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American Annals of the Deaf

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Interpreting in Legal Settings

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ADJ’s question to elicit concrete information (1) is rendered by INT with added (though contextually available) information concerning the place. Before giving her German rendition of APP’s answer, INT responds directly, as “co-principal,” emphasizing the need for concrete information (4). In doing so, INT indicates to APP that his answer is not yet satisfactory, that is, not specific enough, and the opening part of her utterance (“Yes”) clearly implies “yes, but” (see also Example 2 below). INT thus assumes responsibility for the institutional purpose of the hearing, which is to establish concrete facts about the asylum claim. Nevertheless, INT does not ask a follow-up question but proceeds to render APP’s answer in German, pausing after the first clause as REC is typing her interpretation into the record.

The self-initiated admonition by INT in Example 1 (4) points to a tendency of interpreters to take on tasks that go beyond their normative role. Some interpreters in our study even assume an active “co-interviewer” role, as shown in the following section.

t h e   i n t e r p r e t e r   a s   c o - i n t e r v i e w e r

As observed by Scheffer (2001) and also documented in Pöllabauer’s corpus, interpreters in asylum hearings tend to take on an active interviewing role to elicit further or more specific information. The extent to which they may do so, however, depends on the official conducting the hearing. While some adjudicators appear to be happy with interpreters conducting sub-hearings of varying length, others would not give up their prerogative to ask the questions, as illustrated in the following examples.

The interpreter in Example 2 is very active also in the sense of cutting in before the previous utterance has been completed, as seen in turns 2, 6, and 15. Similar to his colleague in Example 1 above, he responds to an answer by APP that he considers too vague by expressing disapproval (“Yes, but”) rather than rendering what APP has said (4).

example 2: T4H1 (06:40–07:40)
1    ADJ   Welche Religion gehen Sie nach?
                What religion do you practice?
2    INT                   What What is your religion, your faith?
3    APP   Christian.
4    INT   Yes, but-
5    APP   Church was- is a Pentecostal church.
6    INT                        Episcopal, or . . . . Pentecostal?
7    APP   Yeah.
8    INT   Also, ә Ch- Ich bin Christin und gehöre einer- der Pfingstkirche So, ә
                Ch-            I am a Christian and belong to a- the Pentecostal church-
                —(→ADJ) ich glaub das is’ ka anerkannte bei uns.
                                   I think that’s not a recognized one here.
9    ADJ   Mhm. (? ?)
10  INT   Ja, Pentecostal.
               Yes, Pentecostal.
11  ADJ   (→REC) Pfingst—         Pentecost-
12  INT   Pfingstkirche.
                Pentecostal church.
13  ADJ   (→REC) Pfingst- °° Pfingstkirche an. °° °° °° °° °° °° °°
                            Pen tecost- °° to a Pentecostal church.
                (→APP) Und haben Sie Ihre Religion ausgeübt?
                               And did you practice your religion?
14  INT   Did you practice that religion?
15  APP  Yeah, I was a Christian! And I go to church.
16  INT                                        Yes, but but- look, there are many Christians
                who never go to ch- You went to church?
17  APP  Yes.
18  INT   Ich bin in die Kirche gegangen.
                I went to church.
19  ADJ  (→REC) Ich bin in die Kirche gegangen. °° °° °° °° °° °°
                              I went to church.
               (→INT) Darf ich Sie nur ersuchen, solche Fragen nicht zu stellen, gell.
                             May I just ask you not to put such questions, okay?


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