Gertrud Hofer, Department for Applied Linguistics, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur
In Switzerland, as in many other countries, the need for language mediation professionals has increased sharply as a result of globalization. For many languages, there is a lack of trained interpreters to interpret in police stations, prosecution offices, courts and in medical or social settings. Informal solutions are sometimes available, but the quality of these services varies greatly. Results in research have indicated that public service interpreting, in particular legal and medical interpreting, does not always satisfy the parties involved: the client or end user, the interpreter and the defendant or patient. Such dissatisfaction or even mistrust is partly due to differing perceptions of the role and the tasks of the interpreter.
Against this background, the following questions have been asked: how can quality be evaluated, who is qualified to evaluate and how can quality in interpreting be improved?
Awareness of the need of competent interpreting is, however, growing. This paper describes 1) experience gained during a language-independent training program for interpreters that has been running for five years and 2) selected results from a study in which end users as well as interpreters were questioned on the task of interpreting and on the quality standards that interpreters should fulfil. It reveals that attitudes towards interpreting differ considerably among police officers, prosecutioners and judges as well as among medical staff and interpreters who very often work in different areas and that differing attitudes clearly have an impact on the quality of interpreting.