Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Non-Professional Volunteer Interpreting as an Institutionalized Practice in Healthcare: A Study on Interpreters' Personal Narratives

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Non-Professional Volunteer Interpreting as an Institutionalized Practice in Healthcare: A Study on Interpreters' Personal Narratives

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Non-professional interpreters often provide an essential service in multilingual societies that lack professional interpreting services (Baraldi & Gavioli, 2014). In some European countries non-professional interpreting services, often found in migrant-oriented NGOs, tend to be conceived primarily as a form of intercultural mediation, a modality that goes beyond linguistic mediation, even though this is one of the principal tasks carried out by the volunteers (ValeroGarces, 2008). However, these interpreters generate trust among service users by adopting additional roles such as caretakers and patient advocates. (1) These roles adopted by migrant-oriented NGOs more and more often seem to be considered as a valid option for bridging the cross-cultural communication gap in healthcare settings in countries such as Italy and Spain, where interpreters are encouraged to serve as cultural brokers or intercultural mediators (Pochhacker, 2008).

Despite their significant contribution to supporting the construction of multilingual societies, non-professional interpreters are often marginalized from mainstream research for fear that they may further damage the professional status of public service interpreting (Baraldi & Gavioli, 2014). Research into nonprofessional interpreting based on the critical analysis of audio-recorded interpretermediated events has provided valuable data on such interpreter performance and the perception of service providers and service users of their services. (2) The researchers conducting these studies generally point out the interpreters' lack of professional training, interpreting skills and awareness of issues such as medical confidentiality, impartiality, and neutrality, and emphasize the negative consequences of the services rendered by non-professional interpreters. (3) However, the existing literature offers little help in revealing how non-professional interpreting is organized and structured more concretely, and how agents position themselves, are positioned or are encouraged to position themselves in the public institutions in which they operate. Very little has been done to explore the experiences and self-perceived role of non-professional interpreters and to place them within the larger field of public service interpreting (hereinafter PSI) as social agents with a specific position within that field (Martin & Marti, 2008; Valero-Garces, 2003).

Unlike previous studies, the majority of which investigate ad hoc nonprofessional interpreters (i.e. family, friends, children or bilingual staff) (Angelelli, 2010; Bezuidenhout & Borry, 2009; Edwards, Temple, & Alexander, 2005), this article discusses the self-perception of volunteers organized through the migrantoriented NGO Asociacion de Interpretes Voluntarios para Enfermos [Organization of Volunteer Interpreters for Patients] (hereinafter AIVE) located in the Costa del Sol region in southern Spain. These volunteers position themselves as interpreters at two healthcare institutions. Unlike ad hoc non-professional interpreters, they are highly institutionalized within these two healthcare institutions. This article attempts to situate the volunteers in question, who operate as non-professional interpreters within the field of PSI, by 1) exploring their historical trajectories; 2) examining their role in relation to the social context in which they operate; and 3) analysing the emergence of their strong professional identity as interpreters. Through the analysis of interpreters' personal narratives, obtained primarily through focus group discussions, this article examines the process of institutionalization of these volunteers into interpreters within their specific healthcare settings. It argues that the volunteers' self-perception as interpreters emerged after they had passed through a process of legitimization by the healthcare institutions and the regional government.

2. Research methods

The findings presented in this article are part of a larger study that examines the positioning and self-perception of non-professional interpreters in different healthcare institutions in the Costa del Sol region. …

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