Breaking Down Language Barriers: A Practice-Near Study of Social Work Using Interpreters

David Westlake, Rebecca Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

This paper explores how social workers can communicate effectively using an interpreter. It examines how child and family practitioners describe their experiences of working with interpreters and uses audio recordings of home visits to analyse how the challenges they describe manifest in practice. The analysis is based on audio recordings of nineteen interpreter-mediated meetings between workers and families, and two focus groups with practitioners. Recordings were categorised using quantitative coding, and data were analysed thematically. Although workers find using an interpreter challenging, in practice, skilled practitioners are able to work effectively providing they adopt an assertive approach. This is characterised by clarifying misunderstandings, involving the client in ‘chit-chat’ to build rapport and, where clients have differing levels of language proficiency, conducting the conversation entirely in the native language. The study demonstrates the centrality of social worker skills in managing interpreter-mediated sessions and improving practice for non-native-speaking families. This has implications for social work practice internationally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1388-1408
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Children's Services
Volume48
Issue number5
Early online date16 Aug 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

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