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similar vein, Holz-Mnttri (1984) views translation as intercultural ACTION in which the goals of the action
are both the recipient of the translation and the specific function the translation is to fulfil. Nord (1993:9)
introduces the further distinction that it is not the text in itself which has a function; rather, a text acquires its
function in the situation in which it is received.
In terms of the European Union directive cited above, a functional view would distinguish at least two possible
purposes for the translation. The text may be translated for information, in order to give an accurate
representation of the provisions of the particular directive in question, or it may be translated in order to stand
as a legally binding text in a target-language community. The latter purpose is, of course, more heavily
constraining than the former. Such real-world purposes are paramount and complete the translators chain of
communication. Thus, the communicative/ functional perspective can be seen as an approach which relates the
circumstances of the production of the source text as a communicative event to the social circumstances of the
act of translating and the goals which it aims to achieve.

Further reading
Gutt 1991; Hatim and Mason 1990; HolzMnttri 1984; House 1997; Nord 1991, 1993; Reiss 1976, 1984; Reiss and
Vermeer 1984; Roberts 1992.


Community interpreting
Community interpreting refers to the type of interpreting which takes place in the public service sphere to
facilitate communication between officials and lay people: at police departments, immigration departments,
social welfare centres, medical and mental health offices, schools and similar institutions. It is sometimes
referred to as dialogue interpreting or public service interpreting.
Community interpreting is typically bidirectional and, as a rule, carried out consecutively. It covers both
interpreting in face-to-face situations and interpreting provided over the telephone and is probably the most
common type of interpreting in the world. At one time performed only by volunteers, untrained bilinguals,
friends and relatives (sometimes including even children), community interpreting has gradually developed as
a profession over the past few decades, in response to international migration and the consequent linguistic
heterogeneity of most nations. Increasingly, it seems to be developing into a number of distinct areas of
professional expertise, such as medical interpreting, mental health interpreting, educational interpreting
and legal interpreting, the latter including COURT INTERPRETING. Yet to a large extent community
interpreting is still being performed by untrained, and often unpaid individuals, what Harris (1977) calls
natural translators.
The first international conference devoted entirely to issues of community interpreting took place in Toronto,
Canada in 1995 (see Carr et al., 1997).

Community interpreting vs. other types of interpreting

The role of the community interpreter is as vital to successful communication as that of any other type of
interpreter. In addition, involvement in face-to-face interaction emphasizes the community interpreters role as
both a language and social mediator. While the textual material for conference interpreting largely consists of
prepared (often written) monologues in the source language, community interpreters have to handle real-time
dialogue: more or less spontaneous and unpredictable exchange of talk between individuals speaking different
languages, and they also have to interpret in both directions. This is often the case also in face-to-face
interpreting undertaken in business and diplomatic settings. However, professional community interpreting
differs from most other types of face-to-face interpreting in that it is often understood and/ or required to
involve a high level of neutrality and detachment; the community interpreter is

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generally expected not to side with either party.

The principle of neutrality and detachment, which is perhaps taken for granted in COURT INTERPRETING,
has been a major issue of debate among professional community interpreters and those who train them.
Attempts to define the appropriate level of involvement vs. detachment on the part of the community
interpreter are fraught with difficulties. In practice, a community interpreter often has to suffer the dilemma of
being simultaneously seen as the immigrants advocate and the officials tool and helping hand. This also
means that community interpreters can, from two opposing points of view, be regarded as potential renegades.
Their dilemma as mediators is further exacerbated by the prevalence of social antagonism, ethnic tensions and
racial prejudice in most countries. Most community interpreters are themselves members of minority groups in
the host country, but compared to other members of these groups they are relatively assimilated into the host
society and familiar with its institutions. Compared to conference, court, business and similar types of
interpreting, community interpreting remains a low-status profession which does not attract high levels of
remuneration. This is indirectly reflected even in the level of training made available: where courses are
specifically designed for community interpreters, they tend to be run mostly by colleges rather than

