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What do community interpreting for the Deaf in western societies, conference interpreting for the European Parliament, and language brokering in international management have in common? Academic research and professional training have historically emphasized the linguistic and cognitive challenges of interpreting, neglecting or ignoring the social aspects that structure communication. All forms of interpreting are inherently social; they involve relationships among at least three people and two languages. The contexts explored here, American Sign Language/English interpreting and spoken language interpreting within the European Parliament, show that simultaneous interpreting involves attitudes, norms and values about intercultural communication that overemphasize information and discount cultural identity. The default mode of interpreting shows a desire for speed that suppresses differences requiring cultural mediation. It is theorized this imbalance stems from the invention and implementation of simultaneous interpreting within a highly charged historical moment that was steeped in trauma. Interpreting as a professional practice developed in keeping with technological capacities and historical contingencies accompanying processes of industrialization and modernity. The resulting expectations about what interpreting can and cannot achieve play out in microsocial group dynamics (as inequality) and macrosocial policy (legalized injustice). Interpreting invites an encounter with difference: foreignization is embedded within the experience of participating in simultaneous interpretation because interpreting disrupts the accustomed flow of consciousness, forcing participants to adapt (or resist adapting) to an alternate rhythm of turn-taking. This results in an unusual awareness of time. Discomforts associated with heightened time-consciousness open possibilities for deep learning and new kinds of relationships among people, ideas, and problem-setting. An analysis of the frustrations of users (interpretees) and practitioners (interpreters) suggests the need for other remedies than complete domestication. Reframing training for interpreters, and cultivating skillful and strategic participation by interpretees, could be leveraged systematically to improve social equality and reduce intercultural tensions through a balanced emphasis on sharing understanding and creating mutually-relevant meanings. This comparative cultural and critical discourse analysis enables an action research/action learning hypothesis aimed at intercultural social resilience: social control of diversity can be calibrated and contained through rituals of participation in special practices of simultaneously-interpreted communication.
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