2012: Volume 5, Issue 1, pp. 53-74

First Encounters: 
Knowledge Interpretation on the Front-Lines of Cross-Cultural Encounters

Robert F. Barsky



The hypothesis that guides this work is that although it may be valuable to lobby for competent translators to help vulnerable foreigners in cross-cultural settings, such as the Canadian Convention refugee determination hearings or criminal trials, it is nevertheless too late to make much of a difference at that point, because most of the incriminating damage is done in the initial encounter between claimant/defendant and authority. Approaching a discussion about the relative merits of translation versus interpretation from this perspective, that emphasizes the time at which the conversation occurs, would suggest that linguistic accuracy is much more important in formal hearings, while interpretation is crucial during the initial encounter, because it is during this period of negotiation that a sensitive and qualified interpreter can keep a claimant from incriminating herself or mis-communicating the situation to authority.



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