Intercultural Communication in Interpreting: Power and Choices 2020056643, 9781138610590, 9781138610613, 9781003179993

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Intercultural Communication in Interpreting: Power and Choices
 2020056643, 9781138610590, 9781138610613, 9781003179993

Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
1 Interpreting Intercultural Communication
1.1 Between Culture, Language, and Power
1.2 Interpreting and Interpreters
1.2.1 Types and Roles
1.2.2 Structure and Agency
1.2.3 Culture and Language in Contexts
1.3 The Stories Untold
2 Business Interpreting
2.1 Business As Men’s World and Interpreting As Women’s Job
2.2 Business Interpreters
2.3 When Jokes Thicken the Ice
2.4 Are We Speaking in the Same Language?
2.5 English Proficiency and Male Pride
2.6 Conclusion
3 Medical Interpreting
3.1 Cultures Beyond Otherness
3.2 Medical Interpreters
3.3 In Search of Sympathetic Ears
3.4 Either Crazy Or Normal
3.5 Communicating Bad News
3.6 Conclusion
4 School Interpreting
4.1 Australian Dreams Through Education
4.2 School Interpreters
4.3 Confucianism and Asian Tiger Mothers?
4.4 Inclusion Efforts By Excluded Parents
4.5 It’s Because We Are Asians
4.6 Conclusion
5 Legal Interpreting
5.1 Legal Space As Foreign Culture
5.2 Legal Interpreters
5.3 Bilingual Interpreters in Monolingual Courtrooms
5.3.1 Interpreters’ Accent
5.3.2 Arabic Is Arabic
5.3.3 Bilingual Court Users Under Suspicion
5.4 Why Can’t You Say Yes Or No?
5.5 Refugee Interpreting
5.5.1 Credibility Embodied in English Fluency
5.5.2 That’s Not How We Speak
5.5.3 Africans Are Liars
5.6 Conclusion
6 Power and Choices in Interpreting
6.1 Power Inseparable From Intercultural Communication
6.2 Choices in Relation to Field
6.3 In Their Own Words – the Stories Told

Citation preview

‘This book is an excellent account of the interface between interpreting and intercultural communication. It provides valuable insights into the difficult choices interpreters face in the fields of business, healthcare, education and the courtroom. Readers are given the opportunity to reflect on how they themselves would act in the intercultural interpreting dilemmas described in this book.’ Juliane House, Hamburg University, Germany

Intercultural Communication in Interpreting

Navigating and resolving issues in intercultural communication is an ­integral part of the interpreter’s role on a daily basis. This book is an essential guide to the interpersonal dimensions of intercultural communication in a variety of key interpreting contexts: business, education, law, and healthcare. Drawing on the unique perspectives of professional interpreters, Cho focuses on two key questions that remain under-​examined in the field of intercultural communication: why does intercultural communication often break down, and how do individuals manage intercultural communication issues? Each chapter deals with issues pertinent to small cultural aspects of intercultural communication, including gender, ethnic migrant communities, educational cultures among migrants of Asian backgrounds, and monolingualism/​monoculturalism in courtroom and refugee interview contexts. Spanning diverse geographical domains, the book highlights the impact of macro power on interpreting as well as the significance of individual agency and micro power, which can rebalance the given communicative context. Offering a comprehensive, up-​to-​date, innovative, and critical perspective on intercultural communication in interpreting, this is key reading for student and professional interpreters and those on courses in language and intercultural communication. Jinhyun Cho is a senior lecturer in the Translation and Interpreting Program of the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her research interests are primarily in the field of sociolinguistics and focus on intersections between gender, language ideologies, language policies, neoliberalism, and intercultural communication. She is the author of a book entitled English language ideologies in Korea: Interpreting the past and present.

Intercultural Communication in Interpreting Power and Choices

Jinhyun Cho

First published 2022 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2022 Jinhyun Cho The right of Jinhyun Cho to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-​in-​Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-​in-​Publication Data Names: Cho, Jinhyun, author. Title: Intercultural communication in interpreting: power and choices / Jinhyun Cho. Description: New York: Routledge, 2021. | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Identifiers: LCCN 2020056643 | Subjects: LCSH: Translating and interpreting–Social aspects. | Intercultural communication. Classification: LCC P306.97.S63 C44 2021 | DDC 303.48/2–dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 9781138610590 (hbk) ISBN: 9781138610613 (pbk) ISBN: 9781003179993 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Newgen Publishing UK

To Peter, Justin, and Daniel


Preface Acknowledgements

xi xii

1 Interpreting intercultural communication 1.1 Between culture, language, and power 1.2 Interpreting and interpreters 1.2.1 Types and roles 1.2.2 Structure and agency 1.2.3 Culture and language in contexts 1.3 The stories untold Appendix 1 References

1 1 2 3 4 9 12 14 15

2 Business interpreting 2.1 Business as men’s world and interpreting as women’s job 2.2 Business interpreters 2.3 When jokes thicken the ice 2.4 Are we speaking in the same language? 2.5 English proficiency and male pride 2.6 Conclusion References


3 Medical interpreting 3.1 Cultures beyond otherness 3.2 Medical interpreters 3.3 In search of sympathetic ears 3.4 Either crazy or normal 3.5 Communicating bad news 3.6 Conclusion References

42 42 44 46 52 58 63 64

18 20 22 27 32 38 39



4 School interpreting 4.1 Australian dreams through education 4.2 School interpreters 4.3 Confucianism and Asian tiger mothers? 4.4 Inclusion efforts by excluded parents 4.5 It’s because we are Asians 4.6 Conclusion References

69 69 70 73 75 83 91 92

5 Legal interpreting 5.1 Legal space as foreign culture 5.2 Legal interpreters 5.3 Bilingual interpreters in monolingual courtrooms 5.3.1 Interpreters’ accent 5.3.2 Arabic is Arabic 5.3.3 Bilingual court users under suspicion 5.4 Why can’t you say yes or no? 5.5 Refugee interpreting 5.5.1 Credibility embodied in English fluency 5.5.2 That’s not how we speak 5.5.3 Africans are liars 5.6 Conclusion References

95 95 96 99 99 104 108 110 116 116 120 126 130 132

6 Power and choices in interpreting 6.1 Power inseparable from intercultural communication 6.2 Choices in relation to field 6.3 In their own words –​the stories told References

137 137 140 142 147




This book is about real stories of daily intercultural communication experienced and narrated by people who are centrally engaged in communication between two languages and cultures: interpreters. Drawing on the unique perspectives of professional interpreters, I have tried to illustrate how everyday intercultural communication works within the constraints of power structures, exploring what kinds of challenges occur, and how individual interpreters exercise their micro power to respond to these challenges. Power is central to interpreting, where interactions often occur between individuals who hold dominant forms of linguistic and cultural capital, and individuals who do not. Power structures in interpreting are not just relational, but are also reflective of macro-​ societal power hierarchies which privilege people from the mainstream over others of minority backgrounds. While the ways in which communication in interpreting unfolds often appear to be determined by the power hierarchies at play, it is important to remember that we, as individuals, also have micro power which may be used to rebalance a given communicative context. This book specifically explores the many ways in which interpreters use their unique bilingual and bicultural competence as they strive to address communicative issues that arise during intercultural interactions. While the stories presented in this book are engaging and fascinating, some readers might find certain stories fraught and even distressing. I decided to include these stories, because they tellingly illustrate the main focus of the book: the communicative choices that individual interpreters make in the context of power structures when faced with potential or actual intercultural conflict. I did my best to treat the stories with the utmost respect for human values, and I hope that this comes through to readers. The act of assembling stories about individual agency is a social act, because such stories expose the taken-​for-​granted nature of institutional power in our daily lives. Only by realising the pervasiveness of macro power may our agency stay awake.



Three years have passed since I published my first book, English language ideologies in Korea. A lot of events have happened since then, but the people to whom I am grateful remain mostly the same. Much of this current book was written in lockdown conditions brought about by the COVID-​19 pandemic, and writing the book while juggling online teaching and home schooling was, as readers can imagine, not easy. My thanks go to the people whose kind and genuine support made the journey a lot more manageable than it otherwise would have been. I am grateful to my mentor, Distinguished Professor Ingrid Piller, whose intellectual wisdom always serves as a source of inspiration for my academic pursuits. I also appreciate Dr Alexandra Grey, Dr Allie Severin, Dr Hanna Torsh, and Dr Vera Williams for their valuable feedback. I am particularly thankful to Macquarie University for the research support scheme for early career researchers which enabled me to recruit the participants for the research project. Most of all, I am grateful to the participants for their willingness to share the stories that both informed and inspired the discussion presented in this book. They are in this respect its co-​authors. Finally, my dear Justin and Daniel, your innocence and curiosity make me laugh every day and help me to appreciate the happiness that the little things in life can bring. My dear husband, Peter, your wonderful support has been critical to the successful completion of this book, and I truly thank you for that. This book is, as always, dedicated to my family.

1  Interpreting intercultural communication

1.1  Between culture, language, and power But, but he [the refugee in the processing centre with a malfunctioning heart] has got a few hours to live. I fully understood what he [the doctor] said. It’s not a language issue, but it was issue of culture. How can I tell the person that you’ve got a few hours to live. It was very hard, because in India and Bangladesh culture, no, we don’t pass on bad news and sad news straight away. In our culture, supposing somebody takes his father to the doctor. Let’s assume that the man has been diagnosed with a carcinoma cancer. The doctor will never tell the patient I’m sorry you have a cancer. You have six months to live. He would say look, we are trying, and the doctor will try to find his son or some other person and tell him that I’m very sorry but he’s got cancer. He’s on treatment, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But in Australian culture, the doctor will tell point-​ blank with you. This is wrong with you. So as an interpreter, it was very hard to say you are going to die in three or four hours of time. Chandra, English-​Bangla interpreter The story above is a real experience of Chandra, an English-​Bangla interpreter, who was called upon to interpret for a doctor and a Bengali refugee patient, who had only a couple of hours to live due to his malfunctioning heart, at the regional processing centre. The medical facility at the centre was too limited to deal with his heart condition, and the only solution was to fly the patient to Australia. Even this, however, was not possible, because his heart was too weak to handle flying at high altitude. With the clock ticking, the interpreter had the dilemma of how –​and indeed whether –​to break the tragic news to the patient that his life would end soon. In trying to understand the depth of his dilemma, it is important to note that the problem was not just cultural, but contextual and structural. From a cultural perspective, there was a conflict arising from different approaches to dealing with communicating a bad diagnosis in a clinical encounter where Australia and Bangladesh were concerned. Whereas the principle of patient autonomy and truth-​telling is valued


Interpreting intercultural communication

in Australia, non-​disclosure in the case of a terminal illness is generally practised in Bangladesh (see Section 3.5 for further details). Within the given communicative context, the interpreter was also required to follow a professional code of conduct, which emphasises accurate and faithful interpreting with absolute neutrality (see Section 1.2.2 for further details). The context is, then again, characterised by structural power differentials between the doctor and the interpreter, because the doctor is almost always naturalised as an authority and controls communication, leaving little power to the interpreter (see Chapter 3 for further details). The dilemma faced by the interpreter, indeed, represents a site of contention, in which structural constraints and individual agency clash in the context of cultural interactions. Based on real experiences of professional interpreters, this book explores the workings of the relationship between structures and agency by focusing on communicative dilemmas and individual choices of interpreters in diverse intercultural contexts. In doing so, it aims to investigate how and why individuals make the choices that they do in response to the given constraints, a tension which is often mentioned but remains underexplored in intercultural communication research, particularly from the perspectives of individual agents (Block 2013). Interpreting is, needless to say, intercultural communication in itself. Not all instances of intercultural communication require interpreters, but communicative encounters which do involve interpreters are always instances of intercultural communication (Kondo et al. 1997). It is perhaps not too much of a stretch to say that no single profession is more experienced than interpreters in terms of intercultural communication, for they are centrally engaged in day-​to-​day interactions where issues of culture, language, and power constantly intersect. Asking interpreters about the kinds of choices that they make in the face of communicative conflicts, therefore, makes utmost sense. A deep exploration of these choices is the key aim of this book, which focuses on the causes behind and solutions to intercultural communicative problems. This book specifically examines the hitherto under-​examined topic of individual creativity relating to intercultural communication which, combined with possibilities offered by a relevant communicative field, can rebalance power relations in a given context. Before turning to explore the interpreter-​informants’ accounts and reflections, however, it is necessary to provide a background on what interpreting is and who interpreters are, for readers who are unfamiliar with the profession and the people who practise it.

1.2  Interpreting and interpreters This section begins by briefly introducing various contexts and types of interpreting for the purpose of familiarising readers with the profession

Interpreting intercultural communication

and people. A more detailed discussion of each interpreting context and interpreters working in a relevant field is provided in each of the remaining chapters. It then moves on to examine the inter-​relatedness of context, culture, and power embedded in interpreting in order to contextualise the book. 1.2.1  Types and roles For the purpose of this section and the remainder of the book, it is essential to distinguish the terms ‘translation’ and ‘interpreting’. Although the terms are often used almost interchangeably outside the field, they denote two distinctively different activities. To put it simply, translation refers to the process of converting written texts from one language into the other. Interpreting is defined as oral translation, in which spoken words are rendered from one language into the other. As such, a key difference between translation and interpreting is the medium through which meanings are conveyed. It bears noting that a communication context is much more relevant to interpreting than to translation due to the nature of interpreting as a highly interactive activity. In a broad sense, the various areas of interpreting fall into two distinctive categories: community and non-​community contexts. To begin with, community interpreting services are provided to residents of a community who do not speak the dominant language of a society. Community interpreting began in the context of the creation of twentieth-​century welfare systems in migrant-​receiving Anglophone countries, with the goal of ensuring fair and equitable access to public services for immigrants (Gentile et al. 1996). Because of its service-​ oriented nature, community interpreting mostly occurs in institutional settings of a given society such as school, healthcare, immigration, law, and welfare contexts (Pöchhacker 1999). In these settings, interpreters usually deal with short dialogue-​like interactions between a doctor and a patient, an immigration officer and a refugee, a judge and a defendant, or a school principal and a migrant parent, for example. Non-​ community types of interpreting include business and diplomatic settings. Diplomatic interpreting often occurs in meeting or conference settings involving international organisations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, or the World Bank. In these settings, diplomatic interpreters usually work in a soundproof booth with interpreting equipment (e.g. headsets, control consoles, and microphones), which is perhaps the most familiar representation of interpreting among laypeople. Diplomatic interpreters working in booths are known as ‘conference interpreters’ and speak at the same time as the speaker with a lag of a few seconds. This particular mode of interpreting is referred to as simultaneous interpreting. The opposite of simultaneous interpreting is consecutive interpreting, where the interpreter speaks when the speaker finishes talking. Consecutive



Interpreting intercultural communication

interpreting is widely used not only in the aforementioned community settings but also in business interpreting. As business operations have expanded globally in search of new markets, the dynamics of communication have inevitably undergone significant changes, hence the need for language professionals specialising in corporate matters. Business interpreters deal with not only short dialogue-​like communications at meetings but also longer forms of formal speeches, such as a New Year’s address by a CEO to employees. In all of the aforementioned communicative contexts, interpreters perform the same professional duty of communicating language and culture. When it comes to the question of whether interpreters are intercultural communicators, however, role expectations seem to vary in the interpreting scholarship. Various role descriptions have, indeed, been attached to interpreters, who are seen as ‘intermediaries’, ‘mediators’, ‘go-​betweens’, ‘brokers’, ‘gate-​keepers’, and even ‘non-​ persons’ (see Wadensjö 1998 for details). With a view of interpreting as intercultural communication, interpreters are described as ‘intercultural mediators’ (Baraldi and Gavioli 2007; Pöchhacker 2008), ‘intercultural agents’ (Barsky 1996), and ‘cultural interpreters’ (Taft 1981), but hardly ever as ‘intercultural communicators’. Why then, despite the central role that they play in communicating language and culture, are interpreters not recognised as communicators in their own rights? This question is closely related to the issue of power, which governs the field of interpreting and delimits individual choices. 1.2.2  Structure and agency Power structures are deeply embedded in interpreting contexts, in which interactions usually occur between an individual whose linguistic and cultural proficiency aligns with dominant forms of language and culture, and a person less proficient in the valued forms of linguistic and cultural capital (Angelelli 2004a). In a typical triadic context in which interlocutors speaking two different languages and the bilingual interpreter are engaged, it is usually the party who works for the institution and possesses associated knowledge and information that is more powerful than the others. Taking legal interpreting as an example, there is almost always power inequality between legal professionals, who are formally authorised by institutions (e.g. judges and lawyers), and laypeople (e.g. the defendant and the accused). This type of micro power relationship is not just limited to a given communicative context, but is, in a way, a reflection of broader social structures and power distribution. When we come to look at communication from a structural viewpoint, we move towards a discussion of how individuals respond to structures and things become more contentious.

Interpreting intercultural communication

In a Bourdieusian sense, structures, which refer to systems of objective relationships and rules, are said to govern individual agents in their actions and choices (Bourdieu 1990). Bourdieu argues that individuals’ rational actions or practical alternatives are possible only within the limits of a specified social structure, which creates a ‘fictitious reconciliation of mutually contradictory theories of action’ (Bourdieu 1990, p. 38). This notion of structure and agency is strongly informed by one of the central concepts developed by Bourdieu, habitus, which is ‘constituted in practice and is always oriented towards practical functions’ (Bourdieu 1990, p. 52). According to Bourdieu, habitus for individuals and groups is formed through the internalisation of embodied dispositions and structural practices linked to social agents’ particular histories and conditions. The theory of habitus posits that as individuals internalise their objective social conditions in which they find their places (e.g. social class), social agents learn and perform appropriate practices commensurate with their social positions. Applying the concept of habitus to translation and interpreting, Inghilleri (2003) describes what she refers to as the ‘habitus of interpreters’. According to Inghilleri, the habitus of interpreters is not shaped as an abstract form of consciousness, but constituted as a discursive space governed by social norms that function to elevate certain linguistic practices and suppress disagreement over linguistic legitimacy. She notes that interpreters working in legal contexts, for example, are often required to perform word-​ to-​ word interpreting without adding or changing anything in an original speech. Even though these interpreters were aware of potential issues resulting from conversions at a word level (e.g. a sacrifice of naturalness and meaning distortions), many ended up conforming to the institutional requirement of ‘linguistic orderliness’ (Inghilleri 2003, p. 262). The interpreters’ decisions are influenced by not just contextual power relations but also professional communicative norms, which are usually represented formally by codes of ethics. It is thus important to understand how professional codes of ethics for interpreters tend to operate. A code of ethics was first introduced in 1957 by the Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conference (International Association of Conference Interpreters) or AIIC in Paris, which is the first global association of conference interpreters. With the aim of achieving an enhanced professional standing for interpreting, AIIC’s Code of Ethics emphasises absolute respect for working conditions, confidentiality, commitment to excellence, and professional integrity. The Code is recognised for its contributions to the regulation of the labour market by enforcing standard remunerations and enhancing interpreters’ welfare (Boéri 2015). In recent years, organisations that represent community interpreters have also begun to develop their own codes of ethics. While the move



Interpreting intercultural communication

is regarded as a meaningful step in the professionalisation of the relatively less-​known field of community interpreting (Gentile et al. 1996), it should be noted that unlike AIIC’s code, codes for community interpreters tend to provide specific performance instructions on how a work should be done (Diriker 2015). Among various requirements such as accuracy, confidentiality, and impartiality, accuracy rules which emphasise faithfulness and completeness of interpreting merit our attention. The following excerpts are taken from various codes of ethics practised in different parts of the world: Interpreters and translators do not alter, add to, or omit anything from the content and intent of the source message. (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators 2012) In adhering to the essential function of their role, interpreters make what amounts to a vow to remain faithful to the original message as they convert utterances from one language into another without adding to, omitting from, or distorting the original message. (National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare 2004) Practitioners shall interpret truly and faithfully what is uttered, without adding, omitting or changing anything; in exceptional circumstances a summary may be given if requested. (National Register of Public Service Interpreters 2016) In the field of interpreting, responses to the accuracy norms required of interpreters vary. Some argue that the working definitions of accuracy, in which complete renditions must be delivered in the target language, assume that there is possibly only one meaning in every given utterance, reducing interpreting to a simple mechanical process (e.g. Angelelli 2004a; 2004b; Inghilleri 2013; Mason and Ren 2012; Wadensjö 1998). Others, such as Hale (2007), argue that codes do not support verbatim renditions of the original, but rather represent the highest ethical standards that interpreters should aim to achieve. The very fact that these codes are connected to one’s ‘ethics’, however, may pose a dilemma for interpreters, who are expected to honour ‘the norm of “honest spokesperson” ’ (Harris 1990, para. 12). While codes in general mention the need for interpreters to exercise independent judgement when applying guidelines to practice (Skaaden 2019), disparate individual beliefs held by practitioners may be seen as contravening the professional ethical standards, hence norms working as a ‘psychological reality’ (Marzocchi 2005, p. 89) for interpreters. Perhaps not so surprisingly, frictions between the codified norms and actual practice are not uncommon in interpreting (e.g. Gibb and Good 2014; Inghilleri 2013; Shlesinger 1989). Conflicts are

Interpreting intercultural communication

particularly unavoidable when cultural diversity comes into play in interpreted communication. In what follows, May, an English-​Thai interpreter based in Australia, shares an experience when serving as a court interpreter for a Thai woman, an alleged rape victim. During the court proceeding, a defence lawyer asked the accuser where exactly the penetration occurred, which she could not pinpoint due to a specific concept of virtuous women in Thailand: Thai women do not mention genitals. There is a concept of good women and bad women and good women do not do such and such things, and bad women are prostitutes and sex workers and do such and such things. In this rare case, the alleged perpetrator, the guy, what’s it called, homestay family, yes, he allegedly raped her. And he denied it, of course. The court wanted to know where was the penetration. There is a certain definition of rape, technical word. But when they asked her about her vagina, she would not say the word ‘vagina’. She kept saying ‘down there’, or something equivalent to ‘down there’, ‘that part’. At one stage, um, it was so, so tense, and embarrassing and humiliating for the victim. Because the defence lawyer asked her to stand in front of a camera. Because we were in a separate room, her support worker, she, and I were sitting in a remote room and giving evidence. So she was asked to stand up and point to whatever she referred to, because she refused to say. Because as an interpreter with my code of ethics, I couldn’t change what she said, you know. I know that the boy got out. He got acquitted. Apart from the influence of the accuracy norms, the relational power hierarchy between the interpreter and the legal professionals is worth noting. May reported that she had, in fact, discussed potential issues relating to the concept of virtuous women with the lawyer in a pre-​ conference. The critical piece of information from the interpreter was, however, dismissed by the lawyer as irrelevant to the case, and he did not reword the questions in a way that would have helped the alleged victim to testify better. While this case shows the impact of power constraints in interpreting, it is important to note how the structures turned out to activate individual agency. Following the experience, the interpreter set up a non-​profit organisation designed to provide cultural and social information relating to Thailand, and worked pro bono with legal professionals to help Thai migrants. The decision was triggered by her agency, which she felt was too suppressed within the professional field, and the activist shift provided her with an outlet to, in her own words, ‘overcome the limitation of my role’. The case of May highlights a dual nature of structures, which serve as both the ‘medium and the outcome of the social practices



Interpreting intercultural communication

they recursively organize’ (Giddens 1984, p. 25). As structures do not always constrain individuals’ choices but can also enable their actions, witnessing communication breakdowns in interpreting can provide agency and legitimacy to interpreters to make individual choices (Kaufert and Putsch 1997). Thanks to their bilingual and bicultural abilities, interpreters are well equipped with micro power, which includes strategies, tactics, and techniques exercised to bring about temporary changes within communicative interactions (Mason and Ren 2012). Exploring the micro-​interactional power of interpreters is, therefore, expected to deepen our understanding of how human agency responds, resists, and negotiates power relationships within a given communicative context. Examining this issue in various interpreter-​ mediated intercultural contexts requires addressing the relationships between culture and interpreting, and the next section explains how to approach intercultural communication specific to interpreting.

What would you do, if you were the interpreter? The sections above aim to help readers to understand interpreting as a field of power relations, in which individual choices are often limited. Considering the structural factors, some readers might wonder how Chandra, the English-​ Bangla interpreter mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, dealt with the communication problem involving the dying refugee patient. Serendipitously, the doctor attending to the patient was from a similar cultural background, and understood the difficulty relating to passing on a poor prognosis to a patient. After saying to Chandra that the patient had only three or four hours to live, the doctor told him ‘Please deal with it in your own way’. With the permission from the doctor, the interpreter took the liberty of handling the situation in a way that he considered was most appropriate to the situation. Below is an excerpt from the interview with Chandra, who described how he conveyed the news to the patient: How are you, brother? Everything is okay. The doctor’s trying hard but you know, I’m sorry, your condition is not very good. By the way, by the way, uh, did you talk to your parents recently? Then he said I haven’t spoken to her [mother] recently. Then I told him why don’t you give her a call. He said I don’t have a mobile. I don’t have prepaid in my mobile as well. I said don’t worry about prepaid. Just give your mom’s number. I will call her. Don’t worry. Just say hello to your mom. I wanted to let him talk to his mother at least last time. At least his mother will remember his needs in her prayers. What do you think about the interpreter’s communicative approach? Do you think the action was appropriate or went too far? If you were the interpreter, how would you have dealt with the communication?

Interpreting intercultural communication

1.2.3  Culture and language in contexts As this research cuts across various academic disciplines –​interpreting, sociolinguistics, and intercultural studies –​my understanding and application of culture in this book has been influenced by various and yet inter-​related perspectives on culture. To begin with, it is important to define ‘intercultural communication’ as well as ‘cross-​ cultural communication’, a term commonly used in the field of interpreting. My own understanding of intercultural communication is similar to that of Hatim (2020). According to Hatim, cross-​cultural communication is ‘research that compares communication practices of one language/​cultural group with another’ (p. 11), whereas intercultural communication is defined as research that examines ‘communication between speakers from different language/​cultural backgrounds’ (p. 11). Cross-​cultural communication research is particularly useful to examine the relationships between language use and shared cultural conventions, and to make comparisons between one group and another (see House 2006a; House and Kádár 2020). This book does not focus on comparing one language/​cultural group with another, but explores interactions between language and culture in communication involving individuals whose linguistic and cultural backgrounds diverge. The term ‘intercultural communication’ is thus better suited to its purpose. The conceptual understanding of culture in relation to interpreting is informed by a growing non-​ essentialist and action-​ oriented research on culture in the field of sociolinguistics. While any cultural practices result from the ‘validations of a past’ (Baumann 1996, p. 31), approaching cultures from macro-​traditional perspectives risks potentially overlooking micro-​ individual aspects of culture, thus taking individuals out of the equation, despite the crucial issue of individual agency and power (Sarangi 1994). As a filter that impacts the way people perceive and understand, culture interacts with the individual layer, where every individual is different from another, even those from the same ‘cultural’ background (Katan 2009). Considering individual diversity, Piller’s (2017) notion of culture, which is defined as ‘something people do’ (p. 9), rather than as a fixed entity, is particularly relevant to examining the performative aspects of culture, which are essential characteristics of interpreting. While individuals in any social settings come with a diverse range of life experiences, this may be particularly salient in interpreter-​mediated encounters, where at least one party has often lived transnationally and has been situated in a network of various systems, and may therefore tend to perform a series of overlapping and sometimes contradicting behaviours (Rudvin 2007). When performing culture, individuals do so with language as a key medium, and language is, therefore, the



Interpreting intercultural communication

most important element in both intercultural communication and interpreting (House 2020). The performative aspect of language and culture in interpreting needs to be examined with a particular reference to a context, which has been significantly under-​explored in the field of translation and interpreting, despite its importance to communication (Baker 2006; House 2006b). As a discursive context in which a set of cultural rules, practices, and conditions govern how people talk (Foucault 1981), context is never a neutral field, but is a ‘field of power relations’ (Lindstrom 1992, p. 102), for the existing rules and conditions place limits on what can be said and how it can be said. While the contextual conditions for talking produce power imbalances among interactants, it is important to note the micro power that individuals hold and may exercise. Despite the seeming rigidity of context governed by certain rules, people in less powerful positions may say or do things that are not expected to be done to challenge the context (Lindstrom 1992). When this happens, recontextualisation occurs, which potentially rebalances the field of power relations, and this is where interpreters’ micro-​interactional power matters. Considering the inter-​relatedness of context, power, and language in interpreting, intercultural communication in interpreting can be defined as broad patterns of behaviours that are performed by people within contextual power structures, with language as a key medium. Finally, analysing intercultural communication in interpreting requires a key analytical prism, in which full intercultural complexity can be best captured. In this regard, Holliday’s (1999) concept of small cultures represents a useful interpretive framework. According to Holliday, culture can be divided into large and small cultures in a broad sense. Large cultures are strongly associated with the notion of ethnicity and nation, and provide only one possible dimension of culture. Cautioning that large-​culture approaches risk overgeneralisation and reductionism, Holliday proposes small cultures as an alternative cultural paradigm. As non-​essentialist cultures, small cultures relate to ‘small’ entities such as academic, family, hospital, office, or organisational groups. Within the small-​culture paradigm, culture refers to ‘the composite of cohesive behaviours in any social grouping’ (p. 237), which is not subservient to large cultures but is more concerned with social processes. Rather than being confined to the physical boundaries of each constituent entity, small cultures go beyond the national borders and are characterised by a certain degree of cohesiveness, which constitutes a ‘seamless mélange’ (Holliday 1999, p. 240). It is important to note that small cultures are more to do with activities taking place within a particular group than being determined by the nature of the group itself, and provide a ‘structuring’ (Holliday 1999, p. 255), within which particular conduct may be understood.

Interpreting intercultural communication

This activity-​oriented nature of small cultures ideally suits interpreting, in which language and culture constantly interact and form dynamic communicative processes. Furthermore, regardless of geographical location, interpreting settings have structural coherence in each communicative setting (e.g. a doctor and a patient, a judge and a defendant, and a teacher and a migrant parent), which constitutes a micro-​social context to analyse cultural interactions in small communicative settings. The concept of small cultures, therefore, enables context-​driven approaches to capture complexity in intercultural communication in interpreting, and each chapter of this book is based on small cultures as a key analytic element. In Chapter 2 on business interpreting, gender figures as a key cultural variable of corporate organisations, which are often characterised by male dominance. Considering the fact that the field of interpreting is heavily feminised (Cho 2017), gender serves as a primary prism through which to explore the impact of gendered power relations on interpreted encounters. It focuses on not only Australia but also Korea and Japan, where corporate interpreting is highly developed. Shifting the focus from business to migrant communities, Chapters 3 to 5 examine diverse types of community interpreting, which include medical, school, and legal interpreting in the specific context of Australia. Chapter 3 investigates communicative issues and strategies in medical interpreting, with a focus on ethnic migrant communities as a space which is closely related to the lives of many migrants. It explores how doctor-​patient communication can be impacted by elements of migrant community cultures, which range from social isolation among elderly migrants, fear of community gossip over medical conditions, to home cultural approaches to communicating bad news in a medical context. Chapter 4 on school interpreting deals with so-​ called ‘education cultures’ among Asian migrant parents in Australia. Rather than interpreting the phenomenon through an essentialist cultural lens (e.g. Confucianism), the chapter illustrates how educational attainment is used as a means to actualise migratory dreams, which are often limited by migrants’ present exclusion relating to a perceived lack of linguistic and/​or racial legitimacy. With teacher-​ parent meetings as a key site of analysis, the chapter shows the impact of social stereotypes associated with ‘Asian tiger parents’ on communication between local teachers and minority parents and how minority individuals respond to the mainstream behaviours. Chapter 5 investigates monolingualism and monoculturalism in legal interpreting contexts, which include interpreter-​mediated courtroom and refugee interview settings. It specifically focuses on the impact of monolingual and monocultural ideologies on representations and credibility assessments of people of minority backgrounds. The concluding Chapter 6 highlights interpreting as a dynamic social act



Interpreting intercultural communication

in which power and choices constantly interact with each other to create unique intercultural stories.

1.3  The stories untold In line with the key aim of exploring intercultural communication from the perspective of interpreters, I recruited professional interpreters to hear about relevant experiences through face-​to-​face interviews. The online directory of the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI), which contains contact details of all interpreters in Australia by language category and location, served as the primary means through which to recruit participants. I emailed interpreters from various language backgrounds across Australia to see if they would be interested in participating in one-​on-​ one interviews. During the participant recruitment phase, I happened to encounter a lawyer and a school teacher, both of whom were bilinguals and were regularly engaged in interpreting at work. Both of them were happy to join the research, and a total of 50 people participated in the interviews carried out throughout 2018. At the same time, it was necessary to recruit participants from other countries to explore gendered corporate aspects of business interpreting, because interpreting in Australia is largely community interpreting designed to serve the day-​to-​day needs of migrants. South Korea, where I am originally from, emerged as an ideal place, due to the strong presence of business interpreting and the professional network that I have developed over the years. I contacted former graduates who had studied translation and interpreting at Macquarie University (where I currently hold an academic position) and were working or had worked as corporate interpreters in Korea at the time of the interviews. With the additional recruitment of five Korean interpreters, a total of 55 interpreters participated in the research, representing 23 languages. All participants had English as part of their language combinations, and the interviews were conducted in English, except for the Korean interpreters, all of whom preferred to use Korean for the interviews. The interviews were semi-​structured and conversational, with a view to encouraging the participants to speak freely about their experiences relating to intercultural communicative issues in interpreting. Face-​to-​ face interviews were held in the work office of the author and were audio-​recorded, while interviews with participants located remotely were conducted via either Skype or telephone and were also audio-​ recorded. The data generated from the interviews were transcribed by the author, and the interviews conducted in Korean were transcribed and translated into English by the author as well. The details of the participants can be found in Appendix I, for which I used pseudonyms in order to protect their anonymity.

Interpreting intercultural communication

One issue that is likely to arise in research that examines culture is a risk of over-​reliance on incidents reported by the participants and resultant generalisation. The research was, therefore, designed in a way that could effectively address this potential problem, and it began with a process designed to avoid cultural generalisation. During participant recruitment, I endeavoured, wherever possible, to identify more than one participant per language combination so as to compare and verify the reliability of narratives which contained definitive and simplistic views on culture. As an example, one English-​Thai interpreter commented on generally conforming and receptive behaviours observable among Thai clients during the interview. These apparent ‘Thai behaviours’ were, however, questioned by another English-​Thai interpreter, who stressed individual diversity in understanding and performing cultures. This process helped to filter out narratives that had generalising elements, which in turn reinforced the coherence and integrity of the dataset. Where it was not possible to recruit more than one participant for a particular language combination, the strategy of thematic data analysis designed to identify common communicative behaviours that run through the entire dataset was employed. Analysis focused on incidents that had common patterns of intercultural communicative conflicts relating to contextual power relations. For example, the issue of not answering declarative ‘yes-​no’ questions directly was pointed out by a number of participants who were all from different cultural backgrounds. Through data analysis, I discovered that the problem was not cultural but contextual, as the behaviours of minority individuals tend to be impacted by power asymmetries embedded in the legal settings (see Section 5.4 for details). With these two processes serving as anchor points that guided the data analysis, the analysis identified the presence of broad commonality which is not determined by a nation as a unit but characterised by behavioural patterns that represent universal human experiences. One thing that struck me during the interviews was how keen the informants were to speak. Many appreciated the opportunity to have a conversation about their professional experiences, for they had seldom, if ever, been given such a chance to express their own opinions. In the words of Sanah, an English-​Hindi interpreter: Actually, this is the first time to have an opportunity to express myself, to talk about something about my profession. Yes, although I have been doing this job for the last 25 years, there has been no opportunity. Now I feel that I have so much experience, I want to … share that with people. I want to share my experience with new interpreters, but I don’t have any … uh, facility or any platform for that.



Interpreting intercultural communication

I sincerely hope that this book will serve as a platform to disseminate the unique experiences of the participants within and beyond the interpreting community. Apart from expected benefits for professional interpreters, the fascinating stories of intercultural encounters relayed by the informants will also, I believe, be useful for scholars as well as laypeople interested in the topic. As Ewick and Silbey (2003) pointed out, ‘all stories are social events’ (p. 1331) which reflect social reality and expose taken-​for-​granted social structures. The participants were great storytellers full of insight, sensitivity, and wisdom, and I was honoured to be the first person to access their stories, which had remained unexplored and needed to be told. The telling of their untold stories begins now.

Appendix 1. Participant profile Pseudonym



Adam Alice Andrew Anna Asha Barbara Blaire Chaewon Chandra Daniel Dohee Ella Elisa Elizabeth Emiko Friya Greta Haeun Haruko Hyunsoo Isabella Ismail Jia Jimin Jinkyung Jiwoo John Katarina Lana Leonie Li Luke


Romanian Swahili Chinese Russian Arabic Japanese Farsi Korean Bangla Ga Korean German Spanish Italian Japanese Farsi Italian Korean Japanese Korean Spanish Sudanese Chinese Korean Korean Korean Indonesian Croatian Russian French Chinese Spanish

Interpreting intercultural communication Maria Martina May Minseo Miso Nari Noriko Osman Peter Petra Robert Sanah Selina Seohee Shun Siwan Sophia Stanley Stephen Ying Yulia Zahra Zora


Spanish Italian Thai Korean Korean Korean Japanese Urdu Chinese Hungarian Greek Hindi Bosnian Korean Chinese Korean Greek Indonesian Thai Chinese Russian Arabic Farsi

References Angelelli, CV 2004a, Revisiting the interpreter’s role: a study of conference, court, and medical interpreters in Canada, Mexico and the United States, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. Angelelli, CV 2004b, Medical interpreting and cross-​cultural communication, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators 2012, AUSIT code of ethics and code of conduct, viewed 29 March 2019, https://​​ AUSIT/​Documents/​Code_​Of_​Ethics_​Full.pdf. Baker, M 2006, Contextualization in translator-​and interpreter-​ mediated events, Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 321–​337. Baraldi, C, and Gavioli, L 2007, ‘Dialogue interpreting as intercultural mediation’, in M Grein and E Weigand (eds.), Dialogue and culture, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. Barsky, RF 1996, The interpreter as intercultural agent in convention refugee hearings, The Translator, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 45–​63. Baumann, G 1996, Contesting culture: discourses of identity in multi-​ethnic London, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Block, D 2013, The structure and agency dilemma in identity and intercultural communication research, Language and Intercultural Communication, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 126–​147. Boéri, J 2015, ‘Key internal players in the development of the interpreting profession’, in H Mikkelson and R Jourdenais (eds.), The Routledge handbook of interpreting, Routledge, London.



