Court Interpreting: The Quest for Data

By now, no one even seems surprised at another case of poor court interpreting in England and Wales. After three government enquiries, numerous newspaper articles and judgment after judgment, it is actually becoming hard for the flaws in the new system to gain any headlines at all. After all, it is only so often that similar stories can be reprinted. Short of a massive miscarriage of justice or a judicial ruling, it seems that nothing will prevent the current contract running its course.

While many legal professionals have openly criticised the new agreement, it seems that the real decision-makers remain convinced that the new arrangement will, in time, deliver savings. It might be tempting to say that, with the evidence available, the only realistic view is that the new system has failed but there remains one problem with this argument. For the moment at least, the data on successful interpreter call-outs, quality and even cost, remains in the sole hands of the contract provider and, occasionally, in the hands of government departments or enquiries. From the point of view of objectivity, this is disappointing, to say the least.

Perhaps this is where a little amateur research could come in handy. While the meaning of “interpreting quality” could and probably should be a matter for debate, whether the interpreter booked for a case arrives at the court ready for work is not. It wouldn’t take too much effort for a UK city to be selected and for people to station themselves at various courts, watching the various cases that go on. Records could be kept to show whether the interpreters booked for a case showed up and notes could be taken on how they worked.

What use would this data have? Well, for one, it would move the debate from being a battle of individual stories, to one where independent figures could be brought to the fore. Such a study, on whatever scale, would give a clearer picture of how the new arrangement has actually affected the everyday running of the justice system.

Secondly, such data might help to move discussions away from highly charged debates about the rights (or otherwise) of those who do not speak sufficient English to play a full part in court proceedings. The benefits of this are clear: once people realise that supply bad interpreting (or none at all!) costs more than having a good system in place, they are more likely to give support to a fairer deal for the interpreting profession and the justice system. Simple maths would tell us that it is cheaper to have one hearing with a good interpreter than two with poor or absent ones.

The drawback of this data-driven approach is that it would take even greater coordination than has been seen before. People would need to voluntarily give up their time to decide on what method to use and learn how to apply it consistently, before giving up even more time watching court proceedings. Even after all that, more people would need to give up their time to collate the results and present them.

Perhaps this is why research in an academic context can be so expensive. Getting things right takes time and effort. Yet the cost of not doing research at all or doing it in a slapdash way can often be so much higher.

Men, Music and Masculinity

Staff Seminar, 6 February 2013 led by Dr Chris Tinker, Reader in French, Studies in European & International Cultures & Societies (SEICS) Research Group

‘Midlife Pop Masculinities in the Here and Now’

In a recent staff seminar Chris Tinker – whose research focuses on popular music and media in France and Britain – examined recent UK newspaper coverage of male musicians involved in the Here and Now 1980s nostalgia shows, notably Boy George, Jason Donovan and Rick Astley. Boy George, a key figure in the New Romantic scene, came to prominence in 1982 as the lead singer of the band Culture Club; Astley and Donovan (a former star in the Australian soap opera Neighbours), launched pop careers in the late 1980s as part of the Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) ‘hit factory’ of singers.

Chris revealed how recent newspaper coverage effectively promotes a range of traditional and newer masculinities during midlife: performers are presented as rational, mature, emotional, sensitive, nurturing and less competitive. The recent coverage of male pop stars during midlife is something of a departure from the kind of newspaper representations described in an earlier study of European newspapers (Jeff Hearn et al. 2004), and which noted an association between men and violence/crime and an absence of men in family roles. The further details of the research, see Chris’s article ‘Midlife Pop Masculinities in the Here and Now’ recently published in the journal InMedia.

Changes to LifeinLINCS

From next week, you will see some exciting changes to LifeinLINCS. The most obvious is the addition of a new editor Zhao Xiao, posting under the name Yifuren. Xiao is one of a couple of new editors we are hoping to add. The second change is that, in addition to discussing Translation and Interpreting, the blog will widen its coverage to look at the entire range of research that is done in LINCS. Tuesday’s post on the representations of pop musicians in the media is a case in point.

As always, your comments on these changes are very welcome.

The Editorial Team

IPCITI Comes to Heriot-Watt

Last week we announced that the BAAL conference is shortly coming to Heriot-Watt. This week we are pleased to announce that the International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting (IPCITI) will be taking place here on 14-16th November too.

The IPCITI Conference is the result of a long-term collaboration between Dublin City University, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Manchester. It is designed to provide new researchers from all areas of translation and interpreting studies with the opportunity to share their research with peers in a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment. Day one of IPCITI is devoted to pre-conference workshops; days two and three are devoted to keynote lectures and parallel conference sessions.

Details of workshops, keynote speakers, call for papers and topics of specific interest for IPCITI 2013 will be announced by mid-March.

Authors: IPCITI 2013 Organising Team