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Participatory Action Research

Applied to Community
Interpreting in Hong Kong

Ester Leung

 Research methods applied to the study of

Community interpreting (CI)
 Participatory Action Research (PAR)
 A case study of PAR applied to CI in Hong
Community Interpreting is:

 The scope of community interpreting is

itself a “nebulous concept” (Roberts :
1997 : 8)
 interpreting activities carried out in an
institutional setting which is not business
or commercially oriented.

 Interpreter’s Role
 Interpreter’s Training
 Interpreter’s Performance
 Provision of Interpreting Services
 The Views of Service Providers / Receivers
 the definition of community interpreting
(Alexieva 1997, Robert 1997) ,
 the roles of community interpreters (Angelelli
2004, Fenton 1997, WadensjÖ 1997, Roy 1993,
Tate & Turner 1997, Leung 2008)
 the professional training and education of
community interpreters (Morris 2003, Mikkelson
& Mintz 1997, Bell 1997),
 the provision of community interpretation
services in different communities (Fortier 1997,
Benmaman 1997, Leung 2003, 2008, Hale 2004).
Participatory-Action Research
 Father of PAR: "Paolo Freire (1970), one of
the world's leading educationalists, in his
classic text Pedagogy of the Oppressed broke
away from the tradition of gathering data on
oppressed people and instead carried out
research with participants, placing capability
in the hands of disenfranchised people so that
they could transform their lives themselves."
(Koch & Kralik 2006)
Research partners rather than objects
of research
“People are treated as intelligible partners rather
than mere respondents to inquiry instruments”

“Participatory methods, through the participation

of community members, seek to bridge the power
relations that exist between researchers and the
researched, between practitioners and
 “Empowerment is, therefore, a key objective of
participatory research and policy approaches and, as a
result of the shift in power, it is argued that
participatory approaches enable such a process to
occur, to the benefit of those engaged in the process.
Specifically, the shift in power facilitates the
amplification of the voices of marginalized people in
such a way that they are able to articulate their needs
and demands and make their contribution to the
construction of knowledge.”
 Alpaslan özerdem and Richard Bowd (Eds). 2010.
Major differences between traditional
research methods and PAR

 Issues of agency, representation and

 “practice of PAR raises personal, polictical
and professional challenges that go
beyond the bounds of the production of
information”. (Cornwall & Jewkes
PAR is not about method but
 Exploring (local) participant’s knowledge
and perception
 An eclectic approach which may involves
both quantitative and qualitative research
 Different degree of participation from
different participants and different
allocation of power at different stages of
the research
A case study of PAR applied to
CI in HK
Commissioner of the project
From a Public Policy Research project to a
Knowledge Transfer project:
-To create / cause impact on policy changes
or enhancement
-To transfer knowledge to a broader, non-
academic public
-To improve medical interpreting services in
New Legislation 7/2008
 Under existing legislation, the Hong Kong Bill of
 Ordinance (Chapter 383) (HKBORO), prohibits the
Government and
 all public authorities, and any person acting on
behalf of the
 Government or a public authority, from engaging in
practices which
 entail discrimination on any grounds, including race
and colour.
 However, HKBORO is not applicable to acts of
 committed by private individuals and organisations.
Ethnic minorities: the 6%

 Census Report 2012 Feb* :

 No. of people Ethnicity %
 133377 Indonesian 1.9
 133018 Filipino 1.9
 28616 Indian 0.4
 18042 Pakistani 0.3
 16518 Nepalese 0.2
 11213 Thai 0.2
 12247 Japanese 0.2
 55236 “White” 0.8
 12247 other Asian 0.2
 (a survey conducted by the Home Affairs Bureau and the Census and Statistics Department),
New Initiatives - Medical Interpreting Services

 The Hospital Authority (HA) began its

Interpretation Service for Ethnic Minorities
in 2009
 Service categories include onsite face-to-
face advanced booking cases and
telephone interpretation for emergency, or
non-emergency advanced booking cases
 Over 5000 cases provided with
interpreting services since July 2009 –
March 2011, and 3905 for the period of
Apr 1, 2011 – Mar 30, 2012
Community Interpreting in HK
 The great divide between:
 Medical Interpreting

