Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Interpreted Communication with Children in Public-Sector Services

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Interpreted Communication with Children in Public-Sector Services

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In Norway, the need for public service interpreting has increased considerably over the past 40 years. Most public service interpreters interpret mainly between adults; interpreting for children is nevertheless an important field. Interpreted communicative events involving children may occur in many situations in the public sector, such as in the course of police, child-protection, asylum or socialwelfare proceedings. Accordingly, it is important that public sector professionals receive training in the management of such events. In this article I argue that interpreters are needed not only by ethnic minority children who speak the majority language either poorly or not at all, but also, and perhaps counter-intuitively, by a broader group of ethnic minority children and their families.

Interpreting for children is a virtually unexplored field within public service interpreting (Gotaas, 2007; Hitching & Nilsen, 2010; Nilsen, 2013; Schoor, 2013). We know nothing about the level of demand for interpreters to work with children in the public sector; how frequently such communicative events occur; the persons doing the interpreting; or what actually happens during these meetings. Against the background of this lack of knowledge, we initiated a research project which explores interpreting for children through the application of various theoretical perspectives and methodologies to a range of data. The project has three areas of focus: 1) young children's use of interpreters and the communicative means by which young children participate in interpreter-mediated interaction; 2) potential strategies for interpreting for young children; and 3) a survey of already existing knowledge on interpreting for children. The latter survey is the topic of this article.

Below I present a review of research that may contribute to our understanding of interpreter-mediated communication with children. In addition to focusing on studies within the field of interpreting, with a specific focus on interpreting for children, the article includes a survey of relevant findings from research into multilingualism. This survey seeks to supplement those of Ashok Chand (2005), Nora Gotaas (2007) and Dominique van Schoor (2013) with a particular focus on research and knowledge from Norway. The article also aims to enhance the professional expertise of professionals working with ethnic minority children in many different areas of the public sector. The first part of the article is divided into three sections:

* The need for public service interpreting;

* Interpreting competence in public sector services;

* Interpreter-mediated communication with children.

In focusing on these issues, I will explore knowledge about the factors that a public sector professional may need to take into account when planning and conducting meetings with ethnic minority children. In the second part of the article, I will examine the potential benefits of shifting from a monolingual to a multilingual perspective.

2. The need for public service interpreting

In Norway, the need for public service interpreting has increased considerably over the past 40 years, and there is now a need for interpreting in many different languages. In fact, the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity has registered a demand for interpreting in more than 100 languages (IMDI, 2007). This increasing demand brings with it a growing necessity to train public sector professionals in how to communicate through an interpreter. Many studies have found that communication through an interpreter is a skill that must be learned, as it differs significantly from other types of communication (Felberg Radanovic, 2013a, 2013b).

A report on children's services from the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion emphasises that the interpreter is an important intermediary, and that interpreter-mediated communication must be qualityassured and improved (Barne-og likestillingsdepartementet, 2012). …

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