Evaluating the Efficacy of Relay Interpreters: A Case Study about Interpreting for a Development-Aid Project in Sierra Leone



The importance of communication to a successful humanitarian-development-peace process is self-evident. Yet, the role of interpreters in those settings is often neglected despite the fact that effective communication has gained more and more attention from both governmental and non-governmental organisations. This is all the truer for the role of relay interpreters, who are peculiar to the investigated field. This paper reviews the aforementioned shift of the role of interpreters from being invisible to a little more visible before focusing on the current status of interpreters, specifically relay interpreters, working in protracted humanitarian contexts. To further establish the research niche of interpreters in development-aid contexts, Bourdieu’s field theory is adopted to conceptualise what constitutes the field and habitus of their activity (1990). This paper aims to shed light on the importance of relay interpreters in particular and discuss the efficacy of their work. To do this, a case study of a China-aid project in Sierra Leone is evaluated and qualitative data are gathered by interviewing eight interpreters working in protracted humanitarian contexts and analysing results utilising Tomaševski’s 4-A approach (2001) adapted to interpreting. With a focus on relay interpreting, this paper is an empirical investigation that coincides with Bourdieu’s opinion of the ideal way to objectify Translation Studies (TS) using a sociological viewpoint.