Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Community Interpreting: Asian Language Interpreters' Perspectives

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Community Interpreting: Asian Language Interpreters' Perspectives

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

According to the United Nations' International Migration Report (2006), there are over 200 million migrants around the world. Australia is one of the countries where international migrants constitute a high proportion of the population; up to twenty percent (The United Nations, 2006). As a large proportion of the population come from different countries throughout the world, many different languages other than the national language of English are spoken in Australia. Thus, there has always been a substantial need for interpreters in community settings, such as medical, legal, business and educational contexts for migrants to be fully integrated into the community. Community interpreters can act as a bridge between the Australian mainstream community and the ethnic minority groups or minority language speakers.

This paper focuses on community interpreters who work between English and Asian languages in Australia. Of the present 200 million migrants around the world, the majority of immigrants come from Asian countries. According to the most recent Australian census (2011), over 12 percent of the Australian population is of Asian descent, predominantly Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian. This statistic may be an underestimation when one accounts for non-migrant temporary populations, including international students, short-term working migrants, and illegal migrants. This transient population would not appear statistically, but they may need to engage with public services in some way while they are in Australia.

Existing international research in community interpreting has investigated interpreter-mediated communication in various European and Scandinavian language combinations, such as Spanish-English (Angelelli, 2003; Davidson, 2000, 2001), Swedish-Russian (Wadensjo, 1998), Danish-English (Jacobsen, 2009), English-German (Pochhacker, 2007), Spanish-Arabic (Valero-Garces, 2005), Norwegian-English-Japanese-Chinese (Rudvin, 2007); and between a signed and spoken language (Metzger, 1999; Napier, 2002, 2011; Sanheim, 2003). Little is known, however, about community interpreting when one of the languages is an Asian language. Although it is not possible to define both Asian and Western cultures completely, as both cultures are diverse and varied, Eastern philosophies and religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Hinduism, and Islam have influenced Asian culture (Mindess, 2006). Thus Asian language interpreters may be confronted with certain dilemmas that may conflict with Western values due to this ontology. Therefore, this research on community interpreting involving an Asian language is much needed and vital to our appreciation of the linguistic, cultural and ethical issues involved.

The aim of the study is to build on other similar studies that investigated the perceptions of interpreters (Kelly, 2000; Lee, 2009a), and the research design was partially based on such studies. In order to explore Asian language community interpreters' perceptions of their role, the study was designed in order to investigate the following research questions:

1. What do they think is their role as a community interpreter?

2. Do they consider Asian language community interpreting to be different from any other language combination? And if so, do they believe that distinctive guidelines are needed for Asian language community interpreters?

3. Which features or skills do they think are important to becoming a community interpreter?

2. Literature Review

2.1 Participants' perceptions of the role of the interpreter

Kelly (2000) and Lee (2009a) both conducted surveys on legal professionals' and interpreters' perceptions of the interpreter's role in the courtroom. In their findings, they found that there might be some cases where court interpreters should interject cultural explanations or linguistic information in the courtroom. …

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