Translating Cultures in International Dispute Resolution

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Cultures, Languages & Area Studie

Abstract

1 The Context of the Research

China has been one of UK's top trade partners for many years. Following China's Premier's pledge to further increase trade between Britain and China during his recent visit to UK, as reported on the BBC in June 2011, the trade volume between the two countries is likely to soar to a new high. Against this background, the importance of developing a well-informed linguistic and cultural knowledge and sensitivity among the mediators and interpreters working in these contexts to mitigate disputes and to facilitate smooth transactions across the borders cannot be over-emphasised.

In the research on international dispute resolution, focus has concentrated on the political and legal differences across the countries, dispute resolution as a decision-making process across cultures, or varied dispute resolution strategies in a framework of interests, rights and power. Little work has been carried out to examine explicitly the use of language and interpretation in dispute resolution, and none has investigated the cultural, linguistic, and translational issues in Chinese-English contexts. In view of the above, the proposed project intends to fill this gap.

2 The Aims and Objectives

This project can enhance the understanding of 1) how language is used and phrased sensitively to manage interpersonal interactions in mediations, 2)the pivotal role of cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity in cross-cultural and intercultural mediations and how such cultural awareness and sensitivity are represented or reflected in the use of language, for example, through a particular language pattern, and the ensuing impact on the mediation process, 3) when interpretation is used to facilitate intercultural mediations, whether such cultural awareness and sensitivity are represented in interpretation, for example, how face is managed in intercultural mediation and how it is represented through interpretation.

3) The Potential Applications and Benefits

There are four groups of direct beneficiaries: academic researchers, mediators, interpreters and the general public.
Findings from the project will be fed into academic research with the advantage of direct input from professionals. This project will encourage and provide opportunities for further joint funding bids between/by the participating researchers and professionals on the identified emerging areas of research during and beyond the project period.

To engage practising mediators and to communicate the significant findings that can benefit their mediation practice with a view to realising the impacts of the project, special seminars, workshops and training sessions will be devised and delivered by the researchers and seasoned international mediators from The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) during and beyond the project period. These impact activities can enable and help mediation practitioners to develop and enhance important understanding and skills of how to interpret cultural differences in Chinese-British contexts and how to use verbal and body language effectively in managing interactions with parties in disputes and with interpreters during the mediating process.

To achieve the impacts of engaging interpreters and drawing upon the project, modules on 'Cultural Competence in Professional Interpreting' will be designed by researchers and interpretation trainers and will be integrated into interpreting training syllabus at universities.

To enable the impacts to reach the general public, from government officials and executives to tourists and waiters in restaurants, and to help them to understand cultural issues and traps in cross-cultural/intercultural disputes, educational video clips produced by researchers can be uploaded onto youtube. In addition, researchers will approach broadcasting corporations such as the BBC to work with producers in developing a special lecture or interview on the topic.

Planned Impact

There are four groups of direct beneficiaries from this project. They are academic researchers, practising mediators, interpreters and the general public.

Findings from the project will be fed into academic research with the advantage of direct input from professionals. This project will encourage and provide opportunities for further joint funding bids between/by the participating researchers and professionals on the identified emerging areas of research during and beyond the project period.

To engage practising mediators and to communicate the significant findings that can benefit their mediation practice with a view to realising the impacts of the project, special seminars, workshops and training sessions will be devised and delivered by the researchers and seasoned international mediators from CEDR during and beyond the project period. These impact activities can enable and help mediation practitioners to develop and enhance important understanding and skills of how to interpret cultural differences in Chinese-British contexts and how to use verbal and body language effectively in managing interactions with parties in disputes and with interpreters during the mediating process. There are various channels for communication to make these impact activities inclusive and target relevant user groups. For example, The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution has a dedicated training department/section named CEDR Skills besides its commercial department/section CEDR Solve. The impact activities will be integrated as a part of their established training courses for lawyers, mediators and executives, taking advantage of the existent target audience groups. This constitutes one of the best and most direct channels for the activities to achieve impacts on one/part of the most relevant audience groups. In return, it will enhance the appeal of CEDR Skills' courses by giving it a Chinese-British dimension, and thus it is a win-win for the project and for CEDR. Moreover, the impact activities will be video-recorded and uploaded onto well-known social broadcasting websites such as youtube to widen the reach of the activities. They can also be uploaded onto the webpage dedicated to this project to communicate the impacts.

