for the
Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland, Heriot Watt University & the
Translation Studies Graduate Programme, University of Edinburgh
Fishing for Culture and Missing Language:
Interpretation and Organizational Creativity

Culture(s) and discourse(s) are among the most unmanageable elements of international business. “You can’t model panic.” Patterns of cultural interaction and, especially, the range of interpretations of these patterns, have profound effects on the design and implementation of business plans. For instance, are differences of language a problem or a benefit? Do the homogenizing effects of using English as the language of international management outweigh the constant adaptation required by working multilingually? Discourses about simultaneous interpretation (SI) at the European Parliament (with its 23 working languages) pit danger and loss against loss and resignation. “Loss” of fluency and clarity worries professional interpreters at the European Parliament (EP) and “loss” of direct contact between interlocutors (users of interpreting services, in this case Members of the EP) seem – counterintuitively – to express anxieties about multilingualism and the possibilities for control. Understood as a practice of intercultural communication, the tensions made evident when simultaneous interpretation is used are a vital source of creativity typically overlooked because of conditioned (monolingual) preferences for using a shared language.

for EdSign33
The Department for Educational Studies, University of Edinburgh;
the Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies at Heriot Watt University; and
Speech and Hearing Sciences at Queen Margaret’s University.

Social Interaction, Simultaneous Interpretation, and Shared Identity

Contemporary social theory can help us understand participation in dialogue interpreting as a cultural form of communication. In addition to transferring information between people who do not share the same language, using an interpreter is a type of communication practice with implications for identity. The roles and norms for participating in simultaneous interpretation constitute social rituals that contribute to the maintenance of linguistic and cultural difference. To the extent that participants are aware of the significance of participation, the stronger a contribution can be made to creating more just and equitable global societies.