International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 12, No 1 (2005)

From sphaza to makoya!: a BA degree for court interpreters in South Africa

Rosemary Moeketsi, Kim Wallmach
Issued Date: 14 Feb 2007


In the past, court interpreters in the South African courts were compelled to serve under judges and magistrates, most of whom were agents of the apartheid system and who were therefore not concerned with the proper training of court interpreters nor encouraged any improvement in their working conditions. The meagre six-week orientation provided by the Justice College, historically the only attempt made to provide any sort of training for court interpreters, has always been ridiculed by court interpreters as a 'sphaza training', meaning insignificant and superficial. The inefficiency of the course can be attributed partly to its brevity, and partly to the lack of insight into the interpreting process which led to the service being misunderstood as a mere process of linguistic transfer from one language to another. Consequently, some interpreters feel justified in declining to take responsiblity for poor performance, claiming 'garbage in, garbage out', meaning that poor training begets poorly qualified, incompetent and unprofessional linguistic service providers. This article is an explication of how the University of South Africa addresses this situation by providing training in court interpreting. This training, embraced by most court interpreters as the makoya, 'the real thing', will hopefully improve the status of the service, renew the self-worth of practitioners and enhance their performance.

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DOI: 10.1558/sll.2005.12.1.77


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