Community Interpreting

Community interpreting can involve interpreting in various contexts. For example, hospital appointments, child protection meetings, care plan review meetings, and interviews regarding benefits or housing.

Below are some tips you might find helpful if you are planning to become a community interpreter or would like to improve your skills as a community interpreter.


1. Create your glossary of terms

A Glossary of Terms is a list which you create to increase your knowledge and understanding of specific terms used in different sectors of the social welfare system of the country you work in. This list will also help you to memorise the meaning and the accurate translations of each term.

Some of the subjects that you will need to look in to when creating your glossary of terms include Health, Education, Benefits, Child Protection, and Immigration.

In the next couple of weeks, we will post a list of terms which you can include in your glossary of terms.


2. Be mindful of your body language as well as what you wear and where you sit

At times during your interpreting sessions, you might come across sensitive topics such as child abuse or information which you find disturbing. A professional interpreter has to be mindful of his/her body language in such situations as at times we convey various messages through our body movements without realising it.


Remember to dress appropriately, however, not too formally. The interpreter has to understand that the clients need to feel comfortable to share whatever information (e.g. about their illness) they need to pass on to the relevant professionals with the interpreter as well. Dressing too formally can at times make people feel uncomfortable in sharing personal information.


Most of the time, the person arranging the meeting would have planned where everyone will sit. If, however, this has not been done, remember to pick a seat which is next to or near the person you are interpreting for.


3. Conduct your work in an anti discriminatory and non judgmental way (differentiate between your own views and what is being said)

When working as a community interpreter you will come across people from different backgrounds and people who might have been involved in various situations which you do not approve of, for example, in a child protection conference you might be interpreting for the parents who have been accused of abusing their children. It is beneficial for an interpreter to know the context of the session in advance and reflect on his/her own values, beliefs, and experiences in relation to the context prior to the session. This will help the interpreter to be able to differentiate his/her views from what is actually being said. At times, our experiences and beliefs can affect the messages we convey.


4. Get involved

Get involved in your local community to increase your understanding of different issues your local community might be experiencing.


5. Complete a community interpreting course

If you have not already done so, completing a community interpreting course can be very helpful. It will provide you the necessary qualification and confidence you need to carry out your work effectively.

If you are based in the UK, have a look at the links below for Community Interpreting courses. If you are based in Thailand, contact us and we will help to arrange relevant training for you.

For Thailand visit:


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