The relationship between interpreters and users of the interpreting services at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University
Wittezaële, Olivier Laurent
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This study aims at analysing, in the social field of the lecture room, the users' and interpreters' habitus in the framework of the interpreting services provided at the Potchefstroom campus of the North-West University. Habitus is a concept developed by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and is understood to be a set of reflexes and dispositions internalised by a particular individual or agent that serves as a basis for interaction with other individuals within a given social space. The analysis takes the form of a qualitative enquiry through the observation, analysis and interpretation of socio-educational dynamics taking place in the lecture room and which involve the lecturer, the interpreter and the users of the interpreting services. The literature review identifies the scarceness of a sociological approach in the field of interpreting studies and its rationale. In order to comply with the accepted criteria of qualitative research, data were gathered through interviews with 10 users, 22 interpreters and 6 lecturers between 2006 and 2008, classroom observation, and listening to interpreters' performances. A combination of grounded theory and phenomenological approach was adopted for the study, whereby sensitizing concepts are formulated to give the study a sense of direction, and data are considered as valid while the subjectivity of the information provided - and therefore the limits of its reliability and generalisability - is acknowledged. The data from the interviews were then integrated in an MS Excel spreadsheet in order to facilitate referencing and coding, i.e. the flagging of elements considered important for the study. The data were conceptualised within the framework of a narration to understand and categorise the various nodes of perceptions provided by the interviewees. Key concepts from Bourdieu such as habitus, field, symbolic violence, reproduction and doxa are explained and contextualised in order to provide a basis for theory generation. The subsequent interpretation of the data reveals that interpreters and users alike select a different set of strategies depending on their personality and the situation in which they interpret or use the interpreting services. Users focus their opinions either on the perceived quality of the end-product while being reluctant to criticise the services, or on the critical analysis of the degree of intervention the interpreters adopt in facilitating the transmission of the message. The interpreters, on the other hand, adopt a habitus shaped around either non-interference with the message or selection of information. Those habitus indicate, in turn, that beyond the linguistic support provided by the services, the latter do not necessarily contribute to a better social integration of non-Afrikaans speakers on the campus, and that the interpreting services, while linguistically successful to various extents, cannot be envisaged as a sufficient instrument for meaningful transformation.
- Humanities