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

Rachel Carson Berman, Vappu Tyyskä


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.

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