Interpreting intercultural communication Bourdieu, P 1990, The logic of practice, Polity Press, Cambridge. Cho, J 2017, English language ideologies in Korea: interpreting the past and present, Springer, Cham. Diriker, E 2015, ‘Conference interpreting’, in H Mikkelson and R Jourdenais (eds.), The Routledge handbook of interpreting, Routledge, London. Ewick, P, and Silbey, S 2003, Narrating social structure: stories of resistance to legal authority, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 108, no. 6, pp. 1328–​1372. Foucault, M 1981, ‘The order of discourse’, in R Young (ed.), Untying the text: a post-​structuralist reader, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Boston. Gentile, A, Ozolins, U, and Vasilakakos, M 1996, Liaison interpreting: a handbook, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne. Gibb, R, and Good, A 2014, Interpretation, translation and intercultural communication in refugee status determination procedures in the UK and France, Language and Intercultural Communication, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 385–​399. Giddens, A 1984, The constitution of society: outline of the theory of structuration, University of California Press, Berkeley. Hale, SB 2007, Community interpreting, Palgrave MacMillan, Hampshire. Harris, B 1990, Norms in interpretation, Target, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 115–​119. Hatim, B 2020, Communication across cultures, University of Exeter Press, Exeter. Holliday, A 1999, Small cultures, Applied Linguistics, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 237–​264. House, J 2006a, Communicative styles in English and German, European Journal of English Studies, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 249–​267. House, J 2006b, Text and context in translation, Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 338–​358. House, J 2020, Translation as a prime player in intercultural communication, Applied Linguistics, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 10–​29. House, J, and Kádár, DZ 2020, T/​ V pronouns in global communication practices: the case of IKEA catalogues across linguacultures, Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 161, pp.1–​15, DOI: https://​​10.1016/​ j.pragma.2020.03.001. Inghilleri, M 2003, Habitus, field and discourse: interpreting as a socially situated activity, Target, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 243–​268. Inghilleri, M 2013, Interpreting justice: ethics, politics and language, Routledge, New York. Katan, D 2009, ‘Translation as intercultural communication’, in J Munday (ed.), The Routledge companion to translation studies, Routledge, Abingdon. Kaufert, JM, and Putsch, RW 1997, Communication through interpreters in healthcare: ethical dilemmas arising from differences in class, culture, language, and power, Journal of Clinical Ethics, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 71–​87. Kondo, M, Tebble, H, Alexieva, B, and Dam, HV 1997, ‘Intercultural communication, negotiation and interpreting’, in Y Gambier, D Gile, and C Taylor (eds.), Conference interpreting: current trends in research, John Benjamins, Amsterdam.

Interpreting intercultural communication Lindstrom, L 1992, ‘Context contests: debatable truth statements on Tanna (Vanuatu)’, in A Duranti and C Goodwin (eds.), Rethinking context: language as an interactive phenomenon, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Marzocchi, C 2005, On norms and ethics in the discourse on interpreting, The Interpreters’ Newsletter, vol. 13, pp. 87–​107. Mason, I and Ren, W 2012, Power in face-​to-​face interpreting events, The Journal of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 234–​253. National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare 2004, A national code of ethics for interpreters in healthcare, viewed 10 April 2019, www.ncihc. org/​assets/​documents/​publications/​NCIHC%20National%20Code%20 of%20Ethics.pdf. National Register of Public Service Interpreters 2016, Code of professional conduct, viewed 13 April 2019,​for-​clients-​of-​ interpreters/​code-​of-​professional-​conduct.html. Piller, I 2017, Intercultural communication: a critical introduction, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. Pöchhacker, F 1999, ‘Getting organized’: the evolution of community interpreting, Interpreting, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 125–​140. Pöchhacker, F 2008, ‘Interpreting as mediation’, in C Valero-​Garcés and A Martin (eds.), Crossing borders in community interpreting: definitions and dilemmas, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. Rudvin, M 2007, Professionalism and ethics in community interpreting: the impact of individualist versus collective group identity, Interpreting, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 47–​69. Sarangi, S 1994, Intercultural or not? Beyond celebration of cultural differences in miscommunication analysis, Pragmatics, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 409–​427. Shlesinger, M 1989, Extending the theory of translation to interpretation: norms as a case in point, Target, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 111–​115. Skaaden, H 2019, ‘Ethics and profession’, in M Phelan, M Rudvin, H Skaaden, and P Kermit (eds.), Ethics in public service interpreting, Routledge, London. Taft, R 1981, ‘The role and personality of the mediator’, in S Bochner (ed.), The mediating person: bridges between cultures, Schenkman, Cambridge. Wadensjö, C 1998, Interpreting as interaction, Longman, New York.


2  Business interpreting

2.1  Business as men’s world and interpreting as women’s job Haruko:  One [Japanese] company executive commented on me ‘you don’t look like a traditional Japanese woman’. This means our behaving like a geisha serving sake. Well, I’m not a geisha. Researcher:  Oh, I see. So there is this gender expectation. Haruko:  That’s right, yes, yes. Right. Like pouring sake. The conversation above shows gender stereotypes embedded in a business interpreting setting, in which a Japanese client commented to Haruko, an English-​Japanese interpreter, that she was not feminine enough as she did not offer to pour sake for the client. As language professionals, interpreters are expected to help communication go smoothly between parties who do not share the same language. In this particular event, however, Haruko was expected to perform hospitality work, in addition to language work. The gendered expectations attached to the female interpreter need to be understood in the context of gendered power hierarchies embedded in the field of interpreting, which has been traditionally seen as a woman’s job. As Simon (2003) has pointed out, there has always been an association between women and the profession of translation and interpreting due to the service-​ oriented dimension of the profession. Furthermore, the freelance nature of much translation and interpreting work often does not appeal to men, who are socially expected to have stable positions as primary breadwinners (Bahk-​Halberg 2007). The apparent flexibility accorded by language work, however, attracts women wanting to balance their family and career needs (Piller and Pavlenko 2007), and this has led to what Cho (2017) refers to as the ‘feminisation’ of the profession of interpreting. The gender aspects of interpreting are perhaps more evident in the field of business interpreting than in any other interpreting domains. Although feminist movements for the empowerment of women have led to notable progress in terms of women’s social and economic

Business interpreting

participation throughout the 20th century, a glass ceiling still remains impenetrable. As an example, it is reported that the number of female CEOs among the Fortune 500 companies reached an all-​time high as of 2019, and yet women in the top positions account for a disproportionately small share of the whole group at just 6.6 per cent (Zillman 2019). The male dominance in the field of business means that it is usually men in powerful positions who hire interpreters who are predominantly female. A usual scenario in business interpreting is, therefore, that older men in high positions are served by female interpreters who tend to be younger (Cho 2017). Furthermore, parties engaged in business communication are often not much different in terms of gender, status, and power (e.g. meetings between male business partners), which places interpreters in the least powerful position. The status hierarchy between interlocutors and interpreters suggests that interpreters might feel limited in terms of offering cultural advice, when intercultural communicative issues arise. Even if interpreters try to step in, men in high positions are highly unlikely to take advice from others, not least from a younger woman in a lower position. Such resistance can be observed in interpreter-​ mediated business encounters, as described by Barbara, an English-​ Japanese interpreter: Anybody like CEO, I was working for a CEO the other day. They don’t want to hear. They just want to do what they want to do. It is in this context of gendered power hierarchies in business that this chapter explores how power structures influence the choices of business interpreters in various intercultural contexts. It examines three distinctive aspects specific to gender: male jokes, off-​topic male communication styles among older Korean men, and non-​ verbal modality for face-​saving in the case of Japanese men. To begin with, it examines a particular element of corporate culture –​using sexist jokes to break the ice –​with a focus on corporations in Japan and Korea. It then moves on to explore the tendency of senior-​level Korean men to go off-​topic in formal business settings, in relation to the so-​ called ‘military culture’ of Korean companies. Lastly, the issue of face relating to male authority is investigated with a particular reference to a male speaker’s ability to understand English. It specifically examines cases involving Japanese men on visits to Australia, who regard reliance on interpreters for communication as a weakness and thus pretend to understand English, with nodding as a strategy. In discussing these topics, an emphasis will be placed on why particular behaviours occurred in relation to given intercultural contexts and how the interpreters responded to communicative issues. Before



Business interpreting

moving on to explore these topics, it is necessary to understand the role of business interpreters, and the next section discusses in detail who business interpreters are and what they do.

2.2  Business interpreters There are, in a broad sense, two types of business interpreters: interpreters working for companies or ‘corporate interpreters’ and freelance interpreters working for different clients on various short-​ term assignments, which range in duration from a couple of hours to several weeks. Freelance business interpreters are not affiliated to organisations, but serve foreign clients interested in building commercial relationships with companies based in their home countries. For example, an American businessman engaged in manufacturing travels to China to meet a prospective business partner. On the day of arrival, he meets his Chinese counterpart at a hotel coffee shop in order to explore business collaboration opportunities. The Chinese counterpart has arranged an English-​Chinese interpreter to help them to communicate with each other, and the interpreter later accompanies them on a visit to the corporate premises. The next day, the Chinese business owner takes the visiting American to his factory located outside the city for a tour. When they return to the city in the evening, they go out for dinner at a restaurant, where the interpreter meets the ultimate challenge of managing eating and talking at the same time! As seen in the example above, business interpreting of this kind is usually short-​term and small-​scale, and interpreters accompany clients as they move between venues such as coffee shops, corporate premises, factories, restaurants, and hotels where foreign clients stay. The other type of business interpreters –​corporate interpreters –​are a relatively recent phenomenon, which began in the context of companies going global. With the global expansion of business operations, the dynamics of communication have inevitably undergone significant changes, and the emergence of English as a lingua franca for business communication is one key feature of corporate globalisation (Charles 2007). As the rise of English as a common language for business has presented formidable challenges to companies based in non-​English-​speaking countries, reliance on corporate interpreters has increasingly served as a solution to communicative challenges experienced by businesses keen to operate globally (Feely and Harzing 2003). Corporate interpreters are in demand in countries which are economically developed and liberalised, and Japan and Korea are a case in point. Unlike countries built by migrants such as Australia and the United States, both countries have a high level of ethnic homogeneity,

Business interpreting

and community interpreting serving the day-​to-​day needs of migrants is, therefore, underdeveloped. In Japan and Korea, ‘non-​community’ types of interpreting such as corporate interpreting are the principal sources of employment for interpreters. In both countries, the profession of translation and interpreting is not centrally governed by a specific professional body, and formal codes of ethics for interpreters are basically non-​existent. A number of multinationals have a strong presence in both countries, and corporate interpreters usually work for country branches in order to mediate communication between local branches and headquarters as well as between foreign executives and local staff. Apart from multinationals, local companies which have business partners located overseas also hire corporate interpreters. According to the interpreter-​informants, what interpreters do is largely dependent on the proportion of foreign employees and the size of a company. In the case of a small company, a single interpreter does everything ranging from simultaneous and consecutive interpreting, escort interpreting, to written translation. Larger firms heavily staffed by foreign employees usually operate a team of interpreters led by an interpreting coordinator, who determines who does what on a daily basis. It bears noting that some corporate interpreters assume secretarial roles as well. Popularly known as a ‘bilingual secretary’ (Kelsky 2001) in Japan, this type of interpreter is hired to serve people in high positions such as foreign CEOs, who are usually men unable to speak the local language well, if at all. The lack of language proficiency of a foreign boss means that an interpreter often ends up performing language work outside a workplace in order to help the boss manage his daily needs. As Chaewon, who had once worked as a corporate interpreter in Korea, recalled, she had to look after every single need of her foreign boss, who did not speak a word of Korean: 통번역비서가 보니까 아예 베이비시팅하는 것처럼. 집에 보일러 켜드리는 것부터, 경비아저씨랑 싸워야되고. 그런 일부터 임원회의 들어가서 동시통역하는것까지. 갭도 크고 버겁더라고요. 아침에 사고났다고 전화가 오는데, 차사고가 났다고, 임원이 전화가 오는데. 되게 그 날 진짜 펑펑 울면서 출근을 했어요. 대체 이게 내가 뭐하는건지 모르겠어가지고. An interpreter-​secretary was like a baby-​sitter. From turning on a heater at home to arguing with a security in his apartment complex. I also did simultaneous interpreting at an executive-​ level meeting. There was a big gap, so it was difficult. One morning, I got a call from him that he got into an accident, a car accident, and he kept calling. On the way to work, I cried a lot. I wasn’t sure what I was doing.



Business interpreting

The loosely defined professional status of corporate interpreters is to do with the gendered corporate structures, which naturalise and perpetuate the image of younger women working for men in powerful positions. The role ambiguity can place interpreters in difficult positions, particularly where the client is an older powerful male who may have little understanding of the professional role of an interpreter, and hence draws on his understanding of how to relate to female office workers. It is in this context of role ambiguity and corporate gender hierarchies that this chapter explores how female interpreters respond in the event of communication failures involving powerful men. The field of business interpreting –​not to mention the issue of gender structures in business interpreting –​remains significantly under-​explored in the interpreting scholarship, which has predominantly focused on community interpreting, notably legal and medical interpreting. This chapter therefore aims to provide a valuable insight into the power dynamics in business interpreting and their impact on intercultural communication in the field of international business. In what follows, I focus on communication problems and individual choices made by corporate interpreters working for companies in Japan and Korea, where using sexist jokes as ice-​breakers is a common organisational practice.

2.3  When jokes thicken the ice Humour is widely used in international business meetings in order to create a friendly atmosphere by diffusing tension (Vuorela 2005). A joke that is funny in one culture, however, is often not so funny in another culture due to embedded cultural specificity. Jokes are perhaps one of the most persistent challenges for interpreters, because intricate nuances can become lost in the process of language conversion; in some instances, interpreters might even find themselves in a position where they need to explain why a particular joke is intended to be funny. The problem is that if one has to explain a joke, it obviously is not funny anymore. Difficulties of this kind are illustrated by Ella, an English-​German interpreter, who had to interpret a joke which was not translatable: You know, French is referred to as frogs in English, the frogs, the animal frogs. So, a non-​reputable person who claims to be a doctor, but is not qualified to be a doctor, they are called quacks. You know what frogs do, quacken. That’s the sound of frogs [in German]. It was a joke about quacking frogs and it had to do with some scientist who was dodgy from France. And it was very, very, funny, witty,

Business interpreting

how the speaker used this word play to refer to this dodgy scientist, but it was totally untranslatable, because frog doesn’t mean anything in German. When I asked Ella how she interpreted the joke, her answer was simple: tell the audience that the speaker made a joke and ask them to laugh. Many of the interpreter-​informants said that they resort to the same strategy when they encounter jokes that are tricky to interpret. The strategy is also used to avoid offending the other party, who might find certain jokes rude and inappropriate. All of the three Russian interpreters –​Anna, Lana, and Yulia –​characterised Russian jokes as ‘black jokes’. This type of a joke is usually a story style and is commonly used as ice-​breakers in formal settings such as business and politics. The following example was provided by Lana, who had to interpret the joke at a business meeting: Soon after the Russian revolution, Russia started organising collective farms and tried to force peasants to join the farms. A man went to a priest to ask whether he should join the collective farms. There was another person, a young woman about to get married who was also seeking the priest’s advice. The woman asked the priest ‘you know, father, I am going to get married. Do you think I should wear a nightgown on my first night or be naked?’. Following the lady, the man asked him whether he should join the collective farm or not. The priest said to the woman, ‘look, whether you put it on or whether you go naked, you would be screwed’. He then turned to the man and said ‘and the same applies to you’. The Russian interpreters, who understood the cultural inappropriateness of Russian jokes, said that they would rather ask audiences to laugh than interpret these kinds of jokes. Another strategy that they employed is to leave out a joke altogether when interpreting. If a sexist joke is delivered as part of a long monologue, the interpreters skip interpreting the joke in order not to offend the other party. There are, of course, speech events in which neither strategy is applicable. An example comes from Jiwoo, an English-​Korean interpreter, who had to deliver a ‘friendly’ message from her male boss to a female client from overseas, with whom he had a long-​term business partnership. When the client visited Jiwoo’s boss, the first thing that the company president did was to comment on how much weight she has gained –​a friendly joke from his perspective. Because Jiwoo had met the client several times, she knew that the client was quite proud of her appearance and would not be happy with the comment. While the interpreter was wondering about how to interpret, the boss kept saying things which she thought were not appropriate to interpret:



Business interpreting

제 회장님이 클라이언트한테 ‘Ms XX, 너무 살쪘다’ 라고 말을 해달래요. 근데 그 클라이언트가 여자분이셨고 자기 외모에 대해서 pride가 있는 분인데. 너무 예쁘시고 몽골의 큰 기업의 회장님이신데. 너 너무 살쪄서 배가 가슴보다 더 나왔고 어쩌고 저쩌고 하시는데. 웃으면서 하시는거에요. 웃으면서, 자기는 친하다고 생각해서. 회장님은 친하다고 생각해서. 저는 최대한 웃으면서 ‘You have gained a little bit of weight’ 이렇게 장난스럽게 얘기했는데 다행히 웃고 넘어가 주셨지만 저는 그거를 백프로 통역할수는 없다고 스스로 판단했어요. The president told the client ‘Ms XX, you have gained too much weight’, and asked me to interpret. But the client was a female, and she was quite proud of her appearance. She was actually very pretty and owned a large company in Mongolia. But my boss kept saying you have gained so much weight that your tummy is bigger than your breasts, blah, blah. He kept going on with a smile. With a smile, because he thought that they were friends. I tried to smile as much as possible and tried to make it sound like a joke by saying ‘you have gained a little bit of weight’. Luckily, she laughed and nothing happened, but I decided that I shouldn’t interpret it as it was. Equipped with cultural and gender sensitivity, Jiwoo strategically adapted the message and delivered it with a smile, so that the joke could still serve the intended purpose of creating a friendly atmosphere. Her deliberate decision to convey the ‘message’ with a smile is worth noting, in that a smile is usually intended as a gesture offered from someone in a low position to a person higher in social hierarchies (Henley 1986). The interpreter who was serving the company president was, needless to say, positioned lower than the other parties in this intercultural interaction. It can be argued that smiling worked well in the above case where it was combined with the objective status of the interpreter serving the interlocutors higher in the status hierarchy. The event shows the aspect of interpreting as ‘emotional labour’ (Hochschild 1983) in a sense that the interpreter had to deal with the other party’s feelings in her job, in which the burden of creating a friendly atmosphere often falls on the interpreter as a communication messenger. In performing emotional labour, individuals are required to draw on a ‘source of self’ (Hochschild 1983, p. 7), and a smile is seen as a deliberate individual choice influenced by the positional difference of the individual interpreter situated in the given hierarchy. The ambiguous status of interpreters in organisational contexts can be illustrated by the fact that female interpreters are sometimes used as the topic of jokes. The informants reported that senior male executives, especially those without much exposure to foreign cultures, like to

Business interpreting

make jokes out of the unmarried status of single female employees. Chaewon, an English-​Korean interpreter, recalled how embarrassing it was when she was discussed as the source of a joke at a business meeting, where a male executive tried to break the ice by referring to her never-​married status. Saying that Chaewon had no hope to find an eligible man in Korea, the senior manager said that he had better sell the interpreter to South East Asia, where the visitor was from: 보통 항상 얘기하는게 결혼. 결혼 언제 하냐, 남자친구는 있냐. 그거밖에 없어요, 주제가. 그러니까 외국손님들이 오셔도 결혼. 네, 결혼 [laughing]. 저를 이제 동남아에 파시겠다고 막 [laughing]. 아 얘 좀 데려가라고. 너네집 부자냐고, 돈 많냐고, 그런 얘기도 하셨어요. 그랬더니 그 분이 아우 자기 rich하다고. 우리 집에 뭐 있고 그런. They [senior-​level male executives] always talked about marriage. When are you going to get married? Do you have a boyfriend? That was all that they talked about. So when we had visitors from overseas, marriage. Yes, marriage [laughing]. They said that they would sell me to South East Asia [laughing]. And said please can you take her? They asked the visitor if he is rich and has lots of money. They said things like that. And the visitor said, oh yes, I am rich. I’ve got this and that at home. Once regarded as an ‘abiding Korean preoccupation’ (Kendall 1996, p. 4), marriage has experienced dramatic pattern shifts in recent years due to an ongoing tendency to defer or forego marriage among Korean women (Chang and Song 2010). Whereas contemporary Korean women tend to postpone marriage in order to enjoy freedom and build careers, this trend of marriage deferral and avoidance has been widely deplored by older generations as a threat to the national economy and the nation itself (Chang and Song 2010). In fact, spinsters or noch’onyo have traditionally been socially degraded for being deviant in Korean society (Kim 1992; Kendall 1996; Song 2010), and talking and joking about a person’s single status is a pattern particularly common among older generations. As the social and organisational practice of denigrating unmarried women may be seen as a form of sexual harassment by people who are not used to the local culture, Chaewon was worried about the potential problem, yet delivered the message to the client curious to know what was said. Fortunately, the visitor understood that it was a joke (possibly from the smiling faces of the Korean participants) and responded in the same light-​hearted way. While Chaewon was faithful in her role as an interpreter during the meeting, she, however, became more assertive later. As the same communicative patterns repeated in other meetings with foreign visitors,



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the interpreter felt that she had had enough and decided to offer ‘cultural advice’ to the senior executives. When telling them that marriage is an inappropriate topic to discuss with foreigners, the interpreter tried to be strategic by providing a reasoning that such behaviours would reflect badly on not only themselves but also the company. Her choice of trying to educate the male employees about intercultural sensitivity worked well, as the senior members were worried about a potential harm that their behaviours might have on institutional reputation. By strategically connecting the male behaviours to corporate reputation, Chaewon managed to pre-​empt similar behavioural patterns in future intercultural encounters, hence saving her self-​esteem as well. Outside corporate premises, sexist jokes are frequently used on social occasions such as business dining. While wining and dining is widely practised to gain a competitive edge and build business networks in many societies (Trompenaars and Hampden-​ Turner 2011), the degree of entertainment varies from one culture to another. In China, for example, sustained extravagant business entertainment to establish strong connections with people in powerful positions is not uncommon, and the Chinese term ‘關係’ or guanxi is perhaps the best-​ known example. The surface-​level translation of guanxi is ‘personal ties’, but it is more than just building a business network. Defined as a ‘method of economic organisation without resorting to law or other formal rules’ (So and Walker 2006, p. 2), guanxi refers to overcoming hurdles by relying on influential people to expedite business processes in order to secure long-​term benefits. The same concept can be found in Korea and Japan. A Korean equivalent to guanxi is ‘연줄’ or yeonjool, and in Japan, ‘コネ’ or kone, a short form of an English word ‘connection’, is socially practised to achieve the same purpose. Building kone over drinking is so popular in Japan that there is even a word which specifically refers to the practice. ‘飲みにケーション’ or nomunication is a combination of the Japanese word nomi, which means ‘drink’, and the English word ‘communication’. According to the English-​Japanese interpreters, nomunication is often accompanied by sexist jokes, which poses a dilemma for interpreters. When I asked the interpreter-​informants how they deal with inappropriate jokes, most of them said that they use the professional strategy of asking an audience to laugh. There was, however, one interpreter, Haruko, who felt strongly against the male practice and acted differently. The following narrative shows how Haruko dealt with a sexist joke on one business interpreting occasion: Some Japanese people like to make sexist jokes. Jokes that have forms of harassment. Like one Japanese man when he was in Sydney, he met an Australian person and his wife was much younger than he was. That’s fine. That’s none of my business. And my Japanese

Business interpreting

client said in Japanese ‘younger wives and greener mattresses are preferable’. So the newer, the better, that’s what he said. He said that in Japanese, so I asked him ‘would you like me to interpret it for him? you would be in big trouble’. And he said ‘no’. And the Australian man asked me what he said, so I made it up. While the strategy may have been intended to save the communication from an embarrassing moment, Haruko’s own position on gender merits attention. During the interview, Haruko strongly expressed her disapproval of sexist jokes, which she described as ‘bad’, ‘cheesy’, and ‘stupid’. Unlike her colleagues who either skip or politely ask the other party to laugh, she believed that it was unnecessary, saying that ‘If they [foreign clients] find it boring or stupid, they shouldn’t laugh’. The assertiveness displayed by Haruko highlights her strong beliefs in gender agency, which justified her confrontation with the Japanese client and choice to replace the joke with an appropriate alternative. The move shows how individual agency can be enabled by structures characterised by male-​dominant cultures and is leveraged to recontextualise a given field of communication, rather than conform to the general role expectations as an interpreter. The example therefore demonstrates that power relations may be fixed in organisational contexts, but are never frozen.

Reflection activity 1 What do you think about Haruko’s choice of confronting the client and replacing the sexist joke with a made-​up one? Did Haruko make the right choice or should she have delivered the original message despite her inner conflict? If you agree with her choice, discuss why. If, on the other hand, you do not approve of Haruko’s decision, discuss why and suggest others ways that she could have handled the situation.

2.4  Are we speaking in the same language? When communication between speakers who do not share the same language and culture fails in an interpreter-​mediated event, it is easy to attribute the communicative failure to the interpreter. The tendency is primarily based on an assumption that interactants speaking in their mother tongue are perfectly competent in the use of their first language. The generally held belief in the infallible success of communication in the mother tongue represents a challenge to interpreters, especially when a participant speaking his or her first language does not stay on track during communication. Minseo, an English-​Korean interpreter, discusses a relevant experience, in which her male boss



Business interpreting

repeatedly gave irrelevant answers to a simple question translated from English into Korean: 그때 저희 회사가 해외 업체의 물품을, 그, 시장 조사를 하기 위해서 프로덕트 업체에 갔었어요. 갔는데 처음에는 그쪽에서 우리가 왜 왔는지 이해를 잘 못하더라고요. 그래서 인제 회의 시작한지 얼마 안되서, 외국 애들은 정말 단도직입적이잖아요. 정말 너네 여기 왜 왔냐, 여기 온 이유가 뭐냐, 이런 식으로 묻는데 저희 실장님께서는 말을 계속 빙빙 돌려서 하시는 거에요. 얘네가 원하는 답을 해주지 않고, 굉장히 한국식 약간 그런게 있잖아요. 말을 직접적으로 하지 않고 간접적으로 돌려서 하는. 그래서 되게 곤란했었거든요. 그때 되게 부연 설명을 엄청 하셨어요. 우리는 뭐 이런 일을 하고 있고, 그리고 우리 회사는 한국의 정부를 대표해서 뭐 이런 일을 하고 있다. 그래서 결론적으로 걔네들이 듣고 싶은 말씀을 하지는 않으시고 계속 그런 부연설명을 늘어놓으셨죠. Our company travelled overseas to do, um, market research on products and visited a product company. When we visited them, they didn’t quite understand why we wanted to meet them. So as soon as the meeting started, foreigners are very straightforward, you know. They asked why you came here, what are the reasons that you came here, and my Korean boss kept going in circles in answers. Rather than answering the questions, he was very Korean, you know, that kind of style, not directly explaining, but trying to be indirect. So, it was very difficult for me. He provided a lot of information that was irrelevant. He said what our company did and we did this kind of work for the Korean government. He didn’t give them what they wanted to know, but kept going off topic. Off-​topic speech is defined as ‘speech that may start out on topic but quickly becomes prolonged, unconstrained, and irrelevant to the present topic at hand’ (Trunk and Abrams 2009, p. 324). With a lack of focus and coherence as a key feature, an off-​topic communicative style is seen to be related to age-​associated cognitive declines (see Arbuckle and Gold 1993). This view of the age-​associated increase in off-​target speech, however, does not account for other pragmatic factors sensitive to a given context, which are said to be one primary contributor to off-​topic verbosity (see Burke 1997; see also Section 3.3). In trying to provide a better understanding of reasons behind the observed off-​ topic communication styles, I shall investigate the impact of organisational communicative context, with a specific focus on the so-​called ‘military culture’ that is pervasive in Korean corporations. In a book entitled Koreans are crazy, Surdej (2015) argues that Korean companies are an extension of the Korean military, in which

Business interpreting

Korean men in their 20s are required by law to serve for two years in order to defend the country from the perceived threats from North Korea. Through the mandatory training, Korean men internalise elements of the military mentality such as top-​down orders and absolute obedience, and the diligent and obedient workforce trained in military-​ style efficiency has significantly contributed to the miraculous development of the Korean economy (Surdej 2015). Apart from the military influence, it should also be noted that Korean organisations tend to run like a big extended family (Cho and Yoon 2001). Under paternalistic management, a boss is established as an authoritative father figure for subordinates, and the combination of family and army as organising principles has reinforced in-​group harmony, hierarchy, and hard work as a norm (Cho and Yoon 2001). Not surprisingly, communication channels at work are strictly defined and vertical. Supervisors are accustomed to using top-​ down communication channels, and open discussion or debate is almost unseen (Yang 2006). Moreover, the strict hierarchy restricts the scope of interpersonal ties in the social aspects of work. Within the hierarchically closed structures in organisations, interpersonal relationships are defined in terms of status, and most employees spend time with colleagues who are in similar positions and are of the same gender (Cho and Yoon 2001). As women tend to quit companies early due primarily to a glass ceiling and associated gender discrimination, fewer and fewer women are present as one progresses up the corporate ladder, leaving mostly men in upper corporate positions. Furthermore, Korea’s unsustainable working hours, which were recorded as the third highest among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries as of 2018 (OECD 2018), mean that employees spend most of their time with colleagues of a similar profile at work. In addition to the ‘inhumanly long’ (Wamsley 2018) work hours, working on weekends is customarily expected by local companies (Kwon 2019). As many Korean men devote most of their time to work, which runs like an army, it can be conjectured that after years of being trained army style, their communication skills with people outside their comfort zone might become rusty, as exemplified below: 실제로 얘기를 일대일로 나눠봐도 젊은 사람들, 특히 젊은 여자분들하고 어떤 주제로 얘기를 나눠야하는지 모르시는 것 같아요. Whenever I had a chance to talk to them [senior male workers] face-​to-​face, they didn’t really know what to talk about with young people, especially with young women. Chaewon



Business interpreting

근데 회사생활 하면서 그런 분들이 많다는걸 느꼈거든요. 특히 어르신분들이 정확한 대답은 안하시고 주변 얘기만 빙빙 돌려서 하시는 분들을 꽤 많이 봤었거든요. At work, I noticed quite a few men like that. In particular, I experienced many older men who couldn’t give exact answers but kept going off topic. Minseo The reported lack of communication skills among older Korean men is, indeed, seen as a distinctive demographic characteristic in Korea. There is even a book entitled ‘What Korean men want’ (Yoo 2005), which describes the alleged awkwardness of middle-​aged Korean men in terms of communication management. According to the book, the communication styles among older Korean men are characterised by unnecessarily long and descriptive introductions, a bad sense of humour, and an inability to express individual opinions logically. This often creates problems in intercultural communication situations, and the interpreter-​informants reported individual strategies geared towards addressing the issues. Among others, ‘rephrasing’ and ‘cut-​in’ are identified as the two most common strategies. The informants said that if they fail to understand messages delivered in Korean, they usually seek clarification from Korean speakers by rephrasing what was said by them, so as to ensure accuracy. For example, Seohee, who had worked as a corporate interpreter for a large conglomerate, had found a lack of logic in speeches by male executives often challenging. At the beginning of her career, she used to interpret exactly what was said, but soon realised that it did not make sense to foreign listeners. After experiencing the same issue several times, Seohee adopted cut-​in and rephrasing as a strategy in order to establish coherence and logic before starting interpreting: 제가 잠깐 끊어서 제가 맞는지 확인했던 것 같아요. 이게 맞냐 물어보고 맞다 그러면 전달하고. 안그러면 못알아들으니까요. 그런데 너무 자주 하면 이분이나 듣는 분이나 신뢰를 잃을까봐 오히려 그럴때는 말투를 일부러라도 똑 부러지게 하려고 했어요. I used to cut in to make sure that I understood right. I asked him if this means this, and if it was right, delivered interpreting. It’s because they [foreign clients] couldn’t understand. But if I did it too often, the speaker and listeners might question my capability, so I tried to speak really professionally. In addition to cut-​in and rephrasing, adding words and sentences for better contextualisation is identified as another common strategy.

Business interpreting

Dohee shared a story involving her former boss, who used to go off-​ topic in intercultural encounters. When he had visitors from overseas, he often talked about an irrelevant topic in response to a customary greeting of ‘hello, nice to meet you’, as exemplified below: 그 때 본부장님은 제가 생각할때 off-​topic 같은 얘기를 많이 하셨어요. 인사하고 외국 사람들은 오늘 회의에 대한 얘기를 많이 하고, 뭐 look forward 한다 이런 얘기 하는데, 본부장님은 갑자기 뭐 관악산이 어떻고 뭐 조선시대 얘기하시고 이랬거든요 [laughing]. 그럴때 약간 뭐 상대방이 갑자기 왜 이런 얘기를 하는지 모르겠다는 표정을 짓고 그런 상황에서 저는 너무 어색하고 그런 상황이 종종 있었어요. Come to think of it, my boss used to go off topic a lot. Foreigners usually exchange greetings first and get straight down to business or they say I look forward to the meeting, things like that. And my boss, he suddenly started talking about Mountain Gwanak [seen through the office window] and stories regarding the Chosun Dynasty [Korea’s predecessor] [laughing]. Whenever it happened, I could see they, kind of, the foreign guests were puzzled about why he was talking about things like that, and I felt so awkward many times. Whenever the boss gave off-​topic responses for greetings, Dohee usually substituted his original message with generic expressions such as ‘nice to meet you’ or ‘look forward to the meeting’. On one particular occasion, however, the boss’s response was too long to be replaced by the usual strategy, and Dohee had to quickly come up with a new idea. Considering that the story had historical elements, the interpreter decided to make the story as relevant as possible to the visitors by recontextualising the event as a historical session. That is, she started by saying ‘Have you ever been here before? I would like to tell you an interesting story relating to the history of the mountain that you can see through the window’, and went on to interpret the history relating to the mountain. The improvisation worked well, because the foreign visitors appreciated the local history lesson as part of their counterpart’s hospitality package. The diverse strategies discussed above highlight a shared view of the informants that they are not mere linguistic mediators but rather active participants in communicative events. While the informants were under the constraints of gendered corporate hierarchies which limited their participation in communication as cultural advisors, they considered themselves as a ‘natural part of the interaction’ (Roy 1992, p. 57), and creatively exercised micro-​interactional power. The analysis highlights that the informants have a strong sense of responsibility for achieving communication success by actively playing agentive roles.



Business interpreting

No matter how willing interpreters are to use their micro-​individual power to achieve successful communication, however, situational variables may come up which nullify interpreters’ efforts to facilitate communication. The next section deals with one such case, in which male pride superseded communicative goals.

Reflection activity 2 Off-​ topic communication styles are not limited to older men in Korea, but can be discovered elsewhere. Is off-​topic communication common among people of a certain demographic profile in your country? If it is, have you ever experienced communication problems in intercultural encounters involving people who do not stay on track? Discuss how you addressed the communicative issues that arose.

2.5  English proficiency and male pride One of the most notable linguistic developments in the 20th and 21st centuries has been the rise of English as a global language. With this have emerged ideologies surrounding English that go beyond its use as a functional tool for communication. As an example, English in many parts of the world holds promises attached to increased employability, career development, and future success for those with a command of the language (e.g. Cho 2017; Park 2010; 2011; 2016). In the context of globalisation, English serves as a sign of cosmopolitanism, enterprising spirits, and independence, all of which are regarded as essential for one’s journey to achieve a desirable global personhood (Abelmann et al. 2009). The downside of the global popularity of English is that an inability to speak and understand English can automatically translate into being ‘unfit’ in the era of globalisation. This can be particularly problematic for people who are deemed sufficiently intelligent to have become proficient in English, and university professors are one good example. While university professors are obviously not business people, many of the contexts in which academics are engaged in today’s globalisation are related to ‘business’. As research, especially international research collaboration, is increasingly valued among universities, academics build international networks by attending conferences overseas, participating in academic exchange programs, and/​ or visiting partner universities to explore joint research opportunities. Needless to say, English-​ language proficiency is highly important in the pursuit of international collaboration and networking. Many contemporary academics write and publish in English, and therefore generally have some degree of proficiency in written English. When it comes to oral

Business interpreting

communicative skills, however, proficiency varies individual by individual, and people fluent in English may feel more confident about their professional competence when they find themselves in situations where they need to use the language to communicate. Conversely, academics who are less proficient in spoken English may lack confidence and might worry about how they are seen by people who speak English as their first language. This particular phenomenon and the notion of ‘face’ in the case of Japanese male academics was noted by English-​Japanese interpreters based in Sydney, Australia, on the basis of their interpreting experiences. Three out of the four English-​Japanese interpreters, all of whom are females, reported specific communicative behaviours displayed by male Japanese professors, who kept nodding when, in fact, they did not understand the English speech of their counterparts. For example: I thought this Japanese person understands, so I didn’t interfere. When the person is understanding, why do I have to intervene? But after ten minutes, ‘what was it?’. What? You didn’t understand it? But you were nodding! I have it from time to time. When you listen and nod, yeah, yeah, yeah, it doesn’t mean they understand. That’s why I have to be very careful. I have had this kind of experience quite a few times. Emiko, English-​Japanese interpreter With some geographical locations as exceptions, nodding generally signals assent and is used as a polite responsive gesture in communication (see Andonova and Taylor 2012). While head nods work in a similar way in Japan, the frequent use of nodding among Japanese people has been noted especially in intercultural encounters, serving multiple interactional functions such as back-​channel continuer, turn transition period fillers, emphasis, and affirmation (see Maynard 1987). In monolingual Japanese service encounters, synchronised head nods between a service provider and a client function as a sign of consensus as part of a satisfactory business closure (see Oshima 2014). In bilingual business encounters in which communication is conducted in a language of which one party has less command yet has a desire to project a competent professional image, nodding might work as a strategy to protect a social persona. In the aforementioned case, nodding may have been employed to protect male professorial authority or face, and the concept of Japanese face is important to understanding the particular behaviour. According to Haugh (2007), face in Japan is ‘a kind of “positive social image” representative of a person as an individual or a group to which the person belongs’ (p. 662, quotation marks in original). Haugh (2007) notes that Japanese face is based on three key concepts: kao, menboku, and taimen, all of which are inter-​connected.



Business interpreting

To begin with, kao literally means one’s physical face. In its figurative sense, however, it refers to one’s social image as being a representative of a group or having influence derived from one’s status as a well-​known figure within a community. Menboku is related to external evaluations of one’s honour or dignity, and the external evaluations are specific to a particular community with which one has at least some level of interaction. In the context of business, menboku is based on evaluations of members of the particular business organisation and people outside the business with whom the organisation has professional relationships. In the management of menboku in business contexts, it is highly important for one to be recognised (by means of praise) as competent and professional and/​or to be acknowledged for one’s status and influence within a particular group. Finally, taimen refers to external evaluations of one’s form or manner. In business contexts, one needs to maintain conduct appropriate to the given environment, and a professional appearance as measured by clothing and grooming. Taimen that one projects to others as a member of an organisation most often relates to the reputation of the whole organisation. While both menboku and taimen are evaluated by others, the degree of external evaluation is much stronger in the case of menboku, because taimen can be managed to a considerable degree by a person’s own efforts to look appropriate (Saito 2013). Menboku is, therefore, defined as one’s ‘approved self’, and taimen as one’s ‘projected self’ (Yabuuchi 2004). In the context of Japanese business interaction, the three concepts –​kao, menboku, and taimen –​often work in partnership and significantly influence people’s behaviours and decisions (Haugh 2007). As a complex construct, face is highly valued across Japanese society. When someone makes mistakes or causes a failure in a workplace, avoidance of admitting professional failure or ignorance is commonly practised in Japanese organisations as an attempt to protect one’s face (Haugh 2007). Noriko, an English-​Japanese interpreter, discussed this particular aspect of face-​saving in Japan: Losing face is a big thing. Even when they [Japanese people] find their services are not very good, you just put up with it. This happened when one of the vendors made so many mistakes, and this mistake unfortunately related to the cause of the loss to the company. So in Australia, forget it, go on and fire them. Oh, talking about firing, HR is another issue. In Australia, when you lose the job, maybe you are made redundant, and this is what it is. Yes, there are court cases, but in Japan it almost doesn’t happen. Even when you are so useless in a company. I think firing seems to be one of the hardest things. This is changing now though.

