The Linguist

The Linguist 53,4

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 32 of 35

Vol/53 No/4 2014 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 33 INSTITUTE MATTERS The majority of clients fall into four main categories of diagnosis: trauma, depression, bereavement and anxiety. Most torture survivors experience trauma. Many of Caroline's clients have experienced a threat to their life, intense fear, helplessness and horror. They suffer symptoms such as recurrent nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, panic attacks, anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders. Everyone responds to trauma differently. Some speak very quickly or in chunks, and so draw interpreters into whispered interpreting with the clinician; some may not make sense due to confusion or selective memory; others may repeat words and sentences. When clients do not make sense, interpreters should not feel tempted to fill in the gaps, as this might prevent the therapist from exploring what has truly been said. Repetition of words might suggest fear, insecurity or the client insisting on their message. It is therefore essential that the interpreter repeats the exact same words (not leaving anything out or trying to use different words). Trauma can make people regress, and if clients speak in a childlike manner it is important for the interpreter to speak in the same register. Depressed clients may not wish to speak at all. The moments of silence indicate all sorts of emotions that the therapist needs to 'feel' in trying to understand and help the client. Interpreters should take care not to doodle in their notepads during these moments, as this gives the impression that they do not care. Instead, it is advisable to shrink back and be as invisible as possible, following the therapist's approach. A bereavement may leave clients feeling devastated and some interpreters try to alleviate this sadness by sharing happy experiences of home. However, this can interfere with the therapeutic process. If a client exhibits severe anxiety or symptoms of a possible heart attack, the therapist may need to call for help, leaving the interpreter alone with the client. In these instances, the interpreter plays a fundamental role in keeping the client calm. In extreme cases, the client's life may depend on the teamwork of a therapist and an interpreter. Being in the fresh air helps some clients to open up, so interpreters might find themselves in the garden. Clinicians value interpreters who are flexible and adaptable to a variety of environments. Due to a natural urge to help, some interpreters stay talking to clients after the session, but this is not advisable as they could become involved in the client's problems. It is vital to observe professional boundaries. As every client is unique, so is every session. The therapist and interpreter must form a strong partnership to identify the best way to proceed. A relationship built on trust and confidence, within a safe environment, is vital to the therapist-client-interpreter dynamic. In order to achieve the best possible outcome, FFT ensures continuity of the interpreter and matches clients' demographic needs (i.e, language, gender, country of origin) as closely as possible to the interpreter. The work is emotionally demanding and, for this reason, regular debriefing and therapeutic support is vital to the mental wellbeing of the interpreters. The session generated a lot of interest, evidenced by the large number of questions at the Q&A session. Philippe Muriel, an experienced French interpreter, was the main speaker of the second session, entitled 'Mental Health Interpreting: What are the challenges and what are the rewards?'. Philippe has extensive experience as a public service interpreter (PSI), working with asylum seekers and FFT, and has also taught PSI. He recognised that, from the therapist's perspective, the most important thing was to build a rapport based on trust, something which is difficult to do without a shared common language. The introduction of a third person creates a greater risk of misunderstanding and miscommunication. From the interpreter's perspective, he highlighted several linguistic challenges, such as when a string of disconnected nouns or verbs are used or put in the wrong order – something he termed 'a word salad'. In these situations, the interpreter may feel the need to correct the client's words, but this temptation must be resisted. The jargon, acronyms, idioms and metaphors used by both parties can also present difficulties. As a wide range of emotion may surround the client's life story, interpreters must be able to express emotions accurately in both tone and language. The interpreter may have to sit through a session of shocking and distressing content. There is additional pressure because the therapist only has an hour to extract the client's story. Some interpreters decide that this type of setting is not for them. Some have personal issues that might be triggered during the session, in which case it is better that they withdraw from the job. Philippe advised interpreters to be aware of their coping mechanisms before accepting emotionally challenging assignments. Recruiters should give preference to interpreters who can demonstrate a proven ability to cope under pressure and in difficult situations. He appealed to interpreter trainers to include a stress management and mental wellbeing module in their curricula. For Philippe, the work is unique and satisfying, enabling interpreters to have a real impact on people's lives. By doing their job well they can help victims to re-establish their lives and put them on the path to full rehabilitation. The work requires a great deal of inner strength and self-control. Interpreters can be justified in congratulating themselves if, at the end of a particularly challenging session, they have managed to stay calm and professional throughout. CONTACT DETAILS Judith Ridgway, Michael Cunningham, Leslie Ray, cambridgesociety Stephanie Tarling, Francis Lee, hongkongsociety@ Candia Hillier, lincolnshiresociety@ Rannheid Sharma, Katrin Hiietam, northwestsociety@ Anne Withers, Rebekah Rhodes, BPG ID TD CAM GER HK LINC LON NW SCOT SP Continued from page 32 email lincolnshiresociety or call 01522 526695. Steep Hill Room, Wig & Mitre, 30 Steep Hill, Lincoln LN2 1TL. EMOTIONALLY DIFFICULT INTERPRETING ASSIGNMENTS Saturday 29 November YHA Manchester, 11am-1pm Talk by Kirsty Heimerl- Moggan followed by the AGM at midday. An optional networking lunch (filled baguettes) is charged separately (£5). To book by 21 November email NW

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 53,4