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Conference on Community Interpreting

Since Wadensjo, more and more researchers are turning toward an interactive, discourse-oriented approach to interpreting. In 1995, Critical Link, an international conference on community interpreting, took place in Canada. Community interpreting has come to be the term for face-toface, interactive interpreting in legal, health, social service, and other community-oriented settings.

The edited collection of the proceedings is а proliferation of papers affirming the new perspective of а discourse approach to interpreting and the active role of the interpreter. Researchers around the world, many of whom are also interpreters, are defining, examining, analyzing interpreted interaction, and reporting similar results. Fenton (1997) of New Zealand reports on the way interpreters influence proceedings in courtrooms, noting as did Berk-Seligson that interpreters are visible verbal participants.

In studies on courtrooms in New Zealand, Fention finds: “Interpreters in the courtroom are far from being perceived by everyone else in the courtroom as non-thinking, mechanical or electronic devices, but rather as men and women in possession of special skills, the application of which requires good judgment and integrity, and who can be held accountable for their performances” Dimitrova (1997) of Sweden, analyzing the interpreted interaction between doctors speaking Swedish and patients speaking Spanish, noticed simultaneous talking, interruptions, and turn-taking by interpreters and the primary interlocutors.

In her discussion, she notes that interpreters are at the center of the turn-taking process and therefore training programs should teach student’s how to interrupt primary speakers in order to avoid simultaneous talk and to claim speaking turns. Scholar suggests that although the law would like to see the interpreter as а conduit, it is clear that when breakdowns occur, magistrates want the interpreters to “fix it”: “The magistrates І interviewed did not blame the interpreter for communication breakdown, but they certainly made it clear that when breakdowns occurred it was the responsibility of the interpreter to rectify them” (197).

Each of these researchers are using sociolinguistic research and discourse analysis to describe and analyze the role of interpreters. Turn-Taking Turn-taking is а basic, specific discourse property that can be observed, described, analyzed, and explicated. Examining turns during an interpreted conversation offers а still new, relatively unexplored, empirical insight into interpreting as а discourse process.

Turn-taking in interpreting has unique and complex features that actively involve the interpreter in organizing, managing, constraining, and directing the flow of talk. Interpreters make decisions to manage and orchestrate turns due to and because of the surface linguistic meanings and the social meanings inherent in the situation and its expectations. Moreover, all the participants are taking turns based on both signals within the language and based on their own sense of rights and obligations when talking. Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson Model

Any observer of face-to-face interaction can see that talk proceeds through а sequence of turns, The Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974) study posits this observation as one of the basic tenets of conversation. Although it appears effortless, turn-taking is а system that organizes speaker change and its recurrence. The Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson model has been applied to many languages; thus an application of the Sacks et al. model to interpreting, talking across languages, might uncover а similar, generalized system and rules.

The turn-taking model is also applicable because it is regulated by the requirements of how speakers organize sequences of talk in face-to-face interaction, not by а particular grammar or by meanings. Consequently, the turn-taking model typically deals with single transitions, or turns, at а time, while allocating the “next turn. ” Although the system deals with one turn at а time serially, it also deals with all the possible ways turns can occur. Turn-taking, then, demonstrates the “thoroughly interactional character of conversation” (1974: 728)

In specifying how turns are exchanged, the system also describes and accounts for many apparent facts about conversation, the rules provide for а description of silence between turns and between speaking times, They also allow transforming one type of silence into another kind of silence. For example, а gap (а between-turn silence) can be transformed into а pause (an in-turn silence) if the silence is ended by further talk by the same speaker (Sacks et al. 1974: 715, n 16). The system accounts for speaker change and its recurrence yet does not make it an automatic occurrence.

Briefly, the model specifies several things about turns: (1) generally one participant talks at а time; (2) overlap is common, but brief; (3) transitions with gap and overlap happen although transitions with no gap and overlap are common; (4) turn order varies; (5) turn length varies; and (6) the distribution of turns is not specified in advance. The Sacks et al. model provides а basic system of accounting for turns, as well as withstanding the test of time. Although other factors account for the why of turns, this model provided а categorization for turns described in the analysis.

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