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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Interpreting in Legal Settings

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Aside from the more covert tactic of pseudo-confirmation prompts, INT also resorts to explicit direct questions in a co-interviewer capacity, as seen in turns 10 and 14. Once she has thus gathered sufficient information, INT formulates her German rendition, pausing for REC in keeping with her typing speed. A third prompting strategy, which is actually a combination of the other two, is seen at the end of turn 16, where INT recapitulates APP’s previous statement (“two years of secondary school”) and then adds an explicit prompt for him to continue (“and then?”). A variation on the latter, used frequently by the interpreter whose active role was illustrated in Example 2 is the use of the direct prompt “Go on, please!” to elicit APP’s narrative. As shown in Example 5(2) another, less imperative technique is the use of “Alright?”

What is most exceptional about the previous excerpt presented to illustrate the interpreter’s technique of conducting independent sub-hearings, is that it represents only a fraction of the interview in which INT adopts the same co-principal role throughout. Whereas the (incomplete) interview sequence about APP’s education (Example 3 lasts barely one-and- a-half minutes), the evidence-gathering stage of that hearing, which is essentially conducted by the interpreter as interviewer, lasts more than three-quarters of an hour. ADJ only takes charge of the hearing again when APP’s story of flight has been finished.

In addition to these interpreters’ extraordinarily active role as co-interviewers, they also play a crucial part in the production of the written record—a function that has so far received little, if any, attention in research on interpreting in legal settings.

i n t e r p r e t i n g   f o r   t h e   r e c o r d

Whereas the interpreter’s normative role is generally focused on the task of accurately and completely “relaying” (translating) the primary parties’ spoken (or signed) utterances as well as on some degree of managing or “coordinating” the flow of discourse (cf., Roy, 2000; Wadensjö, 1998), the interpreting practices observed in hearings at the IFARB suggest a third dimension of the interpreter’s task in this type of event. As pointed out by Scheffer (2001) and Pöllabauer (2005), interpreters are expected to formulate their translations of asylum seekers’ statements in such a way that they can be entered directly into the record. These authors generally assume, however, that responsibility for the record, in both principle and practice, rests with the adjudicating official, who would repeat (or rephrase) the interpreter’s spoken output and dictate it for typing. While there can be no doubt about the adjudicator’s full legal accountability for the record, it is altogether surprising to what extent the interpreters in our study become involved in the production of the record.

It is not possible in the scope of this paper to explore all the various mechanisms—and consequences—of the interpreters’ co-production of the record, and we will present only one of many examples in the corpus to make our point. In the following excerpt (Example 4), INT is seen dictating her output with well-timed pauses for REC to finish her typing— and even complete with instructions for punctuation.

example 4: T1H1 (19:22–19:48): “colon, quotation mark”
1    APP   So when he rushed to me I I- when he rushed to the office I w- I was
                sur- surprised a- what happened? what happened? He said-
2    INT                                                                                            Ich war sehr
                überrascht, °° als er hereingestürmt kam °° °° °° °° °° °° °° und fragte °°
                °° °° Doppelpunkt, Anführungszeichen °° °° Was ist denn passiert?
                Was ist passiert?                                                      I was very
                surprised,       when he came storming in                  and asked
                        colon, quotation mark                                              But what happened?
                What happened?
                (→APP) Alright?

APP’s narration of a shocking message being delivered to him in his office (1) is full of hesitation and false starts. Not surprisingly, no trace of these is left in INT’s—otherwise rather “close”—German rendition. APP’s repetition (“what happened”) is retained in the interpretation for dramatic effect (2), but the latter is obviously ruined for the listener by INT’s indication of the punctuation marks required (in German) to indicate direct speech.

More so than the other examples (with the exception of Example 3, involving the same interpreter), Example 4 also includes clear evidence that the interpreter’s German delivery is adapted to REC’s typing speed and that the target text here is not so much an oral rendering of a spoken utterance than a dictation of what is to be scripted—a finding that corroborates Hale’s (2004) results for interpreters’ treatment of style.


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