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Use of Interpreters in Mediation

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1 Use of Interpreters in Mediation
Dr. Xiaohui Yuan

2 Translation vs. Interpretation
Translation: writing mode Interpretation: oral mode Contexts: Liaison interpretation vs. Conference interpretation Modes: Simultaneous vs. Consecutive

3 Mediators’ expectations
‘the crucial point is that the interpreter must maintain neutrality. They must not add their own spin to what is being translated but at the same time must be skilful in conveying the nuances of what is being said’ An emotional female mediator: ‘I told him to just translate what is said. No more! No less! But he seldom did!’

4 Do you really want your interpreter to just translate verbatim?

5 Why is my interpreter not translating exactly what the person said?
A professional interpreter will make efforts to bridge cultural differences. Interpreters may take initiatives to protect a party’s face and emotional needs to defuse potential conflicts or to enhance rapport by adding their own spin. Very importantly, interpreters are interaction mediators by profession. They are not just language switchers.

6 Tip: Show that you understand your interpreter may add spin in the interpretation to mitigate conflicts and build rapport. Tell him/her to what extent you’d think this is appropriate and whether and how you’d want him/her to translate a party’s explosive comments or emotional outbursts. You may want to use the corridor time to learn from your interpreter the party’s uncoloured utterance since it could be important information helping you judge the progress of the mediation process.

7 Differences between an arbitration/litigation interpreter and a mediation interpreter
Arbitration/Litigation: a more rigid and pre-set procedure with a heavy focus on legal and technical aspects Mediation: a more flexible procedure with a strong focus on interpersonal dynamics and rapport management

8 Interpretation for arbitration/litigation:
More accessible resources for preparation, such as written witness statement Simpler role definition for an interpreter Verbatim interpretation sufficient for most occasions Interpreter agrees to translate accurately (like a witness swears on the Bible)

9 Interpretation for Mediation
Much more unpredictable interpersonal dynamics unfolding on the spot Much more complicated role definition for an interpreter Due to the interactional features, verbatim interpretation is not enough

10 External factors that can cause problems for interactions
Any conflict of interests between the interpreter and a party Therefore, don’t use a party’s relative or lawyer


12 External factors that can cause problems in interpretation
How is your relationship with the interpreter? Make efforts to build rapport and trust with your interpreter before the mediation Ensure the interpreter’s reasonable working condition, e.g., reminding parties of not talking over each other

13 External factors that can cause problems in interpretation
Do you know your interpreter’s style? Are you aware whether your interpreter is familiar with mediation procedures and rules? Don’t assume that! An interpreter is Jack of all trades. S/he may have just completed a medical interpreting the day before!

14 Interpreters do perceive themselves as having the role of distributing turns of talking

15 Tip: Work out before the mediation with your interpreter what kinds of role you’d like him/her to take on.

16 Your interpreter may know or spot important interpersonal information in body language that you may not realise.

17 Let’s watch a video clip

18 Reading Body Language British: a few grunts and groans half-hearted attempt to laugh heard the words but not really listening scant engagement and little eye contact stiff and upright gestures constantly looked down playing with the stem of his wine glass a nervous cough

19 Chinese: sincere manner facial expression shows he’s sorry, pain + reluctance no mood for lunch listened with patience

20 Tip: your interpreter may well come from the same cultural background as the party, so s/he may well be able to recognise important interpersonal information, e.g., a certain attitude, mood or intention that you cannot identify. Do talk to your interpreters about it.

21 Do use interpreters and do use Human interpreters
You would be jeopardising the minority language party’s interests! This can mean you automatically break the rule of neutrality by putting more advantage to one side! Don’t try to avoid using interpreters because you don’t like them for whatever righteous reasons you believe.

22 Make sure you use a human interpreter. The machine cannot do the job!

23 Let’s recap Add all the dos and don’ts. Its boring. Its prescriptive. But I want you to leave with some points to consider.

24 DOs Before the mediation: Do choose a trained interpreter with
professional certificate   Do make efforts to build rapport and trust with your interpreter Do strive to understand your interpreter’s personality and style Do clearly brief your interpreter mediation rules including: neutrality and confidentiality Do tell your interpreter clearly how you want him/her to interpret

25 During the mediation Do take advantage of your interpreter’s bi-cultural capability Do respect your interpreter and be friendly Do make sure of your interpreter’s reasonable working conditions

26 Time to formulate a code of conduct for mediation interpreters
Time to formulate a code of conduct for mediation interpreters. You can make a real difference with this! Let’s formalise the profession of mediation interpreting.

27 DON’Ts Don’t go with party’s suggestion of using a relative or a lawyer Don’t assume your interpreter will act merely as a language switcher Don’t assume your interpreter is familiar with the mediation process even if s/he worked in litigation/arbitration before Don’t be too friendly  

28 Rule of Thumb Make sure you use interpreters when one party cannot sufficiently speak the working language used for mediation Make sure you use qualified trained and professional interpreters from recognised organisations, such as ITI (The Institute of Translation and Interpreting) AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters)

29 Otherwise, this will happen!

30 Thank you ! Xiaohui (Helen) Yuan on linkedin Please Get in Touch and Let’s Make Mediation a Success!

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