To achieve the impacts of engaging interpreters and drawing upon the project, modules on 'Cultural Competence in Professional Interpreting' will be designed by researchers and interpretation trainers and will be integrated into interpreting training syllabus at universities, such as the Master degree programme in Chinese-English Translation and Interpreting at the University of Nottingham. This can improve interpreters' cultural awareness and sensitivity. Such modules can also be promoted via the professional interpreter's associations such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI).

To enable the impacts to reach the general public, from government officials and executives to tourists and waiters in restaurants, and to help them to understand cultural issues and traps in cross-cultural/intercultural disputes, educational video clips produced by researchers can be uploaded onto youtube. In addition, researchers will approach broadcasting corporations such as the BBC to work with producers in developing a special lecture or interview on the topic. This can be realised with the help from the corporate communication department at the university, and the BBC has a long history of collaborating with academia in delivering specialised talks, interviews and lectures on diversified areas to enhance the general public's understanding.

Publications

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Description Key findings
1 Use of verbal and non-verbal language for relationship management in international mediation
In dispute resolution, mediators often employ various politeness strategies to build and enhance rapport with parties in dispute (Mackie 2012). This constitutes the fundamental step for a mediator to win trust from the parties, which is a pre-requisite that enables a mediator to help the parties recognise their interests and positions for negotiation. It is found in this project that when the mediator and the parties are from different cultures, significant differences exist in terms of the verbal and non-verbal strategies used for building rapport, how the strategies are interpreted, and what is perceived as an appropriate pace for achieving rapport. For example, it is discovered that Chinese, in a dispute, often focus more on the damage of a relationship rather than on the specific issue at dispute (McFadden 2012). Therefore, an appropriate acknowledgement from the mediator of his/her appreciation of such a perspective would be expected by Chinese for building rapport. It is also discovered that Chinese involve more chitchat on personal affairs for building rapport than British people do (Stadler 2012). Some positive politeness strategies used by Chinese and British parties may entail varied pragmatic intentions. For example, seeking agreement and avoiding disagreement constitutes an important positive politeness strategy for enhancing rapport (Brown and Levinson 1987). Nevertheless, 'yes' is discovered here used by Chinese more often as a token agreement for eliciting information rather than expressing consent compared to British. In Chinese-British mediation, this can result in different perceptions of the progress towards a solution.
Borg (2011) suggests that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and paralinguistic cues. McFadden (2012) highlighted its applicability to mediation interactions. Empirical data reveal that people from different cultures have difficulty in interpreting interpersonal messages encoded in cross-cultural paralinguistic cues and body language (Yuan 2012). In the context of mediation, this underpins the importance of a mediator's intercultural competence in understanding interpersonal dynamics presented in non-verbal interactions.
2 Impact of cultural differences on international mediation
The following cultural variables are found to play an important role influencing Chinese people's dispute resolution behaviour: harmony, face, Guanxi (connections), Renqing (human indebtedness), Bao (reciprocity), Keqi (politeness), Li (Rites), Yuan (predestined relations), hierarchy, and Fengshui (Chen and Yuan 2012). When resolving a dispute, Chinese may attach greater importance to those values than to mere personal or financial interests involved. This may not apply to British parties. In mediation, this leads to parties' varied orientations towards the negotiation, and accordingly impact on their respective choice of strategies.
Although focussed on Chinese-British interactions, this research is not exclusive to other contexts. For example, Stadler (2012) examined differences in orientation to disagreement and relationships between German and Chinese cultures, and important competencies that can be conducive to the mediation process. She reported that in German culture, it is considered that disagreement does not need to be avoided, dissent can be expressed openly or exacerbated, and disagreement does not necessarily indicate conflict. In contrast, in Chinese culture, disagreement is to be avoided, common ground should be sought to maintain harmony, dissent should be played down, and disagreement is a precursor to conflict. Such different orientations towards disagreement and its expression impact on Chinese-German dispute resolution behavior and process.
3 Use of translation/interpretation in international mediation
Two key findings are made from this project on use of interpretation in mediation. Firstly, an interpreter should build intercultural competence in understanding and representing in the interpretation interpersonal dynamics that embodies a speaker's communicative style, attitude and intentions to facilitate interactions (Yuan 2012). Secondly, interpretation is looked upon as a type of mediation activity, although the pragmatic connotations associated with 'mediation' could vary in interpretation and dispute resolution. Interpreters are discovered to take stance with parties, take initiative to smooth miscommunication by not sticking to the rule of verbatim translation, and distribute turns of talking. Interpreters often perceive themselves as having the responsibility of coordinating interactions. This can tread on a mediator's turf in dispute resolution, since it is a mediator's primary duty to manage process and coordinate interactions. This finding can answer professional mediators' frustration when working with interpreters (Reported by McFadden 2012). In future research, investigations into an interpreter's role and power in mediation can be fruitful to help mediators develop effective strategies of working with interpreters, and vice versa.
Outcomes
The above key findings have been effectively communicated to mediators. There were three major channels for the impact delivery: 1 my conference on 'Translating Cultures in International Mediation' (15-17/08/12), 2 International Mediation Institute's workshop on intercultural mediation (7-8/07/12), and Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution's mediation skills training courses in London (5-11/12/12) and in HK (15-18/10/12). I presented the key findings at the workshop and the courses, which provoked fruitful discussions among the professionals. They commented on the project and the findings as 'enlightening', 'stimulating' and 'empowering', provoking them to rethink how to approach the intercultural aspects of mediation and use of interpretation in mediation.


