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‘Who’s giving us the answers?’ Interpreters and the validation of prior foreign learning

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This paper critically discusses the role of the interpreter in the validation of the prior learning of recent immigrants arriving in Sweden by drawing on a perspective from the sociology of translation. The recent immigrants’ difficulties with speaking the local language is usually described as the main problem when it comes to validating their prior learning. As a result, the use of interpreters is proposed to facilitate the assessment process. The current literature largely sees the interpreter’s role in the validation of prior foreign learning as unproblematic. The interpreter is described as a neutral means of transmitting the knowledge, skills and experience of the immigrant in an objective way to the assessor. In this paper I criticise this view of the interpreter as a neutral, objective tool. I argue that the role of the interpreter is not given, but enacted during the validation process. Furthermore, the study shows that, far from transmitting information from the immigrant to the assessor, the interpreter is profoundly implicated in the construction of the knowledge that materialises in the assessment results.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Publication date: 2013-04-01

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