[New publication] Mediation Strategies: Special issue of Language Problems and Language Planning 42 (3), 2018

Mediation Strategies: Special issue of Language Problems and Language Planning, 42 (3)

edited by Anthony Pym

Table of contents:

Why mediation strategies are important, Anthony Pym

Abstract: Mediation strategies are deployed when people use translation, interpreting, lingua francas, intercomprehension, language learning, or any combination of these to communicate in situations where there is more than one language in play. Such choices can be seen as enacting trade-offs between the goals of mobility (across geolinguistic borders) and inclusion (primarily into labor markets and government services). Mediation strategies are nevertheless selected in accordance with complex sets of criteria by which they are evaluated and compared in each particular situation. Case studies suggest that, if seen as performative language policy, the strategies tend to give more priority to social inclusion than to language diversity. They might thus constitute a challenge to some approaches to official language policy.

Language choices and practices of migrants in Germany, Sabine Fiedler and Agnes Wohlfarth

Abstract: The language uses of twenty migrants in Germany who have English in their language repertoires are investigated through semi-structured interviews and qualitative content analysis. The findings suggest that in occupation-related situations and daily life, these migrants resort to English in situations that are too difficult to handle in German. For most of them this is only temporary, before they have a sufficient command of German. Whether and how well migrants learn German depends on factors such as the planned length of stay, the demand for the language in their professional field, previous migration experiences, and personality. Most of the interviewees had taken language classes and were highly motivated to learn German, as English is not always a viable option for communication in Germany and because they considered proficiency in German a sign of respect. The use of German and English as a lingua franca were the two major mediation strategies, along with language technologies like Google Translate, while some interviewees reported successful use of intercomprehension.

“It’s so vital to learn Slovene”: Mediation choices by asylum seekers in Slovenia,  Nike K. Pokorn and Jaka Čibej

Abstract: Short-time migrants, who stay in the host country from one to 12 months, use mediation strategies including lingua francas, public-service interpreting and translation, translation technologies, intercomprehension, and learning the host country’s dominant language. The choices made by asylum seekers in Slovenia, a country of transit for the majority of asylum seekers, are analyzed on the basis of questionnaires answered by 127 current and former residents of the Slovene asylum seeker centers in 2016, followed up by semi-structured interviews with a representative group of 34 asylum seekers. The results show that the majority of newly arrived migrants regard the use of lingua francas as a helpful but not desired long-term strategy. They define host-country language learning as the most desirable strategy for linguistic and social inclusion. Surprisingly, they are reluctant to use translation technologies and interpreters because they either doubt the accuracy of the transfer or they consider such mediation (interpreting in particular) a hindrance to their independence.

“Do I want to learn a language spoken by two million people?”: Mediation choices by mid-term and long-term migrants, Nike K. Pokorn and Jaka Čibej

Abstract: Migrants’ intended length of stay influences their choices between using a lingua franca, language technology, ad-hoc interpreters and translators, intercomprehension, or learning the host country’s dominant language. To study this influence, data were collected through a questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and a focus-group discussion from 15 long-term migrants (university language teachers) and eight mid-term migrants (teachers at two international schools) working in Slovenia. The results show that the long-term migrants all learned the host language, while the most common mediation strategy of the mid-term migrants was use of a lingua franca. Ad-hoc interpreters and translators were used not only in healthcare but also for the translations of official documents. Moreover, the French-speaking mid-term migrants attempted to learn the host language and often ended up learning English, while the group of native English speakers tended to form a linguistic enclave. It is argued that the preferred mediation strategy depends not just on the intended length of stay but also on the status of the migrant’s L1 in the particular host country.

The complementary nature of linguistic mediation in transnational adoption mobility, Alice Fiorentino

Abstract: In order to explore why people in multilingual contexts choose one mediation strategy or another, we conducted case studies involving short-term mobility for adoption purposes. For parents who adopt a child born in a different country, the experience necessitates a range of linguistic strategies that include language learning, interpreting and translation services, lingua francas, and intercomprehension. A study of ten Italian transnational adoptive families shows that adoptive parents tend to combine these strategies according to the situational relevance of four mobility-related variables: parental agency, accuracy of information, self-reliance, and intimacy. The adoptive parents’ opinions about the benefits and limitations of each strategy indicate that mediation strategies are complementary means to reach the complex general purpose of acquiring parenthood.

A study of Russian speakers in southern Catalonia, Nune Ayvazyan and Anthony Pym

Abstract: An interview survey of 51 members of Russian-speaking groups in the Salou area of southern Catalonia indicates the use of several modes of mediation to solve language problems. Professional written translators tend to be employed for official documents and high-risk situations only, whereas professional interpreters tend not to be used; family members and friends are usually preferred. There is widespread learning of Spanish, which is seen as the “host” language and offers independence, but very limited engagement with Catalan, which nevertheless remains a strong language of identification for much of the host society. In this multilingual context, Spanish, Russian, and English can all function as lingua francas depending on the situation. Russian, however, is only taught by private associations, even though its presence in the public school system could conceivably help address the diffuse sense of social exclusion felt by these groups and would be to the long-term benefit of the area’s economy, which partly depends on Russian tourism.