Comments: Using Interpreters in Mediation

Go to article

Bernard , Dallas   08/13/13
Using Interpreters In Mediation
Thanks! Please feel free to contact me directly to share your inputs, thoughts and experiences. I’ve spent lots of time to lecture and address issues related to judicial interpreters, cross culture and bilingual dispute resolution (MedArb) I do appreciate your valuable time and constructive critique. Sincerely, Bernard

Doug , Somerville MA   08/13/13
Good article. Cam on nhieu lam.

Bernard , Dallas   02/27/13
Using Interpreters In Mediation
Are you both certified/licensed judiciary interpreter, serving from civil to criminal cases? How often you serve as interpreter in Mediation sessions? How's disputants' trust and confidence in themselves, their legal counsels and you, the interpreters? What is the difference between bilingual mediator and certified interpreter? Should a qualified/licensed interpreter needed in a mediation session that conducts by a bilingual mediator?

Ryan Boothe, Provo UT     02/27/13
Since language and cultural differences often aggravate conflicts, we truly need more competent bilingual mediators. Like Gregorio, I've had to wear both hats at the same time (mediator and interpreter) and it is horribly tricky. In general, I am not in favor of having a mediator also act as an interpreter because both jobs are complicated enough without doing them simultaneously. It's like juggling five burning torches while making a five course meal.

Gregorio , CA     02/26/13
More on dealing with interpreters
I really enjoyed this paper and plan to send people a link to it. I am a mediator but have also been an interpreter as well as a simultaneous translator. I cannot agree more with the author about the dangers of interpretation (as well as translation). May I add to the list of challenges even regional and national differences? For instance, the word 'pena' in Chile and many other nations means sadness. However, in parts of Mexico it means shame. I very much liked the idea of having women interpret for women in the cases mentioned in this paper, whenever possible. As I read the article I kept thinking, we need two interpreters in mediation. One to represent one party and one to represent the other party. I believe that otherwise it would be too easy to fall into interpreter bias. In addition, may I add 6 more specific points that could be added to the list of cautions and recommendations? (1) Individuals communicate directly with each other—not with the interpreter. It is preferable for a participant to say, for instance, "Tell me what you think ...," rather than addressing the interpreter and saying, "Ask him to tell me what he thinks of ...." (The interpreter, in turn, needs to communicate as if she was the speaker. So, instead of "he is asking what experience you have driving tractors," the effective interpreter will say: "What is your experience driving tractors?" Not, "it is his opinion that ...," but rather, "It is my opinion that ... ") (2) Speakers maintain eye contact with each other—not with the interpreter. (The interpreter may want to suggest a seating arrangement that promotes eye contact between the parties. One effective arrangement is to have both participants relatively close, and facing each other, while the interpreter sits further away facing both. The interpreter may at first have to remind the stakeholders to focus on each other. If all else fails, the interpreter may try avoiding eye contact with the participants, except at times when she is asking for clarification.) (3) Express yourself through brief comments, pausing to allow for translation. Otherwise, the interpreter may abridge or misinterpret your remarks. The fewer the pauses allowing for translation, the greater the chances for interpretation errors. (An effective interpreter will interrupt speakers as needed, and will often begin to translate longer sentences long before it is clear how the stakeholder will finish them. So, be prepared to speak in half sentences and know that if interpreters are not jumping in to interrupt the parties, that they are only giving you a summary of what was said with their interpretation of it.) (4) Encourage your interpreter to ask for any needed clarification. (5) Ask your interpreter to translate questions back to you even when she feels they can be answered directly. This approach not only reduces misunderstandings, but also promotes a more natural interaction. (6) When your interpreter is functioning correctly, you will soon forget she is present. (Interpreters need to avoid taking part in the conversation unless invited to do so.) Gregorio Bilikopf University of California