Professional training programmes: an overview

Professional training for community interpreters is relatively well established in countries where the need for
reliable interpreting is recognized by the society at large rather than just by members of the linguistic
minorities. In some countries, training is supported at national level. This has long been the case in the Nordic
countries, Australia, New Zealand, and in the Canadian Northwest territories (for English vis-vis aboriginal
languages). Elsewhere, for instance the United States (see Frishberg 1986), public recognition of and support
for SIGNED LANGUAGE INTERPRETING is relatively strong, while community interpreting remains
largely dependent on untrained and uncertified volunteers. Generally speaking, the level of public support in
most countries tends to fluctuate in response to the general political climate, which determines the level of
funding available for training programmes and for payment of community interpreters fees.
In Australia, Deakin University and Macquarie University have been providing professional training for
interpreters, including community interpreters, since the late 1980s. Accreditation of community interpreters
has existed in Australia since 1977. It is provided by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and
Interpreters, NAATI, in at least 20 different language combinations. Another important institution is the
Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT 1992). These and other organizations have made
considerable efforts through the years to educate not only the interpreters but also the users of interpreting
services. For instance, the National Centre for Community Languages in the Professions at Monash University
has been running courses for professionals in the area of law, medicine, social work, librarianship and business
since the late 1980s.
The Auckland Institute of Technology in Wellington, New Zealand, has offered courses in community
interpreting between English and some six Asian and Pacific languages since 1990. In 1994, it organized the
first professional training programme for Maori interpreters. Accreditation has been available for community
interpreters in EnglishMaori since 1987. These interpreters are licensed by the Maori Language
Commission after passing language exams only. For other languages, interpreters can receive accreditation
through the Australian NAATI, generally accepted as providing a de facto standard.
In Canada, community interpreter education differs from province to province. For instance, the Arctic
College in the Northwest Territories has trained interpreters between English and different aboriginal
languages since the 1970s. Students are recruited entirely from minority populations and training aims at
refining their English and developing some skills considered necessary for interpreters/ translators in general.
The Alberta Vocational

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College trains interpreters in Eastern European, Latin American, South East Asian and African languages.
Many end up working for the Centralized Interpreter Service (CIS), located at the Family Center of Edmonton.
Like Calgary, this is a city where many immigrants and refugees have settled in the last decade. A certificate
programme for court interpreters has also been available since 1979 at Vancouver Community College, in
British Columbia. Graduates work not only in courts but also in jails, mental and health care institutions,
immigration and business settings.
Similarly in the United States, different states have different policies with regard to interpreter education. The
University of Arizona has run a variety of courses in court interpreting (English-Spanish) since the 1980s;
students often end up working in nonlegal as well as legal settings. Short-term training in English-Spanish
interpreting has for some years also been provided by the William Paterson College in Wayne, New Jersey, the
University of California at Los Angeles, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and the University of
Delaware. Despite the large increase in the number of immigrants and refugees from Asian, Pacific, Middle
Eastern and East European countries during the 1980s, there have been few training programmes in
community interpreting involving these languages (Downing and Helms Tillery 1992; Schweda-Nicholson
By and large, European countries (with the exception of the Nordic countries) have made very little effort so
far to formalize education and testing for public-service interpreting. As in other parts of the world, legal
interpreting is relatively better regulated and more institutionalized compared to social service, health and
mental health interpreting. For instance, the German professional association for interpreters and translators,
BD (Bund der Dolmetscher und bersetzer), organizes short-term training in court interpreting but has done
little so far to provide training for interpreters in other institutional settings. The Ethno-Medizinische Zentrum
in Hanover is an exception: it has been a largescale coordinator of community interpreting services in the
Niedersachsen region since 1991 and continues to organize workshops, conferences and seminars, sometimes
in collaboration with large medical institutions, to teach public service providers how to work with community
interpreters. In the United Kingdom, training has been available on a small scale since 1983, initially provided
by The Institute of Linguists, supported through a series of grants from the Nuffield Foundation, and later
through various institutions such as the University of Westminster. The Nuffield Interpreter Project brochure
(19945) lists 19 different colleges which run short-term courses designed to prepare students to sit the exam
for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting. Interpreters can specialize in either Local Government, Health
or Law. A National Register of Public Service Interpreters was set up by the Nuffield Foundation in 1994. The
London Interpreting Project (LIP) also offers a variety of short-term courses for community interpreters
(Sanders 1992).
More advanced training is available in many parts of Scandinavia. Sweden was among the first to organize
professional training for community interpreters, starting as early as 1968, at a time when a large number of
immigrant workers were recruited from abroad by Swedish companies. National accreditation for community
interpreters has also been available since 1976. Training, largely offered at colleges and similar institutions in
the form of short-term courses, is available in some 26 different languages. Longer and more advanced courses
are also offered at Swedish universities in various language combinations. Since 1986, the Institute for
Interpretation and Translation Studies (TI) at Stockholm University has been the main provider of advanced
training for translators and interpreters. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, a similar pattern exists. For instance, the
University of Oslo in Norway has been running courses in community interpreting since 1985. During the
1990s, the university also developed specialized courses for interpreting in the context of health care and
mental health care. In the Arctic Kautokeino, the statefunded Lapp high school runs part-time interpreting
courses in Lappish.

