Dr Xiaohui Yuan, University of Nottingham


China has been one of UK’s top trade partners for many years. Following China’s Premier’s pledge to further increase trade between Britain and China during his recent visit to UK, as reported on the BBC in June 2011, the trade volume between the two countries is likely to soar to a new high. Against this background, the importance of developing a well-informed linguistic and cultural knowledge and sensitivity among the mediators and interpreters working in these contexts to mitigate disputes and to facilitate smooth transactions across the borders cannot be over-emphasised.


In the research on international dispute resolution, focus has concentrated on the political and legal differences across the countries, dispute resolution as a decision-making process across cultures, or varied dispute resolution strategies in a framework of interests, rights and power. Little work has been carried out to examine explicitly the use of language and interpretation in dispute resolution, and none has investigated the cultural, linguistic, and translational issues in Chinese-English contexts. In view of the above, the proposed project intends to fill this gap.


Translating Cultures in International Dispute Resolution can enhance the understanding of 1) how language is used and phrased sensitively to manage interpersonal interactions in mediations; 2) the pivotal role of cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity in cross-cultural and intercultural mediations and how such cultural awareness and sensitivity are represented or reflected in the use of language, for example, through a particular language pattern, and the ensuing impact on the mediation process; 3) when interpretation is used to facilitate intercultural mediations, whether such cultural awareness and sensitivity are represented in interpretation, for example, how face is managed in intercultural mediation and how it is represented through interpretation.


There are four groups of direct beneficiaries of the project: academic researchers, mediators, interpreters and the general public.

Findings from the project will be fed into academic research with the advantage of direct input from professionals. This project will encourage and provide opportunities for further joint funding bids between/by the participating researchers and professionals on the identified emerging areas of research during and beyond the project period.

To engage practising mediators and to communicate the significant findings that can benefit their mediation practice with a view to realising the impacts of the project, special seminars, workshops and training sessions will be devised and delivered by the researchers and seasoned international mediators from The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) during and beyond the project period. These impact activities can enable and help mediation practitioners to develop and enhance important understanding and skills of how to interpret cultural differences in Chinese-British contexts and how to use verbal and body language effectively in managing interactions with parties in disputes and with interpreters during the mediating process.


To achieve the impacts of engaging interpreters and drawing upon the project, modules on ‘Cultural Competence in Professional Interpreting’ will be designed by researchers and interpretation trainers and will be integrated into interpreting training syllabus at universities.

To enable the impacts to reach the general public, from government officials and executives to tourists and waiters in restaurants, and to help them to understand cultural issues and traps in cross-cultural/intercultural disputes, educational video clips produced by researchers can be uploaded onto YouTube. In addition, researchers will approach broadcasting corporations such as the BBC to work with producers in developing a special lecture or interview on the topic.


Dr Xiaohui Yuan

RCUK Gateway to Research

Project presentation (PDF)