Business interpreting

As important as the concept of ‘face’ is in Japanese society, one should, however, be cautious not to take ‘Japanese face’ at face value as a cause of communication failure. In intercultural communication contexts characterised by power relationships, power structures embedded in communication settings can influence the behavioural choices of interactants, and this is exactly where the power of English comes in. In intercultural communication in which one speaker is fluent in a dominant language and the other has limited proficiency, the speaker who is not fluent in the language is often seen as deficient, no matter how smart and intelligent he or she is (Piller 2017). Language proficiency in intercultural communication serves as an indicator of intelligence and expertise, and the relationship between language proficiency and intelligence is much stronger in the case of English, the language expected to be spoken by anyone wanting to claim a desirable identity in a global context (Monzó and Rueda 2009). The power of English is a lot more evident in fields where it serves as a common tool for communication worldwide, such as academia. English is the most dominant language in international publishing, monopolised by a group of scholarly journals based in English-​ speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States (Paasi 2005). Furthermore, English has significantly expanded as a medium of instruction in recent years across the world by modern universities, pressured to compete at a global level to enhance institutional competitiveness (Altbach 2004). As a language of a place (the ‘Western’, Anglophone, affluent nations) which has served as a ‘normative point of reference’ (Milani and Lazar 2017, p. 307), English has been regarded not only as a conduit through which advanced knowledge and thinking in the global core are transferred to the countries categorised as occupying the periphery (Paasi 2005), but as the conduit. While there is ongoing scholarly effort to rethink and reconceptualise English as a lingua franca (see Jenkins et al. 2017), the degree to which English has been naturalised as a common language for communication and knowledge dissemination in academia suggests that a revelation of low English proficiency can potentially raise suspicion about one’s professional competence and intelligence. The spread of English in the field of academia is structural, and it is in this context of linguistic power structures that the Japanese male professor’s face-​saving attempt needs to be understood. A relevant example can be found in the experience of another informant, Haruko, who recalled a Japanese professor who was very proud of himself but was not proficient in oral English. When he came to Australia to explore research collaboration with his Australian counterpart, the Australian academic arranged Haruko to facilitate communication with the Japanese professor. The meeting went well, and the participants later moved to a nearby restaurant for lunch. The



Business interpreting

Japanese professor wanted to order a steak, which he managed to handle in English. When the waiter asked him how he would like the steak, however, a problem occurred: And the waiting person asked him ah, alright, steak. Well done? How would you like your steak? And I tried to interpret it but he said you don’t have to. You don’t have to interpret it for me. So I thought he understood. [The waiter asked] How would you like your steak? [Haruko enacting him nodding with an authoritative face] How would you like your steak? [Haruko enacting the same nodding gesture again] So I said ‘professor, well done, medium, rare? Which one do you like?’ ‘Medium! [in an angry voice]’ Then she asked him vegetables or salad, sir? [Haruko enacting the same nodding gesture] That was so embarrassing. It can be argued that the use of nodding at the restaurant was an attempt by the professor to prove that he can understand English. While he did not pretend to understand English at the formal meeting, in which important business was discussed, reliance on the interpreter for simple communication such as ordering food might have been self-​ perceived as a weakness, hence a loss of face. The attempt to pass as someone with a command of everyday English with the use of nodding may have been part of a desire to present as an intelligent person, which was a key characteristic of his social image. A lack of English language proficiency as a threat to face is also exemplified by the case below, in which Emiko interpreted for a male Japanese professor, who came to Australia to pursue research collaboration. Before the meeting started, the Japanese academic told Emiko that he could understand English and would let her know if her service was needed. During the meeting, the professor kept nodding and did not ask for help, so Emiko thought that all was fine. Not until they left the meeting room and started walking together to go home did a different picture emerge: And we left together. All three of us left the room. The [Australian] doctor talked to him ‘how was your flight?’. He said something totally different. Come on, he doesn’t, he didn’t understand! [laughing] I didn’t know what to do! What can I do? He pretended. This one, he didn’t want to show his weakness. Because he was, uh, I think they were doing the research together. How could he ever say he doesn’t understand? He wanted to show that he understands everything. Passing is strongly associated with the human needs and desires to see oneself and be seen in positive terms in social contexts (Goffman

Business interpreting

1959), and nodding clearly represents a strategic choice to appear more competent and resourceful than one actually is. As the Japanese professor’s need to maintain his personal image was greater than the need to achieve the intended goal of achieving mutual understanding, he strategically adopted nodding to mask his lack of English proficiency in order to keep his social persona. While the case might be seen as an example of ‘Japanese culture’, in which face is often said to supersede a primary goal in Japanese society (Haugh 2007), the impact of the hegemony of English on intercultural communication must not be overlooked. The seemingly ‘Japanese’ behaviours were, in fact, influenced by power relationships hierarchised by English-​ language proficiency, which serves as a yardstick of intelligence and intellect. Finally, it is worth discussing the face-​saving choices made by the Japanese academics in the context of the male dominance that is prevalent in Japanese academia as well as the gendered dimension of interpreting. Although the sample is too small to enable broad generalisation, the fact that the cases reported by the interpreter-​informants concern only male professors is noteworthy. Universities in Japan have long been dominated by male academics (Morley 2014). While male dominance in academia is by no means specific to Japan, traditional gender norms which emphasise extreme degrees of masculinity and femininity between men and women may have reinforced the need to assert manliness characterised by confidence, competitiveness, and independence (Sugihara and Katsurada 2000). Considering the societal gender expectations and the traditional male dominance in Japanese academia, reliance on a female interpreter to handle communication in English –​a key measure of intelligence –​might have been seen as a loss of masculinity. This possible explanation is tellingly exemplified by Haruko’s account regarding another Japanese male professor, who, despite his low English proficiency, insisted on not having an interpreter for a meeting, saying ‘I don’t need such a thing!’. At this point, readers may be curious to find out how the communication problems above were managed by the interpreters. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no solution. The interpreters said that the damage had already been done, and it was simply irreparable. The decisions were also influenced by their awareness of the male professors’ want to protect their professional images. As the desires to save faces superseded the primary goal of communicative success, the informants decided to let them achieve their individual agendas, rather than trying to fix what seemed to be unresolvable. After all, what is the point of doing interpreting, when it is not wanted by interactants? If you had been in the interpreters’ shoes, what would you have done?



Business interpreting

Reflection activity 3 Further to the question above, discuss how you would deal with these kinds of problems as an interpreter. Would you consider non-​ interpreting as an answer or would you try to rectify the situation? If the latter, how would you do that?

2.6  Conclusion This chapter has explored diverse ways in which interpreters’ agency intersects with gender, language, and power in various contexts of business interpreting. Based on the real experiences of practising interpreters, it demonstrates the impact that gender and power hierarchies have on communicative decisions and outcomes, hence highlighting gender as a key analytical lens to deepen our understanding of intercultural communication. As illustrated, gender-​ based approaches enable us to examine intercultural communication from multi-​layered (societal, organisational, group, and individual) perspectives. The problems identified through the specific gender prism were, in turn, analysed with a focus on how they were addressed by the interpreter-​informants through the use of professional strategies. The interactional power exercised by the interpreters emphasises that solving intercultural communication issues cannot simply be achieved by knowing the ‘other culture’, but requires creative and independent thinking, which can underpin actions that recontextualise and rebalance the power relations at play. The chapter also highlights the complex nature of power relations, which are not limited to interpersonal status hierarchies, but are also influenced by aspects of language as key attributes. As discussed in Section 2.5, dominant language ideologies relating to English as a sign of intelligence led the Japanese academics to hide their lack of English proficiency and opt instead to pretend to understand the global language. While it is likely that their decisions were intended to save face, what seemed to be practices associated with (stereo)typical ‘Japanese culture’ was, I have argued, an outcome of the interaction between local and global cultures characterised by linguistic power hierarchies. Gender figures as a key prism through which to understand communicative behaviour of this kind, because the need to invoke professorial authority was also triggered by the male avoidance of relying on women for communication. Understood from this perspective, the male consciousness can be seen as a combined reflection of their inferiority complex relating to English as well as having to depend on the female interpreters, who are positioned lower in socio-​gender hierarchies.

Business interpreting

While the diverse ways of exercising micro power highlight the significance of individuals’ capacity to shape communicative outcomes, it is important to note that the communicative contexts for business interpreting are fundamentally different from those that characterise community-​type interpreting encounters. It will, therefore, be interesting to see –​in the chapters that follow –​how community interpreters based in Australia respond to intercultural communicative issues in relation to power hierarchies. An investigation of interpreter-​ mediated intercultural communication in Australia begins with a focus on medical interpreting in the next chapter.

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Business interpreting Henley, N 1986, Body politics: power, sex, and nonverbal communication, Simon and Schuster, New York. Hochschild, AR 1983, The managed heart: commercialization of human feeling, University of California Press, Berkeley. Jenkins, J, Baker, W, and Dewey, M (eds.) 2017, The Routledge handbook of English as a lingua franca, Routledge, Abingdon. Kelsky, K 2001, Women on the verge: Japanese women, Western dreams, Duke University Press, Durham. Kendall, L 1996, Getting married in Korea: of gender, morality, and modernity, University of California Press, Berkeley. Kim, MH 1992, Late industrialization and women’s work in urban South Korea: an ethnographic study of upper-​ middle-​ class families, City and Society, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 156–​173. Kwon, Yeonsu 2019, ‘직장인 절반 이상인 54.9% ‘주말 수당 없이 근무’, 주말 근무를 하는 이유?’ [54.9% of employees ‘work on weekends without payment’. Why working on weekends?], Digital Chosun Ilbo, 19 April, viewed 20 August 2020, http://​​site/​data/​html_​dir/​ 2019/​04/​19/​2019041980085.html?main_​style. Maynard, SK 1987, Interactional functions of a nonverbal sign: head movements in Japanese dyadic casual conversation, Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 11, no. 5, 589–​606. Milani, TM, and Lazar, MM 2017, Seeing from the South: discourse, gender and sexuality from southern perspectives, Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 307–​319. Monzó, LD, and Rueda, R 2009, Passing for English fluent: Latino immigrant children masking language proficiency, Anthropology & Education Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 20–​40. Morley, L 2014, Lost leaders: women in the global academy, Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 114–​128. OECD 2018, Hours worked, viewed 30 April 2019, https://​​ emp/​hours-​worked.htm. Oshima, S 2014, Achieving consensus through professionalized head nods: the role of nodding in service encounters in Japan, International Journal of Business Communication, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 31–​57. Paasi, A 2005, Globalisation, academic capitalism, and the uneven geographies of international journal publishing spaces, Environment and Planning A, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 769–​789. Park, JSY 2010, Naturalization of competence and the neoliberal subject: success stories of English language learning in the Korean conservative press, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 22–​38. Park, JSY 2011, The promise of English: linguistic capital and the neoliberal worker in the South Korean job market, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 443–​455. Park, JSY 2016, Language as pure potential, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 453–​466. Piller, I 2017, Intercultural communication: a critical introduction, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Business interpreting Piller, I, and Pavlenko, A 2007, ‘Globalization, gender, and multilingualism’, in H Decke-​Cornill and L Volkmann (eds.), Gender studies and foreign language teaching, Narr, Tübingen. Roy, CB 1992, A sociolinguistic analysis of the interpreter’s role in simultaneous talk in a face-​to-​face interpreted dialogue, Sign Language Studies, vol. 74, pp. 21–​61. Saito, J 2013, Gender and facework: linguistic practices by Japanese male superiors in the workplace, Gender & Language, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 231–​259. Simon, S 2003, Gender in translation, Routledge, London. So, YL, and Walker, A 2006, Explaining guanxi: the Chinese business network, Routledge, Abingdon. Song, J 2010, ‘A room of one’s own’: the meaning of spatial autonomy for unmarried women in neoliberal South Korea, Gender, Place & Culture, vol. 17, no. 2, pp.131–​149. Sugihara, Y, and Katsurada, E 2000, Gender-​role personality traits in Japanese culture, Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 309–​318. Surdej, E 2015, 한국인은 미쳤다! [Koreans are crazy!], Bookhouse, Seoul. Trunk, DL, and Abrams, L 2009, Do younger and older adults’ communicative goals influence off-​ topic speech in autobiographical narratives?, Psychology and Aging, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 324–​337. Trompenaars, F, and Hampden-​Turner, C 2011, Riding the waves of culture: understanding diversity in global business, Nicholas Brealey International, London. Vuorela, T 2005, Laughing matters: a case study of humor in multicultural business negotiations, Negotiation Journal, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 105–​130. Wamsley, L 2018, ‘South Korea shortens ‘inhumanely long’ workweek’, National Public Radio, viewed 22 October 2019,​sections/​ thetwo-​way/​2018/​03/​01/​589895641/​south-​korea-​shortens-inhumanelylong-​work-​week. Yabuuchi, A 2004, Face in Chinese, Japanese and U.S. American cultures, Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 263–​299. Yang, I 2006, Jeong exchange and collective leadership in Korean organizat­ ions, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 283–​298. Yoo, I 2005, 대한민국 남자들이 원하는 것 [What Korean men want], Hainaim, Seoul. Zillman, C 2019, ‘The Fortune 500 has more female CEOs than ever before’, Fortune, 16 May, viewed 11 November 2019, https://​​2019/​ 05/​16/​fortune-​500-​female-​ceos/​.


3  Medical interpreting

3.1  Cultures beyond otherness Spanish speakers, especially older Spanish speakers, they look at the doctor as an authority. They look at the interpreter as an authority and they don’t always feel comfortable expressing ‘I don’t understand’ or they feel, they don’t feel comfortable asking questions. So that’s, that’s an issue. Elderly people grew up under a dictatorship [in Latin America], so there is a lot of fear stepping out of line. Um, but there is also the fact that a lot of Spanish speakers that came over to Australia, um, they are people without a lot of education. So, they, um, usually they’re submissive, because they don’t know how to stand up for themselves, they don’t feel confident. Or they, because they are not a doctor, they are not at the same level of education as the doctor, they don’t feel like they can. Oh, he knows, she knows what they are talking about. I’m just a humble mechanic or a cleaner. So, they don’t feel that they can speak up. Isabella, English-​Spanish interpreter This excerpt captures the complexity of intercultural interactions in interpreter-​mediated medical settings in Australia and its impact on communicative behaviours of migrant patients. It suggests that the reported tendency of not asking questions to doctors among elderly Spanish-​speaking migrants may be attributable to not just one factor but a combination of cultural, contextual, and present circumstantial elements that operate in complex ways. In this particular example, the home cultural factor relates to an ingrained fear of authority which stems from growing up under a dictatorship in the country of origin. Secondly, the cultural enactment based on patients’ past lived experience is specific to the power structures in the given communicative context, in which doctors are naturalised as the authority. Thirdly, migrants’ feelings of hesitation relating to contextual power relationships are reinforced by the present circumstances of the patients, many of whom do not feel confident enough to see themselves as being on an equal footing with doctors, due to their lack of education and social status in the host country. The relationships between home

Medical interpreting

culture, communicative context, and present circumstances highlight the importance of considering both the past and present dimensions of lived experiences of migrants, who are often viewed by members of the host society as part of a simple ethnic enclave of cultural homogeneity (Cohen 2004). In the specific context of Australia, it is, albeit ironically, the discourses surrounding multiculturalism that contribute to the homogenisation and othering of ethnic groups. Migration is a key feature of Australia, as evidenced by the fact that approximately 30% of the Australian population were born overseas as of 2019 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020). Popularly known as people of ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ or ‘CALD’ backgrounds, migrants in Australia are said to epitomise the multiculturalism of Australian society, in which cultural diversity is celebrated as one of the greatest strengths of the nation. Under multiculturalism, a particular ethnic, racial, or cultural identity no longer serves as a marker of Australia, in which common values (e.g. parliamentary democracy, free speech, religious freedom, etc.) are said to unite the country (Fozdar and Spittles 2009). The dual focus on the core universal values and the maintenance of cultural identity among migrant groups within the Australian context was a response to the failure of earlier attempts at assimilation and integration which emphasised the sameness of all Australians to some varying degrees (Castles 1992). While the multiculturalism policy is regarded as a progressive political development by some, multiculturalism is, at the same time, seen as a conservative policy which centres on a mainstream white cultural identity (Nolan et al. 2011; Stratton 1999). As ethnicity and culture are conceived of as difference, multiculturalism has been criticised for dividing the nation into conflicting ethnic groups, which live parallel lives from the majority group, rather than promoting a new form of national identity and unity (Collins 2012). Under multiculturalism, people in Australia are categorised into two different groups: people of Anglo-​Australian background and ‘Others’ who are ‘multicultural’ (Watkins 2017). As the ethnicity-​based hierarchies remain covert in the seemingly all-​ inclusive multicultural policy, multiculturalism serves to mask unequal social relationships, and the multicultural ideal of a ‘united Australia’ has, indeed, worked to make the constant struggles experienced by people classified as the ‘Others’ invisible (Bottomley 1994). The parallel life experiences of migrants living in isolation can, perhaps unsurprisingly, be exacerbated by generally limited English proficiency among ethnic minorities. One way in which this can manifest itself is illustrated by Emiko, an English-​Japanese interpreter, who observes that Japanese migrants not proficient in English tend to avoid



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phone calls from unknown numbers, for they are afraid to talk to someone who speaks English: For example, a lot of them, I get asked [by interpreting agencies] to call patients to make appointments, and I call them, and nobody answers. No one picks up the phone, okay? Because they are afraid to talk to someone who speaks in English. Who knows who’s calling before picking up the phone? That’s why they just don’t pick up the phone. If somebody talks to them in English over the phone, they don’t know how to deal with it. It is within this context of isolated experiences that many migrants rely on ethnic communities as a source of socialisation. Similar to other countries, migrant communities play a significant role in shaping and influencing the beliefs and values of migrants in Australia (Giorgas 2000). As a space where diverse values from the past and present intersect within the ‘community’, which is located in complex social contexts (Cohen 2004), migrant communities constitute a key social field which responds to the migration experience. These conditions produce a unique intersection, where language, culture, and power converge. In this regard, the chapter explores how the small cultures of ethnic migrant communities impact communicative behaviours of migrant patients in doctor-​patient encounters from the perspectives of medical interpreters.

3.2  Medical interpreters Healthcare is an essential part of a migrant life, because social adjustment can be enormously stressful for migrants, and failure to integrate into the host society means a poor quality of life and associated health issues (Victor et al. 2012). Medical interpreters play important roles in serving as a bridge between doctors and migrant patients, and trained qualified interpreters are generally regarded as a solution to addressing intercultural communication problems in healthcare (Hudelson 2005; Putsch 1985; Haffner 1992). In reality, however, an interpreter’s ability to exercise his or her bilingual and bicultural competence may be constrained by various elements, and power structures embedded in interpreted communicative events constitute one significant factor. Although the power of doctors is said to have declined with the emergence of feminism and socialist movements in the modern era, the power relations in medicine are still in favour of doctors (Charles et al. 1997; Liu et al. 2013). In societies such as Australia, medicine is predominantly a paternalistic space characterised by the dominance of white males, leaving little power for other key participants (e.g. nurses, patients, interpreters, etc.) (Goodyear-​Smith and Buetow 2001).

Medical interpreting

Another critical element that influences interpreters’ work is institutional and ethical rules, which emphasise various requirements for professional conduct such as accuracy, confidentiality, and impartiality (see Section 1.2.2). While these regulations provide interpreters with professional guidelines on how to conduct their work, the rules sometimes fail to address issues that are ‘invisible’ in communicative encounters, such as class, individual beliefs, and a lack of linguistic equivalence (Kaufert and Putsch 1997). The prescribed roles of interpreters tasked to deliver accurate messages in neutral positions often lead to under-​utilisation of valuable insights and cultural knowledge that interpreters have gained from professional experiences in the event of intercultural communicative failures (Hudelson 2005). Lastly, the issue of power relations in interpreted communicative events closely relates to macro-​ structural factors such as societal awareness of the importance of community language learning (Kaufert and Putsch 1997). Social recognition of ethnic languages has, indeed, remained low in Australian society due particularly to the dominance of English as a language of prestige (Ndhlovu 2010). The general lack of importance attached to community languages has, in turn, resulted in the devaluation of language work such as translation and interpreting, as pointed out by Adam, an English-​Romanian interpreter: As I said, the general manager at the immigration said ‘oh, I thought everybody can translate’. But it is really difficult to change the idea shared all over Australia. Say you are an accountant to somebody. You say to somebody you are a translator. Forget it. Don’t ask for compliments. While medical interpreters have traditionally been viewed as having little control over actual communicative events (Angelelli 2004), interpreters are, at the same time, often seen as agents who are not without power from the perspectives of migrant patients. For people who are unable to express themselves without the help of interpreters, the linguistic and cultural competence of interpreters may be seen as a significant form of power by minority patients, some of whom tend to regard interpreters as their personal agent, advocate, or sympathiser willing to listen to their stories (Rosenberg et al. 2007). In such cases, separating personal feelings from professional requirements may be tricky for interpreters for several reasons. First of all, in the case of small ethnic groups that are highly inter-​ connected, interpreters might play significant roles in communities and might even be acquaintances of the patients for whom they are interpreting (Kaufert and Putsch 1997). Even if interpreters are not known in communities, it is highly likely that interpreters will serve the same clients regularly in the case of small ethnic groups, in which



Medical interpreting

case friendships sometimes develop between interpreters and migrant clients: There was one client, I remember I had been interpreting on a regular basis. And we, this was also in the 90s when they [Croatian migrants] came out to Australia. And I was interpreting in all sorts of situations with this person on a regular basis and, uh, it became some kind of friendship, but not related to interpreting. Katarina, English-​Croatian interpreter Trust is another element that contributes to interpreters’ dilemmas. While trust is important in any intercultural communicative context, it is highly critical in medical communication, which involves people in vulnerable positions who are dependent on another individual in order to discuss their sensitive health issues (Mechanic and Meyer 2000). Apart from the issue of trust between a doctor and an interpreter, eliciting personal information from a patient who is used to social isolation and is distrustful of institutions takes strong trust on the part of the individual (Mechanic and Meyer 2000). The ‘professional’ behaviours of interpreters can at times be seen as detached, cold, and uninterested, which, in turn, may affect rapport-​building with the patient and eventual communicative outcomes (Ferguson and Candib 2002). Considering the institutional and relational constraints experienced by interpreters in healthcare, it is important to investigate how interpreters address communication problems in intercultural medical settings. This chapter explores three specific aspects of intercultural encounters in interpreter-​ mediated speech events, all of which are closely related to migrant communities. First, it examines the issue of loneliness among elderly migrants heavily reliant on their own ethnic groups for social connection, and the impact of social isolation on elderly patients’ behaviours in doctor-​patient encounters. Second, migrant patients’ responses to mental health are investigated with a particular focus on stigma, shame, and fear of gossip within ethnic communities. Third, the chapter explores gaps in terms of communicating a bad diagnosis between Australian doctors and migrant families living in cultural isolation. Let me now move on to explore the first theme of communicative behavioural tendency among elderly migrant patients living in isolation in interpreter-​mediated medical encounters.

3.3  In search of sympathetic ears Language is undoubtedly a pre-​condition for any degree of social adjustment and integration for migrants (Colic-​Peisker 2002), and migrants who are not proficient in the dominant language of a given

Medical interpreting

society are destined to lead a limited social life. While young skilled migrants in Australia are relatively fluent in English, which is a core entry requirement for skilled migration, many people such as first-​ generation migrants significantly lack the valued language capital. There are several reasons behind the lack of English language proficiency among elderly migrants in Australia. First, many of those who came to Australia before the development of the skilled migration program in the 1980s had relatively low levels of formal education, with little proficiency in English. Most of them became engaged in fields which did not require much English at all (e.g. construction), and hardly had any opportunity to learn English properly (Colic-​ Peisker 2002). Many of these migrants missed the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), a government-​funded program for English-​ language education for new migrants, which was established in the 1940s but developed into a comprehensive program only in the late 1970s (Clyne 1991). Another group of elderly migrants living with limited English proficiency are those who have followed their children immigrating to Australia. As an example, after the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, the Australian government granted Chinese students who were studying in Australia permanent residence and the right to be accompanied by immediate family members (Ip et al. 2006). Apart from this, young skilled migrants solely responsible for looking after their elderly parents tend to bring their parents with them (Ip et al. 2007). As many elderly people who migrate to Australia following their children speak and understand very little English, many end up living in social isolation, having only limited interactions with people from an ethnic community. English language learning through the AMEP is not an option for these migrants, because many cannot drive and do not wish to be a burden on their children, who are busy building their lives in the new country (Ip et al. 2007). The kinds of isolated lives led by elderly migrants are well demonstrated by an experience of Katarina, an English-​Croatian interpreter, who encountered an elderly Croatian man unable to speak English at a geriatric hospital: I was called to a geriatric hospital to interpret for an elderly man who was in his 80s. His son was there and he could speak English, but the doctor decided to call me and this old man when he saw me, someone who could understand his language, he started crying. And the doctor asked me why he’s crying, and he said that this is the first time I can actually speak for myself. While membership of an ethnic community might alleviate feelings of isolation in the new home, heavy dependence on ethnic communities for socialisation may also serve as a source of stress. As Petra,



Medical interpreting

an English-​ Hungarian interpreter, expressed, friendships in ethnic communities may sometimes be unnatural, because they are based on ‘compatriotship’ (in Petra’s words) driven by the shared feelings of exclusion. As the imposed sense of solidarity implicitly requires support and loyalty from members regardless of any differences that they might have, migrants might end up making friends with people whom they would not usually consider for friendship in the home country: That [friendship in ethnic communities] is a compatriotship, okay? If I go to a market near here, and I hear some people talking in Hungarian, then I say hello to them. I don’t say hello to every Hungarian if I go to a market in Budapest. I don’t say hello. But people here who are Hungarian, we say hello. Sometimes we exchange words, you know, where do you live, just generally. If I’m in Hungary, I wouldn’t do the same thing. The reason because we are in a strange country, and we are compatriots, I might make friends here with people who I wouldn’t make friends with in Hungary. Considering the limited degrees of socialisation and isolation in the case of elderly migrants, it is perhaps not surprising that elderly people unable to speak English generally welcome opportunities to converse in their own language with new people. In healthcare settings, medical interpreters are regarded as ideal interlocutors, primarily because of their professional duty, i.e. listening to a client. While the presence of interpreters as dedicated listeners may be seen by elderly patients as an invitation to talk, it poses a dilemma for interpreters due primarily to institutional regulations governing private communication with patients. The interpreter-​informants reported that some hospitals discourage interpreters from participating in conversations with patients in a waiting room as part of the impartiality principle. Although engaging in conversation with a client while waiting for a doctor is not disallowed by the AUSIT (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators) Code of Ethics, the Code emphasises that the conversation should not be personal (Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators 2012). The question of how personal is too personal is, however, debatable, especially when an interpreter has a client who is lonely and very keen to communicate in his or her language. Many informants expressed how tricky it is to deal with such patients, who may consider the interpreter’s unwillingness to converse as extremely rude: Uh, yes, that [dealing with a chatty elderly client] is actually, um, it, it is hard. You know, there is someone who doesn’t speak English. You arrive, and they know that you are the interpreter, and you

Medical interpreting

have to, you might say just a quick hello and you go and sit down on the other side of the room, and that’s obviously, um. It, it has a negative perception. They might think sometimes you are being rude. How can you sit down next to me and not do a little bit of a small chat? Why not? Elisa, English-​Spanish interpreter Trying to explain the professional guidelines to patients often turns out to be futile, because patients simply do not see what is wrong with having a chat while waiting for a doctor. Developing professional strategies to deal with this type of patients is, therefore, essential, and a smile was identified as one strategy employed by many interpreter-​ informants. These informants said that they greet patients with a broad smile when they introduce themselves as an interpreter. After warm greetings, they find excuses to leave such as having to talk to hospital staff or make an urgent phone call, yet with a friendly smile. If the client still wants to talk, the interpreters become engaged only in neutral topics (e.g. when they arrived in Australia). A gentle touch was also reported to be effective for dealing with patients keen to talk. As Selina, an English-​Bosnian interpreter, said, a light touch on the shoulder or arms is quite common in Bosnia as a sign of friendliness, and she uses the technique, when excusing herself to avoid becoming engaged in conversation with patients. Another strategy reported during the interviews is to turn the topic of conversation to the patient, so as to minimise pressure on the interpreter to disclose personal information. As described below, Elizabeth, an English-​Italian interpreter, asks questions that can engage elderly people such as questions about their grandchildren and their home country, hence assuming the role of a listener, rather than a talker: I tend to turn the conversation. I turn it so that I can find out more about them. If I am there [a waiting room] for a long time, I prefer to turn it, you know, how many children do you have, do you have grandchildren, are you from whatever country, how long have you been in Australia. These are the things you try to pay attention to them, focus on them. Um, and then they are quite willing to speak whereas you don’t have to. Perhaps unsurprisingly, an elderly migrant’s search for a sympathetic ear often does not stop in the waiting room; many continue to want to chat while they are with the doctor. The informants reported that to a simple question from a doctor such as ‘what can I do for you today?’, elderly patients tend to provide long answers, which often contain their life stories. While off-​topic verbosity in the form of personal narratives is not limited to elderly patients, research shows



Medical interpreting

that relative to younger adults, older adults tend to value reminiscence and maintenance of identity, while, at the same time, are more limited in their opportunities to socialise (see Burke 1997; James et al. 1998). These generally restricted conversational opportunities, in turn, drive older adults to pursue communicative goals characterised by the telling of autobiographical narratives and significant life events in specific social contexts (Burke 1997). Off-​topic verbosity is most readily elicited in communicative situations in which individuals are asked questions relating to personal aspects of their lives and are, therefore, context-​sensitive (Burke 1997; James et al. 1998). However, a potential problem arises when these extended narratives are presented in the course of goal-​oriented professional consultations. Interpreter-​ assisted medical encounters for elderly patients of minority backgrounds represent one such context in which personal questions are asked to patients feeling lonely and isolated in the presence of a dedicated listener. While elderly patients welcome rare opportunities to express themselves in their own languages, doctors may or may not be aware of the isolation issues experienced by elderly patients, and sometimes treat what seems to be an unnecessarily long monologue as irrelevant and off-​topic. As doctors have only a limited amount of time to see a patient, some become impatient with chatty senior citizens, who seem unable to answer even simple questions: 정말 인생 이야기를 하시더라고요. 어, 호주에 왔을때부터 첫 번째 와이프, 두 번째 와이프 이런 얘기하면서 그 아들들 딸들이 어디에 있고. 왜 화가 났는지 […] 의사는 질문을 물었어요. 시간도 없는데 question 할 거 되게 많으니까. 어, 뭐 heart condition 있는지 물어본거에요. 그래서 ‘Do you have any heart condition?’. 근데 원했던건 yes or no 였거든요. 근데 환자가 어, 나는, 저기 뭐 식품, 건강식품점에 가가지고 건강식품을 하나 사가지고 그거를 몇 개월 정도 먹고 있어요 이렇게 얘기를 하는데 의사가 기다리지를 못하는거에요. ‘What did he say?’ 이러는 거에요. 그래가지고 일단 얘기를 하는데, 어, 그 건강식품을 드시고 있다고 얘기를 했다가, 어우, 뭐 이러면서 신경질을 내면서. 내가 질문한거 대답 왜 안하냐고, 왜 딴소리 하냐고. 그게 아예 딴소리라고 생각을 하는거에요. They [elderly patients] like to tell life stories. Uh, when he came to Australia and how he met the first and second wives, and where his children live, and why he has a lot of anger […] The doctor asked a question. He was running behind, but had lots of questions. Uh, so he asked if he had heart conditions. So he asked, ‘do you have any heart conditions?’. He just wanted ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But the patient said, uh, ‘you know what, food, I went to a health food shop and got some health food and have been having it for a couple of months’.

Medical interpreting

The doctor didn’t want to wait, and said ‘what did he say?’. So I said that uh, he was taking the health food, and he was like, what, seriously, and got annoyed. He asked, ‘why is he not answering my questions, why does he keep saying irrelevant stuff?’. He thought that it was totally irrelevant. Jinkyung, English-​Korean interpreter The interpreter said that as the doctor’s frustration built up, she was afraid that the apparently incoherent answers from the elderly patient might lead the doctor to wonder about his mental state. She had actually seen similar cases from her previous interpreting experiences, in which doctors became suspicious of dementia for elderly patients who did not stay on track during conversation. While the interpreter was fully aware of the professional rules, she decided to close the communicative gap by taking action during this particular speech event. Unprompted by the doctor, the interpreter, therefore, asked the patient to clarify what the ‘health food’ was. When she found out that it was actually a vitamin, the interpreter asked if the vitamin was to do with a heart condition, to which the patient replied ‘yes’. She then added the piece of information when interpreting back to the doctor, without telling him that she had voluntarily clarified this point with the patient. Once a link between the vitamin and the patient’s heart condition emerged, the communication started moving more smoothly and eventually finished well. The above story illustrates how the micro power of the interpreter can be activated and exercised within a communicative event, which represents a ‘double structure’. As Morawska (2001) noted, there is invariably an interplay between macro-​and micro-​level elements that shape actions and decision-​making processes of individuals. In an immediate sense, the communicative context is governed by relational power structures, in which the doctor has authority to judge and dismiss seeming deviations from the topic as irrelevant to the purpose of the communication. From a wider social perspective, the power relations between the doctor and the patient are also reflective of societal power structures, which privilege members from the mainstream over people of migrant backgrounds with limited English. During the interview, the interpreter expressed her frustration at the hierarchical structures embedded in medical contexts, in which doctors act as the sole authority to determine the relevance of information and the course of communication. Judging from the reported frustration and concerns about potential misrepresentation of the minority patient, it can be conjectured that the interpreter, who was also a migrant to Australia, was conscious of the power asymmetries and was motivated to achieve a just communicative outcome by rebalancing the interaction.



Medical interpreting

While some migrant patients are overly keen to communicate, the opposite phenomenon is also sometimes reported. That is to say, some minority patients prefer to remain private about their health conditions due primarily to fears about potential community gossip. As I will show next, these people may be suspicious of interpreters as potential sources of information leakage, and mental health is identified as one area in which interpreters’ reliability is put to the test for belonging to the same ethnic migrant community.

Reflection activity 1 The aforementioned story of the elderly Korean patient illustrates that elderly patients might be mistaken as having senile dementia for not sticking to questions. While some interpreter-​informants such as Jinkyung reported that they do not mind stepping in to prevent miscommunication, others said that they usually do not take actions as informed by the impartiality principle. Which position –​between pro-​ intervention and non-​intervention –​would you prefer, and why?

3.4  Either crazy or normal People who make the decision to migrate often experience stressful or distressing events in the home country, which push them to move to a new social space for better life opportunities. When individuals migrate, they usually carry emotional baggage with them, which may be aggravated by stress relating to adjustment to and settlement in the new society. Combined with the issue of cultural and language barriers, migration generally results in a high incidence rate of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia (Bhugra 2000; 2004; Boydell et al. 2001). While a similar pattern is also found in Australia, access to mental health services for members of ethnic groups is variable (McDonald and Steel 1997). Language barriers undoubtedly influence the reported under-​utilisation of health services, yet diverse cultural attitudes to mental health may also influence the reporting rate (Smith 2015). In trying to understand factors that influence migrants’ attitudes to mental illness, it is important to note that mental health is conceptualised differently in different parts of the world, and depression is one good example. Whereas the term is commonly used in the West, the concept of depression is non-​existent in certain parts of Africa, where emotions such as sadness, frustration, hopelessness, shame, embarrassment, loneliness, anger, and shock are used in place of depression (Tilbury 2007). While the Western biomedical categorisation of mental disorders has continued to inform the development

Medical interpreting

of related areas of medicine in the other parts of the world (Stapleton et al. 2013), the very concept of ‘mental health’ may still be foreign in countries where mental illness has been traditionally viewed in a religious and spiritual context (Mehraby 2009). In those countries, people are either normal or crazy (Mehraby 2009), an idea that was echoed in the comments of many of the interpreter-​informants: Either you are okay, you are lazy or you are mad. That’s how we look. Daniel, English-​Ga interpreter They don’t think of a middle point. They think either you are normal or crazy. Chandra, English-​Bangla interpreter You’re insane or you’re just normal. It’s not really that, that grey area. Stephen, English-​Thai interpreter As people with mental illness are generally seen as ‘mad’, mental illness is strongly associated with social stigma and shame, which may ostracise patients from the whole society. Shame and stigma are attached to not just patients themselves but also families, because an individual’s behaviour is seen as a reflection of the moral expectations and social values of the whole family in certain societies (Erickson and Al Timimi 2001). Considering the strong stigma tied to mental illness, it may come as little surprise that migrants of certain ethnic backgrounds tend to deny, resist, and hide mental health conditions as a source of shame. This tendency is particularly prominent in relation to migrants’ fear of gossip in ethnic communities. Wynaden et al. (2005) show how fears of being labelled within an ethnic group prevent Chinese migrants in Western Australia from seeking medical help to treat mental illness. Arabic migrants in Sydney show similar behavioural patterns, in which concerns over malicious gossip within the community hinder them from accessing mental health services (Youssef and Deane 2006). The same study also reported that a mentally ill individual is often secreted away from sight, and if the patient is institutionalised, the family strongly demand their release, regardless of their mental state. Why then do migrants worry so much about face and reputation within ethnic communities? This question needs to be understood within the context of the generally heavy dependence of migrants on their ethnic or community group as a source of protection against discrimination and vanishing mobility aspirations (Giorgas 2000). As a number of migrants experience downward mobility in the host society through a lack of equivalent employment due to language



Medical interpreting

and social barriers, ethnic groups serve as a primary source of not only social but also economic capital for migrants. Ethnic communities also play a significant role in value maintenance and educational attainment of the second generation, through whom many migrant parents want to actualise migratory aspirations (Portes and Zhou 1993; see also Chapter 4). It is generally believed that the greater the social networks within communities one has, the lower the possibility of downward mobility (Portes 1995). Maintaining a good reputation within ethnic communities is, therefore, highly important to migrants, and the reported tendency of being ‘hush-​hush’ about mental illness is strongly related to protecting the current and future opportunities in ethnic communities, which carry significance beyond the shared cultural memory. Patients’ concerns about community gossip present a considerable challenge to interpreters, who are often seen as part of ethnic groups due to shared cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Regardless of the degree of an interpreter’s participation in ethnic communities, the very presence of someone who can easily access ethnic groups may lead migrant patients and their families to suspect interpreters as potential sources of information leakage: They think they are Indian and I am Indian, and maybe I go and spread the word in the community, and they are hesitant. Sanah, English-​Hindi interpreter If you are living in the community, there will be a gossip. Everybody knows it, everybody else. That’s why they are hush-​hush about being sick, about having something that is, you know. Martina, English-​Italian interpreter In some cases, the gender and age of an interpreter can influence a patient’s assessment of whether or not they can trust the interpreter to keep information confidential. Noriko, an English-​Japanese interpreter, recalled a Japanese female patient who refused to let her in for a medical consultation for fear of community gossip. Although the patient had previously agreed to have Noriko present to interpret, she changed her mind at the last minute and refused to see the interpreter. When Noriko was finally allowed to enter the room, she noticed that the patient was very young, young enough to be her daughter. Noriko said that when the patient saw her, she seemed to be a bit relaxed, and started to open up. After the consultation, the doctor commented that the attitudinal shift may be attributable to Noriko’s gender and age (being old enough to be her mother), an assessment with which the interpreter agreed. In finishing the story, Noriko concluded ‘If she had had a young male interpreter, it might have been different’.

