Optimizing turn-taking in interpreter-mediated therapy: on the importance of the interpreter’s speaking space


  • Jelena Vranjes UGent
  • Hanneke Bot


counseling, interpreting, refugees, gaze, turn-taking


This paper highlights two types of turn-taking problems that can occur in dialogue interpreting within the context of mental healthcare. Although interpreting in mental health care has received some scholarly attention over the past two decades, the multimodal dimension of such encounters has not been investigated in detail so far.Based on a dataset of video recorded psychotherapeutic sessions with refugees, the study aims to show how interpreters deal with turn-taking issues during the conversation and how this affectsboth their ownrolein the encounter and the interaction itself. Both verbal and nonverbal behavior (gaze orientation and gestures) were taken into account. The data were analyzed qualitatively by drawing on the insights from Conversation Analysis (CA). The analysis suggests that problems may arise when the interpreter is not able to negotiate the moment of turn transfer or his/her turn space during the talk.Such problems in the coordination of turn-taking with the interpreter can even result in loss of information. We argue that turn-taking in therapeutic counseling with an onsite interpreter is a collaborative achievement between both speakers and the interpreter, and that acknowledging the interpreter as a co-participant with rights for speaking space supports the interpreting process.