An all-encompassing study of an authentic court setting: What do the different users expect from the interpreter and what are the expectations of the interpreter regarding the different user's expectations, and - last but not least - do they get what they expect?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch

Most professional interpreters and interpreting researchers probably see quality or "professiona¬lism" as the main goal of interpreting in general, but still there is no agreement within the inter¬preting community of how to define interpreting quality. Facing the fact that interpreting can not only be seen as a text-processing task, this study will focus on interpreting as a process of com¬municative interaction where quality means successful communication in a particular commu¬nicative situation. The consequence of focusing on interpreting as a service is that the degree of success must necessarily be judged from a particular (subjective) perspective on the communicative event. In this paper I shall address the issue of interpreting quality in an all-encompassing perspective on an authentic Danish courtroom setting. The aim of the empirical case-based survey is unlike that of most existing studies which generally have taken either one particular perspective - that of inter¬preters, clients or users - or been experimental in nature - to investigate to which extent different users (judge, defence counsel, prosecutor and non-majority-language speaking user) in a specific courtroom setting share the same expectations about courtroom interpreting. Thus, this paper discusses the practicability of user expectations as quality criteria which generally have been regarded as being of less practical use due to the fact that user expectations generally have been determined as everything else but homogeneous. Several empirical studies, which have been carried out on this subject, have shown that different user groups have different expectations about the interpreted communicative event, which ceteris paribus means that user expectations are heterogeneous. The question is, whether the heterogeneity of user expectations is also predominant in court inter¬preting characterized by courtroom settings for which in most jurisdictions so-called "interpreting guidelines" exist which in one form or another define the expected role of the court interpreter. It is my hypothesis that the expectations of both professional users (judges and lawyers) and non-majority-language-speaking users (e.g. the defendant or the witness) and, not least, the court interpreter's own expectations regarding the expectations towards the interpreter by different users are influenced and to some extent homogenized by these guidelines, which are to be considered as expectancy norms projected and recommended by the specific legal system. In order to be able to answer this question, a questionnaire-based survey on specific quality criteria has been conducted within an authentic interpreter-mediated court setting, because, according to Angelelli (2004: 83), the setting is the key component in defining the role of the interpreter. The survey includes a questionnaire for the end-users and a questionnaire for the participating court interpreter which means that the conducted survey combines user expectations and interpreter perception of role including the notion of interpreter expectations about end-user expectations in a specific legal encounter. An ulterior object of the study is to introduce an evaluative perspective according to which it is possible to measure actually obtained interpreting quality in the specific court setting. This means that the questionnaire used also deals with the question if and to which extent the expectations of both the professional and the non-professional users were actually met. Finally, the study inves¬tigates to which extent the prescriptive expectancy norms projected and recommended by the Danish legal system in the shape of "Guidelines for interpreting in Danish court proceedings" correspond with the user and interpreter expectations in courtroom practice. The article should be seen as an attempt to improve the quality of the services rendered by pro¬fessional interpreters as well as students of court interpreting by offering an empirical framework on which to base their daily interpreting choices rather than on intuition.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2006
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventEST - Ljubliana
Duration: 18 Dec 2010 → …


Period18/12/2010 → …

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