The Linguist

The Linguist 57,1 – February/March 2018

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 14 of 35 FEBruArY/mArcH The Linguist 15 FEATURES we interpret everything that is said (and therefore cannot keep secrets) and that the information shared remains confidential, helps to manage expectations for every party involved. This should be done at the beginning of every assignment. During appointments that have some degree of urgency, for example in a mental health hospital or resuscitation room, it can be impossible to make the relevant introductions and set expectations straightaway, but this should then be done as soon as the emergency has been dealt with. For new interpreters, it might be useful to compose and practise a short introduction in advance. Some providers downgrade the work of the interpreter by establishing a hidden hierarchy, displacing the interpreter by assigning them tasks outside their remit. When a service provider asks an interpreter to take on an aspects of their own role (e.g. making a phone call, requesting a sight translation or completing questionnaires in their absence), they are removing the user's right to understand by denying them the right to ask questions. This places service users at the bottom of the hidden hierarchy with the service providers at the top. The interpreter should not walk even one step in the shoes of another professional. For the sake of advancing the profession and ensuring that it gains the status and recognition it deserves, PSIs have to exercise responsibility in training those they work with. A gentle and timely response to inappropriate requests helps every party involved to work effectively together. A recent study exploring how new arrivals from Syria are settling in Edinburgh concluded that during training for interpreters, and while briefing them, it should be reinforced that counselling (including specialist post-traumatic stress counselling) is available for interpreters. 2 The majority of interpreters participating in this study admitted to developing a personal relationship with users. Far from advocating this, I believe it important to remind ourselves that our role as PSIs is to interpret; more precisely, to interpret well while upholding the principles and guidelines set out in our codes of practice and ethics. When our codes don't provide a straightforward answer, our own principles and judgement might be the key to success. There is no broad consensus on a definition of the ethics of interpreting, but it is important to be consistent, firm and prepared, and not to let anyone increase your workload with tasks alien to your training and expertise. We aren't human rights activists, advocates or mediators – we are just interpreters. Notes 1 In Scotland, where I work, private agencies (with some isolated exceptions) hold the Scottish Government framework contract for language provision and, as such, they rule the market 2 Weir, k E, Wilson, S J and Gorman, D r (2017) 'The Syrian Vulnerable Person resettlement Programme: Evaluation of Edinburgh's reception arrangements'. In Journal of Public Health, pp.1-10 has asked you to overstep the boundaries of your role may not have worked with an interpreter before. It is important to listen to their expectations and explain whether or not these fit within the interpreter's role, focusing on your lack of training to take on any tasks beyond those of an interpreter. Talking to the public service provider can even amount to free expert cPD (continuing professional development) and training. Debriefing sessions with a psychiatrist or dedicated counselling are also usually available when working with health services. Sometimes, the parties involved refuse to respect your role, or fail to understand it. In that case, the best course of action is to make yourself unavailable during breaks: go to the cafeteria, read a book or do a puzzle. A number of simple physical techniques can help us to cope with mental trauma. Doing relaxation exercises, walking and dancing is a magic cure for me. I have colleagues who run, go to the gym and weave. I also find it useful to have a routine: I stretch and do some light reading to switch off at the end of the day. Anticipating difficult situations But how to anticipate and protect ourselves from uncomfortable situations? There are a few steps to follow in order to ensure impartiality, mitigate the rise of moral dilemmas and fulfil the PSI's role. Firstly, it is paramount to introduce yourself at the start and explain why you are there. users often mistake the interpreter for a friend due to their shared language and culture. A short introduction explaining what an interpreter does and reinforcing that we are impartial, COPING WITH STRESS Working with a young terminally ill patient (below) can be traumatic for the interpreter (above), even when no additional demands on them are made ImAGES © SHuTTErSTOck

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