Medical interpreting

While some issues may be resolved by the demographic attributes of particular interpreters, there are far more cases which require targeted strategies. The informants reported that many migrant patients diagnosed with mental illness become shocked and go into denial. Furthermore, minority patients have trouble understanding certain medical concepts, because such ideas do not exist in the home country. As discussed above, depression is still uncommon in certain parts of the world, where being depressed is synonymous with being crazy. In those countries, seeing a counsellor, or even worse, a psychiatrist, is immediately associated with being mad, hence the general tendency to avoid mental health services: For example, if somebody says, you’ve been through a lot, would you like to do some counselling, they would immediately think I must be crazy. Because in the Middle East, seeing a psychiatrist, a counsellor is for a person who’s not stable mentally. Uh, I feel sad for them, because sometimes the professional might explain what this is about, and they are okay and sometimes they don’t, and the person misses out and I can’t say a word. Asha, English-​Arabic interpreter While some informants expressed a sense of powerlessness as interpreters for not being able to reassure patients with regard to the social acceptability of seeing a counsellor in Australia, this was not a universal sentiment. Our conversations revealed that many informants try to exercise their unique bilingual and bicultural skills whenever appropriate in order to facilitate communication. When dealing with patients who do not seem to trust interpreters, the informants usually explain the importance of the confidentiality rule, which requires interpreters not to reveal anything discussed during the assignment to anyone. In trying to explain this basic tenet of professional interpreting, some interpreters apply individual ‘style’ in an attempt to enhance the effectiveness and impact of communication. Rather than delivering the rule at a factual level, those interpreters go an extra mile by relating it to patients’ worries about potential community gossip in order to assure patients of their professionalism and reliability: 아무래도 우리 커뮤니티가 큰 커뮤니티가 아니고 하기 때문에 그 분들한테 비밀 보장이라든지 거기에 대해서 굉장히 진지하게 말씀드리고요. 저희들이 교육을 하게 되면 이 부분에 대해서 가장 많이 교육을 하고 저희가 지켜야 될거는 여러분들이 말씀하시는거는 절대 비밀 보장이고. 저는 딱 이 일이 끝나고 나면 이 문을 나가는 순간부터 저는 여러분들을 모릅니다. 길에서, 사실 다른 분들이 저한테 와서 아, 저 기억하시겠어요 할지 모르지만



Medical interpreting

제가 가서 안녕하세요 이러지 않습니다. 저는 절대로 모르는 사람이니까 거기에 대해서는 걱정하지 않으셔도 됩니다. Because our community is not big, I explain the confidentiality rule very seriously. I tell them that interpreters are fully trained about confidentiality, and are bound to absolutely keep whatever you say as secret. As soon as this assignment finishes, the moment I open the door and get out, I don’t know you. Even if we run into each other on the street, you might want to come and say ‘hello, do you remember me?’ but I will never ever say hello to you. I don’t know you, so you should never worry about it [confidentiality]. Miso, English-​Korean interpreter The reported fear of community gossip among migrants leads to an interesting discussion about the ethnicity and race of interpreters. That is to say, the bias held by migrant patients against interpreters of the same ethnicity may work to the advantage of interpreters who do not share the same ethnic background. In the case of Alice, an English-​ Swahili interpreter of Anglo-​Australian background, her appearance is often welcomed by African clients who are afraid of malicious gossip within their community. In discussing her self-​perceived feelings of being welcomed by African clients, Alice attributed the general acceptance to the fact that ‘I don’t, maybe, mix as much’. Her different ethnicity, however, sometimes serves as grounds for distrust by some African patients who feel uncertain about discussing sensitive health issues with a ‘foreigner’. Reporting that she noticed the issue earlier in her interpreting career, Alice described her key strategy geared towards enhancing her ‘Africanness’. On the day of assignment, Alice usually wears kitenge, a colourful African sarong, and African jewellery such as big hoops and beads in order to look distinctively African. Dressing an African way is designed to not only help patients feel more comfortable with her, but also boost her confidence as a non-​ African interpreter automatically categorised as ‘different from us’: What I generally have done in interpreting, especially in the beginning, I was less confident, and I always dressed in something that was very African. The cloth is called kitenge. It’s like, um, it’s like a sarong, a piece of material that you wrap around as a skirt and it’s very distinctly African. Anyways, an African looking at it will recognise me as African. I may have African earrings or whatever and even more or beads or something, and probably have some kind of Western top. But sort of as a way of dressing as an African way, I was hoping that they would feel more comfortable with me.

Medical interpreting

Similar efforts to build trust and rapport with patients were reported by other informants as well. In the case of depression, patients fearing community gossip might try to deal with the problems on their own, rather than seeking professional help. They may search for alternative medical solutions rather than taking prescription medicines, or, in the worst-​case scenario, might disappear and never come back. Well aware of these problems, Chandra, an English-​Bangla interpreter, said that if a Bengali patient is diagnosed with depression, he does not immediately use the term ‘depression’ to the patient. Instead, he tries to explain the medical condition to the patient by adopting a personalised communication strategy characterised by caring language and a sympathetic manner. In the following example, Chandra explains how he typically communicates with patients diagnosed with depression: Uh, say, we don’t, all of a sudden, I am not using the term [depression], psychologist or, I mean, if I would use psychiatrist, um, you are crazy or you are mad. This type I will never use. I say maybe you suffer from anxiety, and that’s why you can’t see properly. The doctor’s suggesting you that you start to take some sleeping tablets. That gives you better sleep. That gives you appetite. You eat normally and maybe in a couple of weeks, you will be better. And further treatment may not be necessary. But if you neglect this situation, you will aggravate, and you might need to go for a more major treatment. According to the interpreter, the communication strategy is designed to achieve the ultimate goal of medical consultations: better health outcomes for patients. While the extent to which personalising communication may be debatable, it is the interpreter’s personal belief that interpreters should strive to help patients to achieve better health, even if it involves more active participation in communication than the level that is considered part of the interpreter’s role. The idea of interpreters as active communication participants was, indeed, shared by many informants when dealing with tricky situations. One of these situations is ‘breaking bad news’, where an open disclosure of the diagnosis is sometimes opposed by migrant families wanting to sustain hope for patients, as will be discussed next.

Reflection activity 2 What do you think about Chandra’s communicative strategy? Do you think it is appropriate considering the ultimate goal of medicine, which is to achieve a better health outcome for patients? Or do you think that the interpreter has gone too far in light of the professional



Medical interpreting

guidelines? If you disagree with this particular strategy, what other strategies can be used to work with a patient with depression who is afraid of being labelled?

3.5  Communicating bad news Delivering bad news to patients is a constant source of stress and tension in medical encounters (e.g. Dosanjh et al. 2001; Maynard 2003; Ochs et al. 2017; VandeKieft 2001). The issue can be further complicated in language contact situations, where cultural diversity can significantly impact the course and outcomes of communication. Less attention has, however, been paid to intercultural aspects of the breaking of bad news, not to mention doing so in interpreter-​mediated encounters (Candlin and Candlin 2003). Relaying a diagnosis that carries a poor prognosis to a patient can be highly stressful for an interpreter, because of the need to manage not only their own personal emotions, but also the inner conflict that they may experience between providing faithful interpreting and acting as a cultural mediator for the patient (Espondaburu 2009). One area in which cultural differences are pronounced in the case of breaking bad news concerns the issue of hope, which is vital for patients’ survival. Cross-​cultural research shows that all societies seem to recognise the need for hope in the case of a poor prognosis, but maintaining hope is often culturally determined (Kaufert 1999; Beyene 1992; Norris et al. 2005). In North America and Australia where the principle of patient autonomy is valued, patients are expected to be fully informed of their conditions, so that they can participate in decisions about treatment options. If patients belong to a culture where the risks of honesty are seen to outweigh the benefits, however, the emphasis may be on non-disclosure (Tse et al. 2003; Goldstein et al. 2002; Xue et al. 2001). According to Searight and Gafford (2005), there are three primary reasons behind migrant patients’ preference for not telling the truth in the case of a bad diagnosis. First, while fear of death is almost universal, discussions of serious illness and death are seen as disrespectful and tabooed in certain cultures. As an example, death is strongly associated with bad luck in China, where a discussion of death is actively avoided. As Andrew, an English-​Chinese interpreter, put it, the word ‘death’ is unmentionable in Chinese society, where people tend to say ‘呸,呸,呸 (pei, pei, pei)’, which Andrew explained as ‘no, no, no, no, don’t talk about it’. Second, some countries believe that verbalising a medical condition (even hypothetically) makes death real due to the power of bad spirits

Medical interpreting

added to the spoken word. In the case of Greek migrants in Australia, for example, although there has been a shift in the public perception of a cancer in Greece from incurable to treatable, cancer is still dreaded by many Greek migrants (Goldstein et al. 2002). Many still believe that speaking aloud about the condition might attract bad spirits and make the health threat a reality: Maybe certain kinds of illnesses or serious illnesses, for example, like a cancer maybe, sort of, like, a tabooed subject. They don’t like to even say the word, the word ‘cancer’. I think things have changed now, but fifteen years ago, ten years ago, up until ten years ago, I think in the last decade, things have changed. But up until then, I think, you know, people, sort of, find euphemism rather than actually say the word itself. For example, cancer would be ‘the bad disease’. Sophia, English-​Greek interpreter Third, there is a common belief within some societies that open discussion of terminal illness may affect the mental resilience of a patient and eliminate hope for survival. An emphasis on hope is linked to a belief that a strong will to survive on the part of a patient is more important than physician intervention and reliance on medical technology. If their faith is shattered, patients no longer hold hope for survival, and family members may therefore actively try to protect patients from full knowledge in order to maintain hope: You know in Japan, if somebody has a cancer, a doctor won’t tell you. Because, um, just to give you some hope. I don’t know now, because I don’t live there, but I have seen so many cases among my family and friends. One of my friends’ fathers, he had a stomach cancer, but they told him that he had a stomach ulcer. Noriko, English-​Japanese interpreter As many migrant patients live in cultural isolation, they tend to approach illness based on their past experiences (Butow et al. 2011), which inevitably leads to conflicts with the autonomy principle valued in Australia. Furthermore, migrants who have experienced discrimination in the host society might distrust local doctors, feeling that they were treated differently because of their ethnicity (Butow et al. 2011). Under these circumstances, interpreters are regarded as advocates, advisors, and sources of emotional support by patients, who feel vulnerable and frightened for not being able to hear and speak when their health is at stake (Butow et al. 2011). While such expectations from



Medical interpreting

patients pose a dilemma to interpreters, interpreters themselves may not feel comfortable about telling the truth to patients, as exemplified below: 의사들이 그 환자한테 직접 ‘You have a terminal cancer’ 이런 얘기를 직접 막 할 때 너무 통역사로서 당황스러워요. 그래도 할 수 밖에 없기 때문에 그런 것이 좀 어렵고요. 바로 하는거에 대해서 여기 의사들은 바로 환자도 그런 권리가 있으니까 얘기해줘야 한다는 그런게 여기 문화고요. 한국에서는 첫째로 보호자한테 먼저 얘기해주잖아요. 보호자가 어쩔땐 반대를 할 수 있어요. 그러면 여기 의사들은 이해를 못하죠. When a doctor tells a patient ‘you have a terminal cancer’ directly, I still don’t know what to do. But I have to, and it is very difficult. They tell patients directly, because they believe that patients have rights to know. It’s a culture here, but, in Korea, doctors discuss with families first. Some families don’t want to tell the truth, and doctors here don’t understand. Hyunsoo, English-​Korean interpreter Within the power structures in medical settings, how to communicate bad news is seen to be predominantly a doctor’s decision. On the one hand, there are doctors who are sensitive and willing to accommodate specific needs of patients. Luke, an English-​Spanish interpreter, recalled a doctor who did not want to use the word ‘cancer’ to an elderly lady, because she felt that the word was too strong. The doctor decided to use the word ‘tumour’ instead, and discussed her word choice with Luke prior to a consultation. On the other hand, there are doctors who believe in the benefit of telling the truth as it is and require strict accuracy from interpreters. The requirement of ‘say as I say’ puts the interpreter in a difficult spot, because they often foresee conflicts as a result of truth-​telling. Chances of clashes between a doctor and a patient are particularly high if the patient is older and the family is strongly against truthful disclosure (Barclay et al. 2007). Ying, an English-​Chinese interpreter, shared one such instance, in which a terminally ill elderly Chinese patient accompanied by his family had a meeting with a social worker, following a doctor’s consultation. As the family was adamant about non-​disclosure, they had communicated their wish to the doctor and the social worker beforehand. While the doctor accommodated the request, a problem occurred during the subsequent consultation with the social worker, who followed the professional principle of truth-​telling: They [family] knew, but they didn’t want the health professional to tell the patient that the cancer is not reversible. They, yes, but then

Medical interpreting

the social worker was from a different background. I don’t know … East-​Asian background. So, um, she kept talking to the patient like we want you to be as comfortable as you can. Have you prepared a will? Something like that, that abrupt. I didn’t, I was really hesitant, because before we entered the patient’s room, family members already told the social worker and the doctor that they didn’t want the patient to have to embrace that negative, um, concepts. But the social worker still told the patient, um, very literally, have you had a will. It’s time for you to, to set up a will. And then the patient, she kept talking in this way, um, sort of pushing the patient, and the patient, 80-​or 90-​year-​old man, um, broke, suddenly, suddenly became very emotional. He yelled at the social worker, do you want me to die now? Similar to doctors, social workers in Australia are required to keep emotional boundaries to help patients achieve their goals of care in a realistic way (Go-​Coloma 2018). The recommendation of preparing a will was, therefore, her professional duty, which justified overruling the family’s request to keep the cancer diagnosis secret. If interpreters witness such communication breakdowns, they could find themselves caught in a potential conflict between their professional obligation and their personal desire for independence as to how to interpret such information in a culturally appropriate way. A representative quote that illustrates the kind of inner dilemma that interpreters can face comes from Ismail, an English-​Sudanese interpreter: That’s not how we speak. If someone’s sick, people are coming with wish, help, a hope. Not only, um, yes, emotional support, compassionate this and that. But in the session, I interpret what’s going on. I don’t have control. While Ismail’s inner conflict highlights power asymmetries embedded in medicine, there are also cases in which the institutional requirement is adroitly balanced with personalised approaches designed to overcome communication deadlocks. Analysis of the informant-​ interpreters’ responses identifies three professional strategies in a broad sense: using body language to show empathy to patients; offering cultural advice yet with modesty; and empowering patients by ensuring their rights to know. The first strategy of using body language is said to be useful to express compassion and empathy to a distressed patient. The informants said that they display sympathetic bodily gestures such as soft voice and nodding, which may help to convey empathy and allow the patient to feel calmer than they otherwise would have: I use my voice. I try to use a very soft voice to make them feel safe, feel secure and relax. But, of course, if she’s answering in a very



Medical interpreting

angry manner, I interpret in an angry manner. Then get back to with a soft voice to reassure her. And if I was in a setting, in person, I try to use body language that reassures her, yes, I’m listening. I nod my head. Yes, I hear you, yes, I hear every word that you are saying. Asha, English-​Arabic interpreter Another strategy is to offer cultural perspectives on contentious issues to doctors, yet with modesty. In the case of Alice, an English-​Swahili interpreter, she tries to contextualise an event as objective information-​ giving, rather than presenting herself as a cultural expert. In providing information, she elevates the doctor as an ultimate authority who should make a final decision, while trying to avoid an impression of her challenging the doctor’s authority: If I just state, if I just talk about myself, they [doctors] are not going to argue with me as much as if I say, give advice to the doctor. So I just tend to talk about not my competencies exactly, but I think you should know, and I am just giving you this information and be careful about not … taking control. Not sounding like an expert or something. Lastly, some informants reported that they strive to make sure that patients have understood everything discussed, especially when the doctor is in a hurry. As patients and families who are shocked by the bad news may need time to process information, some informants try to go slow in order to ensure that information has been correctly delivered and understood. As discussed at the beginning of the chapter, people who grew up under a dictatorial regime tend to fear authorities and may remain passive during consultations, even when information is unclear to them. If the interpreters sense that patients are unsure, they always check with patients and prompt them to clarify with doctors: 언어만 잘해서 절대로 통역을 잘할 수 없다고 생각해요, 저는. 어떨때는 여쭤봐야 되는데 안여쭤보는 경우가 있어요. 그런 경우에는 제가 왜 이런거는 안여쭤보세요 하고 제가 말씀드려요. 예, 이거 정말 중요한거라 의사 선생님한테 여쭤봐야 하는데 왜 안여쭤보세요. 저한테 말씀하세요. Duty of care 가 있어야 되요. 특히 이 아픈분들 같은 경우엔 굉장히 그 분들이 정말 몸이 아프고 어쩔때는 특히 노인네들은 얼마나 불안하시겠어요. One can’t become a good interpreter, just because she is good with language, I think. Sometimes, patients don’t ask, when they have to. I then say why are you not asking this. It is something really important and they need to ask, so I say why are you not asking,

Medical interpreting

please tell me. You should have duty of care. Especially for people who are sick. They are very sick, and especially elderly people, they must be very anxious. Miso, English-​Korean interpreter It is, indeed, the expressed belief in duty of care that pushed some of the informants to step out of their literally prescribed roles. Although interpreters are generally constrained by a number of internal and/​or external elements, it is these constraining factors that often awaken and activate individual agency. The professional strategies discussed here represent individual choices, through which the interpreters hoped to deliver justice to and empower minority patients whose voices would otherwise be unheard. The fact that all of the abovementioned strategies are designed to help patients, rather than doctors, reflects the perception of the interpreters that it is the patients who need help given the power imbalances at play. This reinforces a view that socially alienated minority patients are exposed to a high level of misunderstanding, risk, and vulnerability in medical encounters. It is, therefore, essential to find ways to achieve optimal communicative outcomes in healthcare, with particular focus on a potential redefinition of interpreters’ roles.

Reflection activity 3 Imagine yourself as an interpreter in a medical consultation, in which an elderly patient has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. While the doctor wants you to deliver the bad diagnosis to the patient, you can foresee an issue considering the home cultural practice of not revealing a poor prognosis especially to an elderly patient. As an interpreter, how would you handle the situation? What rationale would you give for your decision?

3.6  Conclusion The chapter has examined how multiple layers of culture, language, and power interact with each other in various interpreter-​mediated medical communicative events. While research on intercultural communication in medical interpreting has primarily examined macro-​ cultural aspects of doctor-​patient encounters (Hudelson 2005; Putsch 1985; Haffner 1992), the focus on the small-​ cultural contexts of migrant communities enables a more nuanced understanding of the causes behind communication failures within the power dynamics of medical interpreting. As discussed above, apparently ‘different’ behaviours are outcomes of the interplay of various sociocultural layers, especially those that are most closely related to the day-​to-​day



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lives of migrants. This chapter thus highlights the importance of looking locally when it comes to the issue of culture, which is all too often seen as a static collection of generalised stereotypes. The discussion also highlights interpreting as a dynamic site of intercultural communication, in which conflicts between agency and structures constantly occur and are managed in diverse ways. In an immediate sense, internal conflicts occur when individual agency is inhibited by power relations embedded in communicative settings, but the relational power structures are also governed by macro-​ institutional power, which disadvantages individuals from minority backgrounds. When collisions between individual desires and external requirements occur, it is usually the norms upheld by the powerful that come to dominate communicative events, and the micro power of interpreters might perhaps be the only element that can bring about critical adjustments to these high-​stakes communicative contexts. Let us imagine the potential consequences of the communicative problems discussed here if the interpreters had not taken any action. What would have happened to the lonely elderly patient suspected of having dementia for not answering questions directly, if the interpreter had not clarified his seemingly incoherent narratives? What would have happened to the mentally ill patient unwilling to open up for fear of community gossip, if the interpreter had not explained the confidentiality rule? Finally, what would have happened to a patient feeling devastated after being diagnosed with terminal illness, if the interpreter had not taken any move to ensure that she knew her rights as a patient? These small examples show how micro power can make significant differences in the lives of people isolated and marginalised in a social space which they call ‘home’. The issue of alienation and isolation of migrants will surface once again as a main theme in the next chapter on school interpreting, in which the phenomenon of ‘education cultures’ among migrants from various parts of Asia is explored, with a particular reference to the struggles and mobility desires of individuals and families to actualise their ‘Australian dreams’.

References Angelelli, CV 2004, Medical interpreting and cross-​cultural communication, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Australia’s population: over 7.5 million born overseas, viewed 11 July 2020,​ausstats/​[email protected]/​ lookup/​3412.0Media%20Release12018-​19. Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators 2012, AUSIT code of ethics and code of conduct, viewed 13 March 2019, https://​​ AUSIT/​Documents/​Code_​Of_​Ethics_​Full.pdf.

Medical interpreting Barclay, JS, Blackhall, LJ, and Tulsky, JA 2007, Communication strategies and cultural issues in the delivery of bad news, Journal of Palliative Medicine, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 958–​977. Beyene, Y 1992, Medical disclosure and refugees. Telling bad news to Ethiopian patients, Western Journal of Medicine, vol. 157, no. 3, pp. 328–​332. Bhugra, D 2000, Migration and schizophrenia, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, vol. 102, suppl. 407, pp. 68–​73. Bhugra, D 2004, Migration, distress and cultural identity, British Medical Bulletin, vol. 69, no. 1, pp. 129–​141. Bottomley, G 1994, Post-​multiculturalism? The theory and practice of heterogeneity, Culture and Policy, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 139–​152. Boydell, J, van Os, J, McKenzie, K, Allardyce, J, Goel, R, McCreadie, RG, and Murray, RM 2001, Incidence of schizophrenia in ethnic minorities in London: ecological study into interactions with environment, BMJ, vol. 323, no. 7325, pp. 1336–​1338. Burke, DM 1997, Language, aging and inhibitory deficits: evaluation of a theory, Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, vol. 52, no. 6, pp. 254–​264. Butow, PN, Sze, M, Dugal-​Beri, P, Mikhail, M, Eisenbruch, M, Jefford, M, and Goldstein, D 2011, From inside the bubble: migrants’ perceptions of communication with the cancer team, Supportive Care in Cancer, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 281–​290. Candlin, CN, and Candlin, S 2003, Health care communication: a problematic site for applied linguistics research, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol. 23, pp. 134–​154. Castles, S 1992, The Australian model of immigration and multiculturalism: is it applicable to Europe?, International Migration Review, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 549–​567. Charles, C, Gafni, A, and Whelan, T 1997, Shared decision-​making in the medical encounter: what does it mean? (or it takes at least two to tango), Social Science & Medicine, vol. 44, no. 5, pp. 681–​692. Clyne, M 1991, Community languages: the Australian experience, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Cohen, E 2004, I am my own culture: the ‘individual migrant’ and the ‘migrant community’, a Latin American case study in Australia, Journal of Intercultural Studies, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 123–​142. Colic-​Peisker, V 2002, Croatians in Western Australia: migration, language and class, Journal of Sociology, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 149–​166. Collins, J 2012, ‘Integration and inclusion of immigrants in Australia’, in J Frideres and J Biles (eds.), International perspectives: integration and inclusion, McGill-​Queen’s University Press, Montreal. Dosanjh, S, Barnes, J, and Bhandari, M 2001, Barriers to breaking bad news among medical and surgical residents, Medical Education, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 197–​205. Erickson, CD, and Al Timimi, NR 2001, Providing mental health services to Arab Americans: recommendations and considerations, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 308–​327. Espondaburu, L 2009, Interpreting bad news: what interpreters might learn from medical training and research, The ATA Chronicle, pp. 10–​16.



Medical interpreting Ferguson, WJ, and Candib, LM 2002, Culture, language, and the doctor-​patient relationship, Modern Culture and Physician-​Patient Communication, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 353–​361. Fozdar, F, and Spittles, B 2009. The Australian citizenship test: process and rhetoric, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 496–​512. Giorgas, D 2000, ‘Social capital within ethnic communities’, Paper presented at the TASA 2000 Conference, Adelaide. Go-​Coloma, R 2018, ‘Long term care: the role of social workers in end-​of-​life care’, Today’s Geriatric Medicine, vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 30, viewed 22 October 2019,​archive/​ND18p30.shtml. Goldstein, D, Thewes, B, and Butow, P 2002, Communicating in a multicultural society II: Greek community attitudes towards cancer in Australia, Internal Medicine Journal, vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 289–​296. Goodyear-​Smith, F, and Buetow, S 2001, Power issues in the doctor-​patient relationship, Health Care Analysis, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 449–​462. Haffner, L 1992, Cross-​cultural medicine, a decade later: translation is not enough –​interpreting in a medical setting, Western Journal of Medicine, vol. 157, no. 3, pp. 255–​259. Hudelson, P 2005, Improving patient–​provider communication: insights from interpreters, Family Practice, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 311–​316. Ip, D, Hibbins, R, and Chui, WH (eds.) 2006, Experiences of transnational Chinese migrants in the Asia-​Pacific, Nova Science, New York. Ip, D, Lui, CW, and Chui, WH 2007, Veiled entrapment: a study of social isolation of older Chinese migrants in Brisbane, Queensland, Ageing and Society, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 719–​738. James, LE, Burke, DM, Austin, A, and Hulme, E 1998, Production and perception of “verbosity” in younger and older adults, Psychology and Aging, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 355–​367. Kaufert, JM 1999, Cultural mediation in cancer diagnosis and end of life decision-​ making: the experience of Aboriginal patients in Canada, Anthropology & Medicine, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 405–​421. Kaufert, JM, and Putsch, RW 1997, Communication through interpreters in healthcare: ethical dilemmas arising from differences in class, culture, language, and power, Journal of Clinical Ethics, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 71–​87. Liu, W, Manias, E, and Gerdtz, M 2013, Medication communication during ward rounds on medical wards: power relations and spatial practices, Health, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 113–​134. Maynard, DW 2003, Bad news, good news: conversational order in everyday talk and clinical settings, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. McDonald, CR, and Steel, Z 1997, Immigrants and mental health: an epidemiological analysis, Transcultural Mental Health Centre, Sydney. Mechanic, D, and Meyer, S 2000, Concepts of trust among patients with serious illness, Social Science & Medicine, vol. 51, no. 5, pp. 657–​668. Mehraby, N 2009, Possessed or crazy? Mental illness across cultures, Psychotherapy in Australia, vol. 15, no. 2, p. 43. Morawska, E 2001, Structuring migration: the case of Polish income-​seeking travelers to the West, Theory and Society, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 47–​80.

Medical interpreting Ndhlovu, F 2010, Belonging and attitudes towards ethnic languages among African migrants in Australia, Australian Journal of Linguistics, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 299–​321. Nolan, D, Farquharson, K, Politoff, V, and Marjoribanks, T 2011, Mediated multiculturalism: newspaper representations of Sudanese migrants in Australia, Journal of Intercultural Studies, vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 655–​671. Norris, WM, Wenrich, MD, Nielsen, EL, Treece, PD, Jackson, JC, and Curtis, JR 2005, Communication about end-​ of-​ life care between language-​ discordant patients and clinicians: insights from medical interpreters, Journal of Palliative Medicine, vol. 8, no. 5, pp. 1016–​1024. Ochs M, Montcheuil G, Pergandi JM, Saubesty J, Pelachaud C, Mestre D, and Philippe B 2017, ‘An architecture of virtual patient simulation platform to train doctors to break bad news’, Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Animation and Social Agents (CASA), Seoul. Portes, A 1995, ‘Children of immigrants: segmented assimilation and its determinants’, in A Portes (ed.), The economic sociology of immigration, Russel Sage Foundation, New York. Portes, A, and Zhou, M 1993, The new second generation: segmented assimilation and its variants, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 530, no. 1, pp. 74–​96. Putsch, RW 1985, Cross-​ cultural communication: the special case of interpreters in healthcare, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 254, no. 23, pp. 3344–​3348. Rosenberg, E, Leanza, Y, and Seller, R 2007, Doctor–​patient communication in primary care with an interpreter: physician perceptions of professional and family interpreters, Patient Education and Counseling, vol. 67, no. 3, pp. 286–​292. Searight, HR, and Gafford, J 2005, Cultural diversity at the end of life: issues and guidelines for family physicians, American Family Physician, vol. 71, no. 3, pp. 515–​522. Smith, L 2015, The health outcomes of migrants: a literature review, Migration Council Australia, Canberra, viewed 17 October 2019, http://​​wp-​content/​uploads/​2016/​06/​2015_​Smith.pdf. Stapleton, H, Murphy, R, and Kildea, S 2013, Lost in translation: staff and interpreters’ experiences of the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale with women from refugee backgrounds, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, vol. 34, no. 9, pp. 648–​657. Stratton, J 1999, ‘Multiculturalism and the whitening machine, or how Australians become white’, in G Hage and R Crouch (eds.), The future of Australian multiculturalism, University of Sydney, Sydney. Tilbury, F 2007, “I feel I am a bird without wings”: discourses of sadness and loss among east Africans in Western Australia, Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 433–​458. Tse, CY, Chong, A, and Fok, S 2003, Breaking bad news: a Chinese perspective, Palliative Medicine, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 339–​343. VandeKieft, G 2001, Breaking bad news, American Family Physician, vol. 64, no. 12, pp. 1975–​1978.



Medical interpreting Victor, CR, Burholt, V, and Martin, W 2012, Loneliness and ethnic minority elders in Great Britain: an exploratory study, Journal of Cross-​Cultural Gerontology, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 65–​78. Watkins, M 2017, ‘We are all Asian here’: multiculturalism, selective schooling and responses to Asian success, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 43, no. 14, pp. 2300–​2315. Wynaden, D, Chapman, R, Orb, A, McGowan, S, Zeeman, Z, and Yeak, S 2005, Factors that influence Asian communities’ access to mental health care, International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 88–​95. Xue, D, Wheeler, JL, and Abernethy, AP 2001, Cultural differences in truth-​ telling to cancer patients: Chinese and American approaches to the disclosure of ‘bad news’, Progress in Palliative Care, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 125–​131. Youssef, J, and Deane, FP 2006, Factors influencing mental-​ health help-​ seeking in Arabic-​ speaking communities in Sydney, Australia, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 43–​66.

4  School interpreting

4.1  Australian dreams through education When you talk about American dreams, Canadian dreams, and Australian dreams, it’s all about maybe, you know, you become one of the best in your area. And for Chinese parents, they can’t think of other ways, unless their kids show some natural talents at a very early stage like piano or sports, something like that. Otherwise, education is their only way. I totally agree with what you said. Maybe the immigrants, they feel like when they come here, because they can’t compete with locals in something, they feel like at a disadvantage. They don’t want the same thing to happen to their kids. Andrew, English-​Chinese interpreter Transnational migrants who cross borders in search of a new home usually carry dreams and aspirations with them, which they believe are unattainable within the confines of their homelands. In the process of settling down in a new society, however, many confront social and language barriers, and experience generally downward social mobility (Ho and Alcorso 2004). In trying to overcome migratory struggles and actualise mobility dreams, migrant parents tend to turn to education as a solution, and passion for education is seen as distinctive to migrant cultures in migrant-​receiving Anglophone countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom (Watkins et al. 2017). Among others, migrants of Asian backgrounds have received heightened attention for changing the education landscapes of the host societies with their passion for academic accomplishments, and Australia is no exception. While Asia is a culturally and ethnically diverse region, ‘Asian’ in Australia typically refers to peoples from East Asia such as Chinese and Vietnamese, who are generally otherised in the us-​them distinction by the Anglo mainstream (Watkins 2017). Following the emergence of so-​called ‘Asian success’ in Australian schools (Watkins 2017), the academic achievements of Asian-​Australian children have met with ambivalent responses in Australian society. On the one hand, the


School interpreting

achievements are celebrated as outcomes of the admirable work ethic of Asian-​Australians as a model minority (Ho 2017). On the other hand, high-​achieving Asian children are viewed as products of unhealthy parental over-​enthusiasm for academic excellence strongly grounded in home cultures (see Proctor and Sriprakash 2017; Ho 2017; Butler et al. 2017 for details). While these two discourses seemingly differ, they are, however, based on an ethnically and racially essentialised perception, in which children and parents of Asian backgrounds are otherised for having values and practices that are said to be culturally incompatible with a traditional Australian emphasis on a happy childhood and learning for joy (Ho 2017; 2020). The ‘ethnicisation’ (Watkins and Noble 2013) of educational achievements reinforces cultural homogenisation and stereotypes of Asian migrants, whose pursuit of education is, in fact, not just a replication of their original cultural values but a response to present social conditions marked by linguistic and racial hierarchies. Fearing the potential impact of these current limitations on the future of their children, Asian migrant parents invest in their education to enhance economic, cultural, and social capital for the next generation, who they hope will no longer face the social barriers they have (Yeoh et al. 2005). Based on the real experiences of school interpreters, this chapter specifically examines how teacher-​parent communications in interpreter-​mediated contexts are influenced by the cultural stereotypes of Asian migrant parents in Australia. It also explores migrants’ responses to schools as institutions with regard to their less privileged positions in the social field characterised by linguistic and racial hierarchies.

4.2  School interpreters Schools in Australia are recommended to provide professional interpreting (and translation) services to parents with limited English proficiency as well as those with hearing and speech impairment (New South Wales Government 2020). According to the New South Wales Government, the government funds interpreting for essential needs such as school enrolment, student progress reports, subject choice, career education, counselling, and welfare issues (New South Wales Government 2020). Despite the official recommendation, however, professional interpreting services for schools appear to be under-​ utilised compared with other types of community interpreting in Australian society. For one thing, there was no interpreter among the 55 informants who specialised in school interpreting. Most participants based in Australia were engaged in legal and/​or medical interpreting, and school interpreting was something that the informants do only

School interpreting

occasionally. This is similar to the findings of Tipton and Furmanek (2016), who noticed the significantly lower levels of spoken interpreting service provision in educational contexts, compared with the provision of sign-​language interpreting at schools. There are several reasons behind the lack of professional practice regarding school interpreting. First, for routine interpreting events such as teacher-​parent interviews, schools usually ask bilingual staff or schoolchildren, rather than professional interpreters, to interpret (Valdés 2014). In particular, children perceive a request to act as an interpreter as a ‘matter of (no) choice’ (Angelelli 2010, p. 100, bracket in original), and bilingual youngsters end up serving as interpreters whenever needs arise. Although such a practice is regarded as unethical and unprofessional (Chand 2005), arranging professional interpreting services involves time and costs, hence schools’ preference for using children as communication mediators. The practice of involving bilingual children in school interpreting was, not surprisingly, criticised by the interpreter-​informants, who saw it as ill-​informed and even exploitative: I think often they [schools] use children as interpreters. I actually just found out when talking to a friend that, um, her mother works in school where there are a lot of African people, African students, and they used one of the students to interpret for parent-​teacher interviews. And they use her quite often. I think somebody said something about this student. She is so young and she couldn’t get paid, and they are using her. I think this is so wrong that they just use a school student to interpret for parents. Katarina, English-​Croatian interpreter Although the informants strongly opposed the use of bilingual children for interpreting, our conversations reveal school interpreting as less desirable due primarily to its relatively low remuneration and lack of work opportunities. Interpreting rates vary significantly depending on the level of professional qualifications, the proportion of agency commissions, and the type and duration of interpreting work. In the case of court interpreting, it is often a lengthy process and, therefore, pays better than other types of interpreting. While medical interpreting is similar to school interpreting in terms of work duration (e.g. ten to fifteen minutes per interview), work is more constant in healthcare and many of the informants based in Sydney regularly work for big hospitals as sessional interpreters. In contrast, school interpreting tends to be a short one-​off event. As interpreters predominantly freelance, the irregularity of work means that interpreters prefer work that is financially more attractive:



School interpreting

요율이 정말 참, 그게, 여기 렌트가 너무 비싼데 요율은 안오르고 […] 그게 같은 지역이면 하루에 최대 세개까지 할 수 있어요. 보통 한시간 반에 80 달러 받고 그 다음에는 15 분당으로 쪼개요. 법정 통역같은 경우에는 하루 종일 하면 400 불이고요. [Interpreting] rate is not really, well, rent is so expensive here, but rate hardly increases […] I can squeeze maximum three assignment in a day, if they are all within the same area. I get paid around 80 dollars for one and a half hours, and after that, they pay every fifteen minutes. Court interpreting usually pays 400 dollars, if you work all day. Siwan, English-​Korean interpreter The existing research literature on school interpreting based on the real experiences of professional interpreters is sparse, and the interview data analysed here represent a valuable source of information, which helps to enhance our understanding of the operationalisation of power in intercultural communication in school settings. As ‘sites of intercultural tensions’ (Forrest et al. 2016, p. 618), schools in predominantly Anglophone societies have long been dominated by white hegemony and classroom inequality, where students and parents of migrant backgrounds are viewed as different and deficient (Olivos and Darder 2006). While ethnic diversity in student populations has become a key feature of schools in contemporary multicultural Australia, white normativity and racial stereotyping are not uncommon in Australian schools, with the society still trying to sever itself from the colonial past (Foundation for Young Australians 2009; Mansouri and Jenkins 2010; Priest et al. 2014). Teachers of Anglo-​Australian backgrounds account for the majority, and professional culture embedded in whiteness has been regarded as a cause behind the dominant patterns of white normativity and biases against students and parents of minority backgrounds (Yoon 2012). Against this backdrop, this chapter explores intercultural tensions between teachers and parents of Asian backgrounds, who are often stereotyped as tiger parents in pursuit of academic success for their children. It also examines –​from the perspective of professional interpreters –​the common responses of these parents to what they see as racialised school practices, as these responses play out in interpreter-​ assisted teacher-​ parent conferences. The elements that commonly characterise these encounters are examined in the broader context of school power dynamics in Australia, in which competition for so-​ called ‘good schools’ ever intensifies.

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Reflection activity 1 As discussed above, professional school interpreting services remain under-​utilised in Australia, and language brokering is usually performed by bilingual children and/​or school staff members. How does interpreting in the school system work in your country? If professional interpreting services are rarely or never used in this context, how is communication between schools and parents with limited skills in the local language managed?

