ArticlePDF Available

Curricular design and implementation of a training course for interpreters in an asylum context



Asylum settings increasingly require interpreting in language combinations for which few formally-trained interpreters are available. The consequences of this have been comprehensively discussed in the literature. This paper describes a project entitled QUADA: Qualitätsvolles Dolmetschen im Asylverfahren (High-Quality Interpreting in Asylum Proceedings), the aim of which was to develop a viable approach to improving interpreting quality within asylum settings in Austria. The project was initiated by UNHCR Austria and co-financed by the European Refugee Fund and the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. It involved the development of a training curriculum as well as the production of a handbook for trainees and trainers. The article commences with a brief overview of research on interpreting in asylum proceedings and the challenges associated with designing training programmes for community interpreting in general, and for asylum settings in particular. It then describes in detail the project and various project phases, addressing theoretical, pedagogical and organisational aspects.
Curricular design and implementation of a
training course for interpreters in an asylum
Annika Bergunde
UNHCR Austria
Sonja Pöllabauer
University of Vienna (formerly University of Graz)
DOI: 10.12807/ti.111201.2019.a01
Abstract: Asylum settings increasingly require interpreting in language
combinations for which few formally-trained interpreters are available. The
consequences of this have been comprehensively discussed in the literature. This
paper describes a project entitled QUADA: Qualitätsvolles Dolmetschen im
Asylverfahren (High-Quality Interpreting in Asylum Proceedings), the aim of which
was to develop a viable approach to improving interpreting quality within asylum
settings in Austria. The project was initiated by UNHCR Austria and co-financed by
the European Refugee Fund and the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. It
involved the development of a training curriculum as well as the production of a
handbook for trainees and trainers. The article commences with a brief overview of
research on interpreting in asylum proceedings and the challenges associated with
designing training programmes for community interpreting in general, and for
asylum settings in particular. It then describes in detail the project and various
project phases, addressing theoretical, pedagogical and organisational aspects.1
Keywords: interpreting in asylum interviews, interpreter training, lay interpreters,
experiential learning, blended learning
1. Introduction
This paper focuses on the design of a specific training curriculum for
interpreters in an asylum context (not interpreter or translator training in
general or court interpreter training) and outlines its implementation in a
national European context.
Quality enhancement stands at the core of the project outlined in this
contribution. To achieve and enhance quality in interpreting, a broad range of
factors come into play: diverse stakeholders and interest groups need to be
involved in the process and, ultimately, changes often boil down to political
will and money.
With respect to quality in interpreting it may be assumed that,
irrespective of the type of setting, all participants in an interpreted interaction
are (or at least should be) equally committed to ensuring that high-quality
interpreting can be achieved if for no other reason, one might think, than the
potential extra costs that a flawed interpretation may entail.
The “costliness” of interpreting can be illustrated with an example based
on a national (Austrian) context. For Austria, as for many other European
1 The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the United Nations.
The International Journal for
Translation & Interpreting
nations, the civil war in Syria resulted in a massive increase in the number of
refugees seeking entry. In 2015, the country received a total of 88,340
applications for international protection (Austrian Federal Ministry of the
Interior, 2015). Of the countries that keep records, Austria was the sixth-
largest recipient of applications for international protection in 2015 (UNHCR,
2016, p. 39), behind Germany, the United States of America, Sweden, the
Russian Federation, and Turkey. Although numbers fell again in 2016 and
2017, the OECD International Migration Outlook 2017 shows that “permanent
migration flows to OECD countries are on the rise” (OECD, 2018). The
indications are that in future, countries will also have to provide interpretation
for public service institutions such as asylum and migration departments.
Because of national legal requirements, refugees are generally
interviewed twice in Austria first by the police in the initial questioning after
lodgement of the asylum application, then in a detailed assessment under the
in-merit procedure if the case is admitted. It seems reasonable to assume that
many of the 88,340 applicants would have undergone more than one interview,
putting the total of “interpreted events” well into six figures. Based on current
interpreter pay rates, the costs incurred by the national asylum administration
in providing interpreters for these cases would run to several millions of Euros.
Accordingly, one would expect that it is in the interest of the nation and not
merely of the applicantsthat the authorities work with qualified interpreters.
In view of the lack of comprehensive training for interpreters in an asylum
context, however, the reality seems to fall short of this ideal, in Austria as in
other countries.
This somewhat absurd situation, where considerable sums of money are
spent on the provision of a service that seems to be neither well organised nor
accompanied by quality assurance mechanisms, prompted the project team to
focus comprehensively on the training of interpreters for an asylum context
and national training needs.
Despite the complexity of asylum interpreting (see Section 2), few
countries have devised strategic plans that can safeguard high-quality
interpreting in asylum procedures (UNHCR, 2010, p. 34). Many countries do
not have a standardised approach to training and accreditation, or mechanisms
to assure satisfactory interpreting quality (for an overview see Tipton &
Furmanek, 2016, p. 86-87). In 2010, a report by UNCHR summarising the
findings of a study conducted in several EU countries concluded that “(a)cross
the Member States in this research, the provision of training for interpreters is,
at best, limited, and in many cases non-existent” (UNHCR, 2010, p. 33).
The consequences of this lack of a structured approach became acutely
apparent in 2015. The dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers
revealed serious deficiencies in interpreter provision and highlighted the
shortage of trained interpreters, specifically in languages that are less widely
spoken or taught (languages of limited diffusion, LLDs) in the host countries.
For some national administrations, these developments represented a
wake-up call. Over the last few years, several countries have implemented
training courses or scaled up available programmes. However, there is still a
shortage of trained interpreters for the rarer languages, forcing caseworkers to
employ interpreters with little or no training at all. Moreover, the current
training programmes and quality schemes differ in scope and content, and are
not internationally coordinated (as yet, no comprehensive overview of recent
national training and quality assurance initiatives for the asylum context in the
EU is available). One indicator of the global importance of the issue and the
corresponding attempts to enhance international collaboration, is the decision
of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to develop an online training
course for interpreters in asylum settings (for details see Section 5) (EASO,
2018b, 2018c).
In the following sections, we will first give a brief overview of the
specifics of interpreting in an asylum context, and the research thus far into
that field (Section 2). In Section 3, we will review the literature on the
difficulties associated with developing and organising training programmes
for community interpreting in general and asylum settings in particular.
Finally, we will describe the training programme Qualitätsvolles Dolmetschen
im Asylverfahren (QUADA, literally “High-Quality Interpreting in Asylum
Proceedings”), which was initiated by UNHCR Austria and developed by an
expert group comprised of relevant stakeholders in the country (Section 4).
2. Interpreting in asylum settings
Interpreters in asylum procedures bear an enormous responsibility. The
majority of asylum applicants do not speak the language of the recipient
country and depend on the interpreter to relay the information they present
accurately and completely. Similarly, the asylum authorities whether
caseworkers or adjudicatorsmust be able to trust the interpreter to provide a
rendering that allows them to effectively and fairly assess the applicant’s
claim (as to “plausibility” and “material truth”) and personal “credibility”
(UNHCR, 2013). Because applicants can rarely provide written evidence to
corroborate their claims, the oral accounts of their experiences generally form
the sole basis for the officials’ decision (Pöllabauer, 2015, p. 203). Errors,
misunderstandings and faulty renditions of speakers’ utterances by interpreters
may put the welfare and even lives of asylum applicants at risk.
Interpreting in an asylum context involves specific challenges that make
it a recognisably distinct field; however, for many years it was a neglected
area within Interpreting Studies (Pöllabauer, 2006), having been described as
a grey zoneof legal interpreting (Bancroft et al., 2013). Some publications
from the 1980s mention asylum interpreting, yet these are mostly personal,
anecdotal accounts by interpreters with experience in asylum procedures.
From the 1990s, the field began to receive more attention, with a sharp
increase in the publication of empirical studies after 2000. Most of the
research was qualitative in nature and drew for its analytical framework on a
variety of disciplines including communication studies, linguistics,
comparative literature, sociology and law (Pöllabauer, 2006, 2008) with data
typically collected through a triangulation of methods including the analysis
of “authentic” data (i.e. recordings of real-life interpreting situations).
Although the studies typically made reference to general aspects of the asylum
adjudication process and global issues, few of the publications that were
analysed in a scientometric study in the mid-2000s (Pöllabauer, 2006) went
beyond a narrow national perspective (for a review of research within
Interpreting Studies (IS) and related disciplines see Pöllabauer, 2015, and
Tipton & Furmanek, 2016).
