5. Evolving views of the court interpreter´s role: Between Scylla and Charybdis

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The role of the court interpreter in the United States, as in many other countries, has been defined by the legal profession in light of important precepts of the adversarial justice system. Interpreters, who are considered officers of the court, are strictly forbidden to give advice or provide explanations to clarify intended meaning, and are often instructed by judges to provide a “verbatim” interpretation. However, scholarly research on the role of the interpreter has revealed the shortcomings of the argument that interpreters are mere conduits transferring verbal messages from one language to another. This paper will examine the dichotomy between the need for interpreter neutrality in an adversarial setting and the limitations this imposes on their ability to convey the full meaning of culture-bound terms. It will conclude with some suggested guidelines for navigating the treacherous waters between the Scylla of literal interpretation and the Charybdis of active intervention in the communicative event.


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