The Linguist

The Linguist 60,3 - June/July 2021

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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12 The Linguist Vol/60 No/3 2021 FEATURES Eloísa Monteoliva-García considers the stand-by mode, when the linguist has to decide when to step in and interpret W hen we talk about interpreting, whether related to interpreting practice, research or interpreter training, it is often conceptualised as an activity which primarily functions as a bridge between two parties who would otherwise be disconnected because they cannot access each other's language. The interpreter is typically the bilingual participant in the room. However, interpreters and interpreting service users can attest to the fact that the interpreter is not always the only bilingual person in an interpreter-mediated encounter. Interpreting service users, whether at international conferences or in public sector settings, can also have knowledge of the languages being used to varying degrees of proficiency. A doctor may have some working knowledge of Spanish; a patient may be able to communicate in English for everyday exchanges but need help in a formal setting. When participants in an interpreted encounter use the shared language with intermittent interpreter participation the mode is known as stand-by interpreting. In studies of multilingualism, translation and interpreting, linguistic repertoires that include several languages at different levels and mix linguistic features from different languages are increasingly being acknowledged. Concepts such as translanguaging and superdiversity are channelling scholarly efforts to explore and embrace the complexity, richness and evolving nature of communicative competencies among speakers in multilingual encounters, including those mediated by an interpreter. Principles such as completeness and accuracy govern our practice as interpreters. When faced with service users who choose to interact in the language they share, even if not all of them are equally proficient in that language, what does it mean for our role? What does it mean for communication, and for how interpreting is delivered? In the UK context, should we disregard the fact that a suspect, a patient or a witness can speak some English and ask them to 'switch off' their ability to understand and express themselves in that language and rely fully on the interpreter instead? Should we allow each participant to use their range of communicative resources? What challenges do these different scenarios pose? What opportunities? Who is best suited to assess the best course of action? And, as time is of the essence in most encounters in public service settings, when should this assessment be made? These questions have not yet been answered through empirical studies, and we need to consider different factors in each encounter. There are, however, some features and findings that shed light on how stand-by interpreting works and how it could work when those competencies are acknowledged rather than 'switched off' (if that is even possible). Interview dynamics My PhD study looked into stand-by interpreting in authentic video-recorded police interviews with suspects in Scotland. 1 The suspects were native speakers of Spanish who could understand and use English in everyday interactions, although they had difficulties understanding and expressing complex ideas. Their proficiency was acknowledged as a resource by the interviewing officers at the beginning of the interviews and in the presence of a professional interpreter. The interpreter was introduced as being present to make sure suspects could understand, and both suspects interacted in English with the on-and-off assistance of the interpreter. As will be familiar to many professional interpreters, the task of 'making sure they could understand' is not as simple as it may look when deciding what to interpret. Interpreting in the stand-by mode is selective, unlike an encounter in which each participant, except for the interpreter, uses a different language and every intervention is, in principle, meant to be interpreted. My study set out to explore a number of questions that stem from that selective nature Ready, set… interpret?

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