The Linguist

The Linguist 54,6

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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26 The Linguist Vol/54 No/6 2015 OPINION & COMMENT A person's lifeworld experience must be considered in approaches to interpreting for clinical consultations The right to communicate in one's own language is essential and it is important to understand how messages can so easily become inaccurate during the interpreting process. This is particularly apposite to interpreted interviews with vulnerable trafficked people, though it is also pertinent in less fraught healthcare settings. As readers will be aware, interpreters engaged at clinics may not alter, distort or in any way damage the client's message. If they are a friend or family member of the client their interpreting will be biased, and their own personality, beliefs, preferences, prejudices, needs and wants will inevitably colour the message. This will also occur if the interpreter is fully engaged as an interlocutor with conversational rights of their own, as in bilingual advocacy. This usurps the epistemic authority of the interpreter's clients (usually the service provider and the service user). Even the trained interpreter-gatekeeper must be scrupulously careful not to distort the message. Therefore, the only opinions interpreters may express must be those relating to misunderstandings. Fraught with complications Everyone inhabits their own lifeworld. No other person can live in that lifeworld, so nobody else can know what is in it. Neither the clinician nor the interpreter can have direct access to the patient's lifeworld. As John Heritage and Geoffrey Raymond explain, the "distribution of rights and responsibilities regarding what participants can accountably know, how they know it, whether they have rights to describe it, and in what terms, is directly implicated in organised practices of speaking". 1 The right to express knowledge that exists in one's own lifeworld and day-to-day experience should be inalienable in medical encounters. Yet this is problematic in interpreted scenarios. Lifeworld reporting is the expression, in the moment, of contemporaneous and remembered insights. It cannot be adequately described by a third party. The discussion about who has the right to express a person's lifeworld experience was furthered by a research project I conducted in 2009, looking at how practitioners on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) responded to vignettes presented to them by telephone. I used the Delphi method, in which a panel of experts is used to validate the discussion, which was necessary due to a dearth of literature on the subject. The study distinguished between formal interventions for clarity and cultural briefing (which adds "social contextual information"), and remarked that truly relevant cultural information is only available from the individual concerned and therefore can only be provided through the interpreter, rather than by the interpreter. In my opinion… JAN CAMBRIDGE

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