Bringing public services to the public
: Interpreting and translating in healthcare settings for social cohesion

  • Wanhong Wang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Immigration in times of globalisation keeps confronting governments – including those in the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia – with increasing challenges in their efforts to integrate immigrant languages and to communicate with their users in public service settings. In all the four states, the governments demonstrate their agency by mandating, recommending, or referencing the use of Public Service Interpreting and Translation (PSIT) to various extents, as influenced by the legislation about equality and non-discrimination. PSIT provision in these four countries is initiated and provided by various stakeholders in diverse ways. However, against the heterogeneous landscape of PSIT provision there are research documents reporting insufficient provision and utilisation of PSIT in these countries. Meanwhile, negative beliefs around PSIT widely exist (for example, that it impedes immigrants’ integration), drawing even more attention to PSIT provision. In this context, this thesis contributes to research in PSIT by exploring the determinants or parameters for effective PSIT provision by taking into consideration multiple stakeholders. Effectiveness of PSIT is understood here as: (a) availability of PSIT of adequate quality, and (b) its optimum utilisation. This thesis emphasizes mainly the latter point, as relevant research in this sphere is scarce.

To discuss and justify effective PSIT provision, this research explores to what extent effective PSIT can contribute to social cohesion: a goal officially pursued by these countries in terms of immigrant integration. In the literature discussing the value of PSIT, its role in social cohesion has not yet gained enough attention. Social cohesion (Jenson, 1998) branches out to be interdisciplinary, and involves dimensions such as belonging, inclusion, participation, recognition, etc. This research addresses this notion from the perspective of language policy (Spolsky, 2004). Controversies around PSIT are usually embedded in the tension brought by dual attributions, instrumentality and identity, of immigrant languages and language(s) of the state, a tension which lies at the heart of language policy in terms of integrating immigrant languages and their users. This research explores how language policy might work in these dimensions to help maintain the precarious balance among the complexities and tensions involved. It also investigates to what extent PSIT is necessary to overcome the language barriers faced of immigrants, and how PSIT might contribute to building their sense of belonging and recognition. In this way, this research expands the range of beneficiaries of PSIT and puts the onus more on the governments by highlighting the ultimate goal they aim to achieve.

On this premise, this research proposes a framework which, as I argue, consists of parameters influencing, if not determining, the effectiveness of PSIT provision in one of the public service setting: healthcare. This framework, integrated with a translation policy framework (González Núñez, 2013, 2016, 2017), is then leveraged to analyse a case study – PSIT provision in healthcare settings of Ontario. The aim is to test the applicability of this framework I proposed, and to understand how Canada’s rhetoric about welcoming and valuing immigrants, and ensuring all citizens are equally treated without discrimination in any form, is translated into and reflected in the management, beliefs, and practices of PSIT. This thesis concludes with suggestions for PSIT provision in healthcare settings of Ontario and signalling some limitations of this research.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorPiotr Blumczynski (Supervisor), David Johnston (Supervisor) & Kathleen Kaess (Supervisor)


  • Public service interpreting translation (PSIT)
  • effectiveness
  • translation policy

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