13. Migration, ideology and the interpreter-mediator: The role of the language mediator in education and medical settings in Italy

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This paper examines the role of language mediators in the education and health sectors in Italy. In the Italian tradition ‘language mediation’ and ‘intercultural mediation’ are terms commonly used to describe a profession that include, but do not totally overlap with, ‘community interpreting’. We will therefore be looking at language mediation rather than interpreting ‘proper’. Our analysis draws on both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ data: a study by two researchers from the Municipality of Bologna based on 27 semi-structured interviews, the results of a questionnaire-survey in the Region of Emilia Romagna and six semi-structured interviews in the Region of Marche. Using these data we look at how mediators construct professional roles and how these roles are governed by institutional mandate in the health and education sectors, two of the major domains in which language and cultural mediators operate. These two sectors are both major employers of language mediators but with — historically — two very different approaches to language mediation. We will, therefore, look at how roleconstruction is performed differently in the different sectors, how the expectations (and level of information) of service providers, the needs of the institutions, the mediators’ training and their own migratory experiences impact on their role and on the rapport between the three parties. We also look at the issue of what type of shared background (cultural or migratory) is thought to be most conducive to implementing a productive working relationship. Lastly, we have attempted to contextualize our data in the local demographical, historical and socio-political situation as we believe that such factors impact quite radically on professional categories, especially those professions related to the politically volatile area of migration.


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