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Tipton, Rebecca and Olgierda, Furmanek (2016). Dialogue Interpreting. A Guide to Interpreting in Public Services and the Community.

London/New York: Routledge, pp. 312, £25.99 (paperback). ISBN 978-1- 138-78462-8.

Dialogue Interpreting addresses advanced trainees and early-career professionals taking their first steps in interpreting for public services and community-based organisations. The book is meant to be a complement to interpreter education and training, in that it invites reflection on the interpreters’ own practice and encourages both independent and collaborative approaches to professional growth.

Although from the very title the authors call the volume a “guide,” the readers should not expect a recipe-like set of rules or instructions. In fact, while referring to the regulations in place in various countries as well as the standards and codes of conduct developed by different professional associations, Dialogue interpreting draws on the views of service providers and on the findings of recent empirical studies on interpreter-mediated interaction.

In line with cutting-edge research in the field of dialogue interpreting (e.g. Baraldi and Gavioli 2012 on ‘reflexive coordination’ and Llewelyn-Jones and Lee 2014 on ‘role-space’), the volume promotes a teleological approach to the interpreter’s role(s) and to interpreting-related ethical issues, focusing on the outcomes of interpreters’ decisions in context, which are based on tailored intervention and the parties’ shared responsibility to achieve specific goals.

To this end, and as explained in the Introduction, Tipton and Furmanek have structured their book into thematic chapters that deal with domain-specific competencies, and have designed each chapter to include activities aimed at a) acquiring knowledge and understanding, b) improving performance skills, and c) pursuing cooperation and interconnection. These activities are additionally supplemented by suggestions for further reading and further independent and collaborative learning through resources available mainly on the Routledge Translation Studies Portal.

Chapter 1 lays the foundations for Continuing Professional Development by accompanying practicing interpreters in the process of planning and monitoring career progression. Specifically, the chapter guides the readers on how to match expected outcomes with motivations, timeframes, and learning activities grounded in reflection and collaboration. The remaining six chapters, which can be read separately in any order, focus on the key settings in which dialogue interpreting takes place.

Chapter 2 deals with court and police interpreting with special reference to criminal proceedings. The authors tackle a number of issues ranging from the knowledge of different legal traditions and strict procedural constraints to the awareness of the complexities resulting from strategic language use and asymmetries of power relations, from the understanding of the interpreter’s visibility in both face-to-face and remotely interpreted events to the need for more intra- and interprofessional collaboration.

Chapter 3 explores interpreting in asylum procedures, highlighting the socio-cultural and situational knowledge and the strategies required to manage the account-giving process during asylum interviews, particularly in terms of participants’ expectations. The chapter places emphasis on the emotional pressures caused by stories of escape and persecution, which often involve unaccompanied minors, and on the need to build emotional resilience to cope with such pressures.

Chapter 4 illustrates the scope and structure of interpreted-mediated medical encounters drawing on relevant literature, including transcribed portions of authentic triadic exchanges occurring in healthcare settings. Against the background of a fast-growing field characterized by a variety of regulatory frameworks and an increasingly wide spectrum of professionals, semi-professionals, and non-professionals providing access to healthcare to patients with limited language proficiency, the chapter discusses, among other things, the issues of standardisation, interpreters’ role conflicts, and users’ education.

Chapter 5 discusses the expanding field of interpreting in educational settings, focusing on special educational needs assessment, home-school communication, and interpreter recruitment processes. Two case studies help the readers to understand the scope and complexities of educational interpreting avoiding misconceptions and prejudices. Among other things, the authors call for a reconsideration of the concepts of semi-professional and peer interpreters, which offer a “viable option of educational intercultural mediation” (198).

Chapter 6 deals with interpreting associated to social care services delivered within the statutory, non-profit, and voluntary sectors. The chapter describes the challenges posed by both routine and extreme events, giving attention to cross-cultural needs assessment, psychological pressures, expectation management and understanding of risk. A case study on interpreting in a charity supporting victims of torture is presented.

Chapter 7 describes the key features of interpreting in faith-related contexts like religious ceremonies, prayer meetings, pilgrimages, and other gatherings. The authors take an unbiased look at this often neglected field of dialogue interpreting noting how the term ‘interpreter’ “takes on a broader sense and linguistic mediation fuses intimately with both spiritual and cultural brokerage” (256). In discussing how volunteer work overlaps with service and ministry, the authors suggest that the term ‘fusion interpreting’ may be used. Finally, a case study on Pope Francis’ homily in the Philippines interpreted in the consecutive mode sheds light on some discourse features peculiar to religious settings.

Overall, a strongly practice-oriented character combined with a critical, non-prescriptive analytical approach make Dialogue Interpreting both a significant contribution to interpreting studies literature and a flexible tool that will most certainly benefit interpreters, instructors, and service providers.

  • Baraldi, Claudio and Gavioli, Laura (eds) (2012). Coordinating Participation in Dialogue Interpreting. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Llewelyn-Jones, Peter and Lee, Robert G. (2014). Redefining the Role of the Community Interpreter: The Concept of Role-Space. Lincoln, UK: SLI Press.

Letizia Cirillo
Free University of Siena