At the Inaugural WASLI Conference 2005 in South Africa, the important issue of interpreters working into English was raised. It was particularly relevant for interpreters who are non-native English speakers.

Terminology is specific to the language and context in which it is used. When non-native English speaking interpreters are working in settings where terminology specific to English is being used, difficulties can arise. The situation can become more complex because the same terminology may be used in a number of different contexts and often the meaning can be different.

This page will be used to provide a glossary of terms submitted by interpreters who have had difficulty with the terminology to assist others who may find themselves in similar situations.

With the WFD Congress 2007 next year in Madrid, it has been suggested that a glossary of English terms be developed on the site that could assist the interpreters who will be working there.

An Example

The following example was submitted by Machiko Takagi of Japan and relates to her working at the 7th Session of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Drafting of the Convention for Persons with Disabilities (2006) in which the term ‘Reasonable Accommodation’ was used.

“Reasonable Accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms”

What terminology do you use?

When 2 interpreters take turns to interpret, what do you call the person who is not interpreting at the moment?

When a deaf interpreter is interpreting, what do you call the hearing person who sends him the voiced information? (In Japan for example, they are called ‘mirror’)

What do you call that method when the deaf-blind person puts his hand on the interpreter’s hand and the interpreter fingerspells the information?

What do you call the process of interpreting between more than two languages, is it called ‘relay interpreting’ or is there another term?
Send you answers to these questions to the Secretary


If you have terminology that would be useful for the glossary, could you send the term together with (a) the setting in which it is used and (b) an explanation/definition to the Secretary