Conflict Avoidance

Politeness strategies in English-Russian interpreting

Presenter: Dr. Vanda Nissen

Politeness is a culture-specific phenomenon. It may be interpreted and evaluated differently by various cultures. According to Coulmas (Coulmas 2005: 84), “[s]peakers make many choices when speaking, including the politeness level of their utterances”. The presentation will look into several politeness strategies used in English and Russian and discuss linguistic choices made by interpreters working with the English and Russian languages.
The data has been collected in Australia during community interpreting assignments. The presentation looks into requests, greetings and forms of address in both languages and highlights differences in use of imperatives, politeness markers, negation. It will also discuss the nature of the question ‘How are you?’. Hickerson (Hickerson 2000: 203) notes that the question rather marks the existence of the interlocutor than shows a genuine interest in a person’s life. In Russian, this question shows an interest in the interlocutor and its literal translation can lead to misunderstanding. Furthermore, Russian system of the forms of address will be compared with the respective English system. While English has only one second person pronoun ‘you’, Russian employs two pronouns, ‘ты’/ ‘вы’, and difference in their meanings should be reflected during interpreting. Roughly, first name + patronymic corresponds with ‘вы’, and a first name alone corresponds with ‘ты’. Interpreters should also be aware of the lack of formal titles in Russian, i.e. Sir/Ma’am.
Finally, we will look into possible choices of politeness strategies that may help to avoid potential conflicts and misunderstanding.

DrVandaNissenAbout the Presenter
Vanda Nissen is a native Russian speaker, she was born in Voronezh, Russian Federation. Vanda has received a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Voronezh State University.
She has been working as a translator and interpreter for more than 11 years. She is a NAATI accredited English-Russian translator (Professional level), and she also works with Scandinavian languages and Polish. Together with her husband, Stig Nissen, they run a family business – Kaskelot Agency Translations, Pty, Ltd.
Vanda has a keen interest in languages and cultures. She has lived in Russia, Poland, Denmark, Sweden. She currently resides in a vibrant Brisbane, Australia.
Her scientific interests include speech etiquette, forms of address, politeness strategies in Slavic cultures. She has published more than 20 linguistic articles and books.
She is also an active member of T&I community – Vanda delivers workshops and webinars.