Talk up front: The influence of language matters on international military missions with a particular focus on the cooperation between soldiers and interpreters

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

Public Summary

Talk Up Front
The Influence of Language Matters
on International Military Missions with a Particular Focus on
the Cooperation between Soldiers and Interpreters

Andrea van Dijk


How do language issues affect military operations, and how in particular do soldiers and interpreters cooperate in mission areas to overcome such issues? This explorative study aims to enhance the understanding of the effects of the language barrier on international military cooperation. For that purpose, a predominantly sociological approach is adopted to investigate the dynamics at both the macro/meso-, and the micro-level of this specific form of interaction. The findings extensively demonstrate that language issues influence cooperation between international military personnel as well as collaboration with the local population. With regard to the latter, the linguistic and cultural skills of interpreters are crucial as they enable these agents to act as intermediaries between soldiers and local actors. Since modern military interventions typically encompass the deployment of servicemen among the population in conflict-harassed societies, effective cooperation between soldiers and interpreters is pivotal for the conduct of operations. Therefore, this research particularly focuses on this aspect of language matters in international military missions.

Talk Up Front concludes that despite their vital role and position, smooth cooperation between soldiers and interpreters is not a matter of course. Efficient cooperative relationships typically do not emerge as a consequence of the military organization’s standard procedures, but have shown to strongly depend on individual traits. Particularly those soldiers and interpreters who can bridge the language gap and establish a constructive cooperation are instrumental to achieve mission success. These findings are based on, among others, 70 interviews with military personnel, national as well as local interpreters, and field work in Afghanistan. Ultimately, the study recommends that it is time for military organizations to acknowledge the presented insights and start learning for future operations.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Soeters, J.L.M., Promotor
  • Rietjens, S.J.H., Co-promotor, External person
  • den Boer, M.G.W., Member PhD commission
  • Frerks, G., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Noorderhaven, Niels, Member PhD commission
  • Ruffa, Ch., Member PhD commission, External person
Award date10 Mar 2021
Place of Publications.l.
Publisher
Print ISBNs 978-94-9312-410-3
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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