Many of these publications especially the data-based empirical studies
identified and discussed the same or very similar “problems” (Tipton &
Furmanek, 2016, p. 86; for a comprehensive overview of research in this field
see Pöllabauer, 2015). Interestingly, the same “problems” are still being
addressed in recent publications (Lee, 2013; Tryuk, 2017), suggesting that
problem-awareness within the scientific community has not led to major
improvements in practice and service provision. Among the topics discussed
in the literature we find: issues of role and role conflict(s) (often associated
with the asymmetrical communication constellation and power differentials
present in asylum proceedings), aspects of conversation management and
turn-taking, intercultural aspects, aspects of register and style, face and
politeness, the caseworkers’ investigative strategies, questions related to the
participation framework and footing, and problems associated with the use of
untrained interpreters (see for instance, Barsky, 1994; Blommaert, 2001;
Inghilleri, 2005; Jacquement, 2011; Keselman, Cederborg & Linell, 2010; Lee,
2013; Maryns, 2006; Merlini, 2009; Pöchhacker & Kolb, 2008; Pöllabauer,
2005, 2006; Rienzner, 2011; Scheffer, 2001; Tipton, 2008; Tipton &
Furmanek, 2016; Tryuk, 2017). The persistence of these themes was
confirmed by the results of a small-scale study that was conducted in 2014 in
preparation for the training course in Austria (for details see Section 4).
A further characteristic of asylum settings is the emotionally-charged
nature of many interviews (Barsky, 1994, p. 41; Tipton & Furmanek, 2016, p.
82-83). Interpreters need to develop strategies for coping with the emotional
impact of having to interpret and “re-tell” stories of victimisation, trauma and
torture (called “trauma-informed interpreting” by Tipton & Furmanek (2016,
p. 104)), the need to develop heightened resilience, the risk of burnout and
compassion fatigue and even vicarious traumatisation (Harvey, 2015;
Ndongo-Keller, 2015; Tipton & Furmanek, 2016, p. 104-108) and the
challenge of interpreting for vulnerable applicants and unaccompanied minors
(Keselman, Cederborg & Linell, 2010; UNHCR Austria, 2018; Wedam, 2018),
as well as the absence or near-absence of support structures such as
supervision or intervision (peer counselling) for interpreters.
These complex challenges that need to be tackled by interpreters in an
asylum context make it evident that (specific) training for interpreters in such
a field is desirable. From his perspective as a professional conference
interpreter and scholar, Daniel Gile even contends that community
interpreting, which he deems “socially far more important than conference
interpreting (2017, p. 246), demands specific interpersonal skills that
conference interpreters do not generally require a view clearly not shared by
all, as community interpreting is often associated with low or even negative
symbolic capital (Prunč, 2017, p. 25).
3. Training community interpreters and the special challenges of training
interpreters for asylum settings
Training for interpreters in asylum settings falls under the wider scope of
community interpreter (CI) training (Bancroft, 2015; Mikkelson, 2014, p. 13-
18). The diversity of available CI training programmes, as well as their
absence in some countries, has been discussed by Ertl & Pöllabauer (2010,
p.167), amongst others see also Bancroft (2015, p. 225), Hale & Ozolins
(2014, p. 218-224), Mikkelson (2014, p. 13), and Pöllabauer (2013, p. 5).
According to Hale (2007, p. 163), CI confronts organisers of training
programmes with a multitude of challenges that can be grouped into four
categories: a) a general lack of recognition for the need of training, b) a lack
of compulsory pre-service training for practitioners, c) a lack of adequate
training programmes and d) considerable differences regarding the quality and
effectiveness of training measures. Not surprisingly, Hale concluded that
training is “one of the most complicated and problematic aspects of
Community Interpreting” (Hale, 2007, p. 162).
The complexity associated with the organisation of CI training
programmes is amply demonstrated by the following representative list of
problems and the corresponding studies:
The high cost of training programmes typically prevents the
organisation of full-scale language-specific training, especially for
LLDs. A frequent compromise is to offer non-language-specific
training which, however, cannot always fully address the
participants’ (and users’) needs and expectations (see also Bancroft,
2015, p. 228; Lai & Mulayim, 2010; Mikkelson, 2014, p. 17; Rudvin
& Tomassini, 2011, p. 81-85).
Where interpreter training for LLDs is to be organised, providers are
frequently confronted with the problem that these languages are not
taught at traditional interpreting schools, so that few qualified
trainers are available (see also Bancroft, 2015, p. 228; Kalina, 2011,
p. 55; Lai & Mulayim, 2010), and specific teaching methods may be
required or specific group dynamics may be in force (see Hale &
Ozolins, 2014; Hlavac, Orlando & Tobias, 2012; and Rudvin &
Tomassini, 2011, p. 81-84; for a discussion of the problems related
to the provision of training for interpreters for rare or emerging
CI training is often also expensive for participants whose
remuneration is frequently too low to “justify spending much time
and money on professional development” (Bancroft, 2015, p. 228).
Potential training candidates may not have an adequate entrance
level of language proficiency in all of their working languages
(Hlavac, Orlando & Tobias, 2012) and a sufficient degree of cultural
Many organisers of CI programmes have commented on the
difficulty of selecting the most relevant content and adequate
teaching methodologies (Hale, 2007, p. 169; Mikkelson, 2014, p. 14-
16; Rudvin & Tomassini, 2011, p. 86-88) to suit different types of
adult learners.
Valero-Garcés ascribes such “internal problems to the insufficient
“involvement of both higher education institutions and public service
institutions and interpreting agencies (2011, p. 127); she also identifies
“external” difficulties, such as long distances to course venues, adverse
climate conditions, lack of resources (computers, technical equipment, ICT,
adequate classrooms) and so forth.
All these problems also apply to the organisation of training for asylum
interpreters. As mentioned above, it is essential to pitch training at the right
level and select candidates appropriately.
Currently, interpreters working in asylum settings vary greatly in their
cultural and linguistic background, level of formal training, prior professional
qualifications, and certifications. A broad distinction can be made between
four different groups of interpreters and degrees of training (Pöllabauer, 2015,
p. 209). The grouping is based on the situation in Austria, but similar
observations have been made in other countries (e.g. Maryns, 2012, p. 309-
1. Interpreters with a degree in interpreting from a third-level
interpreter training institution, such as universities or colleges.
Mostly, these individuals have been trained in languages that are
traditionally offered at a tertiary level, which in turn depend on the
needs of the labour market, student numbers, the availability of
teaching staff, university policy, budget restrictions and so forth (see
for instance Rudvin & Tomassini, 2011, p. 81-82).
2. Sworn and court-certified interpreters. The extent and level of
training received depend on national frameworks for court
interpreting and the national degree of professionalisation of court
interpreting. Some have undergone full-scale courses, others have
participated in shorter courses; some courses offer general training,
others court- or asylum-specific content. Some interpreters may not
have undergone any training, having simply passed a court
interpreter examination or been certified within an official
accreditation scheme. In many countries and jurisdictions, court
interpreter certification is still not linked to formal training (Lee,
2015, p. 192).
3. Interpreters who have completed shorter pathways, such as partially
institutionalised training (e.g. in-house training), condensed
specialist or generalist interpreter training courses offered outside
academic institutions and which may have been non language-
specific. These alternatives offer greater flexibility and cost-
efficiency (Rudvin & Tomassini, 2011, pp. 82-83) but have the
drawback that language screening, if incorporated, can often only be
provided for one language, that is to say the host country's language
(Mikkelson, 2014, p. 17). Moreover, time and/or financial
constraints may also lead to “compromises in the curricula” (Hale,
2007, p. 169), “creating a sense of complacency in governments and
policy-makers who may be led to believe that such courses are
sufficient to ensure quality in interpreting services” (Hale, 2007, p.
169; for an overview of a number of monolingual short training
courses and possible limitations of such courses, see also Hale &
Ozolins, 2014).
4. Interpreters with no training in interpreting. This is frequently the
case where LLDs are concerned.
Training programmes for asylum interpreting will need to cater to all
these groups and their diverse needs.
Which category is employed by asylum authorities frequently depends on
how aware governments are of the challenges posed by a complex setting such
as asylum interpreting, and the need for some form of quality assurance
(Tipton & Furmanek, 2016, p. 84). Some countries screen their interpreters
before recruitment (e.g. for political activism, Tipton & Furmanek, 2016, p. 90,
or to make sure they have no criminal record) or employ sworn or trained
interpreters in preference to the untrained where this is possible. In Austria,
for instance, the asylum authorities’ internal regulations allow for a “ranking”
with regard to the recruitment of interpreters. The first choice is sworn court
interpreters; if none are available, interpreters with a university degree in
interpreting should be recruited; if no court or trained interpreters are
available, any other “language-competent” individuals can be called upon to
interpret2. No official system is yet in place, however, to document the criteria
upon which interpreters are recruited (personal communication, Federal
Ministry of the Interior, December 2017).
It is difficult to assess how many training courses for asylum interpreting
are currently available, as precise data on asylum-specific training measures
are scarce (see Apostolou, 2012, on the situation in Greece). The following
overview presents the results of a desk-research analysis conducted in 2014,
which confirmed the 2010 UNHCR study that identified a lack of training in
many EU member states (UNHCR, 2010). As was pointed out above, since
2015, several countries have begun to design and implement interpreter
training courses. Details, however, are still difficult to obtain and may at times
seem imprecise or obscure. In particular, information about the curricula and
pedagogical underpinnings of the courses is generally not available, making it
impossible to compare them with the Austrian approach outlined in Section 4.
The following overview is, therefore, of necessity incomplete3.
