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Addressing linguistic and cultural diversity in interview research: Some challenges and ways forward. Dr Jane Andrews, University of the West of England.

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Presentation on theme: "Addressing linguistic and cultural diversity in interview research: Some challenges and ways forward. Dr Jane Andrews, University of the West of England."— Presentation transcript:

1 Addressing linguistic and cultural diversity in interview research: Some challenges and ways forward. Dr Jane Andrews, University of the West of England

2 Outline of Session Translation and interpretation in qualitative research – issues raised in the literature Background to my study (nested within the Home-School Knowledge Exchange project) Ways in which linguistic and cultural diversity have been addressed in social science research Examples of issues arising from conducting qualitative interviews with an interpreter

3 Issues raised in different literatures (1) “ Current sociology does not confine itself to social problems and works across language barriers, but arguably the lack of critical attention given to the process of linguistic translation and its articulation with the translation of cultural processes persists …” Bradby, H. (2002) Translating culture and language: a research note on multilingual settings In Sociology of Health and Illness Vol. 24, No.6, pp Example of different ways of translating terms such as “ sister ” “ brother ” into other languages when health workers take medical histories from patients

4 Issues raised in different literatures (2) “ Translations, then are never easy, never transparent, never simple encodings and decodings from one language to another. Representation, self- presentation can never be simply a matter of language in such contexts. For any cross-cultural intervention, there are a whole complex set of issues around cultural difference, difference within cultural groups and culturalist assumptions that need to be anticipated and built into the research methodology. ” Kamler, B., & Threadgold, T. (2003) Translating Difference: questions of representation in cross-cultural research encounters In Journal of Intercultural Studies, Vol.24, No.2, p Example of narrative workshops conducted by Australian researchers with Australian-Vietnamese women with a translator

5 Issues raised in different literatures (3) “ there is very little reflection on the implications for qualitative research of language difference and the use of third parties in communication across languages … This is a strange omission given that qualitative approaches are steeped in a tradition that acknowledges the importance of reflexivity and context. ” Temple, B., & Edwards, R. (2002) Interpreters/translators and cross- language research: Reflexivity and border crossings In International Journal of Qualitative Methods 1 (2) Links reflexivity with a call to consider interpreters as active in producing research accounts

6 Issues raised in different literatures (4) “ to conduct meaningful research with people who speak little or no English, English speaking researchers need to talk to the interpreters and translators they are working with about their perspectives on the issues being discussed. ” Temple, B., & Edwards, R. (2002) Interpreters/translators and cross- language research: Reflexivity and border crossings In International Journal of Qualitative Methods 1 (2) Implication for writing up research – making the interpreter “ visible ”

7 Issues raised in different literatures (5) “ in qualitative research, interviewing is perceived as a participative activity to generate knowledge, a two way learning process, where the subjectivities of the research participants influence data collection and the process of ‘ meaning making ’. Cultural differences have significance for both phases. ” Shah, S. (2004) The researcher/interviewer in intercultural context: a social intruder! In British Educational Research Journal Vol.30, No.4, pp Cultural diversity and linguistic diversity present challenges in research

8 Background to my study (nested within the Home-School Knowledge Exchange Project) Socio-cultural theory (Wertsch 1985, 1991, 1998) underpins the research as well as the notion of Funds of Knowledge (Luis Moll et al 1992) A large-scale project with two angles: action-based research and more traditionally focused research (evaluation of action-based research, measures of children ’ s attainment, attitudes and learning disposition and investigations of home practices using case studies) Research sites covered 2 UK cities, detailed sampling of schools, classes, children and parents

9 Ways of addressing linguistic and cultural diversity in research Employing researchers who share the same linguistic and cultural heritage as the research participants (as practised by e.g. Eve Gregory, Charmian Kenner, Gill Crozier) Use of family members/children as interpreters/translators in research in the home Use of ‘ outside ’ interpreters in research in the home

10 Using an interpreter in interview research Implications at different stages of the research process: design of instruments, gaining access to research participants, briefing of interpreter, roles within research interview, interpretation of the data obtained, presentation of the data

11 Working with a bilingual transcript or with interpreted data only? In terms of the professional practice of interpreters, the interpreted comments are the product but for research purposes maybe this is not the case? What happens if we compare interpreted data with a full bilingual transcript?

12 Interpreted Data – Issues Arising from Data (1) Treatment of humour – communicated or omitted on interpreter ’ s judgement ( “ if he has any interests! ” ) Cross-cultural difference in the associations of certain terms – interpreter conveys a concept laden with a particular value- judgement ( “ Risk ” ) Sequencing of content in interpreted utterances could imply a hierarchy of significance to the researcher (he likes history, maths, PE) Treatment of direct quotations by the interpreter ( “ I ’ ve just got to do it ” ) Reporting ( “ Dad says ” ) versus interpreting ( “ I don ’ t know much English ” )

13 Interpreted Data – Issues Arising from Data (2) Treatment of so-called technical language ( “ figures and maths ” ) Leading questions (e.g. interpreter asks parent if they feel they have missed out on something by having studied at school for a few years) addition of intensifiers ( “ very good at maths ” ) Loss of detail ( “ very interested in his studies ” ) Interpreter develops a rapport ( “ we …” (Indian people)) Interpreter allays fears about research ( “ these questions are about …” ) Interpreter gives culturally relevant examples ( “ in our cookery we use handfuls ” )

14 Implications for conducting research in linguistically and culturally diverse settings Interpreter as a co-researcher Briefing and debriefing are essential Planning for working with an interpreter (time, cost) Consideration of how interpreter/interpreted data match with the research paradigm and design Decisions need to be made whether to work with interpreted data only or with a bilingual (translated) transcript


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