Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Ethical Implications in Situations Where the Language of Interpretation Shifts: The AUSIT Code of Ethics

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Ethical Implications in Situations Where the Language of Interpretation Shifts: The AUSIT Code of Ethics

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Moving between languages is axiomatic to interpreting. Moving between languages is also commonplace for bi- or multilingual individuals and groups. In Interpreting Studies the prototypical model of the interpreting situation is that of two parties speaking monolingual varieties of two different languages, with the interpreter functioning as a linguistic intermediary. This seems to disregard the profile of many interpreters who have proficiency and accreditation in more than two languages. Multilingualism (i.e. the use of three or more languages) may find its way into interpreting situations that are usually perceived as being bilingual. This paper examines a situational intersection of multilingualism, interpreting and ethics. A negotiated shift in the language of interpretation and perceived ethical implications for interpreters as reported by them is examined and then related to the AUSIT Code of Ethics (hereafter: AUSIT CoE).

Within the literature on shifting languages or code-switching, attention typically focuses on features that are thought to account for why a change in language occurs, such as change of interlocutor, topic, mode of communication or discourse-conversational features such as asides, emphasis or reiteration. The type of code-switching or language shifting that is the focus of this paper is motivated by different reasons. It usually derives from a self-perceived level of proficiency and to a lesser extent the perceived level of proficiency of the interpreter, based on whatever information is available to a client about that interpreter. Language shifting also assumes that clients normally wish to speak the language variety in which they have greater proficiency, in the interpreting situations that they find themselves in.

Most bi- and multilinguals have a sense of which language/s they are more highly proficient or 'dominant' in. Notwithstanding the persistent myth that bi- or multilinguals can or should be multiple monolinguals in the same person (cf. Grosjean, 2008) or the idealised notion of 'equilingualism' as an attainable goal, bi- and multilinguals are usually able to specify which language/s they are dominant in, taking into account the situation, topic or interlocutor. This is related to the contexts in which each language was acquired or is regularly used. A detailed discussion of linguistic dominance goes beyond the focus of this paper (see Genesee et al. 1995; McNamara, 1997). This paper relates 'dominance' to the linguistic performance of an individual based on his/her own declaration or on the evaluation of a language specialist. This latter point is of course problematic but axiomatic to all interpreting situations. As language specialists who are required to recognise and comprehend varying dialects, registers, genres and pragmatic patterns, interpreters make automatic and involuntary judgements about other interlocutors' proficiency levels as well as suppositions about which languages they are likely to know.

The second feature which may determine the likelihood of shifting is a client's (and to a lesser extent an interpreter's) re-negotiation of personal, ethnic, educational and socio-economic attributes, which may be initiated by the client as a direct request, or which may be signalled through "inferences" (Mason, 2006, p.363). The term "take-up" is also used for interpreters in the "sense [that] ... they make of others' talk and how they respond to it" (Mason, 2006, p.365). While these processes usually relate to discourse-internal and content features of text, the inferences can also relate to other attributes, such as ethnic allegiance, educational level or previous place of residence, all of them possible predictors of the preferred language variety.

A client's re-negotiation or re-positioning of key attributes indexed through linguistic forms is largely based on 'linguistic monitoring'. Some studies of interpreting interactions in which the proficiency level of either client or interpreter is examined (e. …

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