Interpreting Decisions and Power: Legal Discourse or Legal Discord?

When:15 Oct 2013, 4pm - 5pm
Venue:Quadrangle 1001
Who:Debra Russell
Debra Russell

Interpreting & Translation Seminar

Interpreting legal discourse and working in legal interactions is an area that is fraught with power imbalances between the agents of the judicial system and the Deaf persons that come in contact with them. What decisions do interpreters make about their work that may contribute to this power differential in this specialized work? How do Deaf and non-deaf teams affect the power imbalance and how are these Deaf/non-deaf teams perceived by legal personnel? These are some of the questions that were explored in a qualitative study of ASL-English interpreters, based in Canada and the USA. The data were derived from a mixed methods study that involved an on-line survey and qualitative semi-structured interviews that created six case studies. The findings reveal the need for interpreters to be able to determine the mode of interpretation to be used based on the discourse created in the interaction. This finding stressed the need for interpreter’s to have highly refined discourse analysis skills in order to produce meaning-based interpretation. The findings also demonstrated some of the effective practices that experienced interpreter’s use in order to realistically deal with the power issues. Working in Deaf/non-deaf teams is an important factor in addressing the power imbalance and yet it is an area where some interpreters are reluctant to place themselves. The findings have implications for practitioners and those training interpreters for legal discourse and settings.

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