The Linguist

The Linguist 55,3

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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Page 16 of 35 JUNE/JULY 2016 The Linguist 17 FEATURES A topical issue is what I have termed 'adversarial interpreting', which occurs in contexts where an interpreter's output is monitored and challenged, either during the interaction or subsequently, by another interpreter or an individual who speaks the languages in question well. No statutory systems exist for adjudication in cases where disputes arise regarding the semantics of the target-language version. Even when academics with expertise in translation studies are identified by the legal system and act as arbitrators, no standard translation quality assessment (TQA) frameworks are used. There is obviously no such thing as the ideal translation, i.e. a version that could be used as a reference against which it would be possible to measure the accuracy of the disputed translation. Meaning is complex and operates at so many levels that to account fully for the various alleged mistranslations we need to be systematic. Hence, a robust and comprehensive TQA system is required that could be used in such disputes. The urgency of the topic was recently recognised by the US National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, which organised a panel discussion devoted to 'Interpreting for Bilingual Attorneys and Judges' at its annual conference last year. It is a shame the briefing note has not followed suit but, according to one of the note's authors, this was due to the word limit (POST briefing notes must be pithy so that politicians with busy schedules have time to read them). High-profile cases Forensic linguistics and forensic phonetics are not only about practical applications in law- enforcement contexts. Both disciplines have strong research cultures as well, and the report notes a limited number of the avenues being explored, including helping police to assume linguistic identities to combat online criminal activity, working to provide a better understanding of the linguistics of police interviews in sexual assault cases, and developing transnational technology for speaker identification purposes. When it comes to legal translation and interpreting, an interesting phenomenon that is missing is the use of interpreters to translate written evidence (e.g. text messages and transcripts of intercepted communications) in criminal justice contexts. Forensic translation requires good familiarity not just with criminal argots but also with the relevant legal procedure rules. One research concern here is to what extent the evidential status of the material being translated limits the translator's semantic choices. It must be said, however, that research in the wider linguistic aspects of justice administration is thriving and to present it, even in a bullet-point format, would require another briefing note at least. To raise its profile and demonstrate its potential, forensic linguistics often relies on high-profile criminal cases, such as the Debbie Starbuck murder. They are an unfortunate but effective means of science communication, eventually resulting in legislators taking notice. There can be little doubt that the POST note on forensic language analysis is a step in the right direction and it is to be hoped that it will eventually lead to a statutory recognition of the discipline. Notes 1 Bunn, S and Foxen, S (2015) 'Forensic Language Analysis', POST Note Number 509, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology IMAGES: © SHUTTERSTOCK

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