4.3  Confucianism and Asian tiger mothers? In Australia, primary schools run for seven years (kindergarten plus years one to six), and high schools cover six years from Year 7 to Year 12. In a broad sense, schools are divided into government-​ funded public schools and non-​government schools, which include elite private schools, Catholic schools, and independent schools. Non-​ government schools have their own enrolment process and costs, yet school fees vary significantly depending on the level of prestige attached to schools. These schools are not defined by their geographical or ‘catchment’ areas, and travelling a long distance to attend prestigious private schools is not uncommon in Australia. On the other hand, public schools accept students only from specific catchment zones where students reside. Exceptions are, however, made to academically selective public high schools and a streamed ‘opportunity class’ (OC) in grades 5 and 6 offered by some public primary schools. While non-​government schools, particularly elite private schools, are generally regarded as advantaging children academically as well as socially thanks to their rich resources and exclusive alumni networks, they are out of reach for most parents, and many migrant parents turn to selective high schools as a ‘holy grail’ (Broinowski 2015). As the phenomenon of ‘Asian success’ implies, the number of students of Asian backgrounds in selective schools has notably increased in recent years. In the case of James Ruse Agricultural High School, which consistently tops the annual academic performance of New South Wales, students from families of migrant backgrounds account for around 97 percent (Watkins 2017). On average, 83 percent of students from Asian backgrounds constitute student populations in Sydney’s top 17 selective schools (Ho 2020). In order to support children to secure coveted spots in selective high schools, many Asian migrants make strategic use of coaching schools and private tutoring (Sriprakash et al. 2016), a practice bemoaned by Anglo-​Australian parents (Butler et al. 2017). Australian media discourses of the overachievements of Asian-​ Australian children



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suggest that their success is culturally attributable, and Confucianism is frequently cited as a primary driver (see Ho 2017; Proctor and Sriprakash 2017). Those discourses essentialise the cultural traits of Asian migrants, whose hard work and academic ambitions are seen to be predominantly informed by a Confucian emphasis on education (Watkins et al. 2017). Confucian filial piety is also said to justify the tiger parenting of Asian migrant parents, because children are required to be obedient and loyal to parents according to the Confucian beliefs (Ho 2017). The popular discourses surrounding migrants of Asian backgrounds, however, tend to overlook other important local elements. First of all, the substantial decrease in the number of Anglo-​Australian students in selective schools is attributable to ‘White flight’ (Watkins 2017, p. 2306), a phenomenon among Anglo-​Australian parents wanting to avoid overachieving Asian students by either stretching family finances for private school education or choosing public schools. Second, since the 1980s, Australia has expanded the Skilled stream of the Migration Program, and the majority of skilled migrants from Asia are university-​ educated professionals, who naturally value education (Ho 2017). Third, even though a number of Asian skilled migrants are educated professionals, many people struggle to integrate into the host society through a lack of equivalent employment due to language and social barriers (Al-​deen and Windle 2015). Migrants’ strong focus on education can be seen as a response to the experience of downward social mobility, which migrant parents do not wish to transmit to their children (Ho 2011). ‘Tiger parenting’ is, in fact, not limited to Asian parents, but has a long history in Australian society as well. The strategy of planning and investing for the future of children is characteristic of white middle-​ class families, who leverage education as a key means to accomplish intergenerational class maintenance (Archer and Francis 2006). Regardless, tiger parenting is predominantly seen as an Asian practice in racialised discourses, in which the success of Asian students is constructed as an unnatural feat of forced parenting and is actively criticised by ‘community-​minded’ Australian parents (Watkins 2017; Ho 2017; Butler et al. 2017). Asian parents and students are generally seen by Anglo-​Australian parents as lacking moral responsibility and not contributing much to their school communities (Butler et al. 2017). In some competitive school environments such as Opportunity Classes, Asian parents and students are depicted as ‘sticking together’, ‘not volunteering much’, and ‘not very involved’, yet always pursuing an individual agenda to achieve academic excellence (Butler et al. 2017). Such discourses about Asian parents, however, rarely pay attention to their present circumstances, which prevent them from participating

School interpreting

in schools due to language and cultural barriers. While parents are expected to be actively involved in schooling in Australia, participating in school activities and education requires specific mainstream cultural knowledge and behaviours, which most migrant parents lack (Delgado-​Gaitan 1991). Furthermore, parents who are limited in English are basically precluded from school participation, resulting in low visibility of minority parents on school grounds. The marginalisation of migrant parents with limited English proficiency from schools was, indeed, raised by many of the interpreter-​informants during the interviews. As the following excerpt shows, Korean migrants not fluent in English, for example, tend to avoid participating in school events and activities, and remain marginalised: 부모님들이 아무래도 이 언어가 안통하니까는 선생님하고 직접 이렇게 말씀을 하실수가 없고 그리고 애들이 하이스쿨에 가면 부모님들이 아무래도 학교하고 관계가 멀어지더라고요. 언어때문에 그래요. 이게 보면은 사실 학교 무슨 tuck shop 이라든지 아니면 uniform shop 이라든지 아니면 부모들이 학교에서 이렇게 같이 모여서 하는거. 어떨때는 학교에 관한 정보라든지 이런데 부모님들이 전혀 참석을 안해요. 우리 한국 부모님들이 애들들 과외 시키고 뭐 이런데는 신경을 많이 쓰시는데 학교에 무슨 일이 있어서 참여를 하라고 하면 참여를 안하세요. 참여율이 굉장히 낮아요. [Korean] Parents don’t speak English well, and can’t talk to the teacher and once children go to high schools, parents tend to further avoid schools. It’s because of language. A lot of schools have things that require parents’ participation, like tuck shops and uniform shops. Sometimes, schools provide information sessions for parents, but they don’t participate at all. Korean parents are very active in things like private tutoring but they don’t participate in school events. Participation rate is very low. Miso, English-​Korean interpreter While minority parents confront involvement hurdles due to their limited English language proficiency and appropriate cultural knowledge, parents’ lack of engagement is viewed by schools as unwilling and non-​ communitarian (Allen 2011). It is in this context of ethnic stereotypes that communications between teachers and Asian migrant parents are approached, and the following section examines the impact of cultural stereotypes on teacher-​parent conversations as reported by the informants.

4.4  Inclusion efforts by excluded parents In Australian schools, interviews between teachers and parents are generally regarded as an annual ritual, where nothing much is expected



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and actually accomplished (Baker and Keogh 1995). It is a routine process, in which a teacher goes through the student’s progress for ten to fifteen minutes, and parents usually attend meetings to show that they care about their child’s education (Baker and Keogh 1995). According to the interpreter-​informants, however, teacher-​parent conferences are regarded as highly important by Asian migrant parents, who tend to be respectful and deferential to teachers during meetings: I could see from Chinese parent-​teacher interviews that Chinese parents tend to be very obedient and very respectful in front of their kids’ teacher. Jia, English-​Chinese interpreter Australian parents tend to communicate with teachers at the same level, but Korean parents are different. Jimin, English-​Korean bilingual school teacher The aforementioned bilingual teacher, Jimin, who works for a primary school in Sydney, plays the role of an interpreter for teacher-​ parent interviews thanks to her bilingual skills. During the interview, Jimin discussed the tendency of Korean parents to elevate teachers (sometimes overly) as one of the most common challenges for interpreting: 우리 아이 좀 잘 부탁한다 이런식으로 말씀을 많이 하시잖아요. 그런데 제가 영어로 그걸 통역할때는 호주 문화에서는 좀 이해하지 못하는 부분일수 있잖아요. 우리 아이 좀 특별히 신경써달라는 식으로 받아들이기도 하고. 그리고 또 통역을 했을때 선생님 너무너무 감사합니다 이렇게 높이면 좀 부담을 느끼는 선생님도 있었고. 너무 좀 높히는거 있잖아요. 우리 아이가 선생님에 대해서 너무 좋게 생각하고 존경하고 이렇게 호주 사람보다는 조금 더 과하게 표현을 하시는 부모님들이 계셔서. 그걸 통역을 계속 옆에서 제가 해야되니까. 그럴때는 그니까 막 부담 느낀다기 보다는 되게 좋은 말씀 많이 해주신다. Korean parents often say ‘please look after my child well’.1 But when I interpret it into English, it might not be translatable in Australian cultures. It sounds like asking teachers to pay special attention. Yes, and they often say ‘thank you very, very, much’, and some teachers find it, kind of, awkward. They kind of elevate too much. My child really likes you, he respects you, and like, some parents go overboard compared with Australian parents. And I should interpret that. I try not to make it awkward, and say something like ‘my child said that you say a lot of good things’.

School interpreting

This tendency to express praise and gratitude towards teachers might be to do with the societal norms of teachers as authority figures in parts of the world where minority parents are from (Sainsbury and Renzaho 2011). At the same time, however, it is important to understand that migrant parents with limited English proficiency are disadvantaged in terms of accessing teachers and other schooling resources. Whereas parents fluent in English can arrange to meet a teacher anytime, minority parents unable to speak English cannot, and teacher-​parent interviews assisted by interpreters are possibly the only opportunity to discuss children’s progress with the teacher. Many parents excluded from schools may, therefore, be keen to obtain as much information as possible, while, at the same time, trying to make a good impression with teachers by being polite and respectful. ‘Making an effort’ on the part of migrant parents can sometimes be displayed in the form of cultural practices that are commonplace in the countries in which they grew up. Some of these practices, however, may be unfamiliar to many teachers in Australia, and gift-​giving is one such example. Jimin, the bilingual school teacher, pointed out general patterns among Korean parents who bring expensive gifts to teacher-​ parent interviews. In Jimin’s experience reflected in the excerpt below, this parental practice is particularly popular among parents whose child is enrolled in Year 5, an important year for children planning to sit for a competitive selective school test in Year 6: 근데 우리 학교 선생님들이 겪었던 얘긴데 되게 비싼 고가의 가방이라든지 지갑, 이런걸 몰래 쓱 주시려는 분들이 한국 부모님들이더라고요. 그리고 한국 부모님들은 자꾸 뭐 작은거라도 드리려는 경향이 있는데 저희 쌤들은 뇌물이라기 보다는 되게 over-​generous 한 제스쳐로 보고 계세요. 비싼 지갑 받은 쌤은 5학년 담임인데 5학년때는 selective school 이 관련이 돼있잖아요. 우리 아이 내신 좀 잘 부탁한다 이렇게 보일까봐 거절하고 다시 돌려주셨거든요. 고가의 선물을 주는 학부모들은 대부분 한국 학부모들이세요. This happens to teachers at my school, and it is often Korean parents who try to give really expensive bags, wallets, and stuff to teachers without letting others know. Korean parents tend to give even a small present, and teachers don’t necessarily see them as bribes but over-​generous gestures. One teacher who was given an expensive wallet was a Year 5 teacher, and Year 5 is an important year for selective schools, you know. She was worried that it might be seen as a form of bribe seeking a good school report and returned the present. It is mostly Korean parents who give expensive presents.



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Giving a gift or money to teachers, also known as chonji, is indeed a widespread parental practice in Korea, where a gift or money is presented from a parent in anticipation of a reciprocal favourable return from a teacher for their child (Chonji n.d.). As a long-​standing parental practice in Korea, chonji is driven by parental anxiety about academic success and fear about potential disadvantages to the child (when everyone else is doing it) (Causes behind and solutions to Korea’s chonji culture 2010). While the parental strategy has been strongly discouraged in Korea with the recent enactment of a law preventing chonji, the example shows that migrant parents who have high aspirations for their children’s academic success yet face limitations as minority members of the school community continue the home cultural practice in the host society. The practice of gift-​ giving was also reported by Hyunsoo, an English-​Korean interpreter, who finds it challenging to interpret what might appear to be favour-​seeking behaviours of Korean parents. The interpreter said that when presenting a gift, Korean parents usually say ‘please look after my child well’, the same phrase that Jimin, the bilingual teacher, has trouble interpreting. While the expression is commonly used as a polite way of lowering oneself in Korea, it can be, as discussed above, problematic in Australia, particularly so in the context of gift-​giving: 한국 분들은 parent-​teacher interview에선물을 많이 갖고 와요. 뭐 duty-​free에서 산 샤넬 향수라던가. 그런거 갖고 와서 아우 저희 애 좀 잘 봐주세요 그러면 통역하기가 너무 힘들어요. Please especially take a good care of my child 이러면 이게 무슨 소린가 할까 아냐. 장애인도 아닌데 왜 special care. 그래서 제가 호주 문화는 이런거 선물하는 문화가 아니라서 제가 학부모님들한테 이렇게 얘길 해요. 그냥 present로 주셔야지 이런거 잘못하면 뇌물성이라던가 이렇게 되면 골치가 아파지기 때문에 thank you로 끝내야지. Korean parents often bring gifts to teacher-​parent interviews, such as a Chanel perfume from a duty-​free shop. They say ‘please look after my child well’ when giving a gift, and I find it very hard to interpret. If I say ‘please take especially good care of my child’, teachers wouldn’t get it. Why mention special care when the child is not disabled. I usually tell parents that gift-​giving is not common in Australia. You should just give the present, and otherwise it can be seen as a bribe. I tell them to just say thank you at the end. The interpreter’s role as a cultural advisor is noteworthy here, particularly in relation to the issue of power structures in intercultural communication. While teachers are obviously authority figures in given communicative contexts, communication in school settings is

School interpreting

less hierarchical and constraining than in other institutional contexts such as medicine and courtrooms (see Chapters 3 and 5). This is reflected in Hyunsoo’s descriptions of school interpreting, which she characterises as ‘very easy’ and ‘less stressful’. As the context allows the interpreter to exercise more independence than in other settings, the interpreter can step in, wherever necessary, in order to prevent potential misunderstanding and help to maximise the chances of communication success. The inclusion efforts made by excluded parents highlight anxiety held by migrant parents who try to navigate the system in their usual ways, without being able to be part of school communities. Exclusion is, indeed, experienced daily by minority parents at schools, where information is exclusively delivered in English as the common language of communication. As pointed out by many informants, common school terms such as ‘P and C’ (parents and citizens’ associations) and ‘mufti day’ (a uniform-​free day for the students) do not exist in many languages and are not even translatable. Furthermore, routine daily tasks such as packing lunch can be challenging to some migrant parents due to differences in terms of preparing school meals: Alice:  I had situations, maybe with a dietician or, uh, immigration information when they talk about sending the kids with packed lunch. And you know, that’s just, a cold food for lunch. No, that’s not Africa. It doesn’t make sense, a cold food for lunch, nah. Researcher:  What do they eat? Alice:  Well, fruit’s okay, but taking a sandwich to school is very strange. School expectations of parental involvement in homework are identified as another experience of exclusion. Needless to say, it is hard for migrant parents with limited English to provide home-​ based support for education. Even educated migrants with good English skills find it challenging to help their children with homework due to unfamiliarity with education systems, school curricula, and terminology (Sainsbury and Renzaho 2011). As many migrant parents see themselves as not resourceful enough to support their children’s educational requirements, they turn to external assistance such as private tutoring and/​or coaching schools (Al-​deen and Windle 2015). When parents are practically excluded from schools yet want to be involved in schooling, there are only limited options available, and external schooling may be the only choice for non-​English-​speaking migrant parents to support their children’s education. Reliance on additional schooling is further justified by what is seen as Australia’s ‘relaxed’ approach to learning by migrants. Gaps in terms



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of learning expectations between school teachers and migrant parents often appear during teacher-​parent interviews, as exemplified below: Sanah:  But Indian parents try to give, they [students] should know all the tables in Year 1, they should know this math in Year 1, and they think [Australian] schools very, very not good. They don’t teach much in Year 1 and 2, so they can’t put knowledge. The teacher says no, no, don’t push the child. Let us do a good job. Researcher:  What do parents usually say? Do they respond well? Sanah:  They don’t respond well. It is very hard to understand. It is not just Asian parents who experience expectational gaps, but some non-​Asian parents are also reported to have the same issue with Australian schools. As an example, Yulia, an English-​Russian interpreter, said that a number of Russian parents regarded Australian schools as not challenging enough and requested additional homework for their children during teacher-​parent conferences. As minority parents generally have no point of reference regarding what is expected in teacher-​parent interviews (Adams and Kirova 2007), parents from Russia tend to express their educational expectations to teachers in ways that are most familiar with them: Yes, this is a major cultural difference. When there is a Russian-​ speaking parent coming to the interview, the first question that the Russian parent would say, the teacher usually says good things about the child. This is good, this is good. The first question will be ‘so what’s bad?’ [laughing]. There should be something bad. Nobody’s, nobody’s perfect. There should be something bad. What should we do, what kind of advice would you give to improve this, to improve that, especially when they are talking about primary school kids […] Can we have additional homework? Why do you need additional homework? Because in Russia, we have homework every day for every subject. Well, it’s not Russia, is it? Well, I would say, the thought was that if the children don’t have a lot of homework at school or at home that must not be a good education. Yulia, English-​Russian interpreter While some teachers appeared to be perplexed by the Russian parents’ request for additional homework, Yulia did not recall any communication issues resulting from the gaps between the teachers and the Russian tiger parents. When the same parenting is enacted by Asian parents, however, it was met with different responses from Australian teachers. Li, an English-​Chinese interpreter, described an instance in which a Chinese mother keen to discuss her daughter’s schooling was seen as a concern by the teacher. Having migrated to Australia just

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a couple of years ago, the mother was anxious about her daughter’s adjustment at school, and asked the teacher what Li described as ‘typical questions’ in China: So, she [the mother] was asking me to tell teacher, did the girl behave herself in class? Did she cause any trouble in class? Did she do everything that you asked her to do? These are typical questions in China. If I were in China, I would probably ask the same questions. So the teacher was sort of surprised to hear this. She asked in return, have you had any specific concerns for your daughter’s behaviour at home? And the mother said I brought some whatever homework book that my friends recommended for their children, asked my daughter to do this at home but she couldn’t do. I suspect she didn’t learn well in class, and that’s why she’s not able to do it. So I guess just to kind of clarify any doubts, the school teacher recommended talking to a school counsellor, so that the counsellor could talk to the daughter to see if there is anything troubling her. Li, English-​Chinese interpreter The different teacher responses to the Russian parents versus the Chinese parent merit attention. Whereas both the Chinese mother and the Russian parents were keen to support their children’s education with additional work, it was the Chinese mother’s behaviour that was seen as a problem by the teacher. Considering that schools, as powerful sites of intercultural power dynamics, represent microcosms of wider social perception of racial relations (Mansouri and Jenkins 2010), it can be conjectured that the above teacher’s reaction to the Chinese parent reflects the essentialised view of Asian migrants as tiger parents and Asian children as victims of over-​schooling. While Li found the teacher’s reaction and recommendation for school counselling surprising, the interpreter chose not to intervene, because it would go against the professional regulations which emphasise accuracy and neutrality (see Section 1.2.2 for details). A different response is, however, observed in the case of Andrew, an English-​ Chinese interpreter, who discussed the impact of intergenerational tensions between migrant parents and children on communication with teachers. According to the interpreter, teachers sometimes encourage parents not proficient in English to bring their child to teacher-​ parent interviews, so that they can hear any concerns or problems from both sides. In such situations, the interpreter often experiences intergenerational tensions in which differences between parents and children in terms of attitudes, beliefs, and ideas eventually affect communication. While conflicts between generations are universal, intergenerational tensions within migrant families may be amplified, as values and



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expectations among parents and children have been influenced by different social contexts in which they engage (Ho 2020). Whereas socialising among migrant parents unable to speak English is limited to ethnic communities (see Chapter 3), children socialise in diverse contexts such as schools and extracurricular sports activities, in which they encounter and may internalise mainstream values. Different values held by migrant parents and children can result in emotional distancing and communication breakdowns (Ho 2020). Intergenerational tensions can be observed when both parent and child attend an interview with the teacher, as exemplified below: In interpreting cases at school, I would feel that culturally speaking, it’s very interesting, because you would see a conflict of culture between two generations. You can see that they still have a lot of traditional culture in their mind, like parenting is about authority and I should be very strict with my kids. But you can see the children, on the other hand, are very westernised. They speak English, they speak Mandarin, but not very well. So they are like Australian, Australianised and they try to be special about who they are. You can see the conflicts of culture. Andrew, English-​Chinese interpreter The interpreter reported that second-​generation children are often not hesitant to disagree with their parents, in which case parents usually feel embarrassed at losing face in front of a teacher. In an attempt to maintain parental authority, parents may try to stop the child from engaging in conversation and/​or cut in while the child is speaking. From the interpreter’s perspective, such parental behaviours are typical in China, where it is not polite for a child to engage in adult conversations (unless specifically asked), not to mention disagreeing with parents in front of another adult. The behaviour of the parents in these situations is, however, sometimes seen as a source of concern by teachers, and may reinforce particular images of Asian parents and their parenting styles: You [children] shouldn’t talk back. The parents can cut in. The children can never cut in when the parents are saying. Sometimes the teacher might be like, not so sure. So after the interpreting, the teacher might ask ‘do you think the parent is violent or aggressive to the kid just from the way they speak?’. Andrew, English-​Chinese interpreter Although the mother’s response to the child was nothing unusual to the interpreter, he could see why it worried the teacher, who possibly regarded the parent as a typical domineering Chinese mother. As

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Andrew felt a need to represent the minority parent, he explained to the teacher the issue of Chinese parental authority, which requires children to stay quiet and respectful during conversations between adults. This action was taken as a step to act on behalf of the misrepresented minority individual, whose attempt to participate in schools was judged possibly based on the dominant cultural framing of Asian parents as ruthless tiger parents. The interpreter’s action was, then again, possible thanks to the less hierarchical nature of school communication in which interpreters are allowed to offer advice on what is seen as ‘cultural behaviours’ and are even asked to do so. This comes in sharp contrast with medical interpreting in the previous chapter, in which the interpreters were cautious not to present themselves as an ‘authority’ in order not to upset doctors, when offering cultural information. The contrast highlights that the amount of room for individual manoeuvring is significantly influenced by the power dynamics embedded in specific communication contexts. As discussed so far, migrants’ attempts to be included in schools can be stereotyped and otherised in intercultural interactions between minority parents and teachers who might hold the essentialised notion of ‘Asian education cultures’. The dominant cultural framing impacts not only the majority’s judgement but also the ways in which minority parents view themselves and their place in society. The next section, therefore, examines how Asian parents feeling ‘out-​ of-​ placeness’ (Proctor and Sriprakash 2017, p. 2380) respond to the dominant discourses of ethnic and cultural differences by attributing what they see as ‘different treatment’ to racial discrimination in school communicative situations.

Reflection activity 2 Representations of minority individuals are critical issues in many migrant-​ receiving societies. If you were the interpreter in the abovementioned instance narrated by Li, would you be willing to address the issue of misrepresentation by exercising your individual power? If so, how exactly would you try to solve the problem?

4.5  It’s because we are Asians One of the most striking patterns in our conversations about cultures was cultural homogeneity between Australia and Europe, as perceived by many interpreters speaking European languages. Whether they were from Europe or elsewhere, the informants considered Australia as an extension of Europe, and hence saw cultural similarity between the two continents. The same perception applied to the two kinds of



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school cultures. As exemplified in the narratives below, the participants emphasised that they had not experienced any cultural differences in terms of school cultures between Australia and Europe: I don’t think there is any difference in culture between there. I think it’s noticeably similar. Luke, English-Spanish interpreter I mean Hungary is a European country. Here in Australia, it’s English customs. So there aren’t that much cultural, what you would call cultural differences. Petra, English-​Hungarian interpreter The cultural sharedness between Australia and Europe relates to the Eurocentrism of Australia, which, despite its geographical proximity to Asia, has claimed to be ‘Western’ or ‘British’ to be specific as the right side of the cultural divide (Ang 2010). Australia’s desire for inclusion in the imagined European nation as the centre of civilisation is strongly influenced by Orientalism, which categorises the world into East vs. West or Europe vs. non-​Europe (Said 1979). Grounded in racialised perceptions of cultural superiority, the Europe-​ centred cultural discourses in Australia delegitimise migrants from the ‘wrong’ side of the civilisation divide, and our communications with the interpreters speaking Asian languages, indeed, highlight Asian migrants’ consciousness of their lack of racial and linguistic legitimacy. The marginalisation of minority parents at school is, to some considerable degree, systematic, because schools consciously and unconsciously design activities in which participation is impossible without having the required cultural knowledge (Wang 2008). The isolating experiences at school, in turn, may affect the confidence and self-​ esteem of minority individuals, who may blame their inadequate capital for what they see as ‘discrimination’ in schools. Feelings of inferiority associated with limited English proficiency were particularly pronounced during the interviews with the informants. While interpreting (and translation) services are expected to help remove language barriers, the very need for reliance on someone to manage even simple communication works to reduce confidence and instil an inferiority complex into migrants: 한국적인 특성은 아니고 다른 이민자들 중국 사람들도 그럴거고. 나는 이건 일종의 lack of confidence 에서 나오는것 같아요. 자기가 자신이 없기 때문에 자기가 말이 안되서 뭔가 뿌옇잖아요 […] 내가 지금 자막보고 영화보는 거하고 바로 듣고 보는거하고는. 거기에서 오는 자신감 부족이 있고요.

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It’s not just limited to Koreans, but other immigrants and Chinese people must be the same. I think it comes from some sort of a lack of confidence. Because you are not confident and can’t speak, things are kind of fuzzy […] It’s like watching a movie with subtitles versus understanding a movie without subtitles. It’s different. They are not confident because of that [limited English proficiency]. Hyunsoo, English-​Korean interpreter An inferiority complex relating to race and language leads migrants to frame certain communicative contexts through a ‘difference’ lens, which attributes the perceived unfairness they experience and resulting inequality to their Asian backgrounds. One area in which the tendency was particularly prominent was school recommendations of paediatric assessment for students of Asian backgrounds. The abovementioned bilingual school teacher, Jimin, discussed relevant cases involving Korean parents, who perceived teachers’ recommendations for diagnostic assessment as racial discrimination. Because Jimin is the only teacher of Korean background at her school, Korean parents often come to her to discuss child-​related issues informally. In discussing teachers’ suggestions for diagnostic assessment, many parents of Korean backgrounds become upset, blaming school recommendations as discriminatory and racist: 그 학부모님이 옆반에 아들이 있었는데 면담 끝나고 저한테 오셔서 너무 걱정된다고. 애가 차별당한다고 생각하시더라고요 […] 그런데 거부 반응이 좀 심한건 맞아요. Assessment 얘기가 나오거나 possibility of condition, Autism 이라던지 ADD 라던지 ADHD 라던지. 약간 어떤 의사 만나는건 어떠냐라는 그 말에 크게 반응하시는 것 같아요. 물론 외국부모님들도 가볍게 받아들이시진 않지만 they are more accepting. 그리고 assessment 한다는게 그렇게 end of the world 이런게 아니니까 하시는데 한국부모님들은 그거에 대한 고정관념도 있으신것 같고 남을 의식하는것도 좀 보이는 것 같고. 약간 서양 선생님은 차별한다는 약간, 뭐라고 해야되지. 그… 그걸 뭐라고 그러죠, paranoid. 약간 우리 아이가 동양인이라서 그런가 이렇게 생각했던 부모님이 몇 분 계셨어요. 선생님이 서양인이라서 우리 아이를 차별한다 이렇게 말씀하시는 분이 계셨어요. That parent had a son in another class, and she came to me after the teacher-​parent interview and said that she was really worried. She thought that her child was discriminated […] It’s true that they [Korean parents] resist a lot. Words like assessment, possibility of condition, Autism, ADD, and ADHD. They really react to any suggestion of seeing a doctor. Local parents don’t, of course, take it lightly, but they are more accepting. They think assessment is not



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the end of the world, but Korean parents seem to have definite ideas about it and seem to be conscious of what others think. It was, kind of, Western teachers, kind of, how should I say, um … what’s this called, paranoid. Several parents said that it’s because my child is Asian. They thought that because the teachers were Westerners, they discriminated my child. In Korean society, disability is generally seen as a family shame, because individual success or failure is regarded as a pride or dishonour of one’s family (Hwang and Charnley 2010). Moreover, fears of ethnic community gossip may drive other migrant families to hide health issues of family members (see also Section 3.4 on family illness and dishonour). While parental fears of gossip may explain the reported reaction to paediatric assessment, linking school recommendations to racial discriminations seems a bit far-​fetched, and factors behind the exhibited tendency need to be further explored. Korean parents are, indeed, not the only parents in viewing diagnostic assessment as discriminatory. Two English-​Italian interpreters –​ Elizabeth and Greta –​also reported emotional reactions from Italian parents to school suggestions for assessment by paediatricians. Similar to Korean parents, Italian parents tend to believe that their children have no problems and see recommendations for assessment as unfair: I think they [Italian parents], they used to be rather on the defensive. Um, thinking that the school has something against, against the child. The fact that they are from a different background, the fact that the child is very good, very obedient. Greta Apparently, the child was very disruptive, and the mother kept on saying it’s because we only just came to Australia, and your education system is not stimulating for my child […] They feel that it’s a problem with either the teacher or the school whatever. Elizabeth While the above examples illustrate migrants’ self-​ awareness of different positions in the host society, it bears noting the ethnocultural superiority displayed by the Italian parent in Elizabeth’s narrative. The parent’s criticism of the Australian school as ‘not stimulating’ indicates his or her belief in the better quality of Italian education systems compared with Australian education, which the parent argued made the child feel bored and eventually get distracted. The sense of educational superiority held by the Italian parent comes in sharp contrast with the ethnic inferiority complex displayed by the aforementioned Korean parents, who linked perceived discrimination to their Asian

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backgrounds. The observed difference between the two migrant groups is attributable to the traditional emphasis on the cultural sharedness with Europe in Australian society, in which certain ethnic groups feel more legitimate in claiming a sense of belonging than others (Voloder and Andits 2016). While Australia has identified itself with Europe as a source of its culture, the country’s pursuit of Europeanness led to a feeling of inferiority compared to European civilisation, reducing itself as a ‘pale imitation of English culture’ (Voloder and Andits 2016, p. 13; see also Phillips 2016). Coming from a place closer to the cultural ‘centre’, the Italian parent may have felt it legitimate to be culturally superior compared with Australia, hence having confidence to blame the Australian education system for being ‘not good enough’. The Euro centrism of Australia puts Korean parents in a doubly marginalised position, as migrants from the less legitimate side of the civilisational binary. The Orientalist idea of Western hegemony over the inferior East seemed to be internalised in the minds of Korean migrants, whose cultural and ethnic identities invalidate attempts to claim a membership or a sense of belonging to Australia as their new home. The observed feelings of inferiority are, in fact, not just vis-​à-​vis Australian society but against the default global hierarchies, which draw a dividing line between East/​ West and Europe/​ non-​ Europe (Voloder and Andits 2016): 저변에는 그게 깔려 있는것 같아요. 피해망상같은 거 해서. 혹시 우리를 무시하는거 아닐까, 과거에 우리가 못살았다고. 우리 나라가 굉장히 못살았다고. 그건 사실이니까. 우리 나라가 이렇게 급변한거는 한 30 년 동안 그런거잖아요. 그래서 그런게 좀 깔려있는게 아닌가라는 생각이 좀 들었구요. I think it [an inferiority complex] is basically there. Some kind of paranoid. They [Anglo-​Australians] perhaps look down upon us, because Korea was once a poor country. We were really poor. It’s true. It’s only in the past 30 years or so that Korea has transformed. I thought that’s why people feel inferior. Hyunsoo, English-​Korean interpreter The reported tendency of Korean parents to blame racial differences for what they perceive as unfair treatment is, indeed, a manifestation of an inferiority complex felt by minority migrants with regard to structural inequality. The ingrained feelings of inferiority based on structural hierarchies are often invoked in situations in which children of migrant backgrounds are involved in student conflicts. Siwan, an English-​Korean interpreter, reported one such case, in which a Korean mother became upset at an incident in which her son sustained a facial injury at a school camp. The mother refused to accept the school’s



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explanation that it was an accident resulting from a fall of the child during a walk, and kept insisting that it was deliberately planned by a group of children whom she argued were jealous of the child, a model student of excellent academic performance. While both sides were debating the incident, the student (who apparently saw his mother’s response as over-​reaction) stood up and left, which made the mother even more angry and drove her to blame the school for what she saw as discriminatory treatment: 엄마같은 경우엔 학교측 대응에 실망해서 너네 이렇게 하지 말라고. 근데 딱 그거랑 말투를 저한테 이거 그대로 말씀해달라고. 그렇게 하지 말라고. 이런 식으로 애 다루지 말라고. 약간 눈 동그랗게 뜨고 삿대질까지 했어요, 그 분. 그래서 저도 삿대질 따라했어요. 그래서 뭐 그런식으로 다루지 마라, 너. 그 다음에 담임선생님이 있었는데 너 이메일에 답장 안하지 않았냐. 담임이 집으로 전화를 몇 번 걸었거든요. 근데 어머님이 안받은거였고. 이제 학교측에서 화나니까. 정말 문제가 있다 싶으면 교육청에 신고를 하라고. 그래서 본인이 나 교육청에 신고할테니까 그렇게 알라고 그러고 나갔어요. The mother got upset at the school’s response and said ‘don’t you dare do that’. And she asked me to deliver exactly what she said and even the tone. Don’t you dare do that. Don’t treat my child this way. Her eyes were angry, and she did finger-​ pointing. So I did finger-​pointing too. I said ‘don’t you dare do that’. And then the teacher said that she never responded to his emails. He called her several times, but the mother never answered. The school got upset, and said if there really is a problem, take the matter to the Department of Education. The mother said that she would report it to the Department and stormed off. It is worth noting the way in which the Korean parent wanted to ensure that her messages, and even the tone of her voice, were delivered exactly as intended by specifically requesting the interpreter to do this. The mother, who was not proficient in English, could not reply to the teacher’s emails and had avoided phone calls due to her inability to handle communication in English. This is similar to the reported case of Japanese patients avoiding phone calls for not being able to speak English (see Section 3.1). These examples highlight the impact of limited English proficiency held by minority individuals on the management of day-​to-​day communication, and yet the burden and consequences of managing communication are sometimes placed entirely on these individuals. Having an interpreter was, therefore, an unmissable opportunity for this parent to express her anger at what she saw as unfair treatment, which the interpreter faithfully delivered

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by replicating not only the spoken words but also the tone and gestures of the client. An inferiority complex associated with a lack of linguistic and racial legitimacy was also reported by Hyunsoo, who was highly experienced in school interpreting. This interpreter commented that Korean clients tend to believe that local people look down upon them due primarily to their inability to speak English and racial differences. An inferiority complex associated with language and race can lead minority parents to see issues through a particular racio-​linguistic lens, in which being members of a racial minority unable to speak English is a cause of discriminatory treatment: 자기가 영어를 못하고 우리가 아시아 사람이니까 그렇구나라는걸 아예 전제로 깔아놓고 교장 선생님 무슨 얘기를 하고 카운슬러 선생님이 무슨 얘기를 해도 안들어요. 그래서 중간에서 제가 너무 힘들어요. 교장 선생님은 무슨 죄도 없이 왜 저러나. 학교에서 문제가 있는데 사실은 그게 아니고 얘는 걔를 도와주려 했던거다. 약간의 language difficulty 때문에 커뮤니케이션이 잘 안된거죠, 애가. 엄마들 사이에서도 마찬가지고. 연결을 시켜요, 그걸 인종차별하고. 자기네 말을 안듣고 부모의 말을 안듣고 부모를 무시하고 우리 애가 잘못이 없는데 우리 애가 잘못이라고 얘기를 한다고. 왜 그렇게 그걸 인종차별로 몰고 가는거죠. 인종차별 그런걸 통역하려고 하니까 너무 힘들어요. 갑자기 인종차별 얘기 나오니까 여기 선생님들은 너무 깜짝놀래서. There is this default assumption that it’s because they [Korean parents] can’t speak English and they are Asians, and they don’t want to listen to teachers and counsellors no matter what they say. So it’s really hard being in the middle. What did the principal do to deserve that? There was an incident at school, but the truth was the [Australian] kid wanted to help him [a Korean student]. Miscommunication happened due to a bit of language difficulty of the child. The same between the mothers. They link it to racial discrimination. You are not listening to me, and you are ignoring me. My child didn’t do anything wrong, but you are blaming him. I don’t understand why they think it’s racial discrimination. It’s very tricky to interpret ‘racial discrimination’. Whenever I say ‘racial discrimination’, teachers are so surprised. Hyunsoo, English-​Korean interpreter The interpreter said that in instances similar to the event described in the excerpt above, communication tends to stall, because a school and parents often fail to reach a consensus. In general, Korean parents demand apologies from alleged aggressors, but schools try to reach mediation, which, in turn, further reinforces parents’ suspicion of



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schools’ discrimination against parents and students of minority backgrounds. In such cases, Hyunsoo usually calls for a break, during which she explains to teachers the observed tendency of Korean parents to blame racial discrimination. In trying to deal with angry parents, she takes a firm approach by asking parents to calm down and even hinting at a possibility of withdrawing from interpreting in case of further uncooperative behaviours. While the effectiveness of her strategy varies case by case, the interpreter’s view of migrant parents as something that needs to be controlled is worth noting. The interpreter saw the actions of the minority parents as irrational and unreasonable, and subsequently tried to silence the parents with intimidation as a strategy. At the same time, she showed a sympathetic attitude to the teachers (e.g. What did the principal do to deserve that?) and tried to explain the ‘Korean behaviours’ to the teachers as part of cultural education. The way in which the interpreter dealt with communicative problems by ethnicising the migrant behaviours, distancing herself from the Korean clients, yet trying to build rapport with the teachers, indicates a possibly self-​orientalised consciousness of the interpreter, who treated her fellow Koreans as the uncivilised ‘Others’. It may possibly be the interpreter’s own inferiority complex associated with her ethnic background that influenced her behaviours, through which she consciously and subconsciously viewed the ‘Others’ through the mainstream gaze. While one might argue that the intervention by the interpreter was necessary for facilitating the communication that was stuck, it raises the question of what constitutes success in communication and for whom communication success exists. For the Korean parents suspicious of racial discriminations, their goal was to convince the school authority that the student conflict was racially motivated. On the other hand, the school defined the incidence as miscommunication, and wanted to mediate both sides. When parties involved in communication have conflicting agenda, what is truly successful communication and who is likely to achieve their intended communicative goal? Minority parents who are already marginalised for being unable to speak English are likely to lose if institutional goals are imposed by the powerful. While their behaviours are not necessarily cultural but social (in the sense that the reported inferiority complex held by migrants relates to racio-​linguistic hierarchies in the given social structures), the ethno-​ cultural framing of minority individuals may further reinforce the existing stereotypes about migrant parents as difficult, over-​reacting, and unreasonable. Considering the impact of dominant cultural stereotypes on intercultural communication in schools, it is important to raise awareness of the anxiety and isolation issues that minority members often experience in their present space. The chapter emphasises that intercultural interactions in school contexts need to

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be understood within the power dynamics of broader institutional and societal contexts, in which minority individuals are driven to compete for excellence as a response to the struggles connected with migration and the fear of diminishing Australian dreams.

Reflection activity 3 Imagine yourself as an interpreter in the aforementioned case of a teacher-​parent meeting. As both parties have different communicative goals, conflicts arise and the communication becomes stuck. If you are keen to address the communication deadlock, rather than letting the conversation go in circles, what specific strategies would you like to employ?

4.6  Conclusion By exploring ‘education cultures’ among Asian migrants in Australia, the chapter highlights migrants’ pursuit of academic success not as a replication of home cultures, but as outcomes of multiple factors relating to the present social space. While the phenomenon of ‘Asian success’ is attributed to home cultural influences characterised by Confucianism, framing the academic accomplishments as Confucian products is culturally essentialist and overlooks other important local factors which are directly related to the struggling experiences of migrants. As minority parents with limited English proficiency are excluded from full social participation and experience downward mobility, many are determined to overcome these barriers by pursuing education as a key tool for success. Marginalised from schools and societies, migrant parents invest in much-​criticised extra schooling as the only way to be involved in the education of their children, who they hope will not face the same social barriers. ‘Asian success’ is, indeed, a structural issue, rather than an ethnocultural problem. As exemplified in this chapter, however, ethnocultural framing persists in schools where the ongoing discourse of Asian migrants as ruthless tiger parents can influence intercultural communication. In trying to deal with communication problems, the interpreters adopted diverse approaches: offering cultural advice; modifying messages in order to prevent potential misunderstanding; following the professional rule of impartiality; trying to represent the misrepresented; and silencing the minority parents. Each choice is, again, justified by disparate communicative purposes. First, the strategy of offering advice and modifying messages was motivated by the interpreters’ concerns about potential misunderstanding that might have been caused by faithful interpreting. The second strategy of non-​ involvement was



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based on the interpreter’s belief that the interpreter must assume neutrality in order to ensure fair communicative outcomes for all parties involved. The third choice of trying to represent the misrepresented minority parent illustrates the interpreter’s view of communication as a social process, in which the powerless are often subject to the judgement of the powerful and need rightful representation. While the last strategy of silencing the minority party was intended to address a communicative deadlock, it is, at the same time, a reflection of how the dominant social attitudes of otherising migrants can be replicated by minority individuals. The choices, therefore, illustrate diverse ways in which individuals respond to the powerful mainstream beliefs and practices by independent judgement, resistance, collaboration, or sometimes non-​action. The chapter also highlights the general lack of hierarchy and constraints in school contexts in which individual interpreters are generally allowed to participate more actively in communication than they may be able to do in other interpreting settings. This, however, does not necessarily mean that individual choices are strictly determined by power relationships. Rather, individual creativity allows agents to transcend institutional boundaries in ways that are both creative and careful. As discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, individual agency actively responds to structural constraints, without which agency might remain dormant. The duality of structures suggests that the relationships between structures and agency are mutually reinforcing and even symbiotic ones, rather than one subservient to the other. The aspect of structural duality can be powerfully illustrated in the next chapter on legal interpreting, which perhaps represents the most threatening and intimidating space for minority individuals.

