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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Founded by Fishman, Joshua A.

Ed. by Garcia Otheguy, Ofelia / Duchêne, Alexandre / Coulmas, Florian

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CiteScore 2016: 0.53

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.505
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.716

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Volume 2018, Issue 251


Official bilingualism meets de facto multilingualism: public service interpreting for the Chinese in Catalonia

Mireia Vargas-Urpi
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Translation and Language Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Roc Boronat, 138, 08018 Barcelona, Spain
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Published Online: 2018-04-12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0003


Catalonia is well known for being a bilingual region with language policies that give full support to promoting Catalan. More recently, the number of languages spoken in Catalonia has risen significantly due to immigration flows, while immigration policies encourage all citizens living in Catalonia to be able to communicate in Catalan with the public Administration. The same immigration policies, however, also acknowledge that interpreting (or intercultural mediation) may be necessary to facilitate immigrants’ rights to access public services during the first few years they are living in Catalonia. This article analyses the relationship between a minoritized language (Catalan), a dominant language (Spanish) and a group of recently arrived languages (Standard Chinese and other Chinese varieties) from the perspective of public service interpreting. It discusses some of the results of an empirical qualitative research which included: (a) interviews with public service interpreters and intercultural mediators working with Chinese living in Catalonia, (b) interviews with managers and coordinators in charge of interpreting or mediation services, and (c) questionnaires answered by Chinese users of public services in Catalonia. This research depicts a complex reality: it not only reflects interpreters’ and managers’ biases towards Spanish or Catalan, often motivated by their place of origin or life experience, but also the challenges when dealing with linguistic variation, i.e. the variety of languages (geolects and mutually unintelligible dialects) included under the umbrella term of Chinese.

Keywords: public service interpreting; intercultural mediation; multilingualism; bilingualism; minoritized language


About the article

Published Online: 2018-04-12

Published in Print: 2018-04-25

Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Volume 2018, Issue 251, Pages 37–54, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijsl-2018-0003.

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