Monika Chwalczuk, Université Paris Diderot, France.
Gestures are an inherent part of all face-to-face interactions, especially those involving participants with limited language proficiency. Nevertheless, their role in interpreter-mediated events has so far been marginalized in the field of interpreting studies (Poyatos 1997; Zagar Galvão 2013; Miletich 2015; Krystallidou 2020).Is body language just another barrier that has to be overcome in cross-cultural settings? Or may it be used as a common starting point in the process of meaning-making? The goal of this research is to investigate the role of gestures in psychotherapy sessions with migrant patients accompanied by interpreters. Applying the data triangulation methodology, the collected corpus includes an online survey conducted on a sample of 60 professional interpreters mastering 43 different working languages; consists in semi-structured individual interviews with a dozen of them and a set of 20 video sequences collected during field observations; the latter analysed using multimodal corpora annotation tools.The research focuses on the use of iconic gestures, their role in bridging the linguistic gap and in performing cultural mediation. The results of the study suggest that gestures present an inclusive potential since, by using the visual channel, they grant immediate access to a part of semantic content of the source message. They are therefore accessible to all interlocutors regardless of their level of language and owing to this feature, play a part in the construction of shared semantic spaces among the foreigners and the therapists. The congruence between the visual cues, instinctively grasped by the migrant patients, and their verbal translation delivered seconds later prove to be reassuring for the foreigners and acting as a marker of interpreting fidelity. Hence, we may assume that gestures are corner stones in the trust-building process between the migrant patients and the public service interpreters.