Note 1 ‘Please look after (someone) well’ is a literal translation of ‘잘 부탁드립니다’, which is commonly used in Korea as a formal greeting from people in lower positions for people in higher positions.

References Adams, L, and Kirova, A (eds.) 2007, Global migration and education: school, children, and families, Routledge, New York. Al-​deen, TJ, and Windle, J 2015, The involvement of migrant mothers in their children’s education: cultural capital and transnational class processes, International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 278–​295. Allen, G 2011, Early intervention: the next steps, The Stationery Office, London.

School interpreting Ang, I 2010, Australia, China, and Asian regionalism: navigating distant proximity, Amerasia Journal, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 126–​140. Angelelli, CV 2010, A professional ideology in the making. Bilingual youngsters interpreting for their communities and the notion of (no) choice, Translation and Interpreting Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 94–​108. Archer, L, and Francis, B 2006, Understanding minority ethnic achievement: race, gender, class and ‘success’, Routledge, Abingdon. Baker, C, and Keogh, J 1995, Accounting for achievement in parent-​teacher interviews, Human Studies, vol. 18, no. 2–​3, pp. 263–​300. Broinowski, A 2015, ‘Testing times: selective schools and tiger parents’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January, viewed 19 June 2020, au/​lifestyle/​testing-​times-​selective-​schools-​and-​tiger-​parents-​20150108-​ 12kecw.html. Butler, R, Ho, C, and Vincent, E 2017, ‘Tutored within an inch of their life’: morality and ‘old’ and ‘new’ middle class identities in Australian schools, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 43, no. 14, pp. 2408–​2422. ‘Causes behind and solutions to Korea’s chonji culture’ [우리나라 촌지문화의 원인과 근절 대책은] 2010, Yonhap News, television programme transcript, Yonhap News Agency, viewed 23 October 2020,​ view/​AKR20100815066300026. Chand, A 2005, Do you speak English? Language barriers in child protection social work with minority ethnic families, British Journal of Social Work, vol. 35, no. 6, 807–​821. ‘Chonji’, n.d., Namuwiki, wiki article, viewed 23 October 2020, https://​namu. wiki/​w/​%EC%B4%8C%EC%A7%80. Delgado-​ Gaitan, C 1991, Involving parents in the schools: a process of empowerment, American Journal of Education, vol. 100, no. 1, pp. 20–​46. Forrest, J, Lean, G, and Dunn, K 2016, Challenging racism through schools: teacher attitudes to cultural diversity and multicultural education in Sydney, Australia, Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 618–​638. Foundation for Young Australians 2009, The impact of racism upon the health and wellbeing of young Australians, prepared by the Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Melbourne. Ho, C 2011, ‘My School’ and others: segregation and white flight, Australian Review of Public Affairs, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 1–​2. Ho, C 2017, The new meritocracy or over-​schooled robots? Public attitudes on Asian–​Australian education cultures, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 43, no. 14, pp. 2346–​2362. Ho, C 2020, Aspiration and anxiety: Asian migrants and Australian schooling, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne. Ho, C, and Alcorso, C 2004, Migrants and employment: challenging the success story, Journal of Sociology, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 237–​259. Hwang, SK, and Charnley, H 2010, Making the familiar strange and making the strange familiar: understanding Korean children’s experiences of living with an autistic sibling, Disability & Society, vol 25, no. 5, pp. 579–​592.



School interpreting Mansouri, F, and Jenkins, L 2010, Schools as sites of race relations and intercultural tension, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 35, no. 7, pp. 93–​108. New South Wales Government 2020, Multicultural education, viewed 1 June 2020, https://​​ teaching-​and-​learning/​c urriculum/​ multi­cultural-​education/​interpreting-​and-​translations. Olivos, EM, and Darder, A 2006, The power of parents: a critical perspective of bicultural parent involvement in public schools, Peter Lang, New York. Phillips, AA 2016, On the cultural cringe, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne. Priest, N, Perry, R, Ferdinand, A, Paradies, Y, and Kelaher, M 2014, Experiences of racism, racial/​ethnic attitudes, motivated fairness and mental health outcomes among primary and secondary school students, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 43, no. 10, pp. 1672–​1687. Proctor, H, and Sriprakash, A 2017, Race and legitimacy: historical formations of academically selective schooling in Australia, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 43, no. 14, pp. 2378–​2392. Said, E 1979, Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York. Sainsbury, WJ, and Renzaho, AMN 2011, Educational concerns of Arabic speaking migrants from Sudan and Iraq to Melbourne: expectations on migrant parents in Australia, International Journal of Educational Research, vol. 50, no. 5–​6, pp. 291–​300. Sriprakash, A, Proctor, H, and Hu, B 2016, Visible pedagogic work: parenting, private tutoring and educational advantage in Australia, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 426–​441. Tipton, R, and Furmanek, O 2016, Dialogue interpreting: a guide to interpreting in public services and the community, Routledge, Abingdon. Valdés, G 2014, Expanding definitions of giftedness: the case of young interpreters from immigrant communities, Routledge, New York. Voloder, L, and Andits, P 2016, The value of culturedness: Bosnian and Hungarian migrants’ experiences of belonging in Australia, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 298–​316. Wang, D 2008, Family-​school relations as social capital: Chinese parents in the United States, The School Community Journal, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 119–​146. Watkins, M 2017, ‘We are all Asian here’: multiculturalism, selective schooling and responses to Asian success, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 43, no. 14, pp. 2300–​2315. Watkins, M, Ho, C, and Butler, R 2017, Asian migration and education cultures in the Anglo-​sphere, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 43, no. 14, pp. 2283–​2299. Watkins, M, and Noble, G 2013, Disposed to learn: schooling, ethnicity and the scholarly habitus, Bloomsbury Academic, London. Yeoh, BSA, Huang, S, and Lam, T 2005, Transnationalizing the ‘Asian’ family: imaginaries, intimacies and strategic intents, Global Networks, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 307–​315. Yoon, IH 2012, The paradoxical nature of whiteness-​at-​work in the daily life of schools and teacher communities, Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 587–​613.

5  Legal interpreting

5.1  Legal space as foreign culture You know, people aren’t used to giving presentations. They are used to having conversations with friends or work colleagues. They are not used to having to give very concise clear information to someone who they don’t know. So again, the courtroom is a foreign culture, you know. It doesn’t matter if it’s Australia. Any courtroom around the world is a foreign culture to most of the general population in their own country. John, English-​Indonesian interpreter It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that irrespective of geographical location, courtrooms are foreign to many people: daunting, intimidating, and even threatening places. They are spaces of hierarchy and power, in which full authority and legitimacy are invested in legal professionals, leaving the accused, plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses almost always powerless (Mulcahy 2007). In the highly structured and regimented environment, laypeople are required to follow set legal procedures and arcane rules as directed by judges and lawyers; a failure to do so can result in grave consequences. Moreover, as truthfulness is usually determined by comparison of whose story is less suspicious (Berman 2001), court participants are required to conform to institutional communication norms, which emphasise clarity, logical connections, and structural coherence (Allison et al. 2006). The institutional expectation of ‘sterile theatricality’ (Mulcahy 2007, p. 387) is, however, foreign to the majority of court users, who have never been trained to communicate through this institutional language. As Fairclough (2001) emphasised, language use has much to do with power and is determined by social conditions. Authority and hierarchy are treated natural by ‘  “common-​ sense” assumption’ (Fairclough 2001, p. 2, quotation marks in original), in which power differentials are taken for granted, and ideological assumptions of the expertise and capacity held by the powerful work to impose particular discourse norms on individuals in less powerful positions. Needless to say, individuals from minority backgrounds who lack mainstream cultural


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and linguistic proficiency, such as migrants and refugee applicants, are particularly vulnerable in legal communication situations. Power gaps between institutional representatives and individual participants may become further widened for people of colour, when their credibility is under suspicion in environments marked by dominant mainstream norms. In migrant-​receiving Anglophone societies, courtrooms are strongly monocultural for being ‘explicitly and intentionally white space’ (Carlin 2016, p. 453) as a result of the historical exclusion of people of minority backgrounds. The whiteness of legal space has significantly contributed to the establishment of the white behavioural norms and continued devaluation of any performance that deviates from the expected normative behaviours (Carlin 2016). In evaluating the credibility of witnesses or defendants, those charged with establishing the facts of a case are not immune from human biases, and biases attached to race and speech are identified as one of the most pertinent issues in the legal domains of Anglophone societies (Porter and Brinke 2009). Considering the issue of power differentials and racio-​linguistic biases, it is important to understand how the ideological workings of language, culture, and race impact minority individuals in legal space. To this end, the present chapter investigates the operation of monolingualism and monoculturalism in interpreter-​mediated settings of courtroom and refugee contexts. While highlighting the conditions for the production and reproduction of the existing power arrangement and the dominant ideologies, the chapter also examines how individual interpreters try to negotiate and work around the constraints, with a focus on micro-​individual power held by legal interpreters.

5.2  Legal interpreters The profession of legal interpreting gained prominence during the Nuremberg Trials following the end of World War II (Namakula 2014). In recent years, there has been a rising need for legal interpreters, as increased international migration has been accompanied by challenges to legal systems in many parts of the world due primarily to linguistic differences brought by migrants and refugees. While interpreters in general are bound by a variety of codes of ethics (see Section 1.2.2 for details), legal interpreters are perhaps the group most strongly required to abide by such codes due to the centrality of language to the entire legal processes (Gibb and Good 2014). With regard to the principle of accuracy, for example, legal interpreters are required to deliver not only a faithful rendition of the syntactic structures and content of the original but also tone, style, and intent, all of which may alter the outcome of legal proceedings (Berk-​ Seligson 2002). The strict requirement for such a narrow construal

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of ‘accuracy’ in legal domains can, however, be seen to have reduced legal interpreting to a predominantly mechanical process (Morris 1999), in which interpreters are usually expected to produce linguistic equivalents, and are hardly ever regarded as advisors on matters relating to language and culture (Hale 2014b). The rules which govern the conduct of legal interpreters are, in no small part, to do with the specific cultural nature of courtrooms, which in many jurisdictions are essentially monolingual and monocultural (Inghilleri 2003). Australian courtrooms are no exception. In Australia, the whiteness of courtrooms has treated non-​white participants such as Indigenous people as the ‘Others’, who are required to conform to ‘our’ cultural and discoursal standards (Ramsley and Marchetti 2001). For example, in trials in Australia mediated by Aboriginal interpreters, Eades (2003) reveals that court cases which involve English and an Aboriginal language record only the English utterances in the official court transcripts, delegitimising the other language of court participants as irrelevant and unworthy of formal documentation. The unavailability of court transcripts in languages other than English can be problematic in appeal proceedings. It means, for example, that when the actual utterance of a defendant during a trial is unavailable, it is the interpreter’s English version which is the basis of any legal argument or decision (Eades 2003). In cases where the English interpretation contains errors, it can significantly alter the ultimate judicial outcomes (Eades 2003). On a related note, Angermeyer’s (2008) work on interpreter-​mediated court proceedings in New York highlights that despite the presence of bilingual interpreters, the courtrooms are, in essence, monolingual spaces, in which bilingual practices such as code-​switching between interpreters and court participants are actively discouraged by courts. Pointing out the court’s assumption of ‘individual monolingualism’ (Angermeyer 2014, p. 444), Angermeyer argues that while multilingualism is no longer an exception in migrant-​receiving countries, little progress has been made in terms of understanding and interacting with the multilingual population in a public domain such as a courtroom. The monolingualism of courtrooms is fundamentally tied to the hegemony of the English language in this context, in which any use of other languages is potentially seen as a challenge to the authority delivered and indexed by the institutional language (Angermeyer 2014). Monolingual and monocultural norms embedded in power differentials are also evident in asylum and refugee application contexts, in which most assessments of claims are based on the dominant ideologies held by immigration officers (Blommaert 2001). Similar to courtroom contexts, interpreters working in refugee settings are generally seen from a mechanical point of view, in which their role as active social participants tends to be downplayed (Kleij 2015). In



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her analysis of the Migration and Refugee Division Guidelines on the Assessment of Credibility (hereafter ‘the Guidelines’) published by the Australian government, Smith-​Khan (2017b) notes that interpreters are only briefly mentioned in the Guidelines, in which they are presented as a mere machine or an invisible channel of communication, despite the crucial roles that they play in refugee application interviews. The monolingual ideology is evident in the document, which authorises the decision-​maker to be solely responsible for the assessment of the quality of interpreting output, yet without requiring the decision-​ maker to have relevant bilingual knowledge. As Australian immigration officers are not generally required to have high-​level command of languages in addition to English, they will often be able to assess only the English part of interpreted speech; the other language is thus rendered irrelevant and delegitimised in the construction of refugee narratives. It is in this context of monolingual and monocultural biases in legal space that the bilingual and bicultural competence of interpreters tends to be disregarded by legal professionals, whose power is institutionally granted. Yet interpreters are, at the same time, seen as powerful by laypeople in these ‘foreign’ legal situations. The contrast in the perceived status of legal interpreters is due primarily to generally limited proficiency in a societal language among minority participants, who are unable to defend themselves without the help of an interpreter as the only person who can understand and give voice to them. As narrated by Jia, an English-​Chinese interpreter: In a foreign language speaking country where a majority of people cannot understand you, where you suddenly have someone in the legal system who can understand you and understand you both at language and cultural levels, they tend to tell you more about their situation to try to seek some sympathy or maybe some advice, which is normal. It may not be limited to a Chinese client. It could apply to any other minority language group. The reliance of participants from minority backgrounds on interpreters often creates a dilemma for interpreters. On the one hand, interpreters are bound by the professional rules in order to ensure fair legal processes, a principle valued by the interpreter-​informants with hardly any exception. On the other hand, interpreters, many of whom share the same cultural and ethnic origins as minority participants, might feel sympathy for the precariousness of minority individuals in the face of evident power differentials. As described by Peter, an English-​ Chinese interpreter, court cases involving migrants are usually marked

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by significant power hierarchies, in which minority individuals usually find themselves in vulnerable positions: It’s this strong dominant English-​ speaking [legal] professional with a vulnerable Chinese, and it always seems to be the Chinese-​ speaking clients who don’t know how to play the game. It is against this backdrop of power asymmetries that the following section examines the impact of the dominant monolingual and monocultural ideologies on ways in which the performance and credibility of individuals from diverse language backgrounds are evaluated in courtrooms. These perceptions of performance and credibility apply not only to those who are direct participants in the legal processes, but also (in many instances) to the interpreters themselves.

5.3  Bilingual interpreters in monolingual courtrooms This section investigates monolingual and monocultural biases in courtrooms at three different levels: first, biases concerning interpreters who speak English with a foreign accent; second, monolingual (mis) understandings of the diversity of minority languages with which the legal institutions are generally unfamiliar; and lastly, biases against bilingual court participants whose English proficiency serves as a source of criticism and suspicion. 5.3.1  Interpreters’ accent In October 2018, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder from Australia, faced the first hearing held in the London Embassy of Ecuador. Assange was granted Ecuador citizenship in 2017 and sought protection in the embassy in order to avoid extradition. The Skype-​based hearing was suspended due to the alleged lack of competence of the court-​appointed interpreter, who was apparently not fluent in ‘Australian English’. The judge said that the court had erred by appointing an interpreter who could only speak English, adding that Assange’s Australian accent was ‘thick enough to warrant a dedicated expert’ (RT 2018). This episode illustrates strong ties between interpreters’ competence and accent, which often serves as a key evaluative marker of linguistic capability of speakers. While an unaccented language with perfect fluency is seen as an illusion in the interpreting scholarship, particularly when working in the interpreter’s second language (Harris 1990), the reality in courtrooms seems to suggest otherwise. Most interpreters in migrant-​ receiving countries such as Australia are native speakers of an



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immigrant language and speak the mainstream language as a second language (Hale et al. 2011). Most of them, therefore, speak the mainstream language with an accent that reflects their own first-​language background, albeit to differing degrees. In the specific context of courtrooms, however, interpreters are required to uphold the monolingual and monocultural norms by ‘insulating the court from the inevitable interpenetration and possible transgression of linguistic, cultural and political borders’ (Inghilleri 2003, p. 26). As interpreters are required to act as a filter to protect the linguistic and cultural legitimacy of legal space, it is necessary for interpreters to gain ‘acceptability’ (Bourdieu 1977) from those who are in dominant positions. In this situation, illusory unaccented English as a second language can become an expected standard against which interpreters are judged as acceptable and legitimate; it is often the accent of a speaker which seems to determine the boundary between the in-​group and the out-​group: 제가 만약에 조금 이렇게 이 사람은 외국인이다라는 냄새를 강하게 풍기면 저쪽에서 굉장히 적대감을 크게 갖더라고요. 그래서 제가 그걸 조금씩 인지를 하게 되면서 저도 모르게 액센트를 제가 굉장히 눈에 띄게 많이 많이 많이 바뀌어서 […] 너랑 나랑 같은 무리안에 있다라는 느낌을 줘야한다는게 얼마나 중요한지 깨달으면서 약간 고삐 풀리듯이 풀리는것 같아요. 어느 정도 일단은 제가 뭐, 그 워터라고 할때랑 워러라고 할때랑 사람들의 반응이 다르거든요. If I sound, kind of, a bit like a foreigner, they seemed to be very hostile. So as I became aware of that, my accent has noticeably changed a lot […] I realised how important it is to be recognised as part of the same group, and guess that’s why it has changed a lot. It’s kind of, well, when I, um, say wawtuh and warrer [water], their response is different. Haeun, English-​Korean interpreter Conversations with the informants also suggest that accent can influence not only the perceived competence of interpreters but also the credibility of interpreted accounts. Studies conducted with the purpose of finding the effect of linguistic factors on the assessment of witnesses’ testimony confirm that foreign-​sounding individuals are perceived less favourably, compared with native-​sounding individuals (see Frumkin 2007; Lippi-​Green 1994; Matsuda 1991 for details). Munro and Derwing (1995) argue that negative responses to individuals who speak with foreign accents are not likely to be a conscious effort, but may be an outcome of education and upbringing, in which some individuals come to believe that ‘our’ language is correct, while the way that ‘others’ speak is not. Lippi-​Green (1994, p. 165) notes that accent

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is how ‘the other speaks’ (italics in original), and can be defined as ‘sets of distinctive differences over geographic or social space’ (Lippi-​ Green 1994, p. 165). Considering the relationships between accent and credibility, the biases which link linguistic traits as manifested by accent to certain ethnic origins may work in favour of interpreters who speak English with the ‘right’ accent. As exemplified below, several interpreter-​informants who speak English as their mother tongue specifically mentioned the effect that they feel their ‘standard’ accent has on trust and reliability as perceived by legal professionals: I’m confident that what I’m interpreting is correct, but I don’t think that’s the reason why they [legal professionals] trust me. I think it’s just that I present well and I have nothing to base on that hunch, but I suspect that I am Australian speaking English with Australian accent leads the, um, the English speaker to trust what I’m saying whereas I’ve witnessed other interpreters regardless of the other languages that they speak, who might speak perfect English with a very strong accent, you kind of get the impression that the English speaker trusts them less, because maybe they think that your English isn’t as good. Luke, English-​Spanish interpreter Yes, I think that [interpreters speaking with Australian accent more advantaged than interpreters speaking with other accents] would be, yes, fairly accurate. I think that would be implicit, I guess. Stephen, English-​Thai interpreter As Bourdieu (1977) noted, it is the character of a language that distinguishes a certain group from others in social situations, and speakers unable to produce a legitimate language are subject to the constraints exerted by the power relations prevailing within the field. Being able to produce a legitimate language alone, however, does not necessarily help a speaker to transcend group boundaries. As language oftentimes serves as ‘embodied capital’ (Bourdieu 1977), the ethnic and racial attributes of a speaker can also influence the perceived desirability of produced language output. As human perception of speech has been shown to be significantly influenced by the physical attributes of a speaker, people might see, rather than hear, sound. In their influential research on language and stereotypes conducted at a university in the United States, Rubin and Smith (1990) demonstrated that undergraduate students’ perception of English spoken by teaching assistants was heavily impacted by negative stereotypes of non-​native English-​speaking teaching assistants. Based on a matched guise technique, two native speakers of Cantonese recorded simulated classroom lectures, one of which was highly accented and the other moderately



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accented. When the audio recordings were played to students, they were accompanied by a photograph of either a European or an Asian instructor. The findings reveal listeners’ perception of the speakers’ accent as the strongest predictors of teachers’ competence. When subjects believed that the teaching assistant’s English was accented (as influenced particularly by the accompanied photograph of the Asian instructor), they rated the instructor as a poor teacher. Instructor ethnicity also figures as a strong predictor of English language proficiency of non-​native English-​speaking teaching assistants in another university in the United States (see Rubin 1992 for details). The relations between ethnicity and speech perception suggest that the inverse might be true: people who do not speak a dominant language with a standard accent yet have the ‘right’ physical attributes might be regarded as part of the legitimate group. As some interpreters from Europe who speak English as their second language pointed out, having a particular skin colour sometimes helps to ‘whiten’ their English to their advantage: Yes, I can accept that [biases against English spoken with non-​ Australian accent], but I have not come across it. Because you know I’m white. No, I haven’t come across that. Petra, English-​Hungarian interpreter While it may be possible for some interpreters to temporarily cross the racio-​linguistic boundaries in specific institutional settings, it should be noted how non-​interpreters from minority backgrounds are treated according to the deeply established us-​them divide between ethnic minorities and the majority society (Carling et al. 2014). As there is almost always the question of authenticity in social situations, people who do not meet the core membership requirements –​language and race –​are automatically categorised as ‘them’ according to the clear boundaries. Those who are categorised to belong to the other side of the divide are not only seen as different, but may also be seen as deficient primarily for not being able to speak a mainstream language. Court biases against migrant participants unable to speak English are well illustrated in the following narrative by Yulia, an English-​Russian interpreter: Well, sometimes to the point, when I have hearings with juries, well, I can’t say 100 percent of course, but you always have this feeling. Sometimes the jury will look in maybe not a lot, but a bit of negative way at the person who is giving evidence, if the person has an interpreter. It’s nothing to do with the interpreter but it’s something ‘oh, they need an interpreter’. Again, from an English-​ speaking point of view, they are different, they are not us. And that could be

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dangerous […] In some particular cases, it, it is probably funny and silly, but it depends on the interpreter. How the interpreter looks, how the interpreter presents, even the accent of the interpreter which the interpreter cannot help. If interpreter speaks, ideally with the native accent, they would be more trusted, yes. The aforementioned example highlights that while interpreters are generally regarded as a solution for migrants with limited English proficiency, the very presence of interpreters may serve to reinforce the otherisation of minority court participants. Furthermore, the fact that many interpreters speak English with an accent may potentially strengthen the institutional biases against minority individuals who can only be heard through the often accented speech of interpreters. The institutional myopia is closely related to a lack of cultural and linguistic diversity in Australian courtrooms, which are essentially white space (Ramsley and Marchetti 2001). Furthermore, the demographic profiles of judges in Australian courtrooms are particularly worth noting. In the case of the New South Wales Supreme Court, for example, it is reported that male judges account for the majority of the court, and approximately 60 percent of these male judges studied at the University of Sydney (Fran and Smith 2019). Seventeen percent of the male judges went to one exclusive private high school located in a prestigious area of Sydney (Fran and Smith 2019). This sort of concentration of judges from particular socioeconomic backgrounds indicates a lack of diverse approaches to understand multilingualism and multiculturalism in legal settings, as exemplified below: I was in a, in a district court when the, um, uh, before the case, I was inside and uh, they brought year-​12 students from a very, uh, well-​known private school. They were doing legal studies and they were there for about an hour and the judge explaining to them how the court system works and so on and then students were asking questions. And at the end, towards the end, I put my hand up. He knew me, of course, my role, and said ‘yes?’. I said ‘your honour, you haven’t addressed any aspect of multicultural or cultural aspects and how this should be’. I think he was a bit embarrassed. But I had no hesitations, because these students, some of them may become lawyers coming from the northern suburbs,1 okay? They’ve got no idea. Some of them. What multiculturalism is, what interpreting at all means. Robert, English-​Greek interpreter The reported lack of regard for linguistic and cultural diversity in courtrooms is inextricably related to the issue of ‘standard language ideology’, which is defined as ‘a bias toward an abstracted, idealized



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and homogeneous spoken language which is imposed and maintained by dominant bloc institutions’ (Lippi-​Green 1994, p. 67). As English spoken with an ‘authentic’ accent is valorised as a norm and serves as a demarcation line between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in courtrooms, English spoken with different accents is delegitimised and devalued as language of the ‘Others’. The ethnocentric view of language is, in fact, not just limited to English, but extends to languages spoken by minority groups, as is discussed in the next section.

Reflection activity 1 How important do you think one’s ethnic and racial attribute is to the linguistic legitimacy of a speaker? Discuss the issue based on your personal experience (not necessarily interpreting), if you have relevant stories to share. If you believe that ethnicity matters for linguistic acceptability, what kind of strategies would you use in order to overcome the racio-​linguistic barriers in day-​to-​day communicative situations?

5.3.2  Arabic is Arabic This section examines how the dominant monolingual and monocultural ideologies in legal spaces assume monolingualism of the ‘Others’, and how this monolingual assumption affects the representation of minority court participants. The concept of ‘monolingual habitus’ (Gogolin 1997), which refers to ‘the deep-​seated habit of assuming monolingualism as the norm in a nation’ (Gogolin 1997, p. 41), is useful for understanding why it is generally believed that speakers of the same national origin have no trouble understanding each other at both linguistic and cultural levels. In reality, however, linguistic and cultural diversity is a day-​to-​day reality in many geographical spaces, and China is a good example. While the Mandarin language or Putonghua serves as the official Chinese language, hundreds of different forms of Chinese are spoken across the country. Furthermore, there are 55 officially recognised ethnic minority groups, who are usually bilingual in their ethnic language and Mandarin. When the ethnic minority language comes into contact with Mandarin for a sustained period of time, language contact results in the development of modern hybrid varieties. For example, in the case of the Zhuang minority group, the majority of the Zhuang population are bilingual Zhuang-​Chinese speakers, but Zhuang speakers speak areal Zhuang dialects and an emerging contact variety, not the officially standardised variety (Grey 2021). Considering the multilingual and multicultural reality of modern China, it can be reasonably conjectured that the diversity may pose

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challenges for Mandarin interpreters in Australia. As an example, Peter, an English-​Chinese interpreter, once interpreted for a person of Uyghur background, one of the 55 ethnic minority groups in China. As there was no Uyghur interpreter in Australia at the time and as the person could also speak Mandarin, the court decided to appoint a Mandarin interpreter, yet without informing Peter of the language background of the Uyghur speaker. Unaware of and unprepared for the situation in which the client had no other choice but to express himself in his second language, Peter faced communication challenges during this interpreting: In Chinese, there are a lot of words with the same pronunciations, similar pronunciations. And that word would be quite clear to people who speak Mandarin as the first language. I think it meant end of the year. But he somehow, he understood it as the middle of the year. Yes, the pronunciation is quite similar, and I forgot the details, and in the end, he said something that contradicted his previous answer and the judge was pointing out the inconsistency, and I realised that maybe it was because of the term. So, I pointed out these people are not native speakers of Mandarin. It is likely that he misunderstood my translation. The aforementioned example highlights the agency and micro power exercised by the individual interpreter in trying to rebalance the communicative situation. At the same time, however, it bears noting that the miscommunication was the result of the unavailability of interpreters who could speak the minority language. Although languages spoken by ethnic minorities such as Uyghur are on the list of languages available for translation and interpreting services operated by NAATI, the central governing body of translators and interpreters in Australia, many of the languages on the list do not have translators and interpreters. As of 2020, there is only one interpreter available for Uyghur across Australia. When that interpreter is unavailable, speakers of the Uyghur language may be referred to Mandarin interpreters who may not be properly briefed on the language profile of the court participants, although the linguistic gap can significantly influence the communication processes and ultimate judicial outcomes. Challenges caused by the lack of language availability for professional interpreting services were also strongly felt by the interpreter-​ informants from linguistically diverse geographic regions such as the Arab states. While Arabic is the official language of many countries in the Middle East and beyond (e.g. Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunis, the states of the Arabian Peninsula, etc.), the term ‘Arabic’ represents a number of different speech-​forms, and localised varieties or ‘the Arabic dialects’ are used in the speech



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of everyday life across the Arab region (Versteegh 2014). Despite the shared linguistic homogeneity under which different speech-​forms are viewed as dialectal varieties of a single language, some vernaculars differ to the point that they are mutually incomprehensible (Versteegh 2014). This linguistic diversity is, however, little known to people outside the Arab world, and the assumption about a Standard Arabic language frequently leads to problems for Arabic interpreters: I’m from Iraq, and I speak Iraqi-​Arabic. People that I interpret for, they are from the Middle East, Syria, and they speak different dialects. It’s hard for me to understand, although it’s Arabic. One day, I got a call, and they were asking for an Arabic interpreter, and then I talked to the lady, and she was from Sudan.2 She said ‘no Arabic, no Arabic, I’m from Sudan’. So, I told the client that she’s from Sudan and you need a Sudanese interpreter. And she said ‘okay, sorry to bother you’. They think Arabic is Arabic, unfortunately. Zahra, English-​Arabic interpreter In the Australian context, both Arabic and Sudanese-​Arabic are available for translation and interpreting services (Smith-​Khan 2020). The lack of representation of different varieties of Arabic calls into question how well the diverse linguistic needs of different Arabic speakers can be ensured when assigning an interpreter. The aforementioned English-​ Arabic interpreter, Zahra, narrated another experience of working for a speaker who used a different Arabic variety in a legal consultation. While the interpreter’s first language was Iraqi-​Arabic, the client spoke Libyan-​Arabic, and the interpreter was not properly briefed on the language background of the client. When she discovered the language issue at the meeting, it was too late to withdraw, and the interpreter had to come up with a solution to address the language barriers. The strategy that Zahra employed was ‘triple-​checking’. As the first step, the interpreter checked her understanding of a message delivered in Libyan-​ Arabic with the minority client before conveying it to the lawyer. The lawyer then phrased his understanding of the message in English, which the interpreter interpreted back into Standard Arabic for the client. When the client was satisfied with the interpreted passage, the interpreter let the lawyer know so that they could move on. While the episode suggests one possible solution to language barriers of this kind, it is important to recognise the underlying problem as not only a linguistic issue, but a social issue as well. This is because the root cause was the lack of provision of appropriately matched interpreting services to a member of a minority language group. Some regional dialects spoken within a single nation can be mutually incomprehensible too, and Italian dialects are a case in point. Two out of the three Italian interpreters interviewed for this book

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specifically pointed out difficulty relating to the comprehensibility of local dialects, particularly the Calabrian and Sicilian varieties. Although neither of the interpreters is familiar with these dialects, they are rarely informed in advance which variety an Italian client speaks. Greta, an English-​Italian interpreter, said that it is particularly challenging in court cases involving victims of domestic violence or divorce. As people often become emotional presenting their stories in such matters, they sob and cry while continuing to talk in an unfamiliar dialect, adding more difficulty to an already challenging interpreting task. As many judges are unaware of the diversity of Italian dialects and associated interpreting challenges, however, they expect interpreters to convey everything that has been said: The expectation usually is that you can, you can interpret. You just interpret. In the case when someone sobbing and talking about the same time and going on and on […] He [the Italian defendant] could’ve said yes or no and some brief explanation. But he went on and on and on, and his dialect became thicker, thicker, and thicker. So I stopped him and I turned to the judge, and I, and I explained that I would have to tell the accused that I haven’t understood, he will have to speak to me slowly and try to speak clearly. Well, he said to me, well, ‘I’m not interested in your linguistic problem, interpreting problem. Just tell me what the person has said to you’. Greta, English-​Italian interpreter When I asked Greta how she usually deals with problems of this kind, her answer was simple: ‘There isn’t much that I can do’. Sometimes, there are judges who understand Greta’s interpreting problem and accept her request to ask the witness to speak slowly, so as to ensure her comprehension of the unfamiliar dialect. In such cases, however, Greta worries that her professional competence might be compromised as a result of the request, saying that ‘They [judges] seem to think the good interpreter should understand everything, no matter the speed, no matter the language’. It emphasises the monolingual understanding of minority languages, which are imagined to be spoken and understood by anyone from the same broad geographical area. The monolingual ideologies also assume that minority individuals reliant on interpreters for communication are exclusively monolingual in their original language and are unable to speak and understand English. This monolingual assumption can affect bilingual court participants of minority backgrounds, whose very ability to speak and understand English (yet not to the level of managing legal discourse) can work to reduce their credibility in courtrooms, and I now turn to the issue in the next section.



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Reflection activity 2 How linguistically diverse is the country where you are from? If you were an interpreter living in a linguistically diverse society, what kind of strategies would you use in order to deal with linguistic diversity in interpreted communicative events?

5.3.3  Bilingual court users under suspicion As discussed in Section 5.3.1, migrants unable to speak English tend to be subjected to monolingual biases in courtrooms, in which they are framed as deficient. Conversations with the interpreter-​informants reveal that migrant court users capable of speaking English may also become targets of criticism, as they do not fit the monolingual stereotype held by courtrooms. While this type of migrant can manage daily communicative needs with their functional English, they usually request/​hire interpreters to deal with legal matters because the stakes are often high and concepts are unfamiliar. From the perspective of interpreters, serving bilingual court participants can be challenging, because many of these migrants have significantly lost proficiency in their mother tongue, as a result of being away from the homeland for a sustained period of time. As legal terminology is highly technical, trying to make people who are no longer proficient in their native language understand complicated terms is often a tall order for interpreters. It can be particularly difficult if a person has had limited formal education, which is often the case with elderly migrants who left their countries when young in search of better possibilities in the new land: They [elderly Greek migrants] don’t understand the jargon in Greek either. Because most of them have not gone even to high school. We have quite a few older people that, some of them haven’t finished a primary school. So, what is the point of having an interpreter to interpret from English into Greek, when they can’t understand the Greek part? Robert, English-​Greek interpreter While Robert usually alerts the court to the language problems of clients not proficient in the mother tongue and tries to use plain words for comprehensibility, situations sometimes become further complicated due to the English competence of bilingual court users. As bilingual court participants can understand some questions asked in English, they sometimes inadvertently answer questions in English, instead of going through an interpreter. In such cases, legal professionals tend

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to become suspicious of bilingual court users, whom they believe are pretending not to understand English: Uh, definitely the first generation. And, um, some of them speak English but they feel their linguistic ability inadequate to say something or to defend themselves against the court, the prosecution and so on. So, uh, we have a situation then. To add another dimension here is they can hear the other person saying. They understand it because they speak English. But, of course, they are in a, in a state of panic, in a courtroom and then you ask them, and they respond in English. So the magistrate say, if you can speak English, why do you need an interpreter? And without realising that maybe that particular phrase or another phrase or they may not understand the entirety of the case. So they may find themselves in a serious predicament if they speak in English. Robert, English-​Greek interpreter The aforementioned case in which the display of bilingual skills by minority court participants is seen as a deceitful act illustrates once again deeply entrenched monolingual biases in courtrooms. As Angermeyer’s (2008) study on bilingual court users demonstrates, all participants, with the exception of interpreters, are expected to speak only in one language in courtrooms, which, in turn, forces bilingual court users to hide their language ability and act as monolinguals to appear more credible. As their bilingual skills become sources of suspicion in courtrooms, minority individuals whose linguistic repertoires are restricted by these monolingual biases are disadvantaged in terms of full court participation. While court users of minority background are subjected to the dominant institutional ideologies, the presence of interpreters as ‘official’ language mediators may be geared toward the institutional compliance with the requirements of fair legal procedures, rather than serving the language needs of minority individuals (Pöllabauer 2004). Although interpreters are the only people who are not restricted in terms of the use of their bilingualism, they too are sometimes subjected to the institutional biases toward the idealised form of standard English spoken with the ‘right’ accent. The us-​them distinction in which bilingual participants are essentially scrutinised and problematised due to their very ability to speak more than one language sustains conditions in which the dominant monolingual ideologies are reinforced and perpetuated in courtrooms (Angermeyer 2008). Bilingualism is fundamentally incongruent with the institutional ideal of what language must be in courtrooms, in which speakers who know more than one language are seen as deviant, deficient, and even suspicious.



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The highly regimented courtroom environments raise the question of whether or not there is room for interpreters to make individual choices when communication problems arise. The next section focuses on this issue with an examination of one particular legal discoursal practice in courtrooms that minority court participants often fail to manage successfully: interrogative yes-​no questions.

Reflection activity 3 As exemplified above, bilingual court users tend to be disadvantaged in both their mother tongue and the societal language in legal settings. As they may have lost a significant amount of proficiency in their original language, understanding complex legal concepts in their first language can be often challenging. At the same time, a display of English language competence in courtrooms may lead legal professionals to be suspicious of their reliability. If you were an interpreter serving a bilingual court user experiencing the abovementioned problems, what would you do? Discuss a specific communication strategy designed to address the issue.

