Non-professional interpreters

Authored by: Aída Martínez-Gómez

The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  February  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415811668
eBook ISBN: 9781315745381
Adobe ISBN: 9781317595021


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Non-professional interpreters are individuals with a certain degree of bilingual competence who perform interpreting tasks on an ad hoc basis without economic compensation or prior specific training. Their awareness of the skills required to perform their interpreting duties correctly and the ethical constraints thereto is shaped by their own intuitions and subject to the expectations expressed by the parties to the encounters they mediate in. Most often they conduct their tasks individually and in isolation, which translates into little visibility, lack of group solidarity and prestige, and lack of public credibility, even if they may receive immediate social recognition by the monolingual speakers for whom they enable communication. In fact, every bilingual individual is a potential non-professional interpreter, as they are selected on the basis of their (apparent) competence in the two languages involved – spoken or signed – and their immediate availability. Non-professional interpreters range thus from relatives or friends or acquaintances – including children – of a person requiring language mediation; to in-house employees at the institution where interpreting is needed; to volunteers belonging to a wide array of civil organizations; to virtually any passer-by. Their presence is evident in the homes of minority-language community members; and it is most frequent in public services, where the interpreting profession is still little institutionalized (in health care centres, welfare and government offices, schools, police stations, prisons, churches, etc). These interpreters are relatively visible in business contexts, especially local ones (banks, post offices, shops), but also in mass media; and their presence is sporadic but crucial in conflict or emergency situations. Non-professional interpreting even occurs in the most professionalized settings (i.e. conference or court interpreting).

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