Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

To Interview or Not to Interview: A Critical Approach to Assessing End-Users' Perceptions of the Role of 21st Century Indigenous Interpreters in Peru

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

To Interview or Not to Interview: A Critical Approach to Assessing End-Users' Perceptions of the Role of 21st Century Indigenous Interpreters in Peru

Article excerpt

Abstract: Interviews have been commonly used as a data-gathering instrument in research which approaches interpreting as a socially-situated practice (e.g. Angelelli, 2004; Inghilleri, 2006 & 2012). This paper focuses on a set of six interviews conducted with indigenous community leaders who had participated in an interpreter-mediated consultation process led by the Peruvian government in the Ucayali region between March and September of 2015. The aim is not to discuss the findings derived from the interviews themselves, but, rather, to evaluate critically the implications of adapting a well-established method for the purposes of studying the role of interpreting in a novel socio-political context.

The objective of the interviews was to garner information regarding the interviewees' perceptions of the role of the interpreters, not from a clients' perspective (the interpreters had been trained and employed by the government), but as end-users, or beneficiaries, of the interpreters' work. They were conducted in Spanish, which was the second language of all the interviewees, who had varying degrees of bilingualism. Thus, the underlying hypothesis was that they would have been able to evaluate the competence of the interpreters throughout the consultation process, which could color their perceptions as to their performance and also, potentially, their remit.

The decision was made to depart from clear-cut methodological distinctions between types of interview and adopt a hybrid approach: the questions were open-ended, but fixed, as in structured interviews; on the other hand, the possibility of seeking clarification or of prompting a follow-up (e.g. examples) to the interviewees' answers was left open, as in semi-structured interviews. An interest in how Peruvian indigenous communities construct meaning from their experience of linguistically and culturally mediated exchanges between themselves and the state underpins the choice of method. Its potential limitations is considered and measured against the benefits of tailoring research tools to the study of new realities which result from the involvement of interpreters in emerging legislated scenarios.

Keywords: End-users' perceptions, indigenous interpreters, innovative use of methods, interviews, Peru, prior consultation processes

1. Introduction

The aim of this paper is to assess critically the implications of adapting a well-established method (qualitative interviews) for the purposes of studying the role of interpreting in a novel socio-political context: the legislated intercultural dialogue between the Peruvian state institutions and the indigenous peoples of the country. It focuses on the use of qualitative interviews to garner information as to the perceptions of the interpreter's role held by indigenous leaders who had participated in an interpreter-mediated prior consultation process led by the Peruvian government. Thus, its purpose is not to discuss the findings derived from the interviews themselves (ii), but, rather, to explore the usefulness of the chosen research tool to find answers to a specific research question: how do the representatives of the indigenous peoples of Peru understand and conceptualise the scope of the interpreter's remit in prior consultation settings?

1.1. Background

To contextualise the research, it is necessary to provide a brief account of the process that frames it, namely, prior consultation, and of the institutional arrangements that were put in place to enable its development in accordance with both national and international legislation.

The International Labour Organization's Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' Convention, 1989 (No. 169), of which Peru is a signatory country, aims to deliver social and economic justice for indigenous and tribal peoples. Its Article 6 states that "governments shall consult the peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, whenever consideration is being given to legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly" (ILO, 1989). …

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