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Analyzing а Videotaped Interaction

The procedure for analysis, following Gumperz (1982) and Tannen (1984), was to transcribing what each participant said during the videotaped interaction. І wanted to describe how all three participants were involved, especially the interpreter. Because, at the time ( 1989), an interpreted event like this (only three people involved) had not been filmed or described in detail to my knowledge, it seemed best to begin with а basic feature of conversation, taking turns, determining when and how an exchange took place.

After І identified the turns and discourse features surrounding turns, such as simultaneous talking and pauses, І grouped them into categories using the Sacks et al. ( 1974) descriptions of turns. That accomplished, І turned to the three participants for playback interviews ( Tannen 1984 ; Erickson and Shultz 1982 ). Playback interviews allow an analyst to replay an interaction for the participants (on an individual basis) and ask for their recollections of what they were thinking and their impressions of meanings.

Obviously, these interviews need to be conducted soon after the original event before participants’ memories fade away. Playback interviews begin by showing the entire event to the participants. As Tannen (1984) notes, playback is а sensitive process. Interpreters in particular seem to assume that researchers are looking for mistakes. The explanation for this resides in their perception that they are continually confronted, both verbally and in writing, with their mistakes during interpreting.

After asking the interpreter if he thought everything went smoothly and if this event accomplished its purpose from his perspective, which he did as did the other two participants, І explained that, because of the traditional tendency to criticize and find fault, my goal was to examine, describe, and explain this event in ways that described what good interpreters did as they interpreted. І was not looking for mistakes, rather asking how the interpreter made communication happen.

Saying this, І gained his confidence and his openness in explaining his thoughts and actions. After each participant has seen the entire event, І questioned each one about the event in general, getting their impressions of how it proceeded. As they watched again, І asked each one to pause if any instance was noted that impressed or bothered them in any way. In this way, the two primary participants began to talk about their general impressions of using interpreters. The interpreter talked about working as an interpreter.

Finally, І played the tape again, asking them to watch particular turn exchanges and to comment on their own talk and actions, as well as on the talk and actions of the other participants. І directed the participants’ attention to specific instances because in this brief meeting, each turn exchange happened quickly and other features, such as pauses or overlapping talk, were equally as brief. І had to show each segment several times, and as І showed them, І asked each participant first to concentrate on their own talk and actions.

Then І rewound the tape and asked the participants to comment on the talk and actions of the other participants. Their observations, insights, and interpretations were crucial to my own analysis of the ongoing interaction, resulting in supplementing or adjusting the interpretations І had made. Much interpreting research has been а comparison of the interpreter’s output of the target language message with the original message. Typically, this results in categorizing interpreter errors–breakdowns that pinpoint the psycholinguistic stages of information processing.

In short, pointing out what the interpreter has done wrong. My approach has been to adopt the perspective of studying an interpreted event which has apparently gone well by inquiring how such an event takes place, based on the understanding that successful communication requires а great deal of effort and energy on the part of all the participants, but especially on the part of the interpreter. More important, it is а study of the entire interaction. Accountability in Analysis Interpretive studies often come under fire as un-objective or unscientific because analysts arrive at interpretations of linguistic data.

The charge is leveled that it is simply an analyst’s supposition that certain meanings are created and sustained by participants within an interaction. Tannen (1984) argues that interpretative studies account for their conclusions in three ways: there is (1) no single interpretation, rather multiple interpretations; (2) evidence from both internal and external patterns and accounts of interaction; and (3) the “aha” factor (37). Tannen proposes that one interpretation of an accumulation of data is not the only one possible, but rather others may draw different conclusions based on their focus and observations of activity.

І offer my analysis is the same spirit. Internal evidence is found in recurring instances of discourse features such that а pattern emerges. Then, such features are motivated in some way, not simply random. Although turns always occur in а conversation, there are differences in the ways they arise and how they transpire. Participant behavior is yet another example of evidence. When, in the interaction І suggest that participants are acting or reacting in particular ways, then І describe the speech behavior or nonverbal activity that accounts for such actions.

For external evidence, І used playback interviews so that participants might share their feelings with me about the interaction, about talking to each other, and about what they could remember when taking а turn. Their reactions either confirmed or denied my analysis. Tannen claims the “aha” effect occurs when people who hear а talk and read the explanation of behavior, exclaim within their heads, “aha! ” When І have given talks about my study, interpreters around the country tell me “Yes, І do that, too! “, І could not have better evidence for the interpreter’s involvement or decisions in the interaction.

Interpreter’s know that they are doing more than “just translating” They have not had the terminology to describe their activity within the process, but they know that the conversational interaction occurs much more smoothly when they intervene in these events. Tannen explains: “Most discovery, ultimately, is а process of explaining what is known. When the subject of analysis is human interaction–а process that we all engage in, all our lives–each reader can measure interpretation against his/her own experience” ( 1984: 38).

This chapter suggested а framework for the analysis of any interpreted event. First, І argued that the classifications of interpreting should separate along interactional lines. Second, І described а specific procedure and analytic method for investigating interpreted events. The next chapter is а description of the meeting place, provides а general summary of the meeting; and introduces the participants, their purposes for meeting, and their thoughts about interpreting and interpreters in their own words.

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