Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 6, Februari 2003

Giovanna Pistillo

The Interpreter as Cultural Mediator html-file


This paper introduces the general scope and background of a doctoral research project on cultural mediation in business encounters mediated by an interpreter, and aims to show how the interpreter’s intercultural sensitiveness and competence can lead to better understanding between the two parties.

The growing number of intercultural encounters that has followed globalisation and major immigration flows has led to rising interest in intercultural studies. Actually, many such meetings happen with the mediation of an interpreter, who acts as both a linguistic and cultural mediator. Against this background, the paper analyses encounters in business contexts involving Italians and U.S. Americans. Due to the introductory nature of this presentation, resorting to certain over-generalisations will be rather frequent, especially when dealing with the cultural characteristics of large groups of people. The reason for this is simply to help better identify the three main fields that the research project aims to combine, that is interpreting studies, intercultural studies and Italian/English business communication.

This article is composed of three main parts. The first part briefly introduces the parameters based on traditional definitions of culture which can be of particular interest to this study. The second part is a brief overview of interpreting settings and techniques, defining the extent to which cultural mediation is possible in each. The third part focuses on liaison interpreting in business settings, arguably one of the contexts in which the interpreter can give a greater contribution to communication in terms of cultural mediation.

In this work, the term ‘interpreter’ will be used to refer exclusively to professional interpreters, thus leaving out all those figures who occasionally use their knowledge of other languages to facilitate communication between two or more people not speaking the same language.

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