2 Austria has a system of “court sworn interpreters” who must be examined by a panel prior to
be registered on a “list of court interpreters”. Previous interpreting training is not a condition to
sit the examination; however, professional interpreting experience is required (two years for
university-trained interpreters, five years for those without training) (see Austria Court
Interpreters Association, at
3 An EU-funded project focusing on the training of legal interpreters for LLDs (TraiLLD) was
conducted under the lead of the Catholic University of Leuven:
english/rg_interpreting_studies/research-projects/trailld. The project conclusion also provides
Information on available training courses is mostly found on the websites
of private organisations, charities and intergovernmental bodies. UNHCR, for
instance, which has a specific mandate as an intergovernmental global refugee
institution with a clear non-political, humanitarian and social mission, has
been offering a range of self-study modules (UNHCR, 2009) and booklets
(UNHCR, 2005) giving an introduction to interpreting in a refugee context as
well as in-house, short-term, non language-specific training workshops for
interpreters (internal UNHCR sources). In recent years, a small number of
other non-profit and tertiary education institutions have also been providing
training for the field, some in cooperation with UNHCR. Among the most
salient initiatives we find the following:
The Swiss-based Centre for Interpreting in Conflict Zones (inZone),
an interdisciplinary centre affiliated with the University of Geneva,
has been offering a number of tailor-made training courses for
interpreting in different conflict zones (Moser-Mercer, 2015) and
emergency settings, with diverse formats (also virtual or blended-
learning), partially also in cooperation with UNHCR or other
stakeholders such as ICRC (International Committee of the Red
Cross) (inZone, 2018). inZone’s focus seems to be mostly on
providing training in and for conflict zones as well as in refugee
camps, e.g. in Kenya. inZone has also developed a complex virtual
learning and blended learning platform to overcome connectivity
and other problems in such challenging environments (Moser-
Mercer, Delgado Luchner & Kherbiche, 2017).
The Cairo Community Interpreter Project (CCIP), affiliated with the
American University in Cairo, has been offering training for
interpreters in migration and refugee settings in migration transit
countries since 2002, also in cooperation with UNHCR (The
American University in Cairo, 2018).
Cross-Cultural Communications LLC (Maryland, US) has been
offering “the only national program for legal interpreting in
community settings” in the US, a three-day training course named
“The Language of Justice” for interpreters performing in non-
courtroom legal settings, including also immigration counselling
(Cross-Cultural Communications, 2018; see also Bancroft, 2013).
The Voice of Love (VOL), a US-based registered charity, had been
offering short-term training (with different training delivery options,
including webinars) for interpreters working with survivors of
trauma, war, torture, and sexual violence (Voice of, 2015).
The charity has been purchased by a Canadian non-profit social
enterprise (MCIS Language Solutions), with no up-to-date
information available other than a planned return of the four-day
training programme “Healing Voices: Interpreting for Survivors of
Torture, War Trauma and Sexual Violence”.
Some of these initiatives (inZone, Cross-Cultural Communications and
Voice of Love) also offer (or have offered) train-the-trainer programmes
and/or train-the-user programmes (VOL). Both approaches are stressed as key
elements of comprehensive community interpreter training (see e.g. Lai &
Mulayim, 2010, p. 59; Rudvin & Tomassini, 2011, p. 23).
an interesting overview of training approaches in the legal realm (mostly at the tertiary level),
including online courses (Balogh, Salaets & van Schoor, 2016).
4. The “QUADA” training design
The project Qualitätsvolles Dolmetschen im Asylverfahren (literally, “High-
quality interpreting in the asylum procedure”) was initiated by UNHCR
Austria and conducted in cooperation with experts in the field (from law,
translation and interpreting studies, linguistics, African studies, intercultural
psychotherapy) between January and December 2014. The curriculum and
content were developed in close collaboration with trainers and researchers at
the Department of Translation Studies of the University of Graz. The project
was co-financed by the European Refugee Fund and the Austrian Ministry of
the Interior.
The main aim of the project was to develop both short-term and long-
term measures that could improve the quality of interpreting in Austria’s
asylum procedures. The urgent need for quality improvements had been
identified in a UNHCR project that monitored the national asylum procedure
and included areas such as interpreting provision and quality. The findings
were confirmed by a needs analysis and a participant observation study (see
4.1). The project scope and activities will be outlined under the following
headings: 1) identification of social needs, 2) formulation of outcomes and
identification of student profile and needs, 3) design of course content and
activities, 4) identification/acquisition of resources, 5) implementation, 6)
(design of) assessment and course evaluation, and 7) quality enhancement.
The discussion will reference Kelly’s model of curricular design for translator
training (2005, p. 3), which has also been used for interpreting studies (Abril-
Martí, 2006) and was slightly adapted here.
4.1 Identification of social needs
In a preparatory investigative and needs-assessment phase, UNHCR Austria
conducted desk research to establish the existing types of curricula for asylum
interpreter training in Europe and worldwide, and the quality assurance
mechanisms in place. These data provided the base for the subsequent needs
analysis, which included in-depth interviews with asylum applicants and
beneficiaries of international protection as well as interpreters in Austria.
As part of the needs analysis, twelve first-instance asylum interviews
(seven initial interrogations and five personal interviews on the substance of
the respective applications) were observed (using participant observation) to
obtain information on the conduct of the interpreters and other participants.
The checklist included predefined quality criteria such as: compliance with
professional ethics; interpreting techniques and note taking; and
communication, language and completeness of interpretation.
Findings from the participant observation showed numerous problems,
including: distortion of information and translation errors; misunderstandings
with regard to culturally determined concepts or phrases; role conflicts and
role shifting whereby interpreters tried to perform multiple, incompatible
activities either presenting themselves as “cultural experts”, “co-
interviewers”, “neutral language conveyors” and/or “expert witnesses”, or
being viewed as “helpers” and/or “collaborators” or “traitors”. Often, side
conversations were not translated, resulting in a lack of transparency for the
other participants. Interpreters lacked the necessary (legal) terminology and
knowledge of the asylum system, reformulated the original utterances (e.g.
change of register, use of a less or more authoritative, bureaucratic or simple
code), or adapted the language style to the requirements of the (written) record
of the interview. There were also instances of unprofessional demeanour
(rudeness, lack of respect, biased behaviour), emotional involvement (e.g.
interpreters with a migration background), and problems associated with the
complex interdependencies inherent to the communicative situation
(interpreters are contracted and paid by the authorities). Even well-trained
interpreters seemed to find it difficult to put into practice what interpreting
theory and professional codes of conduct expect them to do.
These findings largely coincide with the results of previous studies (see
Section 2). The role of interpreters in asylum settings appears to be unclear.
Contrary to what is generally assumed, interpreters do not always adopt an
impartial, invisible or neutral role (see also Pöllabauer, 2015, p. 207) and can
influence the outcome of an interview.
Part of this phase was also the involvement of relevant stakeholders in the
field, who were invited to help to identify the social needs for training for the
asylum context and the profile and needs of potential trainees to ensure the
long-term sustainability of the programme and obtain support for training.
These stakeholders included representatives of the Federal Office for
Immigration and Asylum, the Directorate General for Public Security of the
Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Administrative Court, the Austrian
Association of Certified Court Interpreters, and the Austrian Interpreters’ and
Translators’ Association as well as trainers and researchers from the
Department of Translation Studies of the University of Graz and the Centre
for Translation Studies of the University of Vienna. They were invited to join
an expert reference group, which met twice in a face-to-face roundtable and
was also regularly updated on the project’s progress.
The outcome of this research and needs-assessment phase helped to
identify the social needs for an interpreter training programme in an asylum
context, and was used to formulate training outcomes, identify student profile
and needs, and decide on the course structure and topics to be tackled.
4.2 Formulation of training outcomes and identification of student profile
and needs
The overarching outcome of the training, which was identified on the basis of
the social needs assessment, was to provide basic training for interpreters
working in an Austrian asylum context. Specific learning outcomes were
identified for the different units (modules) of the programme and outlined in a
handbook (see 4.3.) at the start of each unit, basically following Bloom’s
(revised) taxonomy of learning objectives that is often used for the
specification of learning outcomes (Armstrong, 2018).
The needs analysis also indicated that the student profile was diverse and
that the training needed to cater to the needs of the four different groups of
interpreters outlined under Section 3 (interpreters with a degree and court-
certified interpreters with no specific training in interpreting; interpreters who
had completed some kind of short training and interpreters with no training at
all). Interpreters with only brief or no training were identified as the groups
with the highest needs both for training and for basic information on
interpreting and asylum-specific content. Interpreters with a degree and court-
certified interpreters were identified as the two groups most in need of
asylum-specific content only.
The analysis of the trainees’ profile also indicated that their educational
and professional backgrounds and language combinations were highly diverse
two aspects that needed to be taken into account regarding course design.
4.3 Design of course content and activities
The findings of the monitoring observations and the results of the needs
analysis provided the main foundation for the design of the course content.
