Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Shifting Gears

July 25th, 2005

Today I begin the community interpreting phase of fieldwork. It’s already been radically different than the fieldwork with European Parliament interpreters due to the absence of an overarching institutional structure such as granted me access to the Parliament buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg – where clusters of conference interpreters were readily available. I meet with a Turkish-German court interpreter this afternoon and we’ll go from there. I’ve a few other tentative contacts; I’m hoping that one will simply lead to another. We shall see. 🙂

Conference interpreters’ perceptions of community interpreting was one of the questions I investigated with most of the EP interpreters.

There was a roughly even split (as I experienced it subjectively, without verifying this against the ‘hard data’ of the audiotapes yet) between those who considered the job essentially the same albeit under altered circumstances and those who considered the job to be completely different. Of those who thought it is very different to do the face-to-face, small group, interactive interpreting, the differences were identified variably as consecutive vs simultaneous, low/poor/inadequate skills, inequitable pay, and having more stressful boundary and accuracy conditions because of the relevance of these situations to people’s actual lives.

This latter point had to do with the challenges of not becoming emotionally affected or otherwise drawn into some degree of involvement through pathos, and the critical nature of here-and-now situations with immediate effects as opposed to the more abstract level of application within the European Institutions, where there are multiple layers of redundancy for clarification purposes and redress.

I anticipate that I will find complementary views on these matters from community interpreters themselves, and perhaps more frustration with the limits of practical support for professional development. At least, I hope to discover such evidence. 🙂 Precedent for these expectations on my part is from the Critical Link 4 conference in Stockholm (May, 2004) – for which the Proceedings will be published sometime in the next several months (by the John Benjamins Company). I will also seek evidence of similarities and differences in conceptions of job delivery – here is where I am most curious and least sure of what I will discover. I was pleasantly surprised at how much overlap there was between my experiences in the US doing community interpreting within the American Deaf community and the conference interpreting done by EP interpreters. By overlap, I mean that the issues we tend to think and talk about are, at core, very much the same, despite differences in modality, perception, subjectivity, and culture contingent upon the specific language combinations.

What I seek to bring into view in this phase of the fieldwork with this population of interpreters are distinctions that can be traced to the degree of institutionalization. This is a commonality between sign language interpreters (via the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf – RID, in the US) and conference interpreters (via the International Association of Conference Interpreters – AIIC, internationally). What organizational structures link and bind community interpreters in and among the nations of the EU? To what degree are these formalized? How do they interact with legislative bodies and advocacy groups? And, how does the presence/absence of these mechanisms influence the delivery of services at the level of practical, actual enactment?

There are more questions, but this is enough to articulate for now. Wish me luck! 🙂

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Categories: Interpreting

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