5.4  Why can’t you say yes or no? One area in which the power imbalances in courtrooms are obvious is the way in which oral evidence is presented in the form of questions and answers (Hale 2014a). Only the powerful –​the judge(s) and lawyers –​can ask questions, whereas non-​ professionals are never allowed to raise questions or make comments but must provide relevant answers to the questions put to them. Respondents are required to give evidence in an appropriate legal manner, in which information must be displayed accurately, concisely, and consistently. Yet in courtroom contexts, questions often work to order the witnesses’ responses, rather than elicit new information (Hale 2014a). The majority of lay people are, however, unfamiliar with these legal communicative conventions, and declarative yes-​no questions are a good example through which to investigate how power relations in courtrooms can affect the ways in which truth is told and credibility is assessed. In bilingual courtroom contexts, interrogative yes-​ no questions entail different expectations depending on cultures. Eades (1982; 1994; 1996; 2000) argues, based on her research, that Aboriginal people in Australia tend to perceive declarative questions as an invitation to provide explanation, whereas Australians from non-​Aboriginal cultures perceive declarative questions as uninviting and ‘closed’, open only to a yes-​no answer. A resultant miscommunication may worsen due to legal professionals’ tendency to repeatedly ask the same questions without

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altering or modifying them, as they believe that information can be best sought in this way (Eades 2000). During the interviews with the interpreter-​informants, socio-​cultural differences were pointed out as an important element which influences how minority individuals deal with yes-​no questions. As an example, Alice, an English-​Swahili interpreter, said that Tanzanians tend not to say ‘no’ to certain questions, because saying ‘no’ is viewed as negative and rude in their culture: Alice:  Especially in court, they try to put things in yes or no. We have, um, in Swahili, and to certain questions, you don’t say no. You never say no. So, are you married? And if they are a single, they say ‘not yet’. Researcher:  Right, right, so there are more sub-​categories. But the, not saying no, is it also to do with the politeness culture? Alice:  YES, oh, yes. So, um, if you say, um, ah, you’re walking … Say, you’re walking past someone’s house going home, and they invite you in. You don’t say no. You say ‘ah, another day’. While broad societal patterns of doing things can significantly impact the ways in which people respond to yes-​no questions, the impact of contextual and power relations in the specific space of courtrooms on response patterns must be noted. During the interviews, many informants from different sociocultural backgrounds reported that minority court participants tend to go ‘off-​topic’ when dealing with yes-​no questions. Some informants attributed the tendency of going off-​topic to what they saw as different discourse patterns between speakers of different languages. That is to say, whereas Western communication strategies put an answer right at the beginning and then follow this with the speaker’s reason for doing so, non-​Western speakers tend to begin with a reason before giving a definite yes or no answer (Scollon et al. 2012). Such an essentialist approach to communication patterns, however, risks erasing individual differences and contextual variables, and the question of why people, irrespective of social and cultural backgrounds, do not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ needs to be examined with specific attention to the contextual conditions and power differentials of the courtrooms. In trying to understand the reported tendency to go off-​topic, it should be noted that a person’s ability to answer well is strongly to do with his or her ability to understand questions and the rules of the game in a given environment. A potential impact of circumstantial conditions on people’s ability to manage communication is illustrated by the fact that even people who are otherwise proficient in a mainstream language become less fluent in institutional settings, because they don’t know how to play the game (Wadensjö 1998). In highly regimented and intimidating spaces such as courtrooms, well-​educated



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people are at an advantage in terms of grasping and applying the rules of the game, compared with people who are less educated: If you are better educated, you can make a quicker sense of where you are and what’s happening. As is lower-​level of education and so on, probably less experienced would probably be harder to overcome the level of insecurity. Stanley, English-​Indonesian interpreter The informants reported that people with low-​level education tend to fail to understand motivations behind questions put to them, and end up providing too much information in a desperate attempt to prove their innocence. Fearing the impact that their answer to yes-​no questions might have on an ultimate verdict, laypeople tend to see it necessary to provide a context for their acts under questioning by the authority. As John, an English-​Indonesian interpreter, described: They [Indonesian court users] want to explain backgrounds to how come, how come I punched him in the face, but the lawyer just wants to know ‘did you punch him in the face?’. But this person, of course, wants to explain the background, and our legal system is pretty bad dealing with reality and that’s part of the problem. People want to put the story out there. The legal system wanted to see a usually small slice. Where legal professionals keep asking the same questions to elicit definite answers and laypeople try to explain as much as possible, a communication breakdown is unavoidable. While their inability to answer in yes-​or-​no terms may be frustrating to judges and lawyers, it may also lead to suspicion. That is to say, judges and lawyers may become suspicious that minority individuals have a hidden agenda in apparently trying to avoid questions by continuously providing irrelevant details: Giving too much information makes an impression to the, to the court member, for example, that you are not being honest. This is a court. They are giving a lot of information, and what’s wrong with you? Um, you are avoiding the question, um. That’s a very big, that’s a very big thing. Maria, English-​Spanish interpreter Needless to say, communication issues of the kind discussed above pose challenges to interpreters operating within the specific power dynamic of the court, in which the roles of interpreters are limited primarily by the dominant judicial perception of an interpreter as a

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‘translation machine’ (Lee 2009, p. 380). The institutional expectations about machine-​ like and unobtrusive interpreters indicate that any attempt to provide cultural and linguistic knowledge may be seen as unauthorised intervention, and court interpreters are, indeed, generally discouraged from offering opinions and advice (Hale 2004). While the competing expectations of fair interpreting and unobtrusiveness may create dilemmas for interpreters (Mikkelson 2008), existing studies on court interpreting show that interpreters rarely seek clarification or admit interpreting errors to rectify the record (see González et al. 1991; Hale 2004; Lee 2009). For example, Lee’s (2009) study of Korean interpreters working in Australian courtrooms illustrates the interpreters’ tendency to conform to the institutional norms rather than seeking clarifications regarding cross-​linguistic and cross-​cultural issues, although they may adversely impact the eventual judicial outcomes. At the same time, however, it is worth noting that the issue of role conflict has rarely been explored from the perspectives of court interpreters in their own voices. Conversations with these informants, therefore, shed valuable insight into what interpreters actually do when intercultural communication problems arise in the courtroom. Responses from the interpreters illustrate that many were well aware of the potentially devastating consequences for the individual who is before the court, and whose credibility may be called into question by the institution due to their communication styles. A number of the informants reported that it was therefore necessary for them to develop strategies to deal with these communication problems, and our conversations identified four major strategies. The first strategy is cut-​in, which is designed to keep communication on track. Some interpreters such as Chandra, an English-​Bangla interpreter, said that they have to ‘steal the conversation’ to remind migrant court users of the importance of keeping answers short. Body gestures are also sometimes used to intercept communication. The informants who use this strategy said that they raise their hands or tap the shoulder of a migrant speaker in order to send a signal that he or she should stop talking, so that the interpreter can start interpreting. A second strategy is to use fillers in order to enhance the coherence of what might be seen as disjointed pieces of information. Zora, an English-​Farsi interpreter, drew attention to so-​called ‘storytelling communication styles’ among Farsi speakers. According to Zora, people from Iran tend to tell long stories chronologically, as part of an effort to contextualise situations for listeners. Well aware of reasons behind the particular way of speaking, Zora said that she adds transitioning words in her interpreted English narratives in order to make the stories more coherent and logical:



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I can say ‘for example, as an example, another example’, so, just, so that they [legal professionals] know that it’s another example. So that it brings back to attention that this is still relevant to the talk. So I might create some fillers that do not add a lot of meaning to the context but it just sends a message to the listener, okay, we are still on the topic and this person is providing information. So I, I try to do that without adding to the conversation. Third, some interpreters said that going off-​ topic is sometimes a result of not understanding questions properly, in which case they try to seek permission from the court to clarify whether migrant court users have properly understood questions. A perplexed look on the face of court participants when a question is interpreted into their language is one barometer by which the interpreter can tell that the question does not make sense to the person to whom it was directed. According to the informants, migrant speakers, who are often already feeling intimidated by the evident power differentials in courtrooms, do not usually ask for clarification for fear of upsetting the authority. Pointing out the general behavioural tendency among migrant court participants, the interpreters said that they believe in the importance of being proactive in order to prevent communicative failures, which, in turn, may seriously impact the lives of those who are before the court: No, usually they [Indonesian court participants] don’t [ask for clarification]. I think it’s very understandable again, because being in the court is quite an intimidating place. If it’s important, I can tell that I believe the defendant has, hasn’t understood the question. Would you like me to ask it again or would you like to ask again? Uh, just to indicate that I have that problem. I mean, I’m aware that there is this miscommunication going on and on, trying to indicate where I think it’s been caused. Stanley, English-​Indonesian interpreter Lastly, some informants reported that they try to offer cultural advice when a communication stalemate persists. Similar to the medical interpreting settings (see Section 3.5 for details), these interpreters try to offer such advice in a surreptitious way so as not to upset the authority. As an example, Elizabeth, an English-​ Italian interpreter, usually waits until a break during a court case and approaches court officers to let them know that she needs to talk to the judge about a certain issue. If allowed, she tries to explain the situation in a calm and professional manner, without necessarily being seen as an ‘expert’ on the matter. The action is based on her conviction that it helps to avoid an unnecessary delay in legal proceedings, thereby ultimately benefiting all parties. In her own words:

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You have to explain this cultural difference, because otherwise, it would’ve, and it was all public money because of a legal aid. It would’ve gone for months. So, there are some ways that you can explain as long as it benefits both parties. If you didn’t, it might eventually affect the end result. While many interpreters use their interactional power to facilitate communication, there are also some informants who choose to be faithful to the role in accordance with the institutional expectations. In the strictly hierarchical structures in courtrooms, where legal professionals hold institutionally granted power, the informants said that it should be judges and lawyers who should deal with communication problems, not interpreters: It’s the judge or barristers. The judge should control the client. Yulia, English-​Russian interpreter I, as an interpreter, do not, um, I cannot intervene. I don’t intervene at that point, because it’s really the solicitor’s duty to help them. Maria, English-​Spanish interpreter I think this should be the job of [legal] professionals to make sure that the client stays on the topic. Before they start, they can say I’m going to ask a few yes or no questions. All you need to do is just say yes or no. You do not need to elaborate. Peter, English-​Chinese interpreter The question of who should be responsible for communication control boils down to the issue of the ambivalent position of interpreters in communication contexts. Theoretically speaking, interpreters are placed at the neutral centre between two different worlds (Mason and Ren 2012). As demonstrated in this chapter as well as throughout the book, however, a completely neutral space seldom exists in interpreting, which is almost invariably a site of power struggles. In the context of evident power differentials to which interpreters are not immune, the institutional expectations about what interpreting must be in courtrooms may serve as a rationale (problematic though it may be) for staying within safe boundaries and shunning the responsibility of ethical interpreting (Lee 2009). While existing literature on court interpreting emphasises the importance of interpreter training for effective management of communication issues in courtrooms (see Lee 2009; Mikkelson 1998; Nartowska 2014; Wallace 2015), the onus of addressing communication problems should not be solely placed on interpreters, particularly when considering the power structures by which interpreters



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are often constrained. This chapter, therefore, argues that addressing intercultural communication problems in courtrooms requires a two-​ pronged approach which involves both interpreters and legal professionals. Just as it is important for interpreters to understand how to work with legal professionals, it is equally important for legal professionals to know how to work with interpreters. It is, therefore, critical to broaden the scope of legal training to include multilingual and multicultural elements that can impact upon judicial processes. The prospect of real changes is unlikely unless those who are in powerful positions are keen to participate in the process of bringing about such changes.

Reflection activity 4 This section highlights power differentials as one significant factor that influences the reported issue of not answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions in courts. Would there be some other factors that influence a tendency not to give direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to questions in courts? If there would, what kinds of factors might contribute to the reported patterns of communication? Discuss the question based on real communicative experiences, if applicable.

5.5  Refugee interpreting This section examines the impact of monolingual and monocultural ideologies on the roles of interpreters working with refugees and asylum seekers in refugee application contexts in Australia. It specifically explores the ways in which applicants from minority backgrounds are expected to conform to majority norms with respect to communication and behaviours. It emerges that the degree to which applicants’ communication patterns conform to such norms can be an important factor in the impression formed by the decision-​maker about the credibility of the applicant’s claims. Similar to courtrooms, the us-​them binary is also present in interpreter-​mediated refugee settings, yet the degree to which the division operates and impacts credibility assessment might be more salient in refugee interpreting contexts, which tend to be dominated by an immigration officer as the sole authority. The following section investigates this issue, with the English fluency of interpreters as a key focus of examination. 5.5.1  Credibility embodied in English fluency The chapter has so far examined how power differentials in interpreter-​ mediated legal settings work to reinforce institutional beliefs about

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languages and cultures and essentialise differences of minority groups vis-​à-​vis the majority cultural and discoursal norms. While those who are institutionally authorised hold most power in both courtroom and refugee contexts, there exists a difference in terms of power distribution between the two settings. Whereas power is dispersed among various institutional representatives such as judges and lawyers in courtrooms (albeit to differing degrees), an immigration officer is the only person who represents the institution in administrative hearings related to refugee or asylum-​ seeker applications and is, therefore, granted exclusive power. The absolute power authorised to immigration officers as trusted insiders is well demonstrated by the description of case officers as ‘the Tribunal’ in the Guidelines on refugee assessment (Smith-​Khan 2017b). As a single authority, an officer has sole power in terms of conducting interviews, asking questions, and, importantly, assessing credibility (Pöllabauer 2004). In evaluating refugee credibility, decision-​makers have the right to treat narratives from refugee applicants with suspicion, yet applicants are expected not to challenge officers’ decisions (Sarangi and Slembrouck 2014). Furthermore, refugee applicants are usually not expected to request clarifications and, even if they do, such a request does not need to be heeded straight away by officers (Pöllabauer 2004). Power imbalances embedded in refugee application settings may deny the roles that interpreters play as active partners who act based on their own beliefs and agency (Tipton 2008; Todorova 2019). In the interpreting scholarship, there has been a shift in terms of the perception of interpreters working for refugees in conflict situations. Whereas ‘conflict interpreters’ were previously regarded as mediators performing language work in a neutral position, interpreters working in crisis situations are increasingly seen as human agents who play a proactive role in facilitating humanitarian assistance and resolving conflicts (Martínez-​Gómez 2015). However, it seems unlikely that the shifting roles of refugee interpreters would carry through to refugee application settings characterised by significant power differentials. Interpreters are mostly ‘invisible’ in these institutional settings as evidenced by the fact that interpreters are hardly mentioned in the Guidelines on credibility assessment, despite the crucial roles that they play in the construction of refugee narratives (Smith-​Khan 2017c). In an environment where a single authority determines everything, there is the potential for monolingual and monocultural biases to amplify depending on the ideological orientations of individual decision-​makers. Individual ideologies may be further intensified by monolingualism and monoculturalism being dominant in the legal institutions. A monolingual approach to interpreting in refugee settings is evident in the fact that the decision-​maker is granted sole authority to evaluate the quality of the interpreted output, yet



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relevant bilingual knowledge essential for fair assessment is not required (see Section 5.2). This means that credibility assessment is exclusively based on the English output of interpreting, with the exception of cases overseen by officers who are proficient in languages other than English. It is therefore important to examine how the monolingual institutional ideologies play out in relation to the English-​language fluency of interpreters and potentially impact the assessment of refugee credibility. While credibility represents a key element to consider in decision-​ making processes in both courtroom and refugee contexts, there exists a notable difference in terms of how credibility is evaluated between the two settings. In courtrooms, accounts of the accused and defendants are usually corroborated by other supporting evidence such as witnesses’ statements and a collection of factual information. In contrast, refugee protection and asylum-​seeking processes rely heavily on the first-​person narratives of applicants, often due to the absence of any other information such as official papers and/​or witnesses to relevant events (Gorlick 2003). When the assessment of credibility is predominantly based on how truthful the stories presented to institutions sound, the linguistic abilities of the interpreter may play an even more crucial role in terms of influencing the perception of decision-​makers than it does for judges and lawyers. Blaire, a lawyer representing refugees who is also a bilingual speaker of English and another language, expressed the view that decisions on the credibility of refugees should not be, but often are, influenced by the linguistic performance of the interpreter, whose fluency in English ultimately matters: The issue of credibility, everything turning on credibility. The, like, the accuracy of how they, not just accuracy of how they interpret, but also fluency in which they translate the narratives. Even though that shouldn’t affect what the decision-​makers think about credibility, it really does, because we have a bias to view fluent narratives as being the truth, whereas stilted interpretation being a, being lies. Data analysis indicates that the monolingual biases relating to English are often combined with racial biases in the us-​them binary of refugee contexts, and interpreters are not an exception. While officers are required to deal with language barriers by working in collaboration with an interpreter (Muniroh et al. 2018), institutional biases may treat interpreters as the ‘Others’ based on ethnic and linguistic differences. In what follows, Alice, an Australian-​born English-​Swahili interpreter who has English as her first language, shares her experience relating to racial stereotypes held by decision-​makers. It demonstrates that interpreters working in Australia are at times automatically assumed to be non-​native speakers of English, belonging therefore to the other side of the ‘us-​them’ boundary:

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Alice:  I had been told that I have a very good English. [laughing] Researcher:  [laughing] Is that a compliment? Alice:  [laughing] On the phone, you know. Oh, you speak English with such an Australian accent. So, they are just assuming that I’m African. The narrative above suggests that like courtrooms, an us-​them distinction embedded in monolingual biases operates in refugee interpreting contexts as well. The very assumption of the decision-​maker (who could not see Alice) that she must be African and may, therefore, not be as fluent in English as ‘we’ are illustrates how English serves as a core criterion which indexes the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ code. The centrality of English in categorising people between in-​group and out-​group is again illustrated in the following interview excerpt, in which Leonie, an Australian-​born English-​French interpreter, discusses how she is perceived by immigration officers as ‘part of us’ according to the us-​ them binary: Because you know, English is my first language and I am an Australian originally. I think that I, probably, you know, I’m not put in the same position as other people might be as an interpreter, because I am not always identified as, you know, the other culture. The discussion highlights the binary structures entrenched in refugee settings, in which English serves as a key element that influences the institutional acceptance of interpreters and potentially the credibility of interpreted accounts. In the specific site of refugee interviews, language serves as not only a marker of difference but also ‘embodied capital’ (Bourdieu 1977), in which the sound, linguistic style, and legitimacy of interpreters work to influence evaluators’ perceptions of the truthfulness of narratives. While the workings of English as embodied capital moulded by the racial profiles of interpreters are not limited to refugee application settings (see Section 5.3.1 for discussion on embodied capital in courtrooms), the combined workings of language and race might have a greater impact in refugee contexts, in which credibility is determined on the basis of the English output from interpreters as the only source of reliable information. While the English proficiency of interpreters plays a key role in credibility assessment, there exist other important elements which influence decision-​makers’ perception of credibility. The next section further examines the impact of monolingual and monocultural ideologies on credibility assessment, with a focus on institutional expectations about culturally appropriate communicative behaviours among refugee applicants.



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Reflection activity 5 The concept of ‘embodied capital’ can be applied to other communication settings in which language and race closely intersect with each other. Discuss relevant examples in which the bodily dispositions of speakers (e.g. accent, pronunciation, appearance, etc.) influence linguistic production, and how this can work to influence external evaluation of an individual’s speech.

5.5.2  That’s not how we speak When assessing credibility in refugee application settings, coherence and consistency in narratives are the key evaluative standard, regardless of geographical location (Spijkerboer 2005). While a coherent and well-​structured story of reasons behind crossing borders and seeking protection is expected in an Australian institutional context, many asylum seekers and refugees are not familiar with the institutional discoursal requirements and may regard their usual narrative practices as appropriate (Pöllabauer 2004). Stories of complex refugee journeys are often structurally disjointed and incoherent, leaving decision-​ makers with insufficient amounts of information to determine credibility (Muniroh et al. 2018). The gap between institutional expectations about communicative behaviours and individual discoursal practices may become further widened due to the general tendency of decision-​makers to apply ‘our’ standards to the assessment of refugee narratives. As Blaire, the aforementioned bilingual refugee lawyer, pointed out: The department expects a very clear chronological story with exact dates about when everything happened and how far apart things were. And in a lot of cultures, they don’t think that way. They are not gonna remember an exact date, or even a month. Something that happened two or three years ago, and asking them is just outrageous. But from the Western perspective, we are, like, the decision-​makers. This is such an important event. There is a horrible thing that happened to you and you don’t remember the date? They are like, well, why should I care about what date it was. People who wish to apply for protection in Australia are required to provide extensive factual details regarding their identity, family situation, residence, employment, education, and travel history before attending asylum interviews (Smith-​Khan 2017a). While those details are, in theory, not difficult to provide (being based on the applicant’s

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life experiences and therefore something that applicants already know or can recall), some cultures place less emphasis on factual details, and the need to recall and be able to pinpoint specific events from a complicated refugee journey is often a tall order for refugee applicants (Muniroh et al. 2018). The heavy reliance on factual details in Western legal systems and the lack of importance attached to such details among some refugee applicants, therefore, represents a key site of intercultural communicative conflict in refugee application settings. For example, Daniel, an English-​Ga interpreter, shared challenges relating to the issue of age among asylum seekers from Ghana. According to Daniel, many Ghanaians do not know their date of birth, because importance is attached to what happened on the day, rather than the date that they were born. Many, therefore, are unable to answer ‘simple’ questions such as ‘how old are you?’ at asylum interviews: When I interpret, and the officer says ‘Mr Interpreter, I wanna ask a simple question’. ‘How old are you?’. And I have to explain that look, in those cultures, the date of birth is not important. Sometimes, the day of birth is more important. What happened around the birth is more important. I remember when I was born, there was a curfew. The day is more important. Another interpreter, Stanley, an English-​Indonesian interpreter, also discussed similar discoursal patterns often found among Indonesian applicants. As people from Indonesia tend to have trouble recalling when specific events occurred, the interpreter said that he had developed a strategy to address the reported problem: It’s true that people sometimes have a lot of trouble pinpointing the year. What I tend to do is to try and say, at that time, how old was your son? And they can certainly say the son was seven years old. Then you’ve got when the son was born or you can ask what year the son was born, then you can begin to pinpoint that way. The example above highlights creative ways in which intercultural communicative problems can be addressed by interpreters who are culturally proficient. Despite the crucial roles that interpreters can play in dealing with intercultural differences, however, both Daniel and Stanley said that not all decision-​makers are willing to listen when they try to help. For one thing, decision-​makers are required to strictly follow the Guidelines on credibility assessment, in which roles of interpreters are minimally mentioned. Regarding the issue of culture, decision-​makers are advised to exercise caution by the Guidelines, which stipulate ‘All claims, particularly those of a sensitive nature



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should be carefully considered in a respectful and culturally sensitive way’. While decision-​makers are required to be culturally sensitive, the Guidelines also emphasise the decision-​maker’s authority to determine the credibility of culture-​related matters. For example: The tribunal may doubt part of a person’s evidence if a person’s testimony is incoherent or vague or lacks the detail or knowledge where greater detail or knowledge might be expected of a person in the person’s claimed position or from the person’s social or cultural background. For example, the tribunal is entitled to have regard to an applicant’s level of knowledge of matters about which the applicant would reasonably be expected to know if his or her claims were truthful. While decision-​makers are authorised to determine the truthfulness of narratives by exercising their cultural knowledge and common sense, assessing claims based on the applicants’ macro backgrounds risks uniform approaches to understanding cultures which are highly individualistic and context-​dependent (Smith-​Khan 2017c). Furthermore, in trying to decide the believability of a given narrative, there is a danger that decision-​makers may draw on their limited understandings of a group and disregard behaviours and/​or demeanours that do not fit their own cultural assumptions (Shuman and Bohmer 2014). One area in which a gap between institutional assumptions and actual individual practices is evident is the issue of emotions when tragic stories are told. When applicants provide accounts of their refugee journeys many of which are traumatic, decision-​makers may expect the story to be accompanied by an appropriate amount of emotion (Spijkerboer 2005). Showing too much emotion can have a negative impact, because the decision-​maker may see the applicant as dramatic or hysterical (Shumam and Bohmer 2004). Showing too little emotion is deemed not credible either, although it is not uncommon among refugees from particular geographical locations when telling traumatic events (Shumam and Bohmer 2004). As applicants are expected to show an ‘appropriate’ level of emotion at appropriate moments, behaviours that do not fit the dominant cultural assumptions are likely to be seen with suspicion. Leonie, an English-​French interpreter, reported how expectations about the ‘appropriate’ degree of emotional display when providing tragic accounts can cause problems in interviews involving African refugees. According to Leonie, many African refugees able to speak French are from former French colonies and speak French as their second or sometimes third language. The interpreter noted that working for these types of applicants usually takes a long time, as many claimants have trouble finding words to describe their complicated

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refugee journeys. As interview processes are often interrupted and elongated by difficulties that applicants experience in trying to identify the right words and expressions, decision-​makers become impatient and frustrated in many cases. The challenge experienced by the interpreter is exemplified below: When the person isn’t probably bilingual or doesn’t just understand how hard it is to express things, sometimes I feel that’s … yes, even at that basic level. I would just like to say are you aware that when you speak in a second or a third language, it is not always straightforward. Some African refugees, sometimes they all speak in French and put in an African word and I don’t know that word, so I have to check. So it’s sometimes more on the Australian side. I would really like to say this is what’s happening. You know this person is speaking in their third language. Give them a break. Leonie, English-​French interpreter To make it more complicated, these claimants sometimes have trouble showing ‘appropriate’ emotion when telling distressing stories. Leonie explained that applicants usually wear a broad welcoming smile during interviews, which the interpreter described as their culturally specific way of showing friendliness. According to the interpreter, the tendency is particularly noticeable among applicants who are religious. Leonie reported that when telling horrible and traumatic stories, those who have faith in God often finish on a positive note by making a reference to God, which decision-​makers, however, can find confusing and illogical: But one thing that struck me in the past was actually people from that region usually have a very broad welcoming smile and I think that’s also no matter what their circumstances, this sort of very, very, positive, um, demeanour. They are perhaps, you know, using that demeanour in a culturally specific way because it’s important to show that you are friendly and positive. When I might then convey that to the other person, it might have different … do you see what I mean? They might often finish with … a positive thing, make a reference to God, wrap it up in a way that it is not. That sort of thing in my experience. Except for, you know, it is quite a desperate, immediate situation. When I asked Leonie if she has any specific strategy to deal with this type of issue, she commented that she generally uses her bicultural knowledge in delivering emotion. For example, when a refugee claimant tells a tragic story with a broad smile, Leonie delivers the story to the officer in an appropriately serious manner which suits the



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content of the story. When the officer asks a question and the interpreter conveys the message to the claimant, the interpreter then smiles back to the applicant to reciprocate the friendliness shown by the claimant. In doing so, the interpreter tries to set the right tone for communication for both parties, whose expectations about each other’s demeanour throughout the interview might otherwise clash. Not surprisingly, some communication issues are specific to the power hierarchies in refugee application settings, particularly where refugee applicants have undergone traumatic experiences in their journeys. For refugee applicants who have nowhere else to go and are desperate to stay in Australia, an officer represents the authority in whose hands their future lies. Some refugee applicants may, therefore, try to please decision-​makers by saying what they believe the authority likes to hear. According to the informants, these types of applicants usually prepare what to say in advance and go scripted at interviews. Asha, an English-​ Arabic interpreter, reported occasional patterns among refugee applicants who are eager to please the authority in order to obtain a refugee visa. According to the interpreter, these types of refugee claimants profusely thank and applaud the benevolence and generosity of the Australian government, without even listening to questions posed to them. While their behaviours can be seen as deviant and off-​topic by immigration officers and may significantly influence interview outcomes, advising applicants on appropriate behavioural norms is not within the scope of interpreters’ work, and Asha said that she feels sorry for these types of applicants unaware of communicative and behavioural differences. The communication pattern of going as scripted was reported by another informant, Sanah, an English-​ Hindi interpreter, who often deals with a group of applicants trying to seek sympathy by providing a prepared speech. According to the interpreter, these refugees are keen to tell as many emotional and tragic details as possible and generally do not listen to questions put to them. In doing so, refugee applicants hope that the decision-​maker feels sorry for their individual circumstances and feels inclined to grant them a visa. Seeing application interviews as their only chance to appeal to the authority, these applicants tend to dominate conversation by trying to say everything: Sanah:  When they are asked questions, they sometimes don’t pay attention to the questions. They just say whatever they plan to say. Yes, they just say as planned. Researcher:  In that case, they have an interpreter who’s listening to them. Sanah:  Not just an interpreter. The officer is listening to them. They have an opportunity to tell a story.

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A parallel can be drawn between the aforementioned types of refugee applicants and Aboriginal people in Australia. As discussed in Section 5.4, Aboriginal people tend to perceive yes-​no questions as an invitation to talk. The generally desperate situations of refugee applicants may further contribute to discourse patterns in which minority individuals try to seek sympathy by providing decision-​makers with what can, however, be perceived as irrelevant details. Finally, it is important to note another group of refugees who are unable to provide the chronological and coherent stories expected by the institution: applicants with mental illness. It is not uncommon for asylum seekers and refugee applicants to suffer from mental illness associated with their traumatic journeys across borders (Shumam and Bohmer 2004; Miller et al. 2005). According to the informants, mental health issues often go unnoticed during initial screening processes and only become apparent during interviews in which applicants are unable to handle questions at all. For example: Sometimes actually if the person’s not answering, this is telling the officer something that maybe this person has a mental problem. So it’s not my, I remind myself it’s not my role to get an answer. Remind myself I’m here to translate. Sometimes when it’s really bad, because you can see that the Arabic speaker has a mental problem, so you ask him ‘what’s your name’ and he would say ‘I went to Melbourne yesterday’. Asha, English-Arabic interpreter Although the interpreter believed that it was not her role to intervene to obtain answers from applicants suffering from mental illness, Asha said that she sometimes steps in, particularly when refugee applicants skirt around questions, by speaking as a third person or ‘the interpreter’. In order to flag a problem, the interpreter usually says, in her own expression, ‘The interpreter is very accurate and I’m not sure why you [decision-​maker] are not getting an answer for your question’. While the strategy aims to facilitate communication, another motivation potentially lies behind the act: to pre-​empt any suspicion about the interpreter’s professional competence on the part of the decision-​ maker. This is evident in her discussion of the rationale behind the choice, in which Asha notes that ‘I sometimes have to, otherwise they [officers] would think that I’m not interpreting properly’. This highlights the impact of the power hierarchies on decisions that interpreters make to facilitate communication which is led, evaluated, and determined by decision-​makers as a single authority. The discussion so far illustrates the gap between the institutional beliefs and expectations and the communicative patterns and practices of many minority individuals, as observed by interpreters centrally



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involved in mediating such encounters. While culture is not monolithic and performing culture is significantly influenced by power structures embedded in communication settings, the analysis points strongly to the conclusion that refugee applicants are expected to conform to the institutional norms in order to appear credible. The dominant expectation that everyone should communicate and behave in the same specific ways highlights once again the prevalence of monolingual and monocultural ideologies in refugee settings. As behaviours that do not fit the expected norms tend to be seen as deviant, particularly in the context of the deeply entrenched us-​them distinction in refugee settings, this has the potential to create and essentialise stereotypes regarding minority individuals. The next section, therefore, explores the ways in which stereotyping can impact the assessment of refugee credibility. The investigation focuses on one geographical region –​ Africa –​whose otherness has been firmly established in Anglophone discourses (Loftsdóttir 2008). 5.5.3  Africans are liars Stereotypes are usually underpinned by binary constructions between ‘them’ and the majority whose behaviours and cultures serve as a normative point of reference (Anthias 2013). Deeply relating to power structures, the creation of uniform and homogeneous images about groups of others serves to reinforce and naturalise the existing us-​ them boundary and deny the impact of power differentials (Anthias 2013). Grounded in the long heritage of the Orientalist discourses, the rhetorical construction of the binary between the West and the rest has served as a framework for the explanation of difference of the ‘Others’ in non-​Western countries (Hall 1992). Among the ‘Others’, Africans have been particularly essentialised on inferior terms vis-​à-​vis the superior West (Hanson-​Easey and Augoustinos 2010). In popular Western films and media, for example, Africans and Africa are often stereotyped as subservient powerless subjects from the perspectives of the North (Dunn 1996; Fair 1993; Jedlowski 2016). A similar discourse can be found in the mediatised representations of black African refugees in Australia, where the number of refugees from the continent has recently increased. Despite the linguistic and cultural diversity of African people, African refugees are presented as members from a homogeneous community, which is negatively characterised in contrast to the superior ‘us’ (Windle 2008). Refugees from Africa are described as problematic in Australian media, as frequently invoked in the mediatised images of ‘gangsters’ and ‘uneducated youth’, who have allegedly failed to accept Australian values (Hanson-​ Easey and Augoustinos 2010). In the mediatised representations of

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African refugees, cultural differences are essentialised in racial terms; Western cultural values are represented as not being easily learnt by African refugees, as though these alleged differences are innately biological (Hanson-​Easey and Augoustinos 2010). The difference-​based discourses have contributed to the construction of African refugees as a threat to the social inclusion and integration of Australia, hence the construction of Africans as the ‘non-​desired Other’ (Ndhlovu 2013). Considering the societal biases against African refugees, it is important to investigate how the stereotypes interact with the monolingual and monocultural biases embedded in refugee settings and how they affect the credibility assessment of refugee applicants. Interview data analysis identifies three such aspects of intercultural communication, and I will now turn to discuss the first miscommunication issue, which relates to broad cultural and societal differences in terms of a concept of family. Whereas a family in Australia is predominantly associated with a nuclear unit including parents and children, a family is much wider in terms of scope in some parts of Africa. It includes not only children and parents, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, and brothers and sisters who may have their own children and relatives (Mbiti 1990). Polygamous marriage, which has been practised in many parts of Africa, has also contributed to the extended relationships of the family (Waruta 2005). One’s father’s brother, who is an ‘uncle’ in Australia, is referred to as a ‘father’, and one’s mother’s sister is referred to as a ‘mother’ in African cultures (Babatunde-​ Sowole et al. 2016). The wider scope of family members and a traditional lack of emphasis on factual details mean that many refugee applicants are unable to provide accurate details regarding family such as the number of family members. An apparent discrepancy and inconsistency between documentary descriptions and personal testimony at interviews can cause suspicion on the part of decision-​makers, which, in turn, can seriously impact the credibility of the applicant: During the interpreting, ‘oh, he’s my brother’. ‘But you said he’s your friend’. ‘Yes, he’s my friend, but is a good friend, so he’s my brother’ […] So our brother is totally, our definition of brother is different. Aussies do not understand. ‘But look, in the application, you said you have two brothers, now you are telling me that, which one, what do you want me to believe?’ ‘Oh, for Africans, it’s not same. He’s a good man. We always do things together, so he’s my brother.’ ‘No, no, no, no, no, you are lying. You are not saying the truth’. They don’t give room for description of a different context. You are rushing to no. You just tick the box, this, this, this. ‘Why, this is a simple question, why don’t you understand?’. Daniel, English-​Ga interpreter



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Second, eye contact is identified as a practice in which an institutional monocultural mindset is manifested. Whereas maintaining eye contact is generally regarded as a sign of honesty and openness in Australia, it can be seen as disrespectful and impolite in some parts of the world, including parts of Africa (Okawa 2008). A general belief in Australia that an honest person will make direct eye contact when telling the truth may lead to suspicion about the credibility of African refugees, whose demeanour does not fit ‘our’ standard on credible behaviours: We take a very Anglophone … approach to it [eye contact], mind what the decision-​makers say, they need to stare. If they look in, look into your eyes, they tell the truth, and if they look away, they are not telling the truth. But then in a lot of cultures, it’s like disrespectful, someone in the position of authority, look them in the eyes. It’s quite natural to expect them to, to be looking away. Blaire, Refugee lawyer The third and final aspect of intercultural (mis)communication discussed here relates to so-​called ‘story telling’ communication styles among African people. While every human culture has created stories as a way to make sense of the world (Vambe 2001), story telling has been recognised as one of the most important traditions in Africa (Banks-​Wallace 2002). In the long-​running oral tradition of Africa, storytelling functions not only to transmit knowledge and information across generations but also to teach morals, norms, and values (Alidou 2002). In fact, an individual who kept stories or a ‘griot’ was the most respected person in traditional African society (Kouyate 1989). The historical value of storytelling can be found in the case of African-​Americans who have kept the oral traditions to record and share their lived experiences and maintain their language and culture since times of slavery (Banks-​Wallace 2002). During the interviews, all three interpreters who work with African refugees –​Alice, Daniel, and Ismail –​emphasised the storytelling communication styles unique to Africans. The informants said that before asking an African person a question, it is important to provide a context, without which the question is likely to be answered unsatisfactorily: The way we are expressing ourselves is very, very, very, uh, very, storytelling. When you ask Sudanese or someone from that part, they don’t have the concept of the Australian or Anglo-​ Saxon abstracts or facts. They will put facts using that to put a context of the story. Ismail, English-​Sudanese interpreter

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You have to give a context, a story around it. All of a sudden, they are asked that they start to talk like the Aussie way for the first time in their 30 years, 35 years of life. So it is a KEY thing that officers in this context should understand. Daniel, English-​Ga interpreter The descriptive communication patterns reported by the informants are particularly problematic when it comes to yes-​ no questions. Whereas decision-​makers expect a single answer, applicants tend to provide contexts for specific events, rather than answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The aforementioned English-​Ga interpreter, Daniel, shared a story relevant to the issue. During a refugee application interview, a claimant was asked a question about whether it was his idea to open a bank account in both his and his wife’s names in Ghana. Rather than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the claimant started by providing a full context as to how he married his wife, who was originally not from Ghana, and how they managed family finances. While this piece of information was deemed important by the claimant in trying to explain how he eventually decided to open the joint account, it was seen as irrelevant by the officer, who kept interrupting to remind the claimant of the purpose of the question. In an effort to give the claimant time to finish his story, the interpreter responded by telling the officer, in his own words, ‘look, he’s given the context for you to come to a conclusion, so please wait’. It can be conjectured that the interpreter’s action was motivated to give the minority individual a fair chance to apply for protection, rather than being dismissed by the officer who was not familiar with the particular way of communicating stories. Daniel pointed out that Africans are often seen as liars by decision-​makers due to their distinctive communication styles, as exemplified below: Daniel:  Africans come falsely across telling lies. Researcher:  Hmm … telling lies, why? Daniel:  Because officers disbelieve. They think you are going around. I do ask the officer if I can explain the question. Uh … if we don’t explain, I don’t explain, it may impact the sort of answer. You may think she’s not cooperative or she’s rude. Critical of the monolingual and monocultural mindset allegedly held by decision-​ makers, Daniel expressed his belief that officers and interpreters should work together to co-​ construct credible refugee narratives: Every officer should come with a clear mind. Not what you know and what you not know. This is a person in front of you.



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That’s why a cultural consultant is very important […] Instead of assuming they are not talking, because they don’t have an answer, they should find a way to help them to talk. Tell them don’t worry, I am not here to criticise you. I am only here for communication with you. But if you come with an assumption, no. We should work together. The expressed perception of interpreters as co-​ constructors of refugee narratives merits attention, considering that the burden of constructing a credible narrative almost always falls on the shoulder of refugee applicants (Gorlick 2003). The suggested idea of collaboration between the interpreter and the decision-​maker at not just linguistic but cultural levels points to a potential future direction for interpreter-​ assisted asylum and refugee interviews, in which interpreters’ roles remain undefined (Pöllabauer 2004). Rather than viewing interpreters as non-​persons situated in a neutral place reserved for faithful text production, it is important to properly recognise and effectively leverage their cultural and linguistic resources, which remain largely untapped. Only then might we expect more participatory and equitable processes in refugee interpreting.

Reflection activity 6 How does refugee interpreting work in your country? Are the roles of refugee interpreters much different from what is described here? How do you think we can achieve more collaborative partnerships between decision-​makers and interpreters working in refugee settings?