The developers were also able to draw on the outcomes of two earlier
collaborative projects between UNHCR Austria and key stakeholders. One
was the Handbuch Dolmetschen im Asylverfahren, a brief manual providing
key information for interpreters and caseworkers in asylum settings
(Österreichisches Bundesministerium für Inneres (BMI), 2006), and the other
Prozedurale Mindeststandards für den Einsatz von DolmetscherInnen im
Asylverfahren (Netzwerk Sprachenrechte, 2005), a document setting out
minimum standards for the use of interpreters in asylum interviews (see
A modular approach was chosen to give the target group members (who,
as mentioned, are highly diverse) greater flexibility and allow them to choose
content according to their individual requirements. With regard to the latter,
we followed Knowles(1980) assumption that adults who attend further
development courses are self-directed individuals who are driven by internal
motivation to obtain new knowledge and skills, and have very specific
awareness of why they want to learn (see also Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p.
47) and what knowledge gaps they want to fill.
Based on these considerations, it was decided to produce a curriculum in
the form of a training handbook, with suggestions for teaching activities and
materials that could be used variously as a trainer resource in a classroom
environment, as a self-study tool, and for input into ‘train-the-users’
workshops the latter being strongly recommended by many of the
interpreters who participated in the pilot and initial training workshops (see
also Bahadir, 2017, pp. 138-139 on the benefits of “constructive cooperation”
between all participants in an interpreted situation).
The handbook comprises twelve modules which set out the general
framework: introductions to legal aspects of asylum and refugee protection,
the interviewing techniques used by caseworkers, the interpreter’s role in
asylum settings, the specific challenges of interpreting for vulnerable
applicants, the characteristics of multicultural and transcultural
communication in general, and emotional and psychological aspects, etc (see
also Annex for detail); it then provides practical guidance on the different
modes of interpreting, interpreting techniques, note-taking, and sight
translation (for authors see UNCHR, 2015 and UNHCR, 2017).
In line with recent recommendations in interpreting didactics literature,
the training design is underpinned by an approach that builds on experiential
and situated learning (e.g. González-Davies & Enríquez-Raído, 2016; Perez &
Wilson 2011), using authentic scenarios and activities and immersion in
professional situations (Perez & Wilson, 2011, p. 251) as well as service
learning (Lesch, 2011) to allow problem-based self-reflection and collective
reflection (cf. Perez & Wilson, 2011, p. 250; see also Merriam & Bierema’s
concept of the circle of teaching (2014, p. 125)) and collaborative
knowledge construction (see Mulayim & Lai, 2015, for an interesting
approach to online learning by using the community-of-inquiry framework).
Each module includes a varied range of tasks and activities (for details
see UNHCR, 2017) catering to different learning styles and user needs. These
can be grouped into four types (following Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 125):
concrete experience (e.g. role plays, case studies, films, self tests), active
experimentation (e.g. role plays, group work, problem-solving activities),
reflective observation (e.g. structured discussions, world cafés, films) and
abstract conceptualisation (e.g. individual reading, lectures, documents,
(flow) charts).
Role plays, in particular, were chosen because they are “hands-on”
activities that allow trainers to emulate the dialogic nature of interpreting in
community settings (on the use of role-plays for community interpreter
training see, for instance, Bahadir, 2011; Kadric’s theatre-pedagogical
approach, 2011 and 2014; Wadensjö, 2014). Learners are invited to actively
contribute and learn from each other by critically reflecting on the challenges
of interpreting in asylum settings. To support trainers, a chapter was included
in the handbook (Kadric, 2018) providing guidance on how to conduct role
plays in training sessions and recommendations for how these can be scripted.
All twelve learning modules follow the same structure and comprise four
major sections:
a) Theoretical framework and background: this section provides a
concise introduction to the topic. The information is presented in a
way that can be easily comprehended even by readers with little
background knowledge, with explanations of key concepts and
specialist terms in plain language. Some modules provide more
detailed information in a separate box (“Compact information/
b) Literature and links: this section presents bibliographic references
and recommendations for further reading as well as a list of relevant
Internet sites.
c) Activities and tasks: this section includes various training activities
and tasks. It also includes worksheets that trainers can print out for
use in class.
d) Individual reflection on learning objectives: this section encourages
trainees to reflect critically on what they have learned in the module.
It uses a blend of both open and/or closed questions, as well as
examples and scenarios that trainees can analyse and reflect upon.
4.4 Identification and acquisition of resources
Kelly’s model also allows for the identification and acquisition of resources,
for example, through trainer training.
In the first stages of the implementation (see Section 4.5), no trainers’
training was provided. Trainers were selected on the basis of their professional
expertise (most of them were authors of the handbook modules) and their
teaching experience (most of them, though not all, had previous teaching
experience, either in an academic or an extra-university context, specifically
in the field of community interpreter training).
One fact that soon proved relevant to the identification and selection of
competent trainers was that the (national) pool of available trainers was rather
small and that institutionalisation of the training would require the recruitment
(and training) of additional trainers to guarantee their availability in sufficient
numbers and permit more flexibility in planning.
As a first follow-up measure, “trainers’ seminars” were initiated; these
have been held twice so far and allowed the course trainers (see Section 4.5)
to streamline and harmonise content and activities, and exchange experiences
and ideas. A special trainers’ section was also set up on the dedicated learning
platform (see Section 4.5) to allow more exchange between trainers. However,
a more thorough trainers' training would be desirable, and is indeed envisaged
for subsequent improvements of the training.
4.5 Implementation
In the autumn of 2014, a selected number of modules from the pre-print
version of the training handbook were piloted at two face-to-face training
workshops organised by UNHCR Austria, with the authors of the modules
serving as trainers. The workshops were held in Salzburg and Vienna to
enable interpreters from all parts of Austria to attend without overly long
journeys. Of the participants (33 in total) the majority had no interpreter
training but did possess experience as interpreters in an asylum context
(therefore representing the “little or no training” classification). They were
asked to complete and submit written feedback forms concerning items such
as organisational aspects, content (validity and usability), trainer competence,
teaching concepts and training methods, and content applicability for
interpreting practice. Feedback was very positive overall and was used by the
project team to fine-tune the curriculum and handbook. The main aim of these
pilots was to assess the validity and usability of the content of the handbook,
with the aim of offering full-scale training covering all the modules once the
handbook was completed.
One aspect that was considered important from the project’s outset was to
ensure its sustainability: it was evident that an implementation model needed
to be developed that would guarantee the continued delivery of courses after
the end of the project period. Since few of the prospective participants fulfil
the entry requirements for admission to university programmes, it was decided
that face-to-face training would need to be offered in an extra-university
context to reach as many potential trainees as possible and to offer low-
threshold access to training. (Informal talks suggested that university-located
training also appeared to be “intimidating” to some prospective trainees).
To institutionalise the training, UNHCR sought contact with the Verband
Österreichischer Volkshochschulen (Austrian Adult Education Centres;
VÖV/VHS4), a well-established adult education institution, which agreed to
pilot three of the twelve training modules at one of their training centres in
Vienna to assess the training’s acceptance among the target group.
The pilot seminars, which had more than 60 participants in total, were
again assessed by using a written feedback form (individual evaluation of
organisational aspects, content (validity and usability), trainers, teaching
concepts and training methods and manageability of online training). In
addition, qualitative phone interviews were conducted with a selected number
(7) of participants. Aspects that were negatively mentioned by a small number
of participants were the manageability of the learning platform that was used,
and the group’s heterogeneity and problems with regard to its dynamics.
Neither of these aspects is surprising, as a lack of computer literacy and the
challenges of group dynamics have been documented in the literature as
challenging factors for CI training (e.g. Mulayim & Lai, 2015; Valero-Garcés,
2011, p. 127). Based on the overall positive evaluation results and the fact that
the training was much sought-after by prospective trainees, VÖV decided to
continue its cooperation with UNHCR and institutionalise the training (VÖV,
2018). Since 2016, the full training programme has been offered three times in
Vienna and once in Salzburg, with plans to offer the course in other Austrian
The course is taught in German and uses a blended-learning format with
both distance-learning and on-site sessions where attendance is compulsory;
the online phase comprises three teaching units (each 50 minutes), with five
teaching units for the face-to-face mode.
The programme is delivered in three thematic blocks (Asylum Procedure,
Role and Ethics, and Interpreting Skills and Techniques); these can be taken
individually to enhance certain competencies or skills. Each block consists of
four modules and an introduction to Moodle, the learning platform that is in
standard use by VÖV/VHS. The first face-to-face session is preceded by a
two- to three-week online phase during which a variety of activities and tasks
have to be completed, including contributions to forum discussions, answering
questions on prescribed texts, comments on video scenarios, the compilation
of glossaries, and self-reflection.
The course fees in 2017 were 590 per block, which may seem rather
high. However, a lower figure would not be economically viable due to the
number of modules offered and the number of trainers involved. Scholarships
or financial support for trainees is sometimes available from NGOs or
employers, though the project team does not have access to information on
scope of support provided to trainees by external bodies. Those with language
4 The Verband Österreichischer Volkshochschulen (Austrian Adult Education Centres; VÖV)
has a long history (dating back to 1885) of adult education in different fields and for different
levels (e.g. vocational and professional training, language training and international certificates).