Outputs
The key output is a special edition entitled 'Managing Language and Cultural Challenges in Cross-border Mediation and Deal-making'. It encompasses academic and professional project partners' work. It is due to be published with China Media Research, a reputed peer-review journal in early 2014. I am the editor for the special edition.
Achievements
A network entitled 'Managing Language and Cultural Challenges in Cross-border Mediation and Deal-making' has been established through the project. Academic and professional project partners are actively engaged in various dissemination activities. For example, Mr Danny McFadden was invited to give a talk on intercultural mediation at Lingnan University. Mr Duncan Campbell gave an invited talk on the project at the mediation network event in London. I have received four invited talks at University of Manchester, Imperial College London, UIA World Forum of Mediation Centres in Prague and EST Congress on Interpretation and Conflict in Germersheim in Germany to present findings on representing interpersonal dynamics in translation and use of translation in mediation.
Exploitation Route I have discovered that professional mediators at CEDR have brought work in this area further by giving talks on findings to other mediators. Moreover, researchers on my team such as Dr. Stephanie Stadler, Prof. Chen Guoming and Prof. Angela Garcia have submitted new grant applications on international mediation drawn from their own expertise, which are born from my AHRC project.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/clas/research/translating-cultures/index.aspx
 
Description A network entitled 'Managing Language and Cultural Challenges in Cross-border Mediation and Deal-making' has been established through the project. It consists of researchers in language, communication, translation and intercultural studies and professional mediators from Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in London and HK, International Mediation Institute (IMI) in Sydney, Mediation and Training Alternatives (MATA) in London, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) in HK, and International Association of Lawyers Mediation Centre in HK. The collaboration formed during the project is continuing beyond its term. It is proved throughout the project that it is extremely stimulating, rewarding and informing to collaborate with non-academic organisations and professionals. Their contributions have informed pertinent and well-identified research questions. For example, an interpreter's role and power in mediation has been suggested by professionals as one of the urgent areas that deserve a thorough investigation in order to contribute to their knowledge and improve their practice when they work with interpreters. Moreover, findings drawn from academic research have been tested, corrected or confirmed, and applied to improve professional undertaking. For example, mediators highlighted that research had provided them with a powerful tool to understand the cultural challenges in international mediation, and helped them reconsider how to handle the challenges with informed intellectual knowledge and skills instead of from an instinctive departure. Among them, Mr Daan de Snoo, Director of the Netherlands Mediation Institute (NMI) expressed his determination to take what he had learnt from the researchers back to Holland and further stimulate discussion and collaboration there (c.f. http://translating-cultures-networking-development.com/video%2Darchire). For an interdisciplinary project, it is understandable that the challenge of coordinating research from varied disciplines to achieve a synchronised focus would always exist. As the Principal Investigator, I spent much effort communicating with academic partners on adjusting the focus/anchor of their contributions, constantly reminding them of putting professionals' needs and interests as one of their priorities. Once this challenge is overcome, the advantage of it perpetuates as the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary feature of the project allows for contributions from different but complementary perspectives to form a holistic interpretation of the issue. At the beginning, the project only had one non-academic organisation as its project partner - CEDR. During its course, the project has attracted tremendous interest, participation and contribution from professional organisations such as IMI, MATA, HKIAC, and UIA. In my future project, I plan to fully collaborate with all those partners and individual professionals, and to encourage other researchers to seek collaborative opportunities with them, too.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services