Understanding cultural context is an essential part of an interpreter’s job. Indeed, the backdrop of a person's experience will affect his/her behavior, syntax choices and expectations in a communicative encounter. How, then, might interpreters deal with situations wherein they are not entirely familiar with the cultural background of all parties involved?
One way may be by comparing the cultural dimensions of cultures by using Dr. Geert Hofstede’s 6D framework. While Hofstede's extensive study focuses on finding connections between cultural values and their effects on behaviors and beliefs in the workplace, these values can also be used to uncover the basis for behaviors, reactions, and speech patterns in countless situations. The six dimensions of this model include: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long term orientation, and indulgence. Since cultural context plays into nearly every interpretation scenario, this framework can be a starting point from which an interpreter can begin to understand the nuances of different cultures and how large underlying cultural themes can play into everyday life.
Lexi Budden is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse expecting to graduate with a BA in French with a business concentration and a minor international business by May 2020. In addition, she is currently working to earn a certificate in Community Interpreting from Viterbo University. Due to her vested interest in language learning, she volunteers regularly at the Language Resource Center at UW-La Crosse and interns at Onalaska High School, where she facilitates conversations with beginner-level French students to aid them in their grammar, vocabulary, conversational skills and abilities. She spent a semester abroad in Montpellier, France, where she studied French at the Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3. Lexi looks forward to working toward better language access within business contexts in the Midwest.
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