History and Philosophy
“Multidisciplinarity as a starting point”
The Training and Research on Public Service Translation and Interpreting Group (FITISPos) is aimed at training and researching on public service translating and interpreting. By means of a multidisciplinary approach, the Group mainly investigates multicultural subjects related to ethnic minorities in which linguistics plays an important role, therefore its connection with translation and interpreting.
Several schools and departments that belong to the Universidad de Alcalá (Law, Nursing, Medicine, Pedagogy) and other universities from Madrid (Universidad Autónoma and Universidad Complutense) collaborate or have collaborated with this philosophy. NGOs such as the Red Cross, Red Acoge, ACCEM and COMRADE, and local institutions such as city councils, health centres, hospitals and some state bodies like the Ministry of Internal Affairs (OAR), Guadalajara’s Council Office, among others, have also contributed with the Group. Additionally, this is a multilingual team (comprising English, French, Arabic, Rumanian, Russian, Bulgarian speaking members) that continuously grows its connections and its participation in projects both inside and outside the Autonomous Community of Madrid and Community of Castilla-La Mancha, not only at a national but also at an international level.
FITISPos has three essential objectives that are comprehensively and integrally related: training, research and practice.
The main objective is the creation of linguistic and cultural competent liaisons to act in public service settings as reliable interlocutors between providers and foreigners. For this purpose, Universidad de Alcalá offers a postgraduate training programme: the Official Master’s Degree in Public Service Translation and Interpreting, which is offered in the Arabic-Spanish, Chinese-Spanish, French-Spanish, English-Spanish and Russian-Spanish language pairs.
In 2019, FITISPos was restructured, adapting its lines of research. In this way, the new lines of research of the group are:
- Public Service Interpreting and Translation (PSIT)
- PSIT and its relationship with the socio-political and economic environment
- Intercultural and interlinguistic mediation
- Multiculturalism and multilingualism
In regard to research, the Group’s main objectives are:
- Analyzing the quality of communication within the public services
- Studying and contributing to the design of multicultural societies.
- Developing and exchanging training resources.
The initial aim of FITISPos’ research was the exploration of the different contexts of institutional communication with immigrants in order to gather objective information regarding the number of users, their mother tongues, the frequency of use of public services and the communication problems that arise between a provider and a user that do not speak the same language. Such investigation was carried out by means of a rigorous, scientific investigation process that goes beyond simple commenting.
Subsequently, their research focused on the analysis of the quality of communication within the area covered by Universidad de Alcalá (Alcalá- Corredor del Henares and Guadalajara) and the communication issues that arise in the public services provider – client – (interpreter) rapport. By means of a multidisciplinary approach composed principally of pragmatics, speech analysis and the science of translation, the research group has been gathering objective data (recorded conversations, surveys and personal interviews with immigrant users and public services professionals) so as to analyse it both in regard to general communication issues and at specific aspects’ level, such as communicational misunderstandings, adaptation of the language, terminology management, the communicative attitude of both parties, effort and time economy, conscience of cultural differences at the speech level, among others. The abilities a linguistic intermediary (interpreter/translator) must have, which go beyond the knowledge of the languages in question, are also studied.
All the projects developed until now share, on the one hand, the study of the quality of communication between foreign citizens and public services providers, and, on the other, the final aim of improving this quality both through the identification of the various communication problems that exist and through training and the implementation of a professional, adequate translation and interpreting service.
For instance, among the conclusions on the first research projects, it has been found that the structure of a medical consultation is altered by the immigrants’ lack of language knowledge and the formalities around it, especially in the case of newly arrived ones. Such alteration not only affects the order in which both interlocutors interact, but also the time and the effort required, the amount and the quality of information received (with the consequences that this might have in medical and legal contexts, for example). Moreover, it has been discovered that the alterations in the established pattern of an institutional interaction might lead to a negative perception of the other interlocutor’s part, therefore creating or corroborating stereotypes on certain nationalities or cultures.
Based on those conclusions, the research group has been drawing attention in the area about the urgent need to specifically and especially train translation and interpreting professionals to fill the current void in the public services. Likewise, the Group has highlighted the need for awareness on the part of government authorities and institutions about the communication requirements of foreign population and institutional staff so as to take steps in order to establish or provide translation/ interpreting services of guaranteed quality.
It is important to point out that, as a result of the training and research carried out, the group avails of a service of multilingual translators and interpreters made up of former students trained in our classrooms, freelance translators in minority languages, professors and external contributors whose work has resulted in useful resources both for immigrants and for public service providers. For instance, the Basic Multilingual Guide of Patient Services (Spanish-Arabic, Spanish-Bulgarian, Spanish-French, Spanish-English, Spanish-Rumanian, Spanish-Russian), the Hospital de Guadalajara’s Hospitalization Guide for Foreign Patients (Spanish, Arabic and English), the Multilingual Set of Informed Consents (currently on the process of hard-copy and online publishing) for all healthcare staff in Castilla-La Mancha, the Customer Service Guide of Leganés and other informative documents for public centres (healthcare centres, hospitals, schools).
It is also worth mentioning that in order to complement our studentst education throughout the programme; we provide them with an internship module by means of which, through agreements with the interested institutions, students offer translation and interpreting services in these centres. We currently hold agreements with several institutions.