Project concept and objective(s)
1. Project concept
The objective of the proposed project is to research into legal interpreting practices in Greece.
The study is conducted in Greece, in the Prefectures of Thesprotia, Ioannina, Preveza and Corfu
with the ultimate goal of contributing to the improvement of legal interpreting services. Legal interpreting is defined as the process of interpreting before state authorities for people who only have a limited or no knowledge of the language spoken in the host country and who belong to a different culture than that of the indigenous population of that country. In other words, legal interpreting is seen as a procedure where the underprivileged (non-native) is facing the privileged individual (native authority) for the settlement of personal vital issues. When a foreigner does not speak the language and ignores the culture of the host country or the native authority ignores the linguistic and cultural background of a foreigner in conflict with the host country authorities, his/her interests are prejudiced, as in many cases the communication between the foreigner and the administration will not be fulfilled. Τhe non-professional interpreting services provided to foreigners when their vital personal interests are at risk, as at the police station, in court or at the hospital, engender significant inequality against them; foreign nationals are thus deprived of their right to equal treatment before the law. On the other hand, the lack of professionals is not a problem for foreigners alone. Public administration and the delivery of justice may also be affected by the lack of suitably trained professionals. In Greece, for example, the police, port authorities or even the court often urgently search for someone speaking a specific foreign language who could serve as interpreter so that the legal procedure can continue; Greek authorities often accept as interpreters people who declare to be speakers of the language in question, without being able to assess their appropriateness to meet a minimum of requirements.
It is our ambition to investigate the reality in communication of foreigners, both EU and non-EU citizens with the authorities in Greece, to cast light onto the problems created due to the lack of properly provided interpreting services as well as to work out a number of proposals that will improve the quality of interpreting services.
More precisely, this research will address the needs of both parties involved in this communicative process: First of all, the non-native speakers who depend on interpreting services in order to settle vital personal issues when they come into contact with the authorities of the host country. Secondly, the research will look into the difficulties the authorities in Greece face since they either cannot go ahead with the legal procedures without an interpreter or a translator, or go ahead with poorly equipped interpreters and translators. Our research will be conducted in the Prefectures of Thesprotia, Ioannina,Preveza and Corfu – areas with both legal and illegal immigrants and holiday makers.
It is our ultimate goal to contribute to the improvement of the quality of legal interpreting services in order to provide for an equal access to administration and justice of non-natives. In the proposed two year project we will address the needs of both parties involved in this communicative process in Greece, a crossroad connecting Western Europe with the Balkans, Asia and Africa: First of all, we will address the needs of the non-native speakers who depend on interpreting services in order to settle vital personal issues when they come into contact with the authorities of the host country. Secondly, the research will look into the difficulties the authorities in the respective countries themselves face since they either cannot go ahead with the legal procedures without an interpreter, or go ahead with poorly equipped interpreters.
The objectives of the project in detail are: a. to map for the first time the situation in Greece concerning the provision of legal interpreting services, b. to highlight the shortcomings in the provision of interpreting services in a delicate environment such as the courts and police authorities in Greece and c. to increase awareness and to provide the policy-makers with the necessary information to take the measures that will improve the situation in Greece.
What we also expect is that the project will open new ways of research in the areas of translation and interpreting studies. So far most research in the field is conducted on a descriptive basis of the actual performance output. Research both into the target audience satisfaction and into the degree communicative needs of the underprivileged social groups are met, have been neglected. We would expect our research to trigger higher interest in areas like interpreting and translation in social work, in medical settings, in ethnopsychiatry, etc. Furthermore, the attempt to get data through direct personal contact with the involved parties will reveal the willingness and/or reluctance mirroring the importance they attribute to legal interpreting.