A pilot study on the undefined role of court interpreters in South Africa

  • Samuel Lebese


In South Africa, legislation that clearly defines the role of court interpreters does not exist. Court interpreters find themselves performing tasks which should be the responsibility of other legal officials. This study considers how the lack of a clearly defined role for court interpreters affects the very quality of their interpreting. The study takes both a top-down and a bottom-up approach. In the top-down approach, a sample of South African legislation and related texts is analysed to determine whether the role of court interpreters have been clearly defined. The bottom-up approach deals with abstracts of proceedings in the courtroom in English and Setswana, focusing on the role played by court interpreters during trials. This study aims to shed more light on the role of court interpreters and to show how a defined role could lead to better quality interpreting. The court cases used in the study were collected during 2010 from the Brits Magistrates’ Court in the North West province.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2011, 29(3): 343–357

Author Biography

Samuel Lebese
Department of Linguistics, University of South Africa, PO Box 392, Pretoria, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614