Adult education is regarded as a life-long learning process comprising cognitive, affective and
physical dimensions and focusing on the learners’ needs and requirements (http://www.vhs.
combinations that are currently much sought after (e.g. Arabic-German, Dari-
German, Farsi-German) and who are being recruited on a regular basis, can
presumably recover some of the course costs through their freelance work for
the asylum authorities at fixed rates. For the remainder, who have fewer work
opportunities and attend the training principally out of interest, the costs are
high and are sometimes seen as a financial strain.
The student profiles for the courses offered thus far have been as
expected, with trainees having very different professional and educational
backgrounds. The majority have little previous training in interpreting but
work in an asylum context on a regular basis. A smaller number have already
completed training in interpreting (some have a university degree, some are
court-certified interpreters), and complete the course with the hope of future
recruitment in asylum settings. Some do the training only out of interest,
without hoping or wanting to work in an asylum context.
As of 2016/2017, applicants were required to provide official attestation
of having attained a minimum level of B2 in German under the European
Framework of Languages. Those unable to produce a certificate were offered
additional German language classes at the VHS, custom-tailored to the
requirements of QUADA trainees (class attendance was necessary for
obtaining the course completion certificate). The German classes run in
parallel with the training course. For those trainees who showed sufficient
language skill but could not provide qualifications, the decision as to whether
they were required to attend the German courses was made individually, based
on their professional and educational backgrounds. Overall, the trainees
language skills were highly divergent: some had been living in Austria for a
very long time, had perhaps even studied there, and were highly proficient in
both written and spoken German; others had only 2 years of experience in
learning German but already had experience as interpreters, usually for
“exotic” languages that were currently much sought after.
4.6 Assessment and course evaluation
Evaluation took place in stages. The handbook (and curriculum contained
therein) was subjected to a process of internal review (through the project
team) and external review (through external review of each of the modules by
at least two reviewers competent in the respective subject area). The validity
and applicability of the chosen instructional design were also evaluated by an
external expert on adult learning and didactics, who gave a positive report
with suggestions for change which were taken up in the final version of the
The two pilot phases (offered through UNHCR and VÖV) were evaluated
via trainee responses, based on written feedback forms (pilot phase 1 and 2)
and phone interviews (pilot phase 2, VÖV) (see Section 4.6).
The full-scale programme offered through VÖV as of 2016 is evaluated
on a regular basis through written feedback forms. So far, evaluation has been
mostly positive. When negative aspects are reported, the project team and
trainers are informed at regular intervals and at the trainers’ seminar.
Suggestions for change on the part of the trainers and training provider were
discussed at the trainer seminars (see Section 4.4), which were introduced to
permit more exchange between the trainers.
Currently, the effectiveness of the chosen blended learning format is
being evaluated as part of a Masters project at the Department of Translation
Studies in Graz. Some participants were lacking in IT literacy skills and found
the e-learning phase extremely challenging (see also Mulayim & Lai, 2015).
One drawback regarding evaluation of course outcomes is that there is
presently no formal assessment of trainee performance in either the online or
face-to-face sessions (only attendance and submission of assignments are
registered). After completion of the modules, trainees receive a certificate of
attendance, without grades or other performance indicators.
Experience in many countries has shown that the prospect of receiving a
recognised certificate based on performance assessment can serve as a
powerful incentive for prospective trainees to enrol in professional
development courses. A standardised performance assessment for each
module (including the tasks submitted for the online sessions) would thus be
highly desirable and is a future ambition.
One of the project’s longer-term objectives is, therefore, to develop an
assessment and certification scheme (see also Corsellis, 2009, p. 60; Salaets &
Vermeerbergen, 2011 for approaches to certification). An initial step was
taken in 2017, when an optional end-of-course examination was offered to all
trainees who had successfully completed all the modules. The examination
comprises a longer interval of consecutive interpreting, with note-taking, and
an oral examination on the content of the modules and handbook. The
examiner panel is composed of interpreter-trainers and asylum experts. So far,
the certification exam has been offered twice, with a pass rate of more than
50% (five failed candidates from a total of 12).
One positive development with respect to the certification exam is that
UNHCR and VÖV have arrived at an agreement with the federal asylum
authorities to establish an incentive system. The authorities have agreed that
interpreters who have both completed the full QUADA programme and
passed the final examination will be preferred over untrained interpreters. It is
to be hoped that this scheme will help give participants a clear signal that their
personal and financial investment in training is being officially recognised
even if completion of the course is, unfortunately, not a job guarantee.
4.7 Quality enhancement
Following the feedback provided by the trainees and the VÖV team and
trainers, it was decided that some modifications would be introduced in
subsequent editions of the course to enhance the quality of its design.
Regarding German language proficiency for example, in future the
required level will be C1. Participants that have attained level B2 will be
admitted, but will have to attend the accompanying German language courses.
(If they do not succeed, they will not receive the certificate of attendance.)
Another aim is to increase the overall number of teaching units (one unit
being 50 minutes) from the current 8 to 12 (including an additional online
phase after the face-to-face training). Based on the European Credit Transfer
and Accumulation System (ECTS), which can be used to compare the volume
of learning based on learning outcomes and associated workload for trainees,
the new system would amount to roughly 6 ECTS, including also the
certification exams (1 ECTS credit point corresponds to approximately 25-30
hours (60 minutes) of individual student workload).
One development that can also be viewed as a quality enhancement is
that the handbook, which initially existed only as a PDF file, is now available
in print in both German and English versions. In 2015, following numerous
enquiries, Trauner Publishing decided to publish the German handbook as a
paperback (UNHCR, 2015), and this has helped to promote its use and also
support the sustainability of the project.
Subsequent interest resulted in an initially unplanned spin-off
“localisation” of the German version for an international (or at least European)
audience in 2017. As Kelly (2005) stresses, an important aspect of course
design is that training does not take place in a vacuum and always has to be
adapted to particular local (regional, national) needs. The course design
presented in the previous section is clearly focused on specific national needs.
After enquiries from different countries in 2017, the project team decided that
it was possible to “export” central ideas and elements to other locales.
UNHCR provided funding for the translation of the handbook into English
and the adaptation of the contents to an international (European) locale. In the
English version, all country-specific content has been revised to ensure that
the book can be used in different national contexts. In 2018, a paperback
version of the English handbook was published by Frank & Timme (UNHCR,
2018) and it is to be hoped that it will further support the dissemination of the
UNHCR has also since been contacted by several organisations which
have inquired about further translations or adaptations into their local
languages. Currently, a French version of the handbook is being finalised by
UNHCR Brussels.
An unexpected outcome of the project was the use of the handbook as a
reference tool by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The
handbook, along with its underpinning didactics, was presented at an EASO
meeting in 2016. An international project team worked for over a year to
develop a comprehensive e-learning training course for interpreters in asylum
settings as well as training materials for face-to-face training workshops
(EASO, 2018c). A first pilot of the e-learning course will be launched in 2018.
We are hopeful that in the future it will be possible to integrate the EASO
materials into the national QUADA programme. (The word “hopeful” is used
purposely, given that such changes, and general organisational and financial
support for enhancing the quality of interpreter provision and training, largely
depend on national asylum authorities and the overall political climate and
will to act.)
5. Conclusions
When reviewing the project’s evolution from its small-scale beginnings, it can
certainly be said to have come a long way: from the original idea of simply
drafting a brief curriculum for interpreter training in an asylum context, it
ultimately grew into the implementation of a comprehensive course offered at
a certified adult education institution.
Other positive outgrowths include the establishment of a certification
exam, a first agreement with the asylum authorities on a system of prioritising
trained interpreters over the untrained, the English adaptation of the handbook
as a spin-off product, and the print publication of the German and English
handbook versions.
Against this backdrop, the project can be viewed as a first but important
step towards quality enhancement for interpreting in asylum settings.
Nonetheless, the present review has also indicated several drawbacks that
merit further attention and should be addressed in the future.
One important milestone would be the introduction of a full-scale
performance assessment for all of the modules offered in the training (both
online and on-site). Since this would entail expanding the pool of trainers and
examiners, a train-the-trainers programme would also be a valuable
improvement and contribute to enhancing didactic quality.
To achieve full institutionalisation of the training, it would also be
important to increase lobbying for its long-term establishment and for support
among political decision-makers. The prerequisites for lasting change and
improvements are political will and an acknowledgement of the necessity for
interpreting quality enhancement: the prioritisation of trained interpreters over
the untrained will conceivably incentivise attendance of a training course. If
all sides concede that training is an important quality indicator and should be a
necessary basis for interpreter recruitment (our experience is that more
awareness-raising is certainly necessary in this regard), those who complete it
could recoup their costs more easily (and more would be willing to invest in
training and continuous professional development generally).
Another milestone, which would need to be preceded by a political
decision and the clear commitment to quality enhancement, would be the
integration of current European developments. Given the necessary means,
existing high-quality resources (such as provided by agencies like EASO)
could be integrated into a national training context. Such a pan-European
approach, which could be tailored to specific national needs, would potentially
be another contributory factor toward quality enhancement.
What must also be examined more fully is the effectiveness of language-
independent training. Feedback that the project team has received from
trainers and stakeholders partly confirms the findings of previous studies, and
should be researched more thoroughly. Suggested themes include: whether
attendance of interpreter training courses could improve the social integration
of trainees who are migrants (Lai & Mulayim, 2010); the different dimensions
of interpreter identity (Bahadir, 2017, p. 126); the effect and organisation of
team teaching; better content provision for trainees from aural or oral learning
cultures (Lai & Mulayim, 2010); the advantages and drawbacks of assessment
(Salaets & Vermeerbergen, 2011) and accreditation systems (Hlavac, 2015);
and trainee expectations vis-à-vis the limitations of short(er) training courses
(Hale & Ozolins, 2014, p. 232).
We are well aware that language-specific training is to be preferred
where possible, and that the non-language-specific format of the course
discussed in this paper is not ideal. Nonetheless, it can definitely address
important situational issues, such as the following described by one of the
interpreters interviewed for the QUADA project:
The authority always expects the interpreter to be on its side. They want me to be
as emotional [as they are]. But I don’t do that. A police officer once asked me to
translate: ‘Tell him he should not take me for an arsehole.’ I didn’t want that. So
I asked if I could at least say ‘jerk’.5
The feedback and evaluations received from trainees indicate that they
have become more aware through the course of the complexity of asylum
settings and of their own role within them. When dilemmas of the above kind
arise, it is to be hoped that this will help interpreters to recognise and deal
with them in an assured and professional manner that befits the process and
the gravity of its eventual outcomes.
5 Our translation. In the original German: Die Behörde erwartet, dass der Dolmetscher immer
auf ihrer Seite ist. Sie wollen, dass ich genau so emotional bin. Das mache ich aber nicht. Ein
Polizist hat mich einmal gebeten zu übersetzen: ‚Sag ihm, er soll mich nicht für ein Arschloch
verkaufen. Das wollte ich nicht. Ich habe gefragt, ob ich nicht wenigstens‚ ‚Trottel‘ sagen
Abril-Martí, M.I. (2006). La Interpretación en los Servicios Públicos:
Caracterización como género, contextualización y modelos de formación. Hacia
unas bases para el diseño curricular. Granada: Universidad de Granada.
Apostolou, F. (2012). Interpreting services for immigrants. A new reality in Greece.
The Interpreters’ Newsletter, 17, 213222.
Armstrong, P. (2018). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
Vanderbilt University. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from https://cft.vanderbilt.
Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior (2015). Statistiken 2015. Retrieved October
18, 2018 from
Bahadir, S. (2011). Interpreting enactments: A new path for interpreting pedagogy. In
E. Prunč, C. Kainz & R. Schögler (Eds.), Modelling the field of community
interpreting. Questions of methodology in research and training (pp. 177210).
Wien & Münster: LIT.
Bahadir, S. (2017). The interpreter as observer, participant and agent of change. In M.
Biagini, M. S. Boyd & C. Monacelli (Eds.), The changing role of the interpreter.
Contextualising norms, ethics and quality standards (pp. 122145). Oxford &
New York: Routledge.
Balogh, K., Salaets, H. & van Schoor, D. (Eds.). (2016). TraiLLD: Training in
Languages of Lesser Diffusion. Training of legal interpreters in LLDs. Leuven:
Bancroft, M. A. (2015). Community Interpreting. In H. M. Mikkelson & R.
Jourdenais (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of interpreting (pp. 217235).
Oxford & New York: Routledge.
Bancroft, M. A., Bendana, L., Bruggeman, J. & Feuerle, L. M. (2013). Interpreting in
the gray zone: Where community and legal interpreting intersect. Translation &
Interpreting, 5(1), 94113. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://trans-
Barsky, R. F. (1994). Constructing a productive other: Discourse theory and the
Convention Refugee hearing. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Blommaert, J. (2001). Investigating narrative inequality: African asylum seekers’
stories in Belgium. Discourse & Society, 12(4), 413449.Corsellis, A. (2009).
Public service interpreting: The first steps. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave
Cross-Cultural Communications LLC. (2015). The language of justice. Retrieved
February 15, 2018, from
EASO. (2018a). European Asylum Support Office. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
EASO. (2018b). Training and quality. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
EASO. (2018c). Development of the EASO training module on ‘Interpreting in the
asylum context’. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Ertl, A. & Pöllabauer, S. (2010). Training (medical) interpreters the key to good
practice. MedInt: A joint European training perspective. Journal of Specialised
Translation, 14, 166193. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.
Gile, D. (2017). Norms, ethics and quality: Challenges to research. In M. Biagini, M.
S. Boyden & C. Monacelli (Eds.), The changing role of the interpreter.
Contextualising norms, ethics and quality standards (pp. 240250). Oxford &
New York: Routledge.
González-Davies, M. & Enríquez-Raido, V. (2016). Situated learning in translator and
interpreter training: Bridging research and good practice. The Interpreter and
Translator Trainer, 10(1), 111.
Hale, S. B. (2007). Community Interpreting. Houndmills & New York: Palgrave
Hale, S. B. & Ozolins, U. (2014). Monolingual short courses for language-specific
accreditation: Can they work? A Sydney experience. The Interpreter and
Translator Trainer, 8(2), 217239.
Harvey, M. A. (2015). Reaping the benefits of vicarious trauma. International Journal
of Interpreter Education, 7(2), 520.
Hlavac, J. (2015). Formalizing community interpreting standards: A cross-national
comparison of testing systems, certification conventions and recent ISO
guidelines. International Journal of Interpreter Education, 7(2), 2138.
Hlavac, J., Orlando, M. & Tobias, S. (2012). Intake tests for a short interpreter-
training course: Design, implementation, feedback. International Journal of
Interpreter Education, 4(1), 2145.
Inghilleri, M. (2005). Mediating zones of uncertainty. Interpreter agency, the
interpreting habitus and political asylum adjudication. The Translator, 11(1), 69
inZone. (2018). Training. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Jacquemet, M. (2011). Crosstalk 2.0: asylum and communicative breakdowns. Text &
Talk, 31(4), 475497.
Kadric, M. (2011). Dialog als Prinzip. Für eine emanzipatorische Praxis und Didaktik
des Dolmetschens. Tübingen: Narr.
Kadric, M. (2014). Giving interpreters a voice: interpreting studies meets theatre
studies. The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 8(3), 452468.
Kadric, M. (2018). Role-playing exercises. Translated by S. Rennert. In UNHCR
(Ed.), Handbook for interpreters in asylum procedures (pp. 610). Berlin: Frank
& Timme.
Kalina, S. (2011). Interpreting and interpreter training: Time for a reshuffle. In E.
Prunč, C. Kainz & R. Schögler (Eds.), Modelling the field of community
interpreting. Questions of methodology in research and training (pp. 4565).
Wien & Münster: LIT.
Kelly, D. (2005). A handbook for translator trainers. A guide to reflective practice.
Manchester: St. Jerome.
Keselman, O., Cederborg, A.-C. & Linell, P. (2010). ‘That is not necessary for you to
know!’ Negotiation of participation status of unaccompanied children in
interpreter-mediated asylum hearings. Interpreting, 12(1), 83104.
Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education. From pedagogy to
andragogy. Prentice Hall, Cambridge: Englewood Cliffs.
Lai, M. & Mulayim, S. (2010). Training refugees to become interpreters for refugees.
Translation & Interpreting, 2(1), 4860.
Lee, J. (2013). A pressing need for the reform of interpreting service in asylum
settings: A case study of asylum appeal hearings in South Korea. Journal of
Refugee Studies, 27(1), 6281.
Lee, J. (2015). Court interpreting. In H. M. Mikkelson & R. Jourdenais (Eds.), The
Routledge handbook of interpreting (pp. 186201). London & New York:
Lesch, H. M. (2011). The value and challenges of service learning for interpreter
training: The experience of the interpreting programme at the Stellenbosch
University. In E. Prunč, C. Kainz & R. Schögler (Eds.), Modelling the field of
community interpreting. Questions of methodology in research and training (pp.
213241). Wien & Münster: LIT.
Maryns, K. (2006). The asylum speaker. Language in the Belgian asylum procedure.
Manchester: St. Jerome.
Maryns, K. (2012). Multilingualism in legal settings. In M. Martin-Jones, A.
Blackledge & A. Creese (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of multilingualism (pp.
297313.). London: Routledge.
Merlini, R. (2009). Seeking asylum and seeking identity in a mediated encounter: The
projection of selves through discursive practices. Interpreting, 11(1), 5793.
Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. Linking theory and practice.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mikkelson, H. (2014). Evolution of public service interpreter training in the U.S.
FITISPos International Journal, 1(1), 922. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Moser-Mercer, B. (2015). Interpreting in conflict zones. In H. M. Mikkelson & R.
Jourdenais (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of interpreting (pp. 302316).
London & New York: Routledge.
