Delivering language and communication training for police interviewers: Reflections on the challenges of applying linguistics to professional practice

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This presentation reflects on the experience of delivering training for police interviewers on language and communication. With applied research, it is easy to consider the applications to professional practice to be obvious and desirable, and perhaps straightforward to achieve. Yet getting research findings to the right audience, then actually implemented, is by no means an easy process, even assuming our research is genuinely useful in the first place.
We will consider the approach taken in a recent project where we developed and delivered training for police interviewers, based on our research on police interview discourse. Topics included turn-taking, pragmatics, language and power, language and identity, participation frameworks (Goffman 1981), and audience design (Bell 1984). The underlying aim was to provide interviewers with insight into their own linguistic behaviour in the interview room, and how this can (unintentionally) influence what is said by interviewees. Questionnaires and focus groups at the end of each session fed directly back into the materials, resulting in training materials developed in response to practitioner input, as well as a set of feedback detailing police interviewers’ views on language and communication, and how they themselves consider that linguists can best contribute to their practice.
We will present analysis of that feedback, summarise key messages to be gleaned from our experiences, and reflect on the academic-practitioner relationship. In addition, we will reflect on the current ‘impact’ agenda in academia, seeking to reframe it not as ‘us’ impacting ‘them’, but as dialogic and collaborative, driving change on both sides.
Period18 Sept 2018
Event title8th International Conference on Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice (ALAPP) 2019
Event typeConference
LocationCardiff, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational