Interpreter – What is the difference between a community interpreter and a non-community interpreter?

Qual è la differenza tra un interprete comunitario e un interprete non comunitario?

Interpretation has taken on an even more critical role after the pandemic with the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and has been at the heart of many of the political talks, negotiations and debates that many of us follow on a daily basis.

But did you know that there are distinct separations in the types of interpretive fields that interpreters find themselves in?

In this piece, we will focus on a category of interpreters whose work is more necessary and relevant than ever before and discover what differentiates it from all other types of interpreting. We are talking about the community interpreter. Let's try to understand who he is and what his duties consist of.

What is community interpreting?

Also known as cultural interpreting, community interpreting is the type of interpreting that connects people who are not fluent in the official language of a country with officials, employees, staff and legal, health, educational, government and social services of the country. host country. Some consider community interpreting to be an umbrella term encompassing judicial interpreting and medical interpreting, while others consider the latter to be entirely separate fields.

The community interpreter facilitates communication between people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, mainly in the strict sense between members of a vulnerable population (especially migrants) and representatives of the majority culture in the respective country. Community interpreters are mostly hired in the non-profit sector.

Where do community interpreters work?

The types of jobs for which community interpreters are in demand are extensive. Each assignment will have different responsibilities, but all will require expertise and care to best support the community member's language needs.

Community interpreters often appear as chaperones at appointments with authorities or in medical or social institutions. Some situations where you may need a community interpreter are:

  • Reception centers for refugees
  • School reunions
  • Police stations
  • Volunteer society

Non-community interpreting

Non-EU interpreting includes all other types of interpreting: conference interpreting, seminar interpreting, military interpreting, escort interpreting, media interpreting, business interpreting, judicial interpreting, medical interpreting, educational interpreting, telephone interpreting and others .

In all of these non-community interpretive roles, while cultural knowledge is important and taken for granted, it is not the foundation upon which either party structures the engagement. These fields require interpreters to have a deep understanding of the industry's typical vocabulary and phrases.

Similar but not the same: conference interpreting

Despite many similarities and the use of similar interpreting techniques, community interpreting should not be equated to conference interpreting.

A community interpreter is in direct contact with people and does not suffer the same pressure as a conference interpreter: sitting in his booth, away from listeners and teachers, he simultaneously interprets what is being said.

For conference interpreters, the risks are typically higher and the atmosphere is significantly different from that of community interpreters (i.e., international, political or commercial events, versus police stations and classrooms).

Community interpreters do not need the accreditation or training of a conference interpreter, as they receive training in community interpreting techniques after their studies or directly from the language service provider they work for. Community interpreting essentially aims to facilitate communication, spread knowledge and particularly help those who lack basic language skills to converse with others on matters relevant to their personal lives.

Conference interpreters often use highly specialized interpreting technology, such as booths, headsets and more. Conversely, that kind of equipment is not necessary for community interpreters.

A final word on community interpreters

Community interpreters with cultural knowledge can have a positive impact on individuals working in social services and schools, as they enable providers to deliver services that better respect and respond to the cultural and linguistic needs of clients.

It is a very delicate job, which involves a generous dose of tact, sensitivity and humanity. Community interpreters are the beating heart of a civilized country.

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