interpreted Interview in Language in the Legal Process, (ed.) J. Cotterill, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 111-26."

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. A., & Jefferson, G. 1974, 'A Simplest Systematics for the Organisation of Turn-taking for Conversation, ' Language, vol. 50, no. 4, 696-735. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/412243

Schegloff, E. A. 1992, 'Repair After Next Turn: The last Structurally Provided Defense of Intersubjectivity in Conversation, ' American Journal of Sociology, vol. 97, no. 5, 1295-345. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/229903

Schegloff, E. A., Jefferson, G., & Sacks, H. 1977, 'The Preference for Self-correction in the Organization of Repair in Conversation, ' Language, vol. 53, 361-82.

Shuy, R. 1998, The Language of Confession, Interrogation and Deception, Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Suzuki, M. 2000, 'Mujitsu o habamu gengo, bunka no kabe, ' Asahi Newspaper, 8 March, 33.

ten Have, P. 1999, Doing Conversation Analysis: A Practical Guide, Sage, London.

Wadensjo, C. 1998, Interpreting as Interaction, Longman, New York.

Wong, J. 2000, 'Delayed Next Turn Repair Initiation in Native/Non-native Speaker English Conversation, ' Applied Linguistics, vol. 21, no. 2, 244-67. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/applin/21.2.244

Yoshida, R. 2007, 'Interpreting Court Interaction: Redefining the Role of Court Interpreters, ' Tsuuyaku Kenkyu (Interpretation Studies), vol. 7, 19-38.

Unde, Y. 2000. 'Kaigai ryokochuu ni togoku sarete 7 nen, ' Sunday Mainichi, 2 January, 184-85.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM