Community Interpreting

Interpreting is the act of facilitating spoken language communication between two or more parties who do not share a common language by delivering, as faithfully as possible, the original message from source into target language. This is the foundation. Community interpreting involves much more.

“The Community Interpreter has a very different role and responsibilities from a commercial or conference interpreter. She is responsible for enabling professional and client, with very different backgrounds and perceptions and in an unequal relationship of power and knowledge, to communicate to their mutual satisfaction”

Shackman, Jane – The Right to be Understood: A Handbook on Working With, Employing and Training Community Interpreters. 1984, Cambridge, England, National Extension College

Service users encounter the full range of challenging life situations that can face any of us. In addition, some have fled violence, suffer trauma and carry serious psychological burdens. Many feel unsafe, confused and vulnerable. All will initially experience barriers of language, culture and powerlessness.

Community interpreters make it possible for service users to have a voice. They address isolation, frustration and misunderstanding and support effective diagnoses, treatment and prevention. In emergencies this can be life-saving and avert a condition becoming immediately life-threatening. Such vital services need to be offered widely. We deliver 24 hour services, every day of the year, and work with all Sussex NHS Trusts.

We promote respect, equality and human rights. We work with all communities and individuals needing interpreting support. We will help, whether people are part of an established community, an isolated individual or a member of a newly arrived group with little knowledge of UK systems and few resources.

Community interpreting is demanding and emotionally challenging. The community interpreting role requires particular interpersonal attributes, alongside linguistic and cultural competence. Trustworthiness, integrity and empathy are essential. Skills, values and professionalism are developed through careful recruitment, induction, training, accreditation and briefing. Professional codes provide an operational framework. A culture of continuous improvement is nurtured to assure quality.

It is therefore essential to also support and give a voice to those who give a voice:

“Words by themselves are easy to interpret, but it`s what`s hidden behind them that is so very hard to convey. Like a football spectator, I am the only one who can see both sides of the field. I watch both teams playing their games and only I am in a position to understand both sides. Each side relies on me, but all I am translating are the words. There is so much more unseen by them that I have to bottle up”.

In Other Words – the interpreters` story – Mothertongue page 34.

© Howard Davies/
In the year 2018-2019

we delivered


interpreting sessions



service users



different languages

photo: © Howard Davies/