 Legal Interpreting
Role Play

 Form yourself into group of 4

 You can choose which role to play among
 1) An asylum seeker in HK, who need
interpreting services all the time for medical
consultation, legal advices, etc.
 2) interpreter
 3) Service agent, an involuntary organization
who provide social services to the ethnic
 4) Public Hospital Authority who pays for the
interpreting services
The 1st medical interpreting
training course in Hong Kong
 Partnership with the main service
providers of the medical interpreting
 Advices from ethnic minorities
organisations and representatives
 Involving the interpreters in the research
The medical interpreting
training course
 130 hours of training, 20 hours of
practices in hospital(s)
Direct involvement of medical professionals

 Site visits:
introductions of public hospital services,
common medical terminology and
prescription procedures
Institutionalize the rights and the Association of
 Questionnaires were sent out via emails to
organizations / agents who work with
interpreters; interviews, services meeting
 The formation of Multilingual Interpreters’ and
Translators’ Association (MITA)
 www.mitahk.org
 The association has now got thirty-some
interpreters members, and 5 advisory committee
members (service users), 1 legal adviser (Bar
Association), 1 honorary adivser (Legislative
The Constitution of MITA
 Multilingual Interpreters and Translators Association
(MITA) is a non-profit independent organization/
company formed by the multilingual
interpreters/translators working in Hong Kong in various
sectors primarily to voice for the better working
condition for the professional interpreters, promote
quality interpretation/translation service, advocate for
professional development and recognition. MITA strives
to serve people who need and care about
interpreting/translation services irrespective of religious,
political and social background. MITA will be a common
forum for sharing information for the interpreters and
the service providers in its network.
Code of Practices

 Cultural awareness
 Some organizations allow cultural bridging
in certain contexts or conditions, some
never. Please refer to each service
provider’s code of conduct to ensure you
are in compliance.
Trainers’ Training

 1) Interpreting
 : modes of interpreting – how do we learn and
how do we teach interpreting skills
 : the expected roles of an interpreter working
in the legal and medical settings
 2) Syllabus design of a medical / legal
interpreting course
 3) Evaluation
 :What makes a good / bad interpretation)
 :Code of Practices
Analyzing cases and examples from the medical
and the legal settings
 Mixing authentic data with made-up
examples to illustrate different issues:
 Linguistic differences between the
 Contextual influence on the interaction
 Different roles that interpreter can take
and its consequences
 01:D(octor): basically the check-up is normal. If you want to
have further check-up we can arrange another scan. But I think
if you would not like another you can just observe=
 02:P(atient)= yes of course
 03:I(nterpreter): observe now? It’s up to her?
 04:P: toh haan iske ilaaj ka iske paas koi nai hai ….mere ko
aisa jaane dega ?
 (Then, he does not have any treatment for it…will he let me go
in this condition?)
 05:I: toh aap kya chahti hain ?
 (Then what do you want?)
 06:P: nai main to ilaaj karna chahti hoon ..Kyun, Kya masla
hai mera andar ka?
 (No, I want to have treatment for this. Why, what is the
problem inside me?)
 07:I: She says that she wants to have treatment because she
feels pain you have to do something for her
In the Courtroom

 W(itness): It’s too fast, I can’t follow.

 B(arrister): What’s the matter? What did
he say?
 I(nterpreter): He said that its too fast, he
can’t follow.
 B: You slow down then.
Limitations using PAR

 What’s next? Who’s next?

 Relinguishing power and control
 Participants’ living struggles
 High turnover rate of interpreters and even
representatives from different organizations –
 Degree of participants’ participation is neither
continuous nor predictable
 Researchers’ struggle to balance between the
needs of the local community and the funding
body, to produce research outputs that are more
tangible and conventional
 It is clear that the process is full of
challenges which are not only obstacles to
prevent the research from being
conducted but often they are very much
the integral aspects of that very research
undertaking itself. They are not only
contextual matters but also what would
constitute as the main characteristics of
the research
 the relationship between the researcher
and the ‘research partners’ “is influenced,
managed or even controlled by a myriad
of surrounding elements, but participatory
research methods seem to provide a much
greater level of response flexibility to such
obstacles and characteristics than more
conventional methods.”
 özerdem and Bowd (Eds). 2010.
Future Development of Interpreting Services for
the Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong
 A top-down approach:
 Establishing the network with NGOs, Universities, Service
providers to advocate long-term planning and policy on
interpretation service
 Petitioning the Judiciary and the Hospital Authority to use
only trained interpreters
 Lining up with overseas institutions and organizations
experienced in foreign languages interpretations and
translations to promote exchange and sharing of service
 Organize accredited training courses