5.6  Conclusion With a history of settlement through immigrants, Australia celebrates multiculturalism as a distinctive feature that enhances social cohesion. In reality, however, monoculturalism and monolingualism are deeply entrenched across various domains of the society, and legal domains are, as this chapter has shown, a case in point. The operation and impact of the dominant ideologies in legal spaces illustrate that monolingualism and monoculturalism are strongly tied to the issues of power inequality, which, in turn, affects the crucial issue of social justice. The way in which monolingualism and monoculturalism influence and are influenced by ethno-​racial biases particularly merits our attention. As illustrated, individuals from minority backgrounds tend to be disadvantaged, as their behaviours and communication styles are evaluated against the mainstream norms. As the institutional

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perceptions of standard language and behaviours disadvantage people in powerless positions, existing power arrangements and ideological uses of language are reinforced and perpetuated. With racio-​linguistic biases as a primary lens through which to investigate intercultural communicative problems in interpreter-​ mediated legal settings, the words of the interpreter-​informants in this chapter have powerfully demonstrated how deep-​seated stereotypes relating to language, culture, and race affect the ways in which minority participants are represented and evaluated in the legal domains. The racial aspects of monolingualism and monoculturalism are strongly informed by the us-​them distinction, in which the degree of whiteness serves as a demarcating line between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The further people are away from the established white norms, including normative ways of speaking in English, the less desirable they are seen in terms of their ability to embrace the mainstream values and integrate into a host society. The perceived degree of distance from the norms translates into difference and deficiency, and those unable to perform in ways that align with the institutional discoursal and behavioural expectations tend to be subject to suspicion by the powerful. Although interpreters are perhaps the only people who are culturally and linguistically proficient in a holistic sense in these institutional settings, they are hardly considered as professionals with whom to consult, due primarily to the traditional role expectations of converting messages correctly from a completely neutral position. The mechanical view of interpreters and interpreting disempowers interpreters and prevents their full participation in legal processes, as seen in the cases of the court interpreters who noted that addressing communication problems relating to yes-​no questions is not the responsibility of interpreters, but that of legal professionals as authorities. Similarly, some of the refugee interpreters found themselves unable to fully engage in refugee interviews, in which decision-​makers represent a sole authority, leaving interpreters with little power to exercise professional judgement in the way that they facilitate communication. The power imbalances in the interpreter-​mediated legal encounters raise the crucial question of who should be responsible for handling communication problems in the legal space. As discussed in this chapter, the burden of addressing pervasive ideologies of monolingualism and monoculturalism should not be solely placed on interpreters but should be shared by both interpreters and professionals working in the legal domains. For it to happen, it is important to provide legal professionals and decision-​makers with cultural and linguistic training, so that they can be aware of communication problems which often arise in legal interpreting contexts. Legal professionals and decision-​makers should understand that an interpreter’s ‘intervention’ is essential, because, as Berk-​Seligson (2017)



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pointed out, the impact caused by an interpreter’s intervention would be much less than any impact caused by misinterpretation. If the law is to be fair to everyone regardless of racial and linguistic differences, it is crucial to find ways to leverage the unique bilingual and bicultural knowledge and skills of interpreters working in the legal area. The insight displayed by the interpreter-​informants in discussing their ways of dealing with communication problems indicates how the legal system might benefit from the untapped potential of interpreters as intercultural communicators. Rather than strictly dividing labour between legal professionals and interpreters, both parties should work collaboratively and consultatively in order to ensure fair and just legal outcomes particularly for people in vulnerable positions. Doing justice to language and culture is ultimately doing social justice, and the small individual actions taken by the interpreters in this study suggest the not-​so-​small power of awakened individuals who together may be able to redress the longstanding imbalances in power relations that remain very strongly entrenched.

Notes 1 The northern suburbs of Greater Sydney are generally considered affluent and privileged, compared with some other areas of the city. 2 Arabic is one of the languages spoken in Sudan, and it is commonly known as Sudanese-​Arabic.

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Legal interpreting Berk-​Seligson, S 2002, ‘The Miranda warnings and linguistic coercion: the role of footing in the interrogation of a limited-​English-​speaking murder suspect’, in J Cotterill (ed.), Language in the legal process, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Berk-​Seligson, S 2017, The bilingual courtroom: court interpreters in the judicial process, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Berman, PS 2001, Telling a less suspicious story: notes toward a non-​skeptical approach to legal/​cultural analysis, Yale Journal of Law & The Humanities, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 95–​140. Blommaert, J 2001, Investigating narrative inequality: African asylum seekers’ stories in Belgium, Discourse & Society, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 413–​449. Bourdieu, P 1977, The economics of linguistic exchanges, Social Science Information, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 645–​668. Carlin, A 2016, The courtroom as white space: racial performance as noncredibility, UCLA Law Review, vol. 63, pp. 450–​484. Carling, J, Erdal, MB, and Ezzati, R 2014, Beyond the insider–​outsider divide in migration research, Migration Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 36–​54. Dunn, K 1996, Lights…camera…Africa: images of Africa and Africans in Western popular films of the 1930s, African Studies Review, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 149–​175. Eades, D 1982, “You gotta know how to talk.. .”: ethnography of information seeking in South-​east Queensland Aboriginal society, Australian Journal of Linguistics, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 61–​82. Eades, D 1994, ‘A case of communicative clash: Aboriginal English and the legal system’, in J Gibbons (ed.), Language and the law, Longman, London. Eades, D 1996, Legal recognition of cultural differences in communication: the case of Robyn Kina, Language and Communication, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 215–​227. Eades, D 2000, I don’t think it’s an answer to the question: silencing Aboriginal witnesses in court, Language in Society, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 161–​195. Eades, D 2003, Participation of second language and second dialect speakers in the legal system, Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol. 23, pp. 113–​133. Fair, JE 1993, War, famine, and poverty: race in the construction of Africa’s media image, Journal of Communication Inquiry, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 5–​22. Fairclough, N 2001, Language and power, Longman, Harlow. Fran, J, and Smith, EJ 2019, ‘‘Based on merit?’: 17 per cent of NSW supreme court judges went to one exclusive Sydney private school’, Special Broadcasting Service, 4 February, viewed 18 January 2020,​news/​the-​feed/​based-​on-​merit-​17-​per-​cent-​of-​nsw-​supreme-​court-​ judges-​went-​to-​one-​exclusive-​sydney-​private-​school. Frumkin, L 2007, Influences of accent and ethnic background on perceptions of eyewitness testimony, Psychology, Crime & Law, vol. 13, no. 3, pp. 317–​331. Gibb, R, and Good, A 2014, Interpretation, translation and intercultural communication in refugee status determination procedures in the UK and France, Language and Intercultural Communication, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 385–​399.



Legal interpreting Gogolin, I 1997, The “monolingual habitus” as the common feature in teaching in the language of the majority in different countries, Per Linguam, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 38–​49. González, RD, Vásquez, VF, and Mikkelson, H 1991, Fundamentals of court interpretation: theory, policy and practice, Carolina Academic Press, Durham. Gorlick, B 2003, Common burdens and standards: legal elements in assessing claims to refugee status, International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 357–​376. Grey, A 2021 , Language rights in a changing China, De Gruyter, Boston. Hale, SB 2004, The discourse of court interpreting, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. Hale, SB 2014a, ‘How are courtroom questions interpreted? An analysis of Spanish interpreters’ practices’, in I Mason (ed.), Triadic exchanges: studies in dialogue interpreting, Routledge, Abingdon. Hale, SB 2014b, Interpreting culture. Dealing with cross-​cultural issues in court interpreting, Perspectives, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 321–​331. Hale, SB, Bond, N, and Sutton, J 2011, Interpreting accent in the courtroom, Target, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 48–​61. Hall, S 1992, ‘The West and the rest: discourse and power’, in S Hall and B Gieben (eds.), Formations of modernity, Polity Press, Cambridge. Hanson-​Easey, S, and Augoustinos, M 2010, Out of Africa: accounting for refugee policy and the language of causal attribution, Discourse & Society, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 295–​323. Harris, B 1990, Norms in interpretation. Target, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 115–​119. Inghilleri, M 2003, Habitus, field and discourse: interpreting as a socially situated activity, Target, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 243–​268. Jedlowski, A 2016, Close-​ up: the marginalization of African media studies: studying media “from” the South: African media studies and global perspectives, Black Camera: An International Film Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 174–​193. Kleij, S 2015, Interaction in Dutch asylum interviews. A corpus study of interpreter-​mediated institutional discourse, LOT, Utrecht. Kouyate, D 1989, ‘The role of the griot’, in L Goss and M Barnes (eds.), Talk that talk: an anthology of African-​American storytelling, Simon & Schuster, New York. Lee, J 2009, When linguistic and cultural differences are not disclosed in court interpreting, Multilingua, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 379–​401. Lippi-​Green, R 1994, Accent, standard language ideology, and discriminatory pretext in the courts, Language in Society, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 163–​198. Loftsdóttir, K 2008, Shades of otherness: representations of Africa in 19th-​ century Iceland, Social Anthropology, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 172–​186. Mason, I, and Ren, W 2012, Power in face-​to-​face interpreting events, The Journal of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 234–​253. Martínez-​Gómez, A 2015, Invisible, visible, or everywhere in between? Perceptions and actual behaviours of non-​professional interpreters and interpreting users, The Interpreters’ Newsletter, vol. 20, pp. 175–​194.

Legal interpreting Matsuda, MJ 1991, Voices of America: accent, antidiscrimination law, and a jurisprudence for the last reconstruction, The Yale Law Journal, vol. 100, no. 5, pp. 1329–​1407. Mbiti, JS 1990, African religions & philosophy, Heinemann, Oxford. Mikkelson, H 1998, Towards a redefinition of the role of the court interpreter, Interpreting, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 21–​45. Mikkelson, H 2008, ‘Evolving views of the court interpreter’s role: between Scylla and Charybdis’, in C Valero-​Garcés and A Martin (eds.), Crossing borders in community interpreting, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. Miller, KE, Martell, ZL, Pazdirek, L, Caruth, M, and Lopez, D 2005, The role of interpreters in psychotherapy with refugees: an exploratory study, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 27–​39. Morris, R 1999, The gum syndrome: predicaments in court interpreting, Forensic Linguistics, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 6–​29. Mulcahy, L 2007, Architects of justice: the politics of courtroom design, Social & Legal Studies, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 383–​403. Muniroh, RD, Findling, J, and Heydon, G 2018, ‘What’s in a question: a case for a culturally appropriate interviewing protocol in the Australian Refugee Review Tribunal’, in IM Nick (ed.), Forensic linguistics, asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants, Vernon Press, Delaware. Munro, MJ, and Derwing, TM 1995, Foreign accent, comprehensibility, and intelligibility in the speech of second language learners, Language Learning, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 73–​97. Namakula, CS 2014, Language and the right to fair hearing in international criminal trials, Springer, Cham. Nartowska, K 2014, ‘Court interpreter: Lawyer, psychiatrist, director or actor?’, in D Kierzkowska (ed.), New tasks for legal interpreters and translators in the enlarged Europe, TEPIS, Warszawa. Ndhlovu, F 2013, Too tall, too dark to be Australian: racial perceptions of post-​refugee Africans, Critical Race & Whiteness Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 1–​17. Okawa, JB 2008, ‘Considerations for the cross-​cultural evaluation of refugees and asylum seekers’, in LA Suzuki and JG Ponterotto (eds.), Handbook of multicultural assessment: clinical, psychological, and educational application, John Wiley & Sons, San Francisco. Pöllabauer, S 2004, Interpreting in asylum hearings. Issues of role, responsibility and power, Interpreting, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 43–​80. Porter, S, and Brinke, LT 2009, Dangerous decisions: a theoretical framework for understanding how judges assess credibility in the courtroom, Legal and Criminological Psychology, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 119–​134. Ramsley, J, and Marchetti, E 2001, The hidden whiteness of Australian law. A case study, Griffith Law Review, vol. 10, pp. 139–​152. RT 2018, ‘Judge said Assange hearing needs a translator fluent in ‘Australian’ –​ report’, RT News, 26 October, viewed 12 February 2019,​ news/​442310-​assange-​translator-​australian-​judge/​. Rubin, DL 1992, Nonlanguage factors affecting undergraduates’ judgments of nonnative English-​ speaking teaching assistants, Research in Higher Education, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 511–​531.



Legal interpreting Rubin, DL, and Smith, KA 1990, Effects of accent, ethnicity, and lecture topic on undergraduates’ perceptions of nonnative English-​speaking teaching assistants, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 337–​353. Sarangi, S, and Slembrouck, S 2014, Language, bureaucracy and social control, Routledge, Abingdon. Scollon, R, Scollon, SW, and Jones, RH 2012, Intercultural communication: a discourse approach, John Wiley & Sons, Malden. Shumam, A, and Bohmer, C 2004, Representing trauma: political asylum narrative, Journal of American Folklore, vol. 117, no. 466, pp. 394–​414. Shuman, A, and Bohmer, C 2014, Gender and cultural silences in the political asylum process, Sexualities, vol. 17, no. 8, pp. 939–​957. Smith-​ Khan, L 2017a, Negotiating narratives, accessing asylum: evaluating language policy as multi-​ level practice, beliefs and management, Multilingua, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 31–​57. Smith-​Khan, L 2017b, Telling stories: credibility and the representation of social actors in Australian asylum appeals, Discourse & Society, vol. 28, no. 5, pp. 512–​534. Smith-​Khan, L 2017c, Different in the same way? Language, diversity, and refugee credibility, International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 389–​416. Smith-​Khan, L 2020, Migration practitioners’ roles in communicating credible refugee claims, Alternative Law Journal, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 119–​124. Spijkerboer, T 2005, ‘Stereotyping and acceleration. Gender, procedural and marginalised judicial review in the Dutch asylum system’, in G Noll (ed.), Proof, evidentiary assessment and credibility in asylum procedures, Martinus Nijhoff, Leiden. Tipton, R 2008, Reflexivity and the social construction of identity in interpreter-​ mediated asylum interviews, The Translator, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 1–​19. Todorova, M 2019, ‘Interpreting for refugees: empathy and activism’, in C Declercq and FM Federici (eds.), Intercultural crisis communication: translation, interpreting and languages in local crises, Bloomsbury, London. Vambe, MT 2001, Orality and cultural identities in Zimbabwe, Mambo Press, Gweru. Versteegh, K 2014, Arabic language, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh. Wadensjö, C 1998, Interpreting as interaction, Longman, London. Wallace, M 2015, A further call to action: training as a policy issue in court interpreting, The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 173–​187. Waruta, DW 2005, ‘Marriage and family in contemporary African society: challenges in pastoral counseling’, in DW Waruta and HW Kinoti (eds.), Pastoral care in African Christianity, Action Publishers, Nairobi. Windle, J 2008, The racialisation of African youth in Australia, Social Identities, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 553–​566.

6  Power and choices in interpreting

6.1  Power inseparable from intercultural communication Readers might recall the two key questions that I raised in the introductory chapter of the book: why does intercultural communication often break down in interpreter-​mediated encounters, and how do interpreters deal with intercultural communication issues when they arise? This section specifically addresses the first question of the causes behind intercultural communication breakdowns based on the findings from the previous chapters, before moving on to discuss the latter issue of individual choices in the following section. In intercultural communication, culture is often explained in terms of macro differences, and macro cultural differences tend to be seen as responsible for communicative failure (Archer 1996). In resistance to a macro-​monolithic perspective, the book has adopted small-​cultural approaches through which power structures can be highlighted as a central factor underlying communicative breakdowns in a diverse range of interpreter-​assisted intercultural encounters. Power is inseparable from interpreting, in which communication usually occurs between individuals who hold valued forms of capital and those who do not (Angelelli 2004). Furthermore, power relations in interpreting do not operate only at an interpersonal level, but represent a microcosm of social structures which are often linked to hierarchical layers that operate on a global scale. For instance, the Asian migrant parents living in Australia discussed in Chapter 4 were conscious of their own marginalised positions, which are primarily defined by the ‘us-​them’ binary in Australian society. The dichotomous categorisation of ethnic minorities as the ‘Others’ is not just specific to the local hierarchies, but can be traced to historical global structures which divide geography and people into East vs. West according to the perceived degrees of civilisation (see Chapter 4 for further details). As members of minority groups are classified on the basis of the existing structural layers, a sense of powerlessness and an associated inferiority complex are often experienced by migrants who are socially aware. These feelings, as illustrated, can impact communicative


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behaviours of minority parents who tend to see particular school decisions with respect to their children as discriminatory and racist. Their communication styles are, however, often interpreted as ethno-​cultural traits by local teachers in the context of the cultural essentialisation of Asian migrants as ‘tiger parents’ in Australia. Examples such as these illustrate that what are seen as distinctively ethnic behaviours can, in fact, be influenced by pre-​defined global-​ social hierarchies. The racial dimensions of power relations can also be critically examined in the context of monolingual and monocultural ideologies, as emerged from the discussion of interpreter-​mediated encounters in the legal sphere (see Chapter 5 for further details). The ways in which the performance and credibility of minority participants are evaluated and determined according to the monolingual and monocultural ideologies associated with legal institutions (and those who hold power therein) illustrate how deeply the white norms are entrenched in the legal domains. Stereotypes associated with ethnicity and race further feed into the us-​them dichotomy which serves as both a cause and an outcome of the perpetuation of the dominant ideologies in the legal space. As the ‘expected’ mainstream language and cultural behaviours continue to serve as the standards against which to measure the credibility of accounts narrated by minority court participants, these individuals are disadvantaged in terms of their ability to fully participate in legal processes. Furthermore, deviations from the established norms are seen negatively and consequentially generalised on essentialising ethnic terms, which, in turn, causes misunderstanding in legal contexts. The macro power structures relating to the us-​ them distinction significantly also impact the daily social lives of ethnic minorities in Australia. As discussed in Chapter 3, migrants in Australia tend to live in alienation, and many rely on ethnic communities as a primary source of social capital. While a lack of English proficiency certainly limits the scope of social interactions available to some members of migrant communities, it is also the binary structures that often result in the parallel life experiences of minority individuals who are defined as ‘multicultural’. The perceived and often-​criticised tendency of migrants to ‘stick to’ ethnic enclaves is not necessarily due to individual unwillingness to integrate into the host society, but an outcome of having no other choices in a dominant social field which operates in ways that exclude minority members. As many migrants end up being heavily dependent on their own ethnic communities, a sense of isolation and cultural alienation arises and deepens. Many doctors may, however, be unfamiliar with and unaware of these experiences, and the ways in which such individuals present in doctor-​patient encounters are rather seen as strange and unusual (see Chapter 3 for further details). It is, once again, the power of the structural layers at interpersonal and

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social levels that results in intercultural communicative breakdowns in medical settings. Power relations not only affect intercultural communicative events involving migrants, but also extend to other interpreting settings in non-​ migrant contexts. As explored in Chapter 2 on business interpreting, gender figures prominently as an area of power differentials in some interpreting contexts, in which interpreters (most of whom are female) serve predominantly male clients in powerful positions (Cho 2017). Combined with traditional perceptions of interpreting in some parts of the world as a ‘woman’s job’, the status of female interpreters is pre-​ determined in the field of business, where interpreters are often placed on the lower rungs of the power hierarchies. Under such circumstances, female interpreters working for organisations are sometimes required to assume work unrelated to their professional duties and can even become targets of sexist jokes by male employees (see Section 2.3 for further details). The ways in which the global linguistic hierarchies are combined with gender are particularly noteworthy. As illustrated in Section 2.5, reliance on female interpreters for communication in English appeared to be perceived as a sign of weakness by Japanese men in positions of authority, possibly because they equated their lack of oral English proficiency with professional incompetence. Rather than communicating through the female interpreters, the Japanese men pretended to understand English, which resulted in communication breakdowns. While their behaviours might be seen as manifestations of cultural traits specific to Japan (e.g. Japanese face-​saving culture), it seems likely that their decisions to pretend to understand English were significantly influenced by global linguistic hierarchies, in which English is valued as the most powerful language and often serves as a yardstick to measure one’s ability and willingness to fit in the global era (Monzó and Rueda 2009). The default expectation of proficiency in English and the resultant face-​saving behaviours show that communication breakdowns in intercultural interactions are not just specific to local cultural elements, but relate to global power structures in which English assumes the central position. The myriad ways in which power can exert its influence in intercultural interactions, and the many levels on which it can operate, highlight the importance of examining these interactions from a range of perspectives. In other words, it is essential to focus on both the immediate layers of power in communication as well as the macro-​ structural layers, including institutional, social, and global forces. While the power asymmetries are identified as a key factor in communicative failure across a diverse range of interpreting domains, it is, however, important to challenge and question the assumed deterministic nature of the structural forces at play. As Giddens (1984) noted,



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structure and agency often serve as dual forces, because structure not only shapes individual choices but is in turn potentially transformed by micro practices. Individual enactment of power is dependent on resources available to individual actors (Ewick and Silbey 2003), and the bilingual and bicultural abilities of interpreters represent unique forms of power which can be used to bring about changes in intercultural interactions. While many interpreter-​mediated encounters are characterised by the stratification of social spaces, the ways in which interpreters reconstruct and rebalance interactions and justify their communication strategies have received very little attention. The next section, therefore, addresses this question, with a specific focus on the role of individual power and agency.

6.2  Choices in relation to field To be a human being is to be a purposive agent, who both has reasons for his or her activities and is able, if asked, to elaborate discursively upon those reasons. Giddens 1984, p. 4

By exploring the confluence of structural elements and the actions of individual agents in various intercultural contexts, this book aims to illuminate the choices made by interpreters in a professional field of endeavour governed by complex power relations, as well as highlighting strategic processes through which these choices are rationalised. While intercultural communication is undeniably a fact of daily life in our contemporary world, intercultural encounters are, as illustrated in this book, often fraught with power imbalances and can necessitate a complex process of reasoning and positioning particularly among individuals of minority backgrounds. Interpreters, many of whom are members of ethnic minorities in the contexts where they live and work, are centrally engaged in the processes of negotiating conflicts which are both internal and external. By focusing on the agency and micro power of interpreters, this book examined how individual interpreters respond to structures which are said to govern the practices of individual agents (Bourdieu 1990) and how their choices are justified. One of the most common response patterns that emerged in data analysis is the belief expressed by many informants in the role of interpreters as communication facilitators. While the view of an interpreter as a mere talking machine is no longer valid in the interpreting scholarship, the perceptions of outsiders have almost exclusively defined the role of interpreters as performing word-​to-​word conversions in which nothing should be left unsaid (Diriker 2011). The general view of interpreters as a communication channel is, however, resisted by

Power and choices in interpreting

those interpreters who see themselves as an essential part of the conversation for the actualisation of communication success. As illustrated in Chapter 3 on medical interpreting, acts of intervention are justified by a sense of responsibility shared among the interpreter-​informants who saw better health outcomes for patients as the most important goal of intercultural interactions in medical contexts. In order to maximise the chances of achieving successful communication, these interpreters mobilised various strategies which included assurance of confidentiality, body language, clarifications, cultural advice, personalised communication, and reassurance of patients’ rights to know. Rather than staying within the prescribed zone for interpreting, these individuals stepped in and out of the space in order to realise the primary goal of communication success for the minority patients unable to represent themselves. As such, individual beliefs in what communication should be play an important part in interpreter-​mediated communicative events. At the same time, individual convictions held by interpreters with regard to certain social issues play a part, too. As discussed in Section 2.3, it was an individual belief about the inappropriateness of particular forms of gender talk that motivated one interpreter to discourage the client who wanted his sexist joke to be delivered. While many interpreters follow the old trick of asking audiences to laugh when clients make insensitive jokes, this interpreter refused to do so based on her own gender awareness, and sought an alternative path. Individual beliefs are not confined to the realm of gender, but further extend to issues of social equality and justice. A good example is the medical interpreter who made efforts to clarify the apparently incoherent answers of an elderly patient for fear that he might be misdiagnosed as cognitively impaired (see Section 3.3 for further details). Similarly, the act by the school interpreter who wanted to speak on behalf of the misrepresented minority parent illuminates how choices are rationalised and actualised in intercultural communication contexts that are governed by existing institutional structures (see Section 4.4 for further details). Social justice as grounds for action can also be seen in the domain of legal interpreting, in which the legal interpreters used diverse communication strategies (including clarifications, cut-​ ins, fillers, cultural advice, and rephrasing questions based on cultural knowledge) in order to rebalance the communicative contexts involving participants of minority backgrounds. These cases highlight interpreting as an act of social justice for individuals from minority backgrounds unable to express themselves, and the informants were well aware of the crucial roles that they play in delivering just communicative outcomes and carefully made choices that best suited the given situations.



Power and choices in interpreting

By navigating the systems in individual ways, the informants’ stories illustrate that ‘In all viable systems, there must be an area where the individual is free to make choices so as to manipulate the system to his advantage’ (Leach 1962, p. 133). After all, it is impossible for systems to close all possible avenues for individual actions, which are often unplanned and unpredictable. It is the very nature of individuality that can, even temporarily, rebalance the existing field which serves as sites of structural reproduction, and the creative actions of the interpreters show how it is possible for macro structures and hierarchies to be transformed. While the importance of micro power held by individual interpreters cannot be overstated, it is, at the same time, crucial to recognise that the onus of solving intercultural communicative problems should not be solely placed on interpreters. The responsibility should rather be shared by all communication participants, and effective collaboration between interpreters and people in powerful positions is particularly important to accomplishing communication success. This necessitates changes which relate to both parties, and the following section discusses this issue in two key areas: awareness of intercultural communication issues among people in authority and the role redefinitions of interpreters.

6.3  In their own words –​the stories told While there has been increasing attention to sociological aspects of interpreting and interpreters in the interpreting scholarship (Pöchhacker 2006), scholarly attempts to explore the interpreter’s agency have been extremely limited, particularly in relation to the issue of power structures inherent in interpreting. Furthermore, interpreters’ own views on their roles in intercultural communicative contexts remain significantly underexplored. This concluding section thus explores the ways in which the informants themselves define their roles, which provides a backdrop for a discussion of ways in which interpreters’ roles might potentially be redefined and re-​ framed. In doing so, it proposes a way to move on to a collaborative model of engagement between interpreters and people in powerful positions, whose understanding of and commitment to addressing intercultural communicative problems is essential to bring about genuine changes. In Section 1.2.1, I raised the question of why interpreters are hardly ever recognised as intercultural communicators, despite the significant role that they play in communicating both language and culture. In order to understand the informants’ thoughts on the issue, I asked the following three questions during the interviews:

Power and choices in interpreting

• How important is culture to interpreting? • Do you think interpreters are intercultural communicators? • If you do not think so, what other roles should interpreters play? As for the first question regarding the significance of culture to interpreting, the informants almost unanimously agreed that culture was indeed a determining factor in interpreter-​mediated encounters. In some cases, however, informants explicitly emphasised language as the most important element of interpreting. For example: I don’t think it [culture]’s more important than language. Leonie, English-​French interpreter I think fluency in language comes first. Nari, English-​Korean interpreter Language is more than culture, because culture’s all very different. Adam, English-​Romanian interpreter Regardless, the notion of interpreting as an act of communicating language and culture was hardly challenged by the informants, and this aligns with a view of language inextricably linked to culture (House 2008). At the same time, opinions on the question of whether interpreters are ‘intercultural communicators’ noticeably differed. While some participants expressed a clear and definite view that interpreters are intercultural communicators, others did not share this perspective. Why then, despite agreeing that interpreters communicate both language and culture, did some interpreters not regard themselves as intercultural communicators? In a broad sense, two patterns of response are identified among this subset of respondents. The first rationale is based on the perception of an intercultural communicator as one with greater knowledge and expertise than an interpreter in terms of communicating culture. Some informants shared a view that while interpreters are generally competent in terms of cultural knowledge and practice, they are yet not ‘experts’ on culture, which is a concept too vast to be mastered: 통역사들은 다 문화전문가다 이런 가정에서 출발하는것 같은데 사실 엄밀히 따지면은 전문가라기 보다는 그 문화를 경험했고 그냥 그 문화의 일부는 이렇다라는걸 알지 전문가라고 부르기에는 좀 힘들지 않나 싶거든요. 전문가라고 부르려면은 이걸 속속들이 알고있어야 되는데 그건 아니잖아요. 저만해도 대한민국 문화 모르는 부분들이 정말 많고요.



Power and choices in interpreting

I think the general assumption is that interpreters are experts on culture, but strictly speaking, they are not experts. They experienced culture and know part of it, and I think it would be hard to consider them as experts. For interpreters to qualify as experts, they should know everything, but they don’t. In my case, there are so many things about Korean culture that I don’t know. Siwan, English-​Korean interpreter The other reason why interpreters are sometimes not regarded as intercultural communicators concerns the socially prescribed role of interpreters within the specific context of Australia. As examined throughout this book, role boundaries are firmly established in the area of interpreting, and the informants emphasised the importance of not overstepping the line in order to perform their role appropriately and professionally, hence the reluctance to characterise themselves as intercultural communicators: My understanding in Australia is that, as an interpreter, we are not meant to provide cultural information. We are not meant to be cultural experts. That’s not part of our role. Alice, English-​Swahili interpreter It’s not your role. I think to be an intercultural communicator means you actually have to be teaching people, something. It’s interpreting. You are not teaching. Barbara, English-​Japanese interpreter The rationale provided by Alice, which alludes to the role boundaries for interpreters in Australia, bears noting. As discussed in Chapters 3, 4, and 5, Alice provided significant insight into intercultural communication problems and shared the individual strategies that she had developed to address issues of this kind. For example, Alice tries to highlight cultural affinity with African patients by wearing distinctively African clothing so as to earn trust from patients who may feel uneasy about discussing sensitive health information with a ‘foreign’ interpreter (see Section 3.4 for further details). Importantly, she also offers cultural advice to those in authority when she feels that this is necessary, in order to prevent communication from breaking down (see Section 3.5 for further details). The apparent gap between theoretical understandings and codification of what interpreting is and the actual practice in real-​life situations illuminates why the exercise of individual agency cannot be entirely dictated by social and institutional definitions of what their roles should be. While the field of communication appears to be governed by macro norms, the field is also

Power and choices in interpreting

challenged, resisted, and transformed by everyday communicative and performative practices by individuals who consciously and subconsciously defy ‘objective regularities’ (Bourdieu 1990, p. 26). Individual agency held by interpreters is further revealed in the informants’ responses to the question of what other roles (if not ‘intercultural communicators’) interpreters should play. While some informants did not necessarily regard interpreters as intercultural communicators, they nevertheless saw themselves as individuals with power. In the case of Martina, an English-​Italian interpreter, she believed that her bilingual and bicultural competence endowed her with, in her own expression, ‘a role of power’ in interpreting. The specific form of power to which Martina was referring concerns an interpreter’s ability to shape and change the course of communication, as the only person who can understand both languages and cultures in a given interactional context. Beyond the immediate communicative context, there were informants who ascribed social meanings to interpreting. From a broader societal perspective, those informants saw interpreting as an act of empowerment for people who are isolated and marginalised. As described by Peter, an English-​Chinese interpreter: A lot of Chinese people say we are second-​class citizens in this country [Australia]. To some extent, I guess yes, they have a point, because the kind of equality and fairness can never be absolute. But also at the same time, I think there are possible ways to empower them to, to, to the maximum extent. So yes, there are prejudice on, on a racial term. When you look at those who grew up in Australia, some of them appear to be struggling and some of them appear to do really well. But they can empower them through language, whereas these people would be subject to double, if not triple discrimination. Yes, they don’t, you know, maybe they are discriminated because of their race, but they don’t have cultural knowledge and they don’t have the language. So at least we can empower them through language. It is indeed the expressed social awareness and a sense of mission to ensure social equality that motivates many informants to perform the role of ‘social agents’. This resonates strongly with Davidson’s (2000) observations that ‘interpreters are not, and cannot be, “neutral” machines of linguistic conversion’ (p. 401, quotation marks in original), for communicative situations in which they are involved are inevitably social situations. In fulfilling social functions, those interpreters constantly travel back and forth between two different worlds, while trying to negotiate their positions in the field in light of a gap between theory and practice. Decisions are primarily made



Power and choices in interpreting

to bridge this gap, so that parties to communication, but particularly those in vulnerable positions, can benefit from their unique bilingual and bicultural abilities. For these interpreters, decision-​making represents a process that enables social empowerment and representation. In this sense, interpreters represent human bridges that span various human experiences in order to mediate between two worlds that would otherwise remain separated: You can’t just follow what the book or protocol asks you to do. You can’t get a good result. One person speaking, the other person speaking, 어떤 큰 칸퍼런스 할 때는 그런 것이 적용이 되요 (this can apply to a big conference), but not in a hospital situation. You do need to have a certain eye contact. I need to see their face and emotion. I do need to see everything. Because interpreting is not all about what they say and you say it to the other person. No, not like a machine. We are the tool between two cultures and two different languages. Miso, English-​Korean interpreter The views expressed here on the roles of interpreters may not, however, necessarily be shared by individuals in authority who are important players in interpreted speech events by virtue of the power that they hold. While there may be some professionals who are willing to cooperate with interpreters to make communication succeed, it appears, as illustrated in this book, that there are many more who see interpreters as performing the mechanical role of conveying only what they hear. Such mechanistic views of interpreting and interpreters often held by people outside the field need to be challenged and reshaped, so that intercultural communication can be fully actualised in interpreting through inter-​party collaboration. One tool to achieve the goal is the act of storytelling, as proposed by Ewick and Silbey (2003). Ewick and Silbey (2003) argue that compared with stories of collectivist individual resistance which have been widely circulated for their history-​changing outcomes, not much attention has been paid to stories of everyday resistance by individual actors. Stories which contain struggles and resistance of individual agents are, however, arguably more relevant to our day-​to-​day lives than any other stories. Furthermore, these stories hold enlightening power to expose taken-​for-​granted macro structures which critically influence our daily life. Building and disseminating stories regarding intercultural communicative challenges in interpreter-​ mediated settings, therefore, represents one important key to helping those in authority understand the root causes that underlie communication problems and internal/​external conflicts encountered by interpreters.

Power and choices in interpreting

Achieving communication success through inter-​ party collaboration is not just a communicative but a social act, considering the disadvantages often encountered by individuals in marginalised positions. Collaboration between interpreters and people in authority, therefore, carries significance that extends beyond the bounds of specific communicative settings to contribute to enhanced social equality, cohesion, and justice. By telling some of the stories that would otherwise have remained untold, this book re-​frames the act of interpreting as a dynamic social act in which power and choices constantly interact with each other to create unique intercultural stories. These stories demonstrate powerfully that interpreting is much more than individuals performing linguistic and cultural acts. While I do not wish to generalise based on the stories of a small group of individuals, the stories do highlight issues that are applicable to other institutional and social spaces, particularly those characterised by linguistic and cultural diversity. Interpreting plays a crucial role in these spaces and is ultimately about the performance of social acts that are underpinned by universal human values. Many of the stories that have been told in this book illustrate this universality, and I hope that the book serves as a platform to rethink the roles of interpreters who hold liberating potential for the actualisation of the transformative power of human action.

References Angelelli, CV 2004. Revisiting the interpreter’s role: a study of conference, court, and medical interpreters in Canada, Mexico and the United States, John Benjamins, Amsterdam. Archer, MS 1996. Culture and agency: the place of culture in social theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Bourdieu, P 1990, The logic of practice, Polity Press, Cambridge. Cho, J 2017, English language ideologies in Korea: interpreting the past and present, Springer, Cham. Davidson, B 2000, The interpreter as institutional gatekeeper: the social-​ linguistic role of interpreters in Spanish-​English medical discourse, Journal of Sociolinguistics, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 379–​405. Diriker, E 2011, Agency in conference interpreting: still a myth? Gramma: Journal of Theory and Criticism, vol. 19, pp. 27–​36. Ewick, P, and Silbey, S 2003, Narrating social structure: stories of resistance to legal authority, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 108, no. 6, pp. 1328–​1372. Giddens, A 1984, The constitution of society: outline of the theory of structuration, University of California Press, Berkeley. House, J 2008, ‘What is an ‘intercultural speaker’?’, in EA Soler and PS Jordà (eds.), Intercultural language use and language learning, Springer, Dordrecht.



Power and choices in interpreting Leach, E 1962, On certain unconsidered aspects of double descent systems, Man, 62, pp. 130–​134. Monzó, LD, and Rueda, R 2009, Passing for English fluent: Latino immigrant children masking language proficiency, Anthropology & Education Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 20–​40. Pöchhacker, F 2006, Interpreters and ideology: from ‘between’ to ‘within’, Across Languages and Cultures, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 191–​207.


Aboriginal interpreters 97 accent 99–​104, 109, 119–​120 acceptability 55, 100, 104 ADD 85 ADHD 85 Adult Migrant English Program 47 African refugees 122–​123, 126–​130 agency 2, 4–​9, 27, 38, 63–​64, 71, 92, 105, 117, 140–​145 Arabic dialects 105 Asian success 69, 73, 91 Assange, Julian 99 Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conference 5 asylum seekers 116–​125 Australian dreams 64, 69, 91 Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators 6, 48 Autism 85 bicultural 8, 44, 55, 98, 123, 132, 140, 145–​146 bilingual court participants 99, 107–​108 bilingualism 109 Bourdieu, Pierre 5, 100–​101, 119, 140, 145 cancer 1, 59, 60–​61 children as interpreters 71 code(s) 5–​7, 48, 96 code of conduct 2 code(s) of ethics 5–​7, 21, 48, 96 code-​switching 97 community gossip 11, 52–​57, 64, 86 community language 45

confidentiality 5–​6, 45, 55–​56, 64, 141 conflict interpreters 117 Confucianism 11, 73–​74, 91 corporate globalisation 20 cross-​cultural communication 9 cultural alienation 138 cultural diversity 7, 43, 58, 103–​104, 126, 147 cut-​in 30, 113, 141 dementia 51–​52, 64 depression 52, 55, 57–​58 disability 86 discrimination 53, 59, 83–​86, 89–​90, 145 domestic violence 107 Eades, Diana 97, 110–​111 elderly patient(s) 46–​52, 63–​64, 141 embodied capital 101, 119–​120 emotional labour 24 empowerment 18, 145–​146 English as a global language 32 ethnic enclave(s) 43, 138 ethno-​racial biases 130 Eurocentrism 84 eye contact 128, 146 face-​saving 19, 34–​35, 37, 139 Fairclough, Norman 95 gate-​keepers 4 gender agency 27 gender hierarchies 22 Giddens, Anthony 8, 139–​140


Index glass ceiling 19, 29 globalisation 32 go-​betweens 4 griot 128 guanxi 26 habitus 5 House, Juliane 9–​10, 143 impartiality 6, 45, 48, 52, 91 improvisation 31 Indigenous people 97 inferiority complex 38, 84–​90, 137 intercultural communicator(s) 4, 132, 142–​145 intercultural sensitivity 26 intergenerational tensions 81–​82 intermediaries 4

National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters 12 nodding 19, 33, 36–​37, 61 non-​disclosure 2, 60 non-​persons 4 Nuremberg Trials 96 off-​topic communication 32 off-​topic speech 28 opportunity class(es) 73–​74 oral tradition 128 Orientalism 84 paediatric assessment 85–​86 patient autonomy 1, 58 Piller, Ingrid 9, 18, 35 Pöchhacker, Franz 3–​4, 142 polygamous marriage 127 private school(s) 73–​74, 103

Japanese face 33–​35 kao 33–​34 kitenge 56 language contact 58, 104 language ideologies 38 large cultures 10 linguistic diversity 103, 106, 108 linguistic mediators 31 Lippi-​Green, Rosina 100–​101, 104 male dominance 11, 19, 37 marriage 25–​26 menboku 33–​34 mental health 46, 52–​55, 125 mental illness 52–​55, 125 micro-​interactional power 8, 10, 31 micro power 8, 10, 39, 51, 64, 105, 140, 142 Migration and Refugee Division Guidelines on the Assessment of Credibility 98 military culture 19, 28 monolingual habitus 104 multiculturalism 43, 103, 130 multilingualism 97, 103

racial discrimination 83, 85–​86, 89–​90 racio-​linguistic biases 96, 131 refugee interview(s) 11, 119, 130–​131 refugee narratives 98, 117, 120, 129–​130 rephrasing 30, 141 role boundaries 144 schizophrenia 52 selective school(s) 73–​74, 77 shame 46, 52–​53, 86 skilled migrants 47, 74 skilled migration 47 small cultures 10–​11, 44 social capital 70, 138 social inclusion 127 social isolation 11, 46–​47 social justice 130, 132, 141 social mobility 69, 74 Standard Arabic 106 standard language ideology 103 stereotype(s) 11, 18, 64, 70, 75, 90, 101, 108, 118, 126–​127, 131, 138 stigma 46, 53 structural duality 92

Index taimen 33–​34 terminal illness 2, 59, 63–​64 tiger parents 11, 72, 80–​83, 91, 138 us-​them binary 116, 118, 137 Uyghur language 105

Wadensjö, Cecilia 4, 6, 111 white hegemony 72 yes-​no questions 13, 110–​116, 125, 129, 131 Zhuang speakers 104