The major difference between Wadensjo’s example and the example in this case study is the information that the interpreter has. In the Swedish-Russian example, the information that clarifies the term has already been spoken. The interpreter knew the information and was not guessing what the Russian-speaking woman meant. She simply confirmed that the most recent direction in the discourse was correct In the example from this study, the Interpreter could not know what response the Student might make, so that all he could do was prompt.
The Interpreter knows that another answer is needed, but he cannot supply it because the Student has not supplied it. In both discourse events, the interpreters are fixing the way something was said and meant, focusing on aspects of discourse that are connected to relationships, attitudes, and feelings. They are accepting responsibility for the flow and maintenance of communication. As Wadensjo (1995) notes in her discussion, by acting as she did in repairing or mediating the Russian immigrant’s statement, the interpreter performed an act of “saving face” ( Goffman 1976).
Simultaneously, her communication with the official kept communication flowing and progressing. In essence, the Interpreter in this study acts similarly. By heading off an interactional problem, he acts to protect the interlocutors “face” and to keep communication flowing, and not lurching to а stop as it seemed it might do. Remember the Interpreter’s comments from Chapter 6 that communication is the primary goal: to have people talk to each other and implying that things should not break down. The Interpreter understands that if the Student continues on his path of negotiation, communication has the potential of breaking down.
If he understands his primary goal is to keep communication flowing and perhaps to assist minority speakers in acting appropriately in American discourse events, and then his words and actions make sense. Any theory of interpreting must include describing and accounting for the role of the interpreter. Describing and accounting for the role of an interpreter in а discourse event will necessarily be complex in the light of social, interactional, discourse, and personal dimensions. Within any role, then, individuals have both self-images and images that others have of the person who inhabit а role.
А consistent and regular performance is an inherent part of performing а professional role (Goffman 1961). Among other things, this gives professionals the right to claim expert opinions on the norms of conduct. But when those opinions do not account for the actual performance of the role in а discourse process, they are invalid. Although interpreting what is said is а primary role of interpreters, it is incumbent on the profession to encourage and promote the academic investigation and study of the role as it is performed in interactive discourse.
Interpreting as а Discourse Event As is evident from the analysis presented, the nature and structure of this discourse event is complex due to the interrelationships among the participants and their aims, their expectations and assumptions, the ways in which meaning emerges, and the way participants represent those meanings in their languages. Studying discourse and its phenomena among and between the participants and the interpreter explicates how the interpreting process works and how the interpreter works within it.
This type of study begins to tell us how interpreters know what things mean and what strategies they use to convey meaning. First, the basic and fundamental interpreting event occurs when two people who have particular intentions and expectations come together and talk through an interpreter, this is the basic nature of human communication and thus is the basic event of interpreting. It is this event that is primary and from which all other interpreted events are derived. It is the interaction here that is central to the study of interpreting, not the interaction when interpreting for а single speaker.
The interaction and the presence of the interpreter define the event. It is also basic and fundamental to the study of interpreting that all three people are part of the process and part of understanding how the process operates. An interpreted event is an exchange of talk among three people, all of whom actively contribute to the direction and outcome of the event. А central requirement of interpreting studies must be to ac count for all three people as they interact. As Wadensjo eloquently suggests, this is а communicative pas de trois (1998:12).
Studying the discourse process of turn-taking demonstrated that regular turns in interpreting can be а smooth transition from one speaker to the interpreter, to the next speaker, and back to the interpreter. Periods of silence between turns or pauses can be separated into three kinds: а natural kind of silence expected in any discourse situation; pausing created by participants; and silences created by lag that are longer than expected, even in interpreting. Overlap, also an ordinary discourse experience, occurs in interpreted discourse even though there is an expected overlap between one speaker and the interpreter.
In interpreted discourse, overlap occurs as both primary speakers talk, perhaps even the interpreter is talking, such that interpreters make decisions about the direction of talk. Thus, although interpreted events resemble ordinary discourse events in some ways, they also have their own unique features. Finally, the interpreter is an engaged participant within the interaction who has particular rights and responsibilities for the communicative process. Interpreters assume certain responsibilities for communication and allow other responsibilities to fall to the other participants.
Being responsible for the access and flow of discourse is what interpreters are doing. And what that responsibility entails should be described by research and defined by the profession, not by those who use the services of an interpreter. Adopting the perspective of studying interpreting events as they proceed in natural interaction and inquiring how such an event took place is based on the understanding that communication requires а great deal of effort and energy on the part of all the participants, but especially on the part of the interpreter. And studying those events will teach us how interpreters do their jobs.