Reflections on Critical Link 6 Ethics, mediation, research…


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 advocacy

• 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 responsibility’

• 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

• Mediation

• 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.’



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, preempt problems (Interpreter’s declaration at beginning of assignment), emotional detachment

• 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



• Several papers on shortcomings of Codes of

Ethics/Conduct/Practice 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?



• Gillian Trainor and Dawn Bowes. Interpreter Training and Education is too important to be left to linguists alone

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.’



Also Uldis Ozolins Role-playing Pumpkin

Importance of understanding role, skopos of social workers:

- 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 communication.’

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’