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Cecilia Wadensjö. Interpreting as Interaction: On Dialogue-interpreting in Immigration Hearings and Medical Encounters.
286 pp. ISBN ISBN 91-7871-000-6 / ISSN 0282-9800 (Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, 83).

Reviewed by Ruth Morris
Table of contents

In this exploratory work, Cecilia Wadensjö seeks "to problematize the seemingly unproblematic"—the conducting of immigration hearings and medical encounters through a "dialogue interpreter". In contrast to conventional studies which on the whole concentrate on linguistic and success/failure aspects of specific instances of translation and interpreting performance, Wadensjö views the interpreting process as involving dynamic, communicative interaction. Her inspiration is drawn primarily from areas that lie outside the traditional mainstream of translation studies, including sociology, sociolinguistics and pragmatics, linguistic anthropology and the ethnography of speaking, communications theory, and literary theory. Wadensjö's work is influenced by the Bakhtinian dialogic theory of translation according to which, as Douglas Robinson puts it in The Translator's Turn (1991), translators should never be forced to be (or to think of themselves as) neutral, impersonal transferring devices. It is precisely this impersonal view of the interpreter's role, however, which underlies the relatively limited number of studies carried out to date of the specific oral process of interpreting. These tend to focus on the field of conference interpretation, where the predominantly impersonal nature of the situation essentially precludes interaction between interpreters and clients. In contrast, in the two types of situation studied by Wadensjö, far smaller, although varying, degrees of distance exist both prescriptively and actually between the dialogue interpreter and the monolingual laypersons and professionals. Wadensjö sees the dialogue interpreter as acting as an enabler and a mediator who has far more than a narrowly linguistic remit. This is reflected by the range of activities and aspects that she identifies and discusses, including relaying and co-ordinating talk, voicing and hearing, participating, decontextualizing, linguistic bias, feedback and turntaking, reporting, and semantic means of expressing distance and closeness.

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Robinson, Douglas
1991The Translator’s Turn. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar