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Community Interpreting Essay

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Updated: Jan 12th, 2020


The demand for community interpreters is rising in the modern society due to the essential services that interpreters provide to the community. The role of community interpreters has expanded and their services are now imperative in fields such as education, medicine, law, and trade.

This rapidly growing demand for interpreters has prompted people to start viewing community interpreting as a profession despite it being among the antique professions across the world. Consequently, stakeholders have ratified a set of interpreter’s code of ethics to ensure that interpreters dispense their services in a professional manner. The rise of freelancers has created challenges for both agencies and their clients. This paper discusses the challenges facing the field and feasible solutions to such challenges.

Non- Professional vs. Professional Interpreting

The rise in demand of professional interpreters in almost every field in the society has inspired the growth and significance of competent interpreters in the industry. However, due to certain circumstances, the provision of professional interpreters has proved to be a challenge.

Many have opted to seek the assistance of non-professional interpreters like relatives and friends. This aspect transpires with many being either aware or ignorant of the risks associated with consulting services of unprofessional interpreters, “It actually happens quite often that in a certain situation, professionals and service providers ask a bilingual child or relative to act as an interpreter, instead of seeking a professional one” (Lu-lu, 289).

Why people seek unprofessional interpreters

The primary reason why some decide to seek unprofessional interpreters is the absence of trained interpreters for some languages since the languages are very diverse. For instance, in Australia, there are only four popular languages, with each of the remaining 84 languages having less than 1 per cent popularity.

In such a scenario, it becomes difficult to train competent interpreters for the minority languages because very few people will enlist for such courses. Secondly, some people opt to employ unqualified interpreters because they are unaware of the significance of trained bilingualists, and thus appoint any accessible individual who can interpret in a bid to counter time wastage.

The interpreter in this scenario may be a relative, friend, or companion. Moreover, a family may find it cheap to use one of their members instead of a competent interpreter whose services might be expensive. Unfortunately, using untrained bilingualists exposes one to numerous risks that most people are oblivious of especially in medicine and legal disciplines. This form of ignorance has been a major challenge in the sector as it reduces the number of clients who are willing to seek and pay for the services of bilingualists (Lu-lu 287-291).

The Importance of Hiring Professional Interpreters

The appropriate way of resolving this challenge is creating awareness on the importance of competent interpreters instead of untrained bilingualists. The first significance revolves around interpreting techniques. The popular techniques of interpreting are simultaneous as well as consecutive. The proper application of these methods results to quality interpretation. Lu-lu asserts that trained interpreters would “know when to use simultaneous interpreting and when consecutive interpreting is adequate.

They know when to start and where to stop properly, and they know that smooth an accurate communication between the two parties is one of the top priorities (290). Untrained interpreters are barely aware of these practices and thus they frequently interrupt discussion and may end up creating confusion where two parties are communicating (Lu-lu 287-291).

Interpretation calls for the ability of being eloquent in interpreting the languages under consideration. Most untrained interpreters always lack this ability and may thus frequently misinterpret certain statements. Competent professionals only participate in interpretations that they can accurately interpret.

This aspect shows how important professional interpreters are necessary because of their ability to apply linguistic skills (Lu-lu 287-291). Another important factor to consider when hiring unprofessional interpreters is cultural knowledge. Adequate knowledge of the cultural backgrounds of the involved parties simplifies interpretation. When a person picks his or her family member to do interpretation, the appointed interpreter might understand the culture of one side and not the other and thus impede communication.

A minute misinterpretation of information can cause an irreparable damage on the health of a patient. This realization discloses the importance of employing professional interpreters who can understand the cultures of the involved parties thus facilitating effective and accurate communication especially in medical and legal matters (Lu-lu 287-291).

Furthermore, code of ethics governs how institutions deliver services to the public. The interpreter’s code of ethics demands that an interpreter should be accurate, impartial, and confident when delivering his or her services. Most untrained interpreters are oblivious of these facts and for those who are aware are unable to observe the facts. Untrained interpreters are often biased because of their relations with one of the communicating parties and thus they fail to communicate facts to either party.

These factors show the significance of employing professional interpreters for any communication that demand attention. Irrespective of the expense that one has to meet, seeking the assistance of experts is always judicious. Though combating the upsurge of non-professional interpreters remains a challenge, once people are aware of the factors that determine good interpretation they will refrain from the habit (Lu-lu 287-291).

Good Interpretation

The description of a good interpreter according to the code ethics creates two disparate comprehensions. Some claim that “good” revolves around the question of importance, whilst others believe that “good” addresses the issue of ethics.

This issue has raised a dilemma in the field of community interpreting with many people failing to determine what makes one a good interpreter. Uniting these two ideologies has proven difficult for different communities thus hindering them form dispensing their duties effectively. However, the application of the Aristotelian ethics can help to combine these two ideologies (Kermit 241-252).

According to Aristotle, a part of good should relate to the idea that good is a nature of a certain thing being optimized as well as appropriate. Anything should be well suited for its intended purpose. Likewise, in community interpreting, a good interpretation must be qualified for its intended function. The primary doctrines of most codes of ethics for interpreters’ state are prudence, secrecy, and impartiality coupled with precise translation.

Applying Aristotelian ethics in an attempt to understand the primary principles of code of ethics helps one to comprehend fully the meaning of good interpreting. A good interpreter should make his or her clients feel that he or she is not present. The parties should have a feeling that they are speaking in similar languages, which is only viable if the interpreter does not breach any of the fundamental doctrines of interpretation (Kermit 241-252).

The second ideology that determines the credibility of an interpreter is his or her morality. Morality underscores issues of life. A comparison of the interpreter’s code of ethics with that of other professions such as physicians reveals that the codes have sharp disparities.

The codes of other professions pay less attention to functionality whilst highlighting the nature in which they practice their professionalism. The codes address rights of trained workers in that particular field as well as warning them on dangers of misusing powers that their profession offers.

Every profession has a particular power that sanctions its practitioners to render their services to the people, and with this power, individuals expect to get quality services. Just like patients trust that dentists will offer quality services when they allow them to put their fingers inside their mouths, so does the clients who hire interpreters.

Clients put their trust on the interpreter that everything he or she will say will be accurate. The client will withdraw his or her trust on the interpreter if s/he realizes that the bilingualist is untrustworthy (Kermit 241-252).

Most trained interpreters find it difficult to merge the two models of good. Fortunately, the application of Aristotle’s ethical works can help interpreters to merge the two concepts of what is good and become the admirable interpreters that the community requires.

According to Aristotle, the application of poiesis and praxis can help in resolving this challenge. Poiesis defines an act as an intention to achieve something disparate from the act itself, whilst praxis has an intention and an end (Kermit 241-252). The two words combine the two descriptions of “good”, viz. as an act fitting its intended purpose and as an act showing morality. Professional ethics should always define a profession using these two terms.

If an interpreter applies only the concept of the intended purpose, then he or she becomes tactless in handling numerous challenges as they meet individuals who rely on their opinions as interpreters. On the other hand, interpreters who use the second concept of good morality are likely to dissatisfy clients who rely on them.

They are vulnerable to breaching the trust that their clients put on their profession. If such an event occurs, then the interpreter will be unable to rectify his or her ineptitude. In contrast, a good bilingualist should earn the trust of his or her client and subsequently deliver quality services to the client in a bid to maintain the trust. Kermit states, “In order to be a good interpreter, one has to do what interpreters do, and at its best we may add. In addition, one has to carry out the acts, which are both means and ends” (246)

However, merging these two concepts even with the application of poiesis and praxis might stand out as a challenge to many interpreters. In such incidents, interpreters may opt for the Aristotle theory of wisdom, which defines wisdom as the decisive intellectual value. If a right a decision has to be made, then wisdom may surpass the powers of the set codes or rights. Therefore, an interpreter must merge both the concepts using any of Aristotle doctrines in a bid to be a good bilingualist (Kermit 241-252).

