A Critical Reflection on the Use of Translators/Interpreters in a Qualitative Cross-Language Research Project


  • Rachel Carson Berman Ryerson University
  • Vappu Tyyskä Ryerson University


Based on experiences from a qualitative research project on immigrant women's English language acquisition, we critiqued the traditional positivist model, and identified a number of issues related to the engagement of translators/interpreters in community-based research. The issues that we identified amount to serious questions about ambiguities and ownership of translated language content; assumptions about community familiarity and cultural similarity between researchers, translators, and participants; negotiation of power and authority in the research process; and the risks faced by translators. In the end, though individual research team members bear responsibility over these shortcomings and need to strive to make our research practices more inclusive and equitable, the institutional context of research imposes severe limitations on the ideal alternative model of working with translators and interpreters as co-researchers.

Author Biographies

Rachel Carson Berman, Ryerson University

Rachel Berman is an Associate Professor in the School of Early Childhood Education at Ryerson University. She received an M.A. in Human Development and Family Relations at the University of Connecticut, and a Ph.D. in Family Studies at the University of Guelph. She recently developed and taught the course "Social research with children" for the M.A. program in Early Childhood Studies, offered through the School of ECE. Before joining the School in 2000, Rachel taught courses in feminist research methods at both McMaster and York University. Her research interests include: methods of inquiry, children’s involvement in research, and interactions/relationships between parents and family support workers, early childhood educators, and other professionals who work with children and families.

Vappu Tyyskä, Ryerson University

Professor, Department of Sociology