2. Interpreting as mediation

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Addressing the theme of the Second Alcalá Conference on Public Service Interpreting and Translation, “translation as mediation”, this paper discusses whether and how the notion of mediation applies, or should be applied, to interpreting. The semantic and terminological complexities involved in the view of interpreting as mediation are illustrated with two ‘case studies’ — two versions, one German and one Italian, of ‘linguistic mediation’. As a result of the conceptual analysis ‘mediation’ is modeled in its three inherent dimensions: cognitive (mediating conceptual relations); cultural/linguistic (mediating intercultural relations); and contractual (mediating social relations). Based on this tripartite model it is argued that characterizing interpreting as mediation carries a considerable risk of ambiguity and misunderstanding and may play a role in the very practical difficulties that appear to hamper the professionalization of community interpreting in many countries. It is therefore suggested to distinguish as clearly as possible between the professional function of cross-cultural mediation (in the contractual, conciliatory sense) and that of interpreting in community-based settings, considering that there is ample scope for the professionalization of either.


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