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Speak English or What?Codeswitching and Interpreter Use in New York City Courts$
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Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199337569

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199337569.001.0001

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Testifying in another language

Testifying in another language

What’s lost in translation

(p.101) 5 Testifying in another language
Speak English or What?

Philipp Sebastian Angermeyer

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates how the pragmatics of court interpreting affect communication between the participants. In a detailed analysis of two separate hearings about the same dispute, interpreter-mediated testimony is compared to testimony given in L2 English (L2 narration), and interpreter-mediated comprehension to L2 comprehension. It is found that consecutive interpreting causes narrative testimony to be fragmented, less coherent, and prone to interruptions by impatient arbitrators. By contrast, testimony given in English is not subject to such fragmentation, and participants are found to check each other’s understanding using response tokens and confirmation questions. Moreover, when testimony in English is translated into another language, this is done in simultaneous mode, which is cognitively more demanding and may lead to incomplete translation. Participants who rely on interpreters are thus disadvantaged compared to their English-speaking opponents, experiencing narrative inequality, particularly if their language choice is constrained and stand-by interpreting is not permitted.

Keywords:   court interpreting, consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting, language choice, L2 narration, L2 comprehension, response tokens, fragmentation, narrative inequality

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