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“To interpret is more than the ability to have mastered two languages”
2014-03-27

 

It is equally unfair to the accused as the victim when an untrained court interpreter is used in a court case.

In South Africa there are currently a large percentage of interpreters employed by the Department of Justice without any formal training.

While interpreting is in reality a very complex subject, the general acceptance is that everybody who is able speak two languages or more can be an interpreter.

This perception harms interpreting as a profession, as it results in most institutions appointing any multilingual person as an interpreter.

In many cases people are used to interpret into and from their third or fourth language (of which Afrikaans is one). This leads to inaccuracy and the incorrect use of expressions and terminology. Specific cognitive processes also have to be developed and practiced.

The University of the Free State (UFS) has since 2008 trained approximately 200 court interpreters in South Africa. This training includes the theory of interpreting and practical exercises, as well as the development of terminology and a basic knowledge of the legal system in South Africa.

The training provided to court interpreters by the Unit for Language Management and Facilitation, is done in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and SASSETA (Safety and Security).

Apart from Afrikaans, native speakers of all South African languages are included in the training.

Much attention (rightfully) are given to interpreters who can interpret between the nine African languages and (mostly) English, but in the process the development of interpreters between Afrikaans and English was neglected, as became apparent in the past two weeks during the Oscar Pistorius case.


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