Community interpreting

Community interpreting is also known as dialogue interpreting or public service interpreting. It refers to interpreting services that take place in public service sphere, with an aim to facilitate communication between officials and people. It is the most common type of interpreting service provided around the world.

Community interpreting includes both face to face interpreting service and telephone interpreting services as well. Community interpreters include police interpreters, court interpreters, interpreters in immigration departments, social welfare centers, medical and mental health offices, schools and similar public institutions.


Community interpreting is typically bidirectional and is carried out consecutively. It plays an important role in facilitating communication. A community interpreter fulfils both the role of a language translator and a social mediator.

A community interpreter is considered to be neutral and remain detached from either party. They are expected to translate the spontaneous and unpredictable exchange of words in both the source and target languages consecutively.

Professional programs in community interpreting

Besides the institutes mentioned in this article, there is a wide range of popular institutes available that provide excellent community interpreting courses. However in this article we are just reviewing few of the old and well established institutes that provide such courses.

In Australia, accreditation of community speakers is provided by National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters, NAATI, since 1977. Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) is another institution for community interpreters.

Deakin University and Macquarie University in Australia have been providing professional courses for community interpreters since the 1980s. Auckland Institute of Technology in Wellington, New Zealand, has been offering courses in community interpreting since 1990.


In Canada, Arctic College has been training individuals in community interpreting since 1970, particularly to bridge gaps in between English and various aboriginal languages speaking people. Alberta Vocational College provides training for community interpreting in Eastern European, Latin American, South East Asian and African languages.

Vancouver Community college in British Columbia provides certificate course for community interpreters specializing in court interpreting. Students passing from this college often work as community interpreters in jails, mental and health care institutions, immigration and businesses as well.

In United States, specialized training for community interpreting is provided in William Paterson College (Wayne, New Jersey), the University of California (Los Angeles), the Monterey Institute of International Studies and the University of Delaware. Besides courses in court interpreting services are also provided by the University of Arizona since 1980s.

In United Kingdom, The Institute of Linguistics has been providing community interpreting services since 1983, initially supported by grants from the Nuffield Foundation. Later institutes such as University of Westminster also started courses for community interpreting. London Interpreting Project also offers various short term courses for community interpreting. Diploma in Public Service Interpreting is a very popular diploma program in United Kingdom.

Sweden has been providing specialized courses for training community interpreters since 1968. The Institute of Interpretation and Translation Studies at Stockholm University has been providing advanced interpreting courses since 1986. University of Oslo in Norway has also been providing community interpreting courses since 1985.

The role of Community interpreter


Lack of ability to communicate is a major concern for the legal and social welfare of minorities, immigrants and refugee populations. These people can gain equal access to public services through an efficient network of community interpreters.

For example, a doctor can only help a patient, if the patient is able to communicate clearly with the doctor. Therefore community interpreter plays an important role in the social service system and facilitates better integration in the society.

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