Sarah Craig

University of Glasgow
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P1030331 (2)I became aware of the complexities of multilingualism when, as a young immigration lawyer, I represented people as they went through the asylum process. It quickly became obvious that many actors (applicant, interpreters, representatives) were involved in interpreting the applicants’ words into the language of the decision-making procedures, and that such shaping of the narrative was capable of blocking and enabling the communication of the asylum claim. The role of the decision maker – their ability to receive the narrative and interpret its meaning in the context of the administrative and judicial constraints within which they worked– was also key.

Ten years on, and working as an immigration and refugee law academic, the initial communication of the asylum claim still captured my attention. I became involved in an interdisciplinary team, and we were awarded an AHRC research networking grant which brought together interested researchers and practitioners in three seminars to explore, from their different disciplines and backgrounds, the role played by interpretation and language in asylum determination. We looked at what best practice guidelines had to say about interpretation and translation, the various ways in which the narrative could be blocked and/or enabled, and the conditions which would be required to ensure that the asylum narrative could be both communicated and heard. This study involved looking at the use of LADO for multi lingual applicants, as well as their interactions with the formal language of the legal process.  The range of backgrounds, as well as the breadth and depth of knowledge which participants brought to the table, led to rich discussions, but the role of multilingualism and of the various actors in the process demanded further attention, and it was clear that much could still be learnt from other disciplines and jurisdictions. I have given a link to the website of the above project, and to an article on the use of LADO in the UK.

My own languages are limited! I used to speak German very well, having lived and worked there as a modern languages student, and to my schoolgirl French I can now add some Spanish, since I am lucky enough to have family members living in Spanish speaking countries.

S. Craig “The use of language analysis in asylum decision-making in the UK – a
discussion”, Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law 2012  26(3), 255-268