What is it about?

The paper sheds light on the world of police interpreting, an area in community interpreting that has not received its fair share of academic examination. This research examines the tasks of police interpreters and attempts to highlight the major professional challenges that face interpreters where more than linguistic issues have a direct bearing on the quality of interpreting and the performance of interpreters.

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Why is it important?

As the world becomes more globalised and with the ever-increasing movement of people, police interpreting assumes a significant role. In multi-lingual communities such as Australia, police interpreting constitutes almost 80% of legal work and yet it has not been examined academically. This research examines interpreters working in contexts that are not usually comfortable: they are mostly working out of their comfort zone. In Australia, there is no professional training in this highly specialist area of working for law enforcement agencies. This research, and other papers by the same author, provide insights gained from more than 30-year experience working (at all levels) in this highly specialist context.


Researching police interpreting is a complex area due to numerous professional issues that vary from personal challenges to classified information. This is perhaps why academia has not ventured into this highly-specialist area in interpreting. Most research carried out is either too academic focusing on linguistic issues or too theoretical focusing on isolated police interviews. In both cases, the research lacks the rough and tumble experience of real-life interpreting for the police (and outside of the interview room). This research is not carried out in vitro but is based on long hours of working on live police operations that required many tasks and tested several professional and ethical issues both on the part of the interpreter as well as the police. This research has also provided the fundamental theoretical framework for training police interpreters in other cultural settings outside of Australia. It is hoped that the research will continue to examine the complex area of police interpreters working in counter-terrorism contexts.

Dr Muhammad Y Gamal

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Police interpreting: The facts sheet, Semiotica, January 2017, De Gruyter,
DOI: 10.1515/sem-2015-0110.
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