Podcast episode 24: working with interpreters – a conversation with researcher and anthropologist, Hilde Fiva Buzungu

podcts whit text psdHilde Fiva Buzungu is both an anthropologist and an interpreter.  She is currently in Australia as a visiting PhD Research Fellow from Norway, writing up her research on social work with families where one or both parents have limited proficiency in the Norwegian language.

As a certified interpreter (Norwegian/English), Hilde brings a rich understanding to exploring the intersection between justice, migration, child welfare, social welfare, and intergenerational trauma and abuse.

Hilde was previously Senior Advisor at the Oslo University Hospital Interpreting Unit. This covered quality assurance of health care interpreting, research and development, recruitment and assessment of interpreters, interpreter ethics, and continuing professional development.

Her research findings were remarkable. In the Norwegian social welfare agencies working with migrant families, social workers went out of their way not to use interpreters. A key reason was often the inadequate quality, both in terms of language skills and interpreting skills on the part of the interpreter. This gave the majority of the social workers a deep, empirically founded distrust in the interpreting profession, and in the concept of interpreting as a solution in the face of language gaps. The Norwegian authorities do however require a higher quality of interpreter services in the areas of justice and health care.

Hilde and I talk about the implications of these findings, and what can be learnt from them.

Our conversation turns to exploring the narrow perspective of dominant monolingual cultures, the need for an interpreting profession, and the need for helping professionals to reflect the cultural diversity of their communities and their clients.

I also learn a little bit about the Sami, the indigenous peoples of Norway, particularly in relation to their need for good interpreter services and their struggles to avoid cultural genocide.

This conversation deepened my understanding of the ethical complexities, both for interpreters and social workers, of working in this space.

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