Content and aims of training programmes

Training programmes for community interpreters vary in both scope and aims. A general

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goal is of course to ensure a high level of accuracy by improving students command of their working
languages. In addition to knowledge of linguistic structures, this covers training in the use of specialized
terminology and familiarizing students with the subject areas and administrative procedures of the particular
domains in which they wish to specialize, for example health services, local government, social services and
legal services. Most programmes are also designed to develop awareness of potential cultural differences
between participants in the interpreting act. It is not uncommon for community interpreters to have to
intervene to smooth cultural differences by, for instance, explaining or adjusting conventions concerning the
degree of formality in addressing the other party. Differences in conventions concerning when and where it is
appropriate to bring up what to one or both parties might be taboo topics, such as money, sex, drinking or
religion, may also require deliberate intervention on the part of the interpreter to avoid communication
breakdown. Of course, such intervention by the community interpreter could mean preventing the parties
concerned from getting familiar with each others conventions of politeness and correctness. Opinions
therefore vary among trainers concerning the role of the community interpreter and the notion of efficiency in
the interpreting context. Ultimately, efficiency can only be measured against a particular goal, and goals of
course may differ, coincide, and be negotiated in a face-to-face interaction.
Some scholars consider it the community interpreters professional duty to inform each (or one) of the parties
about what is considered appropriate, normal, rational, and acceptable by the other party. Shackman writes
about the (UK) community interpreter that she is responsible for enabling the professional and client, with
very different backgrounds and perceptions and in an unequal relationship of power and knowledge, to
communicate to their mutual satisfaction (1984:18). Sanders (1992:45) also suggests that it is the interpreters
duty to bridge a power gap as well as a language and culture gap. Empirical research (Linell et al. 1992;
Wadensj 1992, 1995) has shown that interpreters are inclined to follow this principle in practice, irrespective
of the fact that official codes of ethics make no mention of mutual satisfaction or equality, but rather
emphasize the interpreters role as a neutral device for transferring messages. Empirical research has also
proved that interpreters tend to give higher priority to their role as co-ordinators, rather than translators, in the
sense that they devote much effort to sustaining interaction, sometimes at the cost of accuracy in rendering
interlocutors utterances. This situation does have its dangers: in assuming the position of the expert on
language and culture, and hence taking control of the interaction, the community interpreter runs the risk of
depriving the monolingual parties of power (and responsibility), following a patronizing model, more or less
deciding for them what they optimally want to achieve in and by their encounter. This becomes evident when
one takes into consideration that the monolingual parties in institutional settings may occasionally lack the
interest and motivation to actually talk to one another. For instance, a suspect meeting a police officer or a
child meeting a doctor may prefer to remain silent. Professional training can be designed to raise awareness of
these and other issues specific to the community interpreters work. As a rule, most training aims to ensure the
interpreters commitment to a professional code of ethics and guide to good practice, that is to support existing
standards concerning how the monolingual parties needs and expectations should be met.
Most programmes provide training in consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. They pay varying degrees of
attention to note-taking techniques and developing the relevant skills for sight translation, as well as for
written translation. They generally also include a component on interpreting theory, in addition to practical
exercises and linguistic and terminology training in the languages in question. Practical exercises involve
language laboratory work, analysis of ones own and other students recordings, and role-play.
Guidelines instructing public service officials and others on how to communicate through community
interpreters are provided by various institutions, such as NAATI in Australia, the Ethnic Affairs Service in

