top of page

What is Community Interpreting

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Community interpreting focuses on “service” employed in community-based settings and situations, and this is how it is defined. Community interpreting involves three steps: comprehension, conversion and delivery. The conversion process is the mental translation process, deciding what is the most appropriate and accurate rendition, and this needs to be performed in real time. Delivery presents the end-product (i.e. the verbal output) of interpreting. The delivery form depends on the type and mode of interpreting (simultaneous, whispering simultaneously into the minority language, long consecutive, dialogue and whispering simultaneously into the mainstream language) and the purpose of the interaction.

Community interpreting takes place in:

  • A doctor’s surgery

  • A social worker’s/ a lawyer’s office

  • A jail

  • A police station

  • A courtroom ...

Community interpreting requires…

1. Extensive knowledge of social and institutional settings

Due to confidentiality and the impossibility of knowing the purpose of the interaction, community interpreters have to equip themselves with a broad range of knowledge and jargon.

2. Accuracy

Accuracy is among the most important of the codes of ethics for community interpreting. An untruthful transmission of the message violates the users’ and providers’ fundamental right to truth.

3. Confidentiality

Community interpreters do not disclose private or proprietary information learned during the execution of his or her professional duties, except where disclosure is required by institutional regulations or by law.

4. Impartiality

Community interpreters refrain from allowing personal beliefs to manifest in his or her professional conduct, especially when rendering the content and tone of the message.

Interpreting process and conversation:

During this process, interpreters perform internal and external levels of understanding of the discourse. If not well-prepared, the interpreters may encounter the following problems. For example, if interpreters fail to perform enough research on the topic, they may mistranslate of the terms. If the speakers’ speech lacks coherence, interpreters will also find it difficult to interpret.

Difference between community interpreting and conference interpreting:

There are three main differences between community interpreting and conference interpreting:


The mode of conference interpreting is generally simultaneous while community interpreting can be any mode including simultaneous, consecutive, sight translation, etc.

2. Level of formality

The register of conference interpreting is generally formal (except informal language for jokes or idioms) while community interpreting can vary from being very informal to very formal.

3. Participants

Participants of conference interpreting are generally professionals while those of community interpreting are of differing status.

Community interpreting needs further development in many aspects, because of…

  1. the main participants: the powerless, e.g. migrants/ refugees

  2. the disorganised and unstructured state of the industry

  3. the absence of mandatory university education

  4. the lack of a strong professional identity

  5. the general unawareness of the complexity of the task

Prepared by:

KIANG Hin Cheung

YAU Oi Ying

CHAN Hiu Laam

LEE Wing Ping

Edited by:

Dr. Janice Pan


Hale, S. B. (2007). Interdisciplinarity: Community Interpreting in the Legal Context. In Community interpreting (pp. 64-98). Hampshire: Palgrave McMillan. doi:

22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page