Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 12, No 3 (2015)

Identifying points of convergence between trained and ‘natural’ interpreters for public services

Leticia Santamaría Ciordia
Issued Date: 28 Aug 2019


This paper reviews the implications of the role assumed by community interpreters and the linguistic and paralinguistic features of the profession. It reflects on bilingualism and interpreting capacity, comparing the different attitudes observed in several research studies between trained and natural interpreters, the latter being bilingual mediators with no specific training who are frequently called on to interpret in a range of contexts. In particular, the current study covers areas of convergence between the standard profile of trained interpreters and a non-normative approach that prioritises sociocultural skills and understands mediation as the most effective path to reach successful communication. A qualitative analysis of interviews pertaining to court and medical interpreting in Spain is employed to understand what guides interpreters’ decisions, thus contributing to a broader view of daily practice. Findings suggest that role prescriptions are not necessarily incongruent with many of the non-formal, mediating procedures on which natural interpreting is based, and that a flexible active approach based on empathy and critical skills should be encouraged and developed as part of student training.

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DOI: 10.1558/jalpp.37240


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