“We’re just kind of there”: Working conditions and perceptions of appreciation and status in court interpreting

Sandra Beatriz Hale and Jemina Napier

In considering the challenges for court interpreters, much of the previous research has concentrated on the linguistic aspects of the interpreting process. This paper explores the issue from the perspective of working conditions and professional status. One hundred and ninety-four practicing court interpreters in Australia were surveyed about their experience with working conditions, court protocols and professional status, as well as their opinions about what affects the quality of their work and what improvements may be necessary. The findings of this study give a picture of the reality of court interpreting practice, as compared to the ideal, and generate recommendations for the training of interpreters to work in court, the education of legal personnel on how to work with interpreters in court, and practical suggestions regarding the provision of court interpreting to ensure high quality services.

Table of contents

Research on court interpreting has demonstrated how challenging it can be from a linguistic perspective (e.g., Berk-Seligson 1990; Hale 2004; Jacobsen 2008; Napier 2013; Russell 2002). Other considerations have also been given to the role of interpreters in the courtroom (Angelelli 2004; Fenton 1997; Mikkelson 1998; Turner and Brown 2001). Previous surveys of key stakeholders in the judicial system (i.e., interpreters, lawyers, judicial officers) have typically focussed on their perceptions of working practices and on the impact of interpreting on courtroom discourse or the judicial process (Lee 2009; Morris 2008; Roberson, Russell, and Shaw 2011), but there has been little discussion on the link between working conditions of court interpreters and the perceptions of their professional status.

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