Moser-Mercer, B., Delgado Luchner, C. & Kherbiche, L. (2017). Blended learning in
complex environments: Reaching learners in the field. Retrieved February 15,
2018, from
Mulayim, S. & Lai, M. (2015). The community-of-inquiry framework in online
interpreter training. In S. Ehrlich & J. Napier (Eds.), Interpreter education in the
digital age. Innovation, access, and change (pp. 95124). Washington, DC:
Gallaudet University Press.
Ndongo-Keller, J. (2015). Vicarious trauma and stress management. In H. M.
Mikkelson & R. Jourdenais (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of interpreting (pp.
337351). London & New York: Routledge.
Netzwerk Sprachenrechte. (2005). Prozedurale Mindeststandards für den Einsatz von
DolmetscherInnen im Asylverfahren. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
OECD. (2018). International migration outlook. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Österreichische Bundesministerium für Inneres (BMI). (2006). Handbuch
Dolmetschen im Asylverfahren. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Perez, I. & Wilson, C. (2011). The interlinked approach to training for interpreter-
mediated police settings. In E. Prunč, C. Kainz & R. Schögler (Eds.), Modelling
the field of community interpreting. Questions of methodology in research and
training (pp. 242262). Wien & Münster: LIT.
Pöchhacker, F. & Kolb, W. (2009). Interpreting for the record. A case study of asylum
review hearings. In S. Hale, L. Stern & U. Ozolins (Eds.), The Critical Link 5.
Quality in interpreting - a shared responsibility (pp. 119134). Amsterdam &
Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Pöllabauer, S. (2005). ‘I don’t understand your English, Miss’. Dolmetschen bei
Asylanhörungen. Tübingen: Narr.
Pöllabauer, S. (2006). “During the interview, the interpreter will provide a faithful
translation.” The potentials and pitfalls of researching interpreting in
immigration, asylum, and police settings: methodology and research paradigms.
Linguistica Antverpiensia New Series, 5, 229244.
Pöllabauer, S. (2008). Forschung zum Dolmetschen im Asylverfahren:
Interdisziplinarität und Netzwerke. Lebende Sprachen, 53(3), 121129.
Pöllabauer, S. (2013). Community interpreting. In C. A. Chapell (Ed.), Encyclopedia
of applied linguistics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Pöllabauer, S. (2015). Interpreting in asylum proceedings. In H. M. Mikkelson & R.
Jourdenais (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of interpreting (pp. 202216),
London & New York: Routledge.
Prunč, E. (2017). Auf der Suche nach Aschenbrödels Schuh. Ethische Perspektiven
des Kommunaldolmetschens. In S. Zupan & A. Nuč (Eds.), Interpreting studies
at the crossroads of disciplines (pp. 2142). Berlin: Frank & Timme.
Rienzner, M. (2011). Interkulturelle Kommunikation im Asylverfahren. Frankfurt a.
Main et al.: Lang.
Rudvin, M. & Tomassini, E. (2011). Interpreting in the community and workplace. A
practical teaching guide. Houndsmill, Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave
Salaets, H. & Vermeerbergen, M. (2011). Assessing students upon completion of
community interpreting training: How to reshape theoretical concepts for
practice. In E. Prunč, C. Kainz & R. Schögler (Eds.), Modelling the field of
community interpreting. Questions of methodology in research and training (pp.
152–176), Wien & Münster: LIT.
Scheffer, T. (2001). Asylgewährung. Eine ethnographische Verfahrensanalyse.
Stuttgart: Lucius & Lucius.
The American University in Cairo. (2015). Cairo community interpreter project.
Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
Tipton, R. (2008). Reflexivity and the social construction of identity in interpreter-
mediated asylum interviews. The Translator, 14(1), 119.
Tipton, R. & Furmanek, O. (2016). Dialogue interpreting: A guide to interpreting in
public services and the community. London & New York: Routledge.
Tryuk, M. (2017). Conflict. Tension. Aggression. Ethical issues in interpreted asylum
hearings at the Office for Foreigners in Warsaw. In C. Valero-Garcés & R.
Tipton (Eds.), Ideology, ethics and policy development in public service
interpreting and translation (pp. 179194). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
UNCHR. (2005). Procedural standards for refugee status determination under
UNHCR’s mandate. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
UNHCR. (2009). Self-Study Module 3: Interpreting in a refugee context. Retrieved
February 15, 2018, from
UNHCR. (2010). Improving asylum procedures. Comparative analysis and
recommendations for law and practice. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
UNHCR. (2013). Beyond proof: Credibility assessment in EU asylum systems.
Retrieved February 15, 2018, from
UNHCR. (2016). Global trends in 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from http://
UNHCR. (Ed.). (2015) Trainingshandbuch für DolmetscherInnen im Asylverfahren.
Linz: Trauner. Retrieved February 15, 2019, from
UNHCR. (Ed.). (2017). Handbook for interpreters in asylum procedures. Vienna:
UNHCR. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from
UNHCR. (Ed.). (2018). Handbook for interpreters in asylum procedures. Berlin:
Frank & Timme.
UNHCR Austria. (2018). Interpreting for vulnerable applicants. Translated by E.
Cagala. In UNHCR (Ed.), Handbook for interpreters in asylum procedures (pp.
137151). Berlin: Frank & Timme.
Valero Garcés, C. (2011). Design, implementation and evaluation of a programme on
intercultural communication and public service interpreting and translation. E.
Prunč, C. Kainz & R. Schögler (Eds.), Modelling the field of community
interpreting. Questions of methodology in research and training (pp. 125151).
Wien & Münster: LIT.
Voice of Love. (2015). The voice of love. Interpreting compassion. Retrieved July 15,
2015, from
VÖV Verband Österreichischer Hochschulen. (2018). QUADA
Qualifizierungsmaßnahme für DolmetscherInnen im Asylverfahren. Retrieved
December 11, 2018, from
Wadensjö, C. (2014). Perspectives on role play: Analysis, training and assessments.
The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 8(3), 437451.
Wedam, U. (2018). The interpreter’s emotional experience. Translated by E. Cagala.
In UNHCR (Ed.), Handbook for interpreters in asylum procedures (pp. 187
194). Berlin: Frank & Timme.
Module 1:
Asylum and refugee
Root causes of flight and migration (facts and numbers)
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees
(Geneva Refugee Convention)
Austrian asylum system (relevant laws, structure, stakeholders)
Austrian forms of protection
Module 2:
Interviewing techniques
of the Federal Office for
Immigration and Asylum
Rationale behind and format of asylum interviews
Phases of the substantive interview in asylum proceedings
(including preparation and debriefing)
Interviewing techniques (e.g. Dialogical Communication
Method, DCM)
Interaction between interviewer and interpreter
Rights and obligations of asylum-seekers
Module 3:
General aspects of
Fields of interpreting (interpreting settings)
Types (groups) of interpreters and training for interpreters
Skills and competencies
Function of interpreters’ associations
Aspects of professionalisation
Legal aspects (legal position of interpreters in the asylum
procedure, reasons for exclusion or indications of partiality,
public liability, general tort law principles)
Remuneration of interpreters
Module 4:
The interpreter’s role in
the asylum procedure
Role concept in theory
Role of interpreters in general and in asylum settings (in theory
and in practice)
Role conflicts and strategies for dealing with role conflicts
Module 5:
High-quality interpreting
and ethical
General aspects of professional ethics
Codes of ethics for interpreters
Coping with ethical dilemmas
Module 6:
Interpreting techniques
Interpreting techniques (consecutive, simultaneous, sight,
Phases of interpreting (understanding, transfer, production,
memory processes, note-taking)
Turn-taking and discourse management
Demand control strategies
Module 7:
Note-taking techniques
Theoretical and practical approaches to note-taking
Tips and good practices (e.g. reductions, symbols)
Example notations
Module 8:
Sight translation of the
Function of interview records
Genesis and structure of interview records
Sight translation (back-translation) as a dialogical method
Critical issues
Module 9:
Interpreting for
vulnerable applicants
Vulnerability in general and within the asylum procedure (incl.
indicators, procedural guarantees)
Vulnerable asylum-seekers (e.g. unaccompanied and
separated children, traumatised asylum-seekers and victims of
Istanbul Protocol
Module 10:
Interpreters as experts
for multicultural and
Transcultural communication
Multilingualism and identity construction
Culture-specific misunderstandings
Module 11:
Knowledge acquisition
and research techniques
Types of knowledge and research terminology
Research tools and techniques for interpreters
Module 12:
Emotional and
psychological aspects of
interpreting in the asylum
Psychodynamic aspects of interpreting (e.g. vicarious trauma,
psychoanalytic transference and counter-transference)
Impact of individual migration experience
Mental hygiene and dealing with negative emotions
... Fewer are the studies focusing on the design of specific training programmes for interpreters who work in conflictrelated situations. It is, however, worth mentioning the study carried out by Tipton (2011) on the nature of the emergent learning relationships between locally-recruited civilian interpreters and military personnel in situations of violent conflict and that by Bergunde and Pöllabauer (2019), which presents the design and development of a training curriculum and handbook for interpreting trainees and trainers in the context of asylum proceedings. These studies highlight the need to receive specific training to work as interpreters in such contexts that goes beyond training in interpreting techniques. ...