Role of Interpreting Agencies

Interpreting agencies have a central role in determining the results of community interpreting. The upsurge of freelancers in the industry has impeded their role such as engaging in professional matters. Whilst some societies have full-time employed interpreters, others show an increasing trend of interpreters who have decided to be freelancers and they thus receive jobs through interpreting agencies.

Consequently, this aspect has led to a growth of interpreting agencies including private institutions. Diverse agencies have come up to meet the demands of the society. For instance, there exist agencies that serve specific ethnic groups (Ozolins 121-131). The growth of agencies has generated new challenges in associating with interpreters, clients, and professional issues that govern the discipline.

Furthermore, the growth has had a little impact in community interpreting because of scanty research in the field. Subsequently, this element has created confusion among clients, agencies, and freelance interpreters. The confusion has resulted to imbalanced growth of professionalism and has developed as a major challenge in the community interpreting.

The imbalanced professionalism hinges on the lack of professional institutions that can offer probable standards as well as professional help to interpreters. A majority of interpreters in the community cannot receive proper training and on the other side, the accessible systems have stringent policies or lack enough facilities. The aftermath of this absence has been an intense series of dispositions and demeanor on the side of the contract interpreters.

Community bilingualists lack professional and business abilities needed in the field, thus creating an impediment between parties and the interpreter. Furthermore, interpreters adopt a demeanor such as casual approach to punctuality or using code of ethics that utterly differ from that of the agency. These practices become an obstacle in the harmonious association between the agency and clients who develop negative intuition of linguistic services provided by the entire institution (Ozolins 121-131).

These practices by freelance interpreters create a dilemma for agencies on whether to solve such cases or to concede to the fact that certain interpreters are incompetent. On the other hand, the association between interpreting agencies and the market also has professional issues that call for a resolution. Issues like structural factors determine how an agency relates to its clients as well other agencies.

For example, it becomes challenging when completion is determined based on price whilst agencies run under disparate structures and their description for professionalism is different. Some agencies have been trying to educate the public by preaching the significance of linguistics services coupled with professionally participating in establishing mechanism that can direct people on how to get such services.

Agencies play a critical role in interceding between clients and interpreters. This duty of being the intermediaries for both parties creates several challenges for them. Both the client and the interpreter rely on them for quality delivery of services and payment. In case either of the party is not satisfied, then the blame lies entirely on the agencies.

Agencies must thus strive to ensure that they maintain trust from both parties. Accomplishing such aims has always remained a challenge for most agencies because of the diverse characters of clients and interpreters. The interpreting agencies have an option of deciding whether they want to ensure professionalism or derail the industry (Ozolins 121-131).


There exist numerous challenges in the field of community interpreting. Eliminating these challenges requires the cooperation of all the stakeholders. Clients must be ready and willing to seek the assistance of professional interpreters rather than untrained ones. The risks of unprofessional interpreters are evident and thus persistent reliance on their services will have detrimental affects. Professional bilingualists should be accessible and provide affordable services so that they attract more clients.

Moreover, interpreters should also merge the two concepts of good interpretation, which can be practical if interpreters apply the concepts of Aristotle. Interpretation agencies should acknowledge that they have a critical role in employing freelance interpreters and acting as mediators for both clients and bilingualists. They should strive to maintain the professionalism in the industry by understanding the interest of both parties, viz. the market and interpreters.

Works Cited

Kermit, Patrick. “Aristotelian ethics and modern professional interpreting.” Benjamins Translation Library 70.1 (2007): 241–252. Print.

Lu-lu, Gao. “On the Necessity of Employing Professional Interpreter in Community Interpreting.” US-China Foreign Language 9.5 (2011): 287-291. Print.

Ozolins, Uldis. “The Interpreter’s ‘third client’: Interpreters, professionalism and interpreting agencies.” Benjamins Translation Library 70.2 (2007): 121-131. Print.

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