[wd_asp id=1]

Impartiality & Trust in Interpreting


Jan 30 2018


10:15 am - 11:15 am


Forum for Scholars and Publics

011 Old Chemistry Building, Duke's West Campus Quad

Impartiality, Trust, and Role Boundaries in Interpreting in Humanitarian Settings

With Maha El-Metwally and Elena Langdon

The “conduit model” of interpreting would have us believe that experienced practitioners neutralize their individuality to become machines that spit out virtually identical products no matter the context in which they are deployed. This model also posits that interpreters do not need to understand what is going on in the interaction, nor trouble themselves with what the desired outcomes of the interaction may be.

In point of fact, interpreters in humanitarian and healthcare settings must become active participants who adapt to the context at hand, and who implement deliberate strategies to manage the complications and even conflicts that emerge during these unscripted interactions. The ability to quickly establish trust in stressful situations when you often do not know the parties well is crucial for successful interpreting. At the same time, interpreters must strive to maintain impartiality and refrain from offering helpful advice or projecting their own biases and beliefs onto the situation. Interpreters must not let any personal judgment of the content of the message nor prejudices against the parties involved guide what they interpret nor how they interpret it. And finally, defining and preserving clear role boundaries (interpreter, not public official; interpreter, not healthcare provider) is key for creating transparency and avoiding conflicts of interest.

So how do interpreters do it? How do they develop rapport and simultaneously remain impartial, and deliberate about not overstepping their bounds? Maha El-Metwally and Elena Langdon will speak to us about the challenges of interpreting in humanitarian and healthcare setting and share some of the strategies they have employed.

This event is organized by Joan Munné and Melissa Simmermeyer, Senior Lecturers in the Department of Romance Studies, and has been made possible with the support of the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Mary D.B.T. and J.H. Semans International Exchange Fund, the Trinity Language Committee, Duke Service-Learning, the Spanish Language Program, Romance Studies, the Health Humanities Lab, and the Duke University Center for International Global Studies. Visit for more information.


Maha El-Metwally

Maha El-Metwally is a conference interpreter for the languages: Arabic (A), English (B), French and Dutch (C). She works for a wide range of international organizations, including the European Institutions and the United Nations. She is a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), The Chartered Institute of…...

Read More
Elena Langdon

Elena Langdon is a Portuguese < > English language professional specializing in healthcare, law, and business. She is certified by the American Translators Association as a translator (PT>EN) and by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters as an interpreter, and has been in the field for 17 years. She started…...

Read More

Related Media

Comments are closed.