... This course forms part of a growing repertoire of training courses for interpreters working in challenging interpreting contexts and aligns itself with those developed by Bergunde and Pöllabauer (2019), Delgado Luchner (2019), and Gez and Schuster (2018). These courses are designed to attend to the needs of interpreters and employers in highly contextualised environments. ...
Full-text available
The present study aims to investigate the effectiveness of a training programme targeted at United Nations (UN) staff interpreters who go on field missions. The UN deploys staff interpreters to ensure effective multilingual communication in field missions. Whilst being professional interpreters, however, these interpreters do not have any formal training in interpreting in the field, where they sometimes face situations for which they may not be properly equipped. Against this background, a joint training programme was organised by the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, University of Geneva, and the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) in January 2019. After the course, a mixed-methods study was carried out to evaluate its effectiveness. In this paper, the following aspects will be discussed: the particularities of UN field missions; the functioning and the contents of the programme; and the results of the study. Our findings show that, at the end of the programme, the participants felt better equipped to face the challenges of interpreting in the field. We conclude that training programme design must take into account the specific needs of the participants and the contexts in which they work.
... This in turn raises the question of whether the current provision of professional interpreting services is able to meet the challenges of increasingly diverse and linguistically heterogeneous societies. Public institutions and local organisations across Europe are coping with an acute imbalance between supply and demand of certified interpreters, particularly in the lesser resourced languages (Bancroft 2015;Bergunde and Pöllabauer 2019). Since nonprofessional language assistance is cheap, and may be more easily accessible and instantly available, it is commonly used to meet part of this increasing demand, thereby compensating for the shortage in professional language services. ...
... These challenges, which have been echoed in other European countries (e.g. Bergunde & Pöllabauer, 2019, Čemerin, 2019, relate mainly to mismatches in supply and demand and to shortages in trained interpreters for the rarer languages. Calculations based on the yearly reports show that, between 2015-2019, the main PSIT provider in Flanders was unable to meet the demand for public service interpreters and translators in, on average, 23.4% of the cases. ...
Full-text available
The exceptional migratory flows in 2015-2016 have entailed several challenges for the Flemish public service interpreting sector, including a mismatch in supply and demand, a shortage of interpreters for lesser-used language varieties, and government budget constraints. In order to meet these challenges head-on, the Flemish Government Integration Agency, responsible for certifying public-service interpreters, has set up a research project designed to determine whether, and under what circumstances, briefly trained volunteer “language assistants” (LAs) could offer a valid additional form of language mediation. First, participants were trained and evaluated when interacting, mainly through role plays, with fellow trainees. Second, their interpreting performances during real-life service provision interactions were video-recorded and assessed. The LAs’ interpreting performances were assessed predominantly as unsatisfactory, with the main risks being linked to low interpreter competence, language proficiency, and deontological awareness. Those findings have been addressed in a follow-up project, by increasing the required CEFR level of Dutch and by changing the content of the training.
Full-text available
This chapter focuses on the cognitive processes of interpreting, with the intention of providing the student with a knowledge base to become aware of the cognitive dynamics of this activity. In the first part of the chapter, basic notions of brain structures and functions of language are provided, psycholinguistic models of the simultaneous interpreting (SI) process are illustrated - with particular reference to the difference between experienced and novice interpreters -, and the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies are described to highlight the effects of constant Si practice on brain areas involved in language processing. The second part of the chapter delves into the executive functions that are essential for performing a cognitively complex multitasking task such as SI, namely working memory (WM), inhibition and cognitive flexibility. After providing basic knowledge on memory and illustrating the role of WM, the concepts of selective attention, attention inhibition and cognitive flexibility are explored. Subsequently, exercises are suggested to enhance these functions in order to develop specific skills. Finally, for those who would like to learn more about the methodology of cognitive research in the field of conference interpreting, a brief review of the most commonly used cognitive tests in empirical research on interpreting is included.
Full-text available
Dans les institutions chargées d’examiner les demandes d’asile en France, à savoir l’OFPRA (Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides) et la CNDA (Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile), l’interprétation occupe une place cruciale. Sur le plan interactionnel de la communication entre les demandeurs d’asile et les institutionnels, les interprètes jouent un rôle central de coordination ; sur le plan administratif, leurs interventions sont devenues un enjeu financier et opérationnel majeur. Si l’OFPRA et la CNDA sont censées jouir d’une certaine autonomie, elles sont les rouages de la procédure d’asile en France. Il peut donc sembler contradictoire de mobiliser, pour appréhender les pratiques d’interprétation qui y ont cours, un concept qui a été forgé pour extraire l’analyse sociolinguistique d’une focale trop statocentrée : la glottopolitique. Mais l’approche glottopolitique permet d’appréhender l’OFPRA et la CNDA comme des contextes d’interprétation spécifiques. En concentrant l’analyse sur les dynamiques institutionnelles et non sur les normes surplombantes, elle révèle en effet des divergences entre les deux instances dans le cadrage et l’organisation du travail des interprètes. Dès lors, la perspective glottopolitique interroge en profondeur l’engagement complexe de ces derniers dans l’administration de l’asile, en mettant en regard la neutralité qui est exigée d’eux dans l’interaction et l’ambiguïté de leurs situations institutionnelles.
Within Translation and Interpreting Studies (TS) there has also been a significant development during the second half of the twentieth century in a field greatly connected with intercultural communication known as Public Service Interpreting and Translation (PSIT) or Community Interpreting (and Translation). This chapter explores this new emergent field of PSIT within TS. PSIT was one of the first forms of intercultural communication to take place historically. The growing number of publications and empirical research on the analysis of interpreter discourses or translated texts for a specific community show that defining the scope of PSIT is a complex and difficult task. Doctoral research in PSIT has also expanded since the publication of the doctoral theses by Ortega Herráez and Abril Martí. Regarding research methods, variety is again a characteristic of the interdisciplinary nature of research in PSIT. The tendency towards more specific approaches to PSIT in sub-areas such as health or legal settings will likely take place.
This article provides an analysis of the current state of public service interpreting (or community interpreting) in theU.S., beginning with a definition of the term and proceeding with a description of how the profession has evolved over the past few decades. Since the training of public service interpreters (PSIs) is inextricably linked to how the profession is viewed (or whether it is viewed as a profession at all), the discussion of the history of PSI will necessarily include the development of educational programs along with the expansion of employment opportunities as standards and expectations have changed over the years. After tracing the evolution of such programs to the present time, the essential elements of training that scholars in the field have identified are enumerated, using them as a benchmark to see how theU.S. measures up. The article concludes with a discussion of issues that complicate the delivery of interpreter training in this country and some recommendations for the future.Resumen: Este artículo proporcionará un análisis del estado actual de la interpretación en los servicios públicos (o interpretación social) en los Estados Unidos, empezando con una definición del término y continuando con una descripción de cómo la profesión ha evolucionado en las últimas décadas. Puesto que la formación de los intérpretes en los servicios públicos (ISP) está inextricablemente relacionada con cómo se ve la profesión (o si se ve como profesión), la discusión de la historia de la ISP necesariamente incluirá el desarrollo de programas educativos junto con la expansión de las oportunidades de empleo, ya que los estándares y las expectativas han cambiado con el paso de los años. Tras mostrar la evolución de tales programas hasta el momento actual, se hará una lista de los elementos esenciales de la formación que los investigadores del campo han identificado, utilizándolos como punto de referencia para ver cómo funcionan los Estados Unidos. El artículo concluirá con una discusión de las cuestiones que complican la oferta de formación de intérpretes en este país y algunas recomendaciones para el future.
Community interpreting (CI) refers to interpreting in public service institutions and differs from other types of interpreting in a number of aspects (e.g., mode of delivery, interaction situation, level of formality/orality present, level of interpreter involvement, status and roles of the participants, level of professionalization, and power asymmetries) (Hale, 2007, p. 31). Compared to conference interpreting, which has achieved the highest level of professionalization within the interpreting world since the 1950s (Pöchhacker, 2004, p. 29), CI is sometimes described as “the poor relation” (Mason, 2001, p. i), a phrase which reflects the status CI has had in the interpreting community until recently. In spite of its low prestige, CI can be said to be one of the most common and oldest types of interpreting (Roberts, 2002, p. 157). Through the centuries, interpreters have had to bridge communication barriers between speakers of different languages and cultures. In interpreting studies (IS), CI has long been neglected. Throughout the 1990s it has gradually become an accepted field of research (Pöchhacker, 2004, pp. 28–9). With respect to practice and training though, its professionalization and acceptance among practitioners, clients, and the public still varies, with a high level of service provision in only a few pioneer countries and the majority of countries lagging behind. This entry will provide an overview of different aspects of CI, the state of training and CI research. It attempts to address both spoken and signed language (SL) interpreting, specifically highlighting aspects in which SL, which enjoys a higher degree of professionalization, differs from spoken-language interpreting.