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Case 5: Access to community services

Watch Lisa Ambrose talk of the need to create a safe space for interviews with victims of abuse.
Do you often work with interpreters with translators? and if so are they professionals or are they often maybe people from; whom we would call natural interpreters people who happened to be there and happen to know the people involved and help you It depends on where it is so if it’s in school then it would be usually it’s through peers it might be a student has experienced trafficking that they’ve ended up in school in Cardiff and then they might know a very small amount English so, say they’re from the Czech Republic so then they’ve got their peers who might be translating for them so that would be the natural translator would be you get is yeah’ translations through peers where it becomes sometimes…
that’s got it’s difficulties because that would be a young persons interpretation of what they’ve heard and then passing that information on. Sometimes there are translators that come into school and specifically work some schools are quite strict and not allowing students to speak in their native tounge so that can be a bit difficult in terms of families sometimes what will happen is a young person has been involved in sexual explotation but they struggle to; well they are concerned about families finding out so an interpreter might come in from the community however it might be that they don’t want their family to know about what happened and it might be seen as a taboo subject really that’s where there can be difficulties as well.
What about space how important is you were talking for instance about situations in which you might be in school and in that you know how important is how familiar or not familiar a space is to you and the people you’re working with but also how much attention do you have to pay to the arrangement of space you know even where you sit where the interpreter sits if they are there I think space is critical but space in creating a safe space ok so for me I think I mean working as a therapist and especially working with sexual abuse you’re always looking at creating somewhere that somebody feels comfortable so that is paramount really for the whole communication process so I would see that is a critical element the space whether it be creating actually a space that feels comfortable to sit in or a safe place where somebody’s not going to overhear or you know listen, listen in on your conversation Okay, so a space where things can be circumscribed can be reasonably intimate is there such a thing as too close on the other hand?
It’s to close if it’s to close for the other person, if it doesn’t feel right or for the people within that space so it really is dependent I think on individuals and what works for one person might not work for another person, it’s being sensitive to that. What works, works different for different people

In this interview child therapist and consultant Lisa Ambrose talks of the need to create a safe space for interviews with victims of abuse.

She stresses the importance of effective collaboration with interpreters, but also the pitfalls involved in dealing with people who, very often, are not qualified translators, and may well have personal or community links to the victim.

She talks of space as ‘critical’, and ‘paramount’ for the communication process. And she describes the ambiguous, often personal reaction to proximity and distance.

Another issue stressed by Lisa as well as by other professionals working with translators is that of neutrality and confidentiality, which go hand in hand with the need for the translator to relinquish his or her own agenda.

In his book Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli (2010; In the Sea there are Crocodiles, trans. by Howard Curtis, 2012) written with Eaniatollah Akbari, a young refugee from Afghanistan now living in Italy, Fabio Geda gives a moving and also eloquent account of the young man’s decision not to speak through an interpreter at his asylum hearing.

Here the migrant is not only the ‘translated man’, as in Salman Rushdie’s definition, which we encountered earlier: he also becomes a self-translator.

Siediti, mi hanno detto. Mi sono seduto. Quello è il tuo interprete, hanno detto, indicando un ragazzo vicino alla porta. Ho detto che avrei preferito fare senza. Grazie. Parli bene l’italiano, quindi, hanno detto. Ho risposto che sì, lo parlavo abbastanza bene. Ma non era solo quello. Se parli direttamente con le persone trasmetti un’emozione più intensa, anche se le parole sono incerte e la cadenza è diversa; in ogni caso, il messaggio che arriva assomiglia di più a quello che hai in testa, rispetto a quello che potrebbe dire un interprete – o no? – perché dalla bocca dell’interprete non escono emozioni, escono parole. E le parole sono solo un guscio. (pp. 150-51)
Sit down, they said. I sat down. This is your interpreter, they said, indicating a boy, next to the door. I said I preferred to do without. Thank you. So you speak Italian well, they said. I replied that yes, I spoke it quite well. But that wasn’t the only reason I didn’t want an interpreter. If you speak directly to people you convey emotions more intensely. Even if you stumble over your words and don’t get the intonation right, the message you get across is closer to what you have in your head, compared with what an interpreter could repeat – don’t you think so? – because emotions can’t come from the mouth of an interpreter, only words, and words are just a shell. (pp. 206-07)

Emotions, as we already saw in the first week, can enter the space of translation, just as do the voices and the bodies of the people who translate or who are translated. And just as the medical students in the previous example took control of the class through peer translation, so here the migrant takes centre stage through self-translation.

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Working with Translation: Theory and Practice

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