Community interpreting

Erik Hertog
Lessius University College
Table of contents

Community interpreting (CI) takes place to enable individuals or groups in society who do not speak the official or dominant language of the services provided by central or local government to access these services and to communicate with the service providers. Typical CI settings are social services such as e.g., welfare, housing, employment or schools; medical settings such as child care centres, hospitals, mental health clinics; or legal settings such as prisons, police stations or probation offices. According to the requirements of the interpreted event, the community interpreter will need to master the appropriate mode and strategy of interpreting. Short dialogue or ‘liaison’ interpreting in e.g., a housing application, a police interview or medical check up; consecutive interpreting – with note taking – for e.g., an asylum seeker’s narrative or a vulnerable witness in court; simultaneous interpreting, usually whispered (chuchotage) for a single or a limited number of clients e.g., during the closing arguments of the prosecution or the defense in court, during parents’ school meetings or the weekly sessions in a women’s safe house, though sometimes using portable sets or interpreting booths for larger audiences. Community interpreters are also often required to provide on-sight translation of all sorts of personal and official documents, and increasingly to do telephone or videoconferencing interpreting. In other words, it is not the modes or strategies that set the community interpreter apart from the conference interpreter but it is the institutional settings – usually sensitive, delicate and private, sometimes downright painful or antagonistic – and the working arrangements: the interpreting is bi-directional between the service provider and the client; moreover the proxemics, the participant parties, the level of formality and range of registers are completely different; and it is as yet on the whole a solitary profession with a very different social aura, professionalization and remuneration.

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Further reading

Corsellis, Ann
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(eds) 2009The Critical Link 5: Quality and Interpreting: a shared responsibility. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
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(eds) 2008Building Bridges: The Controversial Role of the Community Interpreter. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Wadensjö Cecilia, Englund Dimitrova, Birgitta & Nilsson, Anna-Lena
(eds) 2007The Critical Link 4: Professionalisation of interpreting in the community. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar