Interpreting for better or for worse – the court interpreter’s perception
of their role in videoconference interpreting

Devaux, Jerome (2015). Interpreting for better or for worse – the court interpreter’s perception
of their role in videoconference interpreting.
In: 5th IATIS Conference: Innovation paths in translation and intercultural studies, 6-10 Jul 2015, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte.



With the implementation of new EU regulations that emphasize the use of new technologies, the court working environment has changed in Europe. For the last decade, criminal courts in England and in France have increasingly been using videoconference (VC) technologies to increase safety, reduce costs, and speed up the legal process. VC allows a hearing to take place in a courtroom, whilst a witness or expert gives evidence from a remote location, and/or the defendant remains in prison. Although the role of the public service interpreter in an institutionalised face-to-face setting (including courtrooms) has been the focus of various studies since the 90s, the potential impact of VC settings on the role of the interpreter needs to be explored. Despite some studies carried out in the area of videoconference interpreting (such as Braun & Taylor 2011), it is currently unclear whether the use of VC technologies influences the court interpreter's perception. This paper will therefore aim to examine the extent to which the use of VC technologies may affect the court interpreter’s perception of their role. The discussion will be framed within the sociological paradigm of Actor-Network Theory, and more particularly within the principle of Translation, as defined by Callon (1986). Sociology has been used as an interdisciplinary research tool in Translation and Interpreting Studies (Wadensjö, 1998; Inghilleri, 2005; Hannah, 2006). However, ANT and especially Translation is a lesser-known alternative. A brief review of the current literature framing the role of the court interpreter will first be given. It will then define ANT and the four phases that constitute Translation, namely problematization, interessement, enrolment, and mobilisation. This will be then applied to interviews that were conducted with court interpreters in two parallel case studies in England and in France. By selecting two countries that abide by the same European regulations and a methodological framework that gives new technology a potential key role, this approach will help uncover what intrasocial factors affect the court interpreter’s perception of their role in a VC court setting.

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