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Zealand, the Institute of Linguists in the UK and TI at Stockholm University in Sweden. These guidelines
include, for instance, advising officials to speak directly to the other party, rather than saying to the
community interpreter tell him to, etc. Such guidelines are both influenced by and reflected in existing
training programmes, where community interpreters are instructed to speak in the first-person. Users of
community interpreting services are also advised to pause frequently so as not to tax the interpreters memory,
to plan ahead for interviews in which the assistance of an interpreter is required, to avoid discussing issues
directly with the interpreter in order not to exclude the other party, and of course to hire accredited community
interpreters wherever possible.

Community interpreters in society

The professionalization of community interpreting (including setting up training programmes, systems of
certification and professional associations) reflects an official concern for the legal and social welfare of
minority, immigrant and refugee populations. Community interpreting enables those who lack fluency in and
knowledge of the majority language(s) and culture(s) to receive full and equal access to public-service
facilities. Support for the professionalization of community interpreting can also be seen as reflecting the
authorities concern for ensuring their own ability to carry out their duties when dealing with people who are
unable or unwilling to communicate in the official language. For instance, a doctor can only provide adequate
health care if the patients are able to discuss their problems clearly and frankly; confidentiality must therefore
be guaranteed. Professional community interpreters are obliged to ensure that the conf identiality of any
interaction in which they are involved is always maintained. In this sense, community interpreters form an
integral part of the social service system of a modern society and are instrumental in ensuring that all parties
have equal access to and control over those systems. Civil rights and civil responsibilities are two sides of the
same coin. Professional training may focus on avoiding errors and omissions that might be costly to the public
purse, but seen from a wider perspective, community interpreting is not just about enabling efficient
communication to take place: it also plays a crucial role in processes like segregation and integration in
society. It is therefore important to ensure continued support for the professionalization of community
interpreting and to distinguish clearly between professional community interpreters and those who have been
described as good but unskilful Samaritans, self-appointed experts and unscrupulous fixers who, often for a
fat fee, helped [or continue to help] their less linguistically gifted compatriots (Niska 1991:8).
See also:

Further reading
AUSIT 1992; Barsky 1995; Bowen and Bowen 1990; Downing and Helms Tillary 1992; Downing and Swabey 1992;
Frishberg 1986; Gentile et al. 1996; Linell et al. 1992; Niska 1991; Sanders 1992; Shackman 1984; SchwedaNicholson 1994; Tebble 1992; Wadensj 1992, 1995.


Compensation is a technique which involves making up for the loss of a source text effect by recreating a
similar effect in the target text through means that are specific to the target language and/or text. Examples
cited in the literature often involve the translation of puns. For instance, in a discussion of the translations of
the French comic strip Astrix (Goscinny and Uderzo 1972), Hatim and Mason conclude that The translators
abandon the attempt to relay the puns as such and, instead, compensate by inserting English puns of their own
which are not part of the source text. But equivalence of intention has been maintained (1990:202). Here, the
same linguistic device is employed in both source and target texts to achieve a similar humorous effect.