Reflections on Critical Link 6
Ethics, mediation, research…
Dr Uldis Ozolins
Adjunct Associate Professor
University of Western Sydney
Brief background to Critical Link
• International conference on interpreting in
Legal, Health and Social Service Settings.
Begun 1995 - Orilia, Canada; Critical Link
Canada organisation formed
• 1998 (Vancouver), 2001 (Montreal);
International Committee formed
• 2004 Stockholm
• 2007 Critical Link 5 - Parramatta
• 2010 CL6 - Birmingham/Aston
• 2010 Critical Link Canada becomes Critical
Link International, to give a permanent basis
for Critical Link
Evolving themes in Critical Link
• CL1 1995 - legendary debate on role and
• CL2,3 - greater representation of new
countries, institutions; serious research focus
by CL3 in Montreal
• CL4 - ‘Professionalisation in Interpreting’
• CL5 - ‘Quality in Interpreting - a shared
• CL6 - ‘Interpreting in a changing landscape’ insipid theme, but not an insipid conference!
CL6 highlights, innovations
• Strong research - >20 papers current or
recent PhD work
• Sharper research focus eg ‘Ethical
challenges of interpreters in health research’
• Strong continuation of theme of ‘shared
responsibility’ eg ‘Are ethics just for
interpreters?’ (Phelan); ‘Interpreter Training
and Education is too important to be left to
linguists alone’ (Trainor & Bowes)
• Papers on role play; writing about research;
cross-national collaboration; critical
perspectives on technology
Some significant CL6 themes
Ethics - of interpreters; of others
Growing research strengths
The future of Critical Link
• Mary Phelan: Are ethics just for interpreters?
According to the World Medical Association
Medical Ethics Manual (2009):
‘If the physician and the patient do not speak
the same language, an interpreter will be
required. Unfortunately, in many settings
there are no qualified interpreters and the
physician must seek out the best available
person for the task.’
Justine Mason: Ethical competency and public
service interpreter training
• mental health interpreters ‘may encounter ethical
dilemmas that are not resolved by reference to the
professional code of conduct. They may experience
transference, questions of self-disclosure or be the
subject of a patient’s psychotic delusion. They may
see or hear things which compromise their personal
moral codes and cause them some levels of distress’
• ‘ethical decision-making … has mainly related to the
prescribed code of conduct, rather than the
development of independent ethical competency.’
Ethics ctd
Krysztof Kredens & Yvonne Fowler: Towards
interpreter competence in ethical emergencies
‘public service interpreters are mostly left alone to
deal intuitively with ethical emergencies that arise
spontaneously and unpredictably in their work.’
Usually in training one works through critical
incidents, but how does learning from critical
incidents tie together into a permanent ethical basis?
Interviewed focus groups of interpreters: they stress
neutrality, pre-empt problems (Interpreter’s
declaration at beginning of assignment), emotional
But some ethical problems cannot be resolved to the
satisfaction of all parties; interpreters need
discussion, support; this is lacking
Need interaction with other professionals
Ethics ctd
• Several papers on shortcomings of Codes of
eg Maria Brander de la Iglesias:From 'should' to
'could' in the Ethos of the Interpreting Community:
Landscaping the Critical Garden
‘we see most studies have sought to either describe
or prove what it is that interpreters ought to do when
confronted with ethical disjunctives.’
‘the identity of any community and its sense of
cohesiveness may depend largely on whether its
members are allowed to participate in the creation of
its rules.’
• Rita McDade: Code of practice! Code of Conduct!.
Ethics, Etiquettes! Which do I follow?
Ethics ctd
• Gillian Trainor and Dawn Bowes. Interpreter Training
and Education is too important to be left to linguists
‘This course considered the interpreting process from
the perspective of the healthcare professional and
the service user/patient. It began by asking questions
such as 'what is mental illness?' and 'what are the
aims of mental health professionals?' and used the
answers to show how - in terms of diagnosing,
treating and managing risk – the interpreter becomes
'part of the team'. In today's world, interpreter training
and education is too important to be left to linguists
alone; public service professionals must be given a
central role.’
Ethics ctd
Also Uldis Ozolins Role-playing Pumpkin
Importance of understanding role, skopos of social
- establishing communication
- gaining trust
- creating empathy
‘The interpreters would be expected to act proactively
under the guidance of the professional.’
Ethics and mediation
Marie Serdynska. Interpretation at intersections of mediation,
advocacy, and social responsibility: A pediatric hospital’s
experience (Montreal)
‘how interpreter ethics can be reconciled to those of social
responsibility, complex patient needs, limited resources and fast
changing clinical and patient cultures’
• Sociocultural Consultation and Interpretation Services: ‘linguistic
and cultural interpretation and support, transcultural health
education, library services…’
• ‘interpreters are indispensable mediators in addressing patient
barriers to services, cultural communication styles, health beliefs
and practices’
• Other clinicians see interpreters as team members. If you are in
a team, what are your role boundaries?
• Experience of deviance when stepping outside traditional role.
• Obligation to disclose info when child (or mother /father/carer) is
at risk.
• Recognising when neutrality may increase power imbalances.
Future of interpreters as part of a complex team, fluid boundaries
Mediation - what it means
Barbara R. Navaza Filling cultural gaps in medical
settings: experiences of intercultural mediators in
Spanish hospitals
• ‘Blood tests perception in Sub-Saharan migrants, diabetes
treatment for Muslim patients during the Ramadan, hospital diet
for Muslim patients, mention of “devils” when explaining
symptoms and different conceptions of infectious diseases as
HIV/AIDS or Tuberculosis. Direct intervention of the intercultural
mediator in cases like those mentioned can be a key factor to
overcome cultural barriers that may be detrimental to the
communication between health care providers and foreign
population with different cultural backgrounds.’
• ‘In this context, professional interpreters find it very difficult to
establish the limits of their role. The cultural distance is often
reflected in medical settings involving barriers for an effective
Mete Rudvin: From handcuffs to verdict: Mediators and interpreters
in different phases of the legal process
Role and role relationships
‘Perhaps the controversy [over the role of the
interpreter] reflects the fact that circumstances and
role relationships that are crucial for defining the role
of the community interpreter are not always taken
into account’ (Zimman 1994)
• The crucial role relationships are first with other
professionals; understanding how they see
interpreters; understanding what are their priorities
and problems.
• The interpreter is there to enable communication to
address the problems and issues of other
professionals - and their clients.
• Most of these are cognitive as much as ethical issues
The future of Critical Link
• Critical Link Canada has now become Critical Link
International [CLI].
• Individual and institutional members
• % of each Critical Link conference registration fee will
go to support CLI
• International Committee becomes sub-committee
• Call for CL7 proposals
CL6 Abstracts:
Or simply search ‘Critical Link 6’

Reflections on Critical Link 6 Ethics, mediation, research…