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The latest on interviews using Interpreters

17 March 2014

In our March newsletter SomeNewIntelligence we examined the latest studies conducted in Australia and internationally into the process of an interpreted interview, and highlighted some of the issues that can occur for interviewers.

We included the work of Dr Georgina Heydon and Miranda Lai at RMIT.  Dr Heydon co-ordinates Forensic Interviewing, Contemporary Criminology, Criminological Theory and the Justice Project in the Justice and Legal Studies discipline in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. Dr. Heydon's work argues that interpreters are charged with "getting the words right", but many interpreters we have interviewed argue that their role is to get as close to specific meaning as possible.  

The issues identified by Dr Heydon add to the complexity of interviews when interpreters are used.  Over the lat 8 years we have invested signficant effort into developing two models which have a proven track record in mitigating the impact of these issues.

The first is the Technically Specific Briefing (TSB).  An interview conducted through an interpreter can be very challenging.  Often there are missing words, phrases and meanings.  The client may have difficulty understanding common terms used.  For example, the word "Superannuation" does not apply if you are attempting to ascertain the financial status of a person from Vietnam.

In a TSB  we state that the interpretation should never be "Broken".  Interpreting is "broken" when the interpreter does not convey the questions and responses from the interviewer and interivewee without clarification, conversation,  advice or discussion with either.  It should always be accurate for tense, accurate for person and always convey meaning as specifically as possible.

If interpreting is to "broken" then it must be carerefully managed and only under very specific and controlled circumstances. This ensures that, at all times, the client knows exactly what is going on once the interpretation breaks. In effect an intepreter should be specfically briefed on the technical aspects of how the interaction will occur and have clear expectations about how the information will flow.

The point here is that this needs to be carefully and strictly controlled and the interpreter must be fully briefed using a specially formulated step-by-step interpreter briefing sheet.

The second issue raised in the newsletter was that interviewers appeared to be receiving partial or incomplete answers from their clients.  The PROSPECT model of interview provides the Questioning Relationship Model (QRM).  QRM is a mechanism for mitigating this problem.  The QRM identifies the four question types, Uncorrupted, Open, Probing and Closed and provides a clear understanding of the purpose of each type.  It also explains the distinct relationship between each of the question types and gives the practitioner the knowlege and capability to use them at the correct time for the correct prupose.  A solid understanding of this model ensures the practitioner understands the intent of every question they ask and subsequently how each should be answered in terms of volume and content.

Understanding the QRM means that in a complex, interpreted interview, the interviewer can know when they are not getting the TYPE or AMOUNT of information that matches the question.  If they are not, then they can check in with the interpreter, or the client, or the process and work through any errors or issues that might be occurring.

As we often say, conducting the interview is like running a 100m race.  Many people can do it.  But it takes skills development and training, training, training to be able to do it at the highest level.

 For more information go to our website  or contact us

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