Research Areas

9. Community Interpreting


Globalization, migration and asylum seeking have seen the introduction of several languages into multilingual Switzerland, bringing with them a new array of language barriers. As a result, equal access to social, legal and medical services can be achieved only through the use of community interpreters. Numerous names have been used to describe interpreting in public service settings. After controversial debate among the 29 countries represented in the committee developing the first international standard for community interpreting (the 2014 ISO International Standard 13611), “ISO adopted the term ‘community interpreting’ for the title of the first truly international standard for the profession” (Bancroft 2015: 219).

Research into community interpreting has been dominated by the descriptive analysis of discourse in interaction, or the “DI paradigm” (Pöchhacker 2015: 68). As a result, the “body of research on community interpreting has to date focused mainly on aspects of the interpreter’s role in the interaction between interlocutors/participants and in the communication process”, at the expense of the cognitive processing dimension (Englund Dimitrova & Tiselius 2016: 195). However, community interpreting is not just a “socially situated activity” (Pöchhacker, 2015: 68), but a (socially) situated cognitive activity. Like any form of interpreting, it involves mental (source text) comprehension and (target text) production processes under the influence of the given situational conditions. As such, interpreting draws heavily upon inferencing as well as knowledge-based strategies, such as anticipation.

Work in Research Area 9 focusses on medical interpreting. It is based on recorded data from 19 doctor-patient encounters from the larger-scale study “Interpreting in Medical Settings: Roles, Requirements and Responsibility”, funded between 2010 and 2012 by the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation (KTI, now Innosuisse, Swiss Innovation Agency) and carried out by an interdisciplinary team of medical specialists from the University Hospital of Basel (Marina Sleptsova and colleagues) and interpreting studies/applied linguistics researchers from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) (Gertrud Hofer and colleagues).

The main objectives of Research Area 9 are therefore:

  • Lay the cognitive foundations of community interpreting by recourse to the cognitive processes (CP) paradigm applied in conference interpreting research.
  • Specify the actual knowledge components relevant in a specific institutional setting, such as the encounter structures, discourse patterns and functional expressions used to serve the purposes of the medical interaction.
  • Conceptualize materials for the guidance and training of community interpreters in continuous professional development courses.
  • Work out research-based good practice guidelines for wider distribution (including service packages for community interpreting in Asian countries).



  • Bancroft, M. (2015). Community interpreting: A profession rooted in social justice. In Mikkelson, H. et al. (eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting (pp. 217–235). London/New York: Routledge.
  • Englund Dimitrova, B., & Tiselius, E. (2016). Cognitive aspects of community interpreting. Towards a process model. In Ricardo Muñoz, M. (ed.). Reembedding Translation Process Research (pp. 195–214).  Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
  • Pöchhacker, F. (2015). Evolution of interpreting research. In Mikkelson, H. et al. (eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Interpreting (pp. 62–76). London/New York: Routledge.