El pasado 5 de febrero de 2016, Sofía García-Beyaert, compañera del grupo MIRAS de la UAB, defendió su tesis doctoral sobre interpretación en los servicios públicos en el IGOP (Instituto de Gobierno y Políticas Públicas) de la UAB. La tesis aporta una nueva —y necesaria— perspectiva al estudio de la interpretación en los servicios públicos al analizar la institucionalización de esta profesión desde el punto de vista de las políticas públicas.
¡Desde la Red Comunica felicitamos a Sofía por esta brillante tesis y gran contribución a la investigación en interpretación en los servicios públicos!
Cross-Linguistic Communication and Public Policy: The Institutionalization of Community Interpreting
For members of society with restricted proficiency in the main societal language(s), community interpreting most often means the critical difference between enjoying basic rights or basic rights violation. Community interpreting, however, can only service society efficiently provided adequate infrastructure is in place; hence the need for public policy in matters of cross-cultural communication which to date, is rather exceptional.
To gain a more sophisticated understanding of what is involved in the institutionalization of community interpreting this study relies on close empirical observation, systematic analysis, and conceptual developments. The goal is to generate policy-relevant information that can help promote effective assistance for cross-linguistic communication. With a focus on agenda-setting and problem definition I focus particularly on identifying what the essence of the public problem is and developing strategic ways to convey it.
My study is guided by a research question that relies on two premises: (1) community interpreting serves the purpose of enabling autonomous communication between agents that need to interact to ensure at least one of the parties’ wellbeing despite language barriers, and (2) community interpreting is a matter of public concern. Given these two premises: What is public about the individual need for autonomous communication despite language barriers?
Axis of the research:
- Primary axis 1: What is actually public in the individual need for autonomous communication despite language barriers? (Descriptive axis)
- Primary axis 2: What should be public in the individual need for autonomous communication despite language barriers? (Normative axis)
- Secondary axis: Recommendations for practice inspired on the results of my research. What can be done?
Methodology: In-depth analysis of the case of Ontario, focusing on five (potential) policy subsystems. Qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews and documentary research as the main sources of empirical data.
- I developed four graphic analytical tools to visually capture complex concepts that inform my analysis. Those tools rely on theoretical concepts from the fields of communication and public policy analysis. They address: (1) the multi-layered dimensions of communication; (2) the public dimension that is addressed by public policy; (3) different factors affecting agenda-setting; and (4) the social construction of deservedness of different (potential) policy target groups.
- I used qualitative research software to code my empirical data and transcribe particularly illustrative excerpts.
- Based on the information collected, I described and compared five different subunits of analysis (five (potential) policy systems) to paint a granular picture of the situation of community interpreting in Ontario.
- There is a general lack of public policies for communication assistance, which negatively impacts the public good
- In order to provide quality interpreting services, an institutionalized, coordinated, and regulated approach is necessary.
- Addressing the issue of cross-linguistic communication from a trans-sectorial and trans-ministerial perspective would bring clear benefits.
- A crucial characteristic of this policy issue is the lack of singular, cohesive, easily identifiable target groups. In the case of Ontario, French speakers, victims of genderbased violence, and members of the Deaf community are the exceptions—and, not coincidentally, represent the only fields in which substantial progress has been made from a public policy point of view.
- The absence of a discrete affected group that can feel entitled to policy actions and that can be constructed as deserving by society at large has a negative impact on the likelihood for this policy issue to reach the decision agenda.
- Identity plays an important role in the institutionalization of community interpreting at different levels: (1) without a group identity, it is difficult to generate advocacy actions; and (2) hegemonic groups, which have vested interests in preserving their 3 identity-based advantages, tend to zealously oppose language policies that do not benefit their own languages.
Normative considerations: In order to establish effective measures to overcome the barriers to communication posed by language differences, society needs to see past the identity dimension of language. Language is a symbol of national unity and constitutes an omnipresent narrative in the cultural and political environment. In the case of crosslinguistic communication measures, what needs to be considered as deserving public support is not language diversity, rather it is the critical importance of communication (with or without barriers) for the respect of individual dignity and to ensure participatory parity.
Proposition: A conceptual reorientation away from identity-based claims and toward the right to communication presents a fresh, accessible, and practical approach. The frame of communication rights not only captures the normative essence of the problem at hand, it also helps move away from connotations of collective language identity that are, in my analysis, a hindrance to the development of community interpreting. I argue that if both the granting side and the claiming side of this social issue are able to see past identity, it will become easier for (potential) grantors to establish sympathy toward individuals affected by communication barriers, and it will become more likely that (potential) claimants will identify the problematic situations of miscommunication as a shared experience of injustice that can and needs to be prevented.