POLICE INTERPRETING - AN
Prof Dr Ursula Böser CTISS (Center for Translation and Interpreting Studies
in Scotland) Department of Languages and Intercultural Communication
School of Management and Languages
Heriot-Watt University EDINBURGH
MUTICULTURAL SOCIETIES AND
THE GROWING LINGUISTIC
DEMAND – THE SCOTTISH
Scotland has a population of 5.2 million
3 official languages:
English, Gaelic and BSL (British Sign
An estimated 150 languages are spoken.
Most heavily represented: Bengali, Chinese
(Cantonese), Punjabi, Urdhu, Polish and Italian,
less frequently French.
Evidence of Problems
Concerns over Court translations – BBC news, Highlands
and Islands, 28 June 2006
Failure to use qualified interpreters is resulting in justice
failures, Trade Union Amicus, 26 September 2006
Lack of Interpreters leads to miscarriages of justice –
Workforce language, 29 September 2007
Unqualified interpreters used by Courts & Fiscals causing
miscarriage of justice – Scottish Law Reporter, 25 May 2008
Justice system compromised by unqualified interpreters –
The Sunday Herald, 4 March 2009
Spending by police forces on
interpretation services in the
£ 13,580,599 £ 22,178,040
Average rise within this period in Scotland
(Donnelly 2010: 266)
OVERVIEW OF TALK
1 DEFINITNG POLICE INTERPRETING AS OBJECT OF
2 INTRODUCING AN EMERGING RESEARCH
3 THE CONDUIT MODEL, THE MYTH OF THE
INTERPRETER’S INVISIBILITY AND DEGREES OF
4 WHAT’S IN A WORD? – PRAGMATIC VERSUS “LITERAL
5 POLICIES AND CONTEXTS – TRAINING, PROFESSIONAL
PRACTICE AND WORKING CONDITIONS
Short turns at talk
Bi-directionality of interpretation
POLICE INTERPRETING – AN
Main focus within PSI (Public Service Interpreting): Medical
and Legal Interpreting
Main focus within legal interpreting: Court interpreting
This research priority has been shaped by
- perceptions of relative significance
- availability of data
OVERVIEW OF ISSUES IN AN
EMERGING FIELD OF
THE EARLY PHASE: THE CONDUIT MODEL AND
THE MYTH OF INVISIBILITY
The interpreter as active
…using Goffmann’s (1981) participation framework and
speaker roles/production formats:
(witness: “Yes” interpreter: “Yes”)
(witness: “Well, I’d say yes”, interpreter: “Yes”)
(witness: “Yes”, interpreter: “Sorry what did you say?”)
The interpreter as active
initiates communicational repairs
(e.g. Could you speak up, please? What does that mean?)
(e.g. allocation of speaking rights)
explains cultural references
The interpreter as active
participant – an example
(Nakane, 2009: 13)
1 P2A ENGLISH SOURCE TEXT Had you paid for your ticket.
2 I2 Hikōki no okane wa mō harai mashita ka.
BACK TRANSLATION Have (you) already paid the airfare ?
3 S2 JAPANESE SOURCE TEXT Mō sore wa, kuru mae kara haratteru (0.4) to omoimasu. (0.5) Mō.
BACK TRANSLATION Already that, had been paid before coming here I think. Already.
4 I2 JAPANESE SOURCE TEXT Dare ga haraimashita ka?
BACK TRANSLATION Who paid?
5 S2 JAPANESE SOURCE TEXT Hikōki no okane desu ka?
BACK ANSLATION For the flight?
6 I2 Hai.
BACK RANSLATION Yes
7 S2 JAPANESE SOURCE TEXT Hikōki no okane wa yōsuruni saisho mō nihon ni iru toki haratte, haratte,
BACK TRANSLATION The airfare, in short, was already paid initially when we were in
Japan, paid, payment was done.
9 I2 Ah, the airfare was paid, (0.2) in Japan,
10 I2 In Japanese, the subject of a sentence is often omitted,
11 P2A Mm.
12 P2B Alright,
13 I2 and (you said that) who paid for that,
14 P2A Right.
15 I2 he just said, (0.2) it was paid
17 P2A Who – who paid, (0.2) who paid (0.2) for the ticket.
(I2 = interpreter, S2 = suspect, P2A= Police officer 1, P2B = Police Officer 2)
Turn-Taking in bilingual,
mediated communication: the
interpreter as co-ordinator
In interpreter-mediated face-to-face interaction other speakers
“…..do not know possible transition points in other languages, nor can they
know what pauses are or how turns end. They participate only in their
own language. Thus two turn- taking systems are operating
independently of each other while yet another system, a discourse
exchanges system, is controlled by the interpreter”.
LATITUDES OF INITIATIVE -
CONDUIT CO-ORDINATOR ADVOCACY
WHAT’S IN A WORD?
Translating language use in context
“just do it word for word”
Translating language use in
“How would the original utterance (in the
given context, with the given participants) be
appropriately phrased in the target language
and culture in order to reflect the author’s
intention and achieve a similar reaction in the
listener as the original might have?”.
(Hale, 2007: 7)
Main areas of investigation so
Style of Questioning
Asymmetrical Power Relations – In-group Loyalties
POLICIES AND CONTEXTS – ROFESSIONAL
The Context of Professional
Codes of Professional Conduct
A vicious circle of under-
“If the need for training is not recognised,
compulsory training will never be enforced. If
training is not compulsory, the demand for courses
will be limited, hence reducing their availability. If
courses are few in numbers and short in duration,
their content will be compromised, impinging on
their quality. This in turn effects their effectiveness
in improving practice, thus reinforcing the fallacy
that training is not essential.” (Hale, 2007:164)
TRAINING THE USERS:
At the booking stage
- ensure an appropriate match of interpreter and interviewee
At the pre-interview stage
- brief the interpreter about the case, their role, the objective
- let interpreter have sight of documents to be sight-tanslated
During the interview
Issues of role
- is the interpreter expressing their own views?
- is the interpreter slipping between 1st and 3rd person?
- is the interpreter ashamed of what s/he is discussing?
- are there long stretches where turns are exchanged between the interpreter and one interlocutor while
the other(s) remain unadressed?
- do not ask interpreter for advice or address them directly
- do not leave interpreter alone with interviewee
- hold eye contact with interviewee, address interviewee directly
Ways of speaking
- avoid making asides
- avoid and stop overlapping speech
- summarise discussion periodically to check consensus of understanding
- be aware of culturally specific concepts and references
- do not “switch off” while the Foreign Language is spoken
- cautiously assess visual information such as facial expression
During the debriefing
- give the interpreter an opportunity to state where interpreting problems occurred
- give the interpreter the possibility to raise concerns about their safety
The future - bright and
Some initial findings on the uses and impact of
“… there are no absolute and unambiguous criteria
for defining a mode of interpreting which would be
‘good’ across the board. Different activity-types
with different goal structures, as well as the different
concerns, needs, desires and commitments of
primary parties, imply various demands on the
interpreters”. (Wadensjö,1998: 287)
More research on the basis of authentic data is needed to establish trends.
The task is to link “observation of the process to pragmatic constraints such as
power, distance and face-threat and to semiotic constraints such as genres and
discourses as socio-textual practices of particular cultural communities (Mason
The definition of quality in police interpreting settings must emerge out of a
dialogue between practitioners, researchers and those who are experts in the
institutional practices within which police interpreting occurs.