Interpreting Impoliteness: Interpreters’ Voices
Interpreters in the public sector in Norway interpret in a variety of institutional encounters, and the interpreters evaluate the majority of these encounters as polite. However, some encounters are evaluated as impolite, and they pose challenges when it comes to interpreting impoliteness. This issue raises the question of whether interpreters should take a stance on their own evaluation of impoliteness and whether they should interfere in communication. In order to find out more about how interpreters cope with this challenge, in 2014 a survey was sent to all interpreters registered in the Norwegian Register of Interpreters. The survey data were analyzed within the theoretical framework of impoliteness theory using the notion of moral order as an explanatory tool in a close reading of interpreters’ answers. The analysis shows that interpreters reported using a variety of strategies for interpreting impoliteness, including omissions and downtoning. However, the interpreters also gave examples of individual strategies for coping with impoliteness, such as interrupting and postponing interpreting. These strategies border behavioral strategies and conflict with the Norwegian ethical guidelines for interpreting. In light of the ethical guidelines and actual practice, mapping and discussing different strategies used by interpreters might heighten interpreters’ and interpreter-users’ awareness of the role impoliteness can play in institutional interpreter– mediated encounters.