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Opening the black box: oral histories of how soldiers and civilians learned to translate and interpret during peace support operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Baker, Catherine

Authors

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Dr Catherine Baker Catherine.Baker@hull.ac.uk
Research Coordinator for History and Senior Lecturer in 20th Century History



Abstract

This paper uses 51 oral history interviews with former military personnel, language trainers and locally-recruited interpreters to explore how soldiers and civilians were educated into becoming translators and interpreters who worked in support of the multi-national military force that first deployed into Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992. The peace operations took various forms as the nature of the Bosnia-Herzegovina mission changed but had a constant need for language support, which it met by combining a small number of soldiers trained in the local language(s) and a much larger number of local people with formal or informal education in English. The paper shows how different groups of people on whom the need for translation and interpreting had an impact (military linguists; military non-linguists; professional translators and interpreters; local interpreters who began work without professional training in interpreting) formed norms about the role of translators/interpreters through their education. Though each milieu led to a different translating and/or interpreting subjectivity, all language intermediaries recognised their work as a contingent and difficult activity while non-linguists were less able to conceive of language learning and translation/interpreting as more than a "black box" activity of finding equivalence. Using these findings as an illustration, the paper argues for the greater use of oral history in researching adult education and training on the grounds that an interview-based biographical approach provides insights into the long-term impact of learning.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 1, 2012
Journal Oral History Forum d’histoire Orale
Print ISSN 1482-5872
Electronic ISSN 1923-0567
Publisher Athabasca University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue Special Issue
APA6 Citation Baker, C. (2012). Opening the black box: oral histories of how soldiers and civilians learned to translate and interpret during peace support operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Oral History Forum d’histoire Orale, 32(Special Issue),
Keywords translation; interpreting; peace operations; Bosnia-Herzegovina; oral history
Publisher URL http://www.oralhistoryforum.ca/index.php/ohf/article/view/433
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