Call for Papers: The Ethics of Non-Professional Translation and Interpreting in Public Services and Legal Settings

Translation and Interpreting Studies (TIS)

Volume 15, Issue 1

Special issue: The Ethics of Non-Professional Translation and Interpreting in Public Services and Legal Settings

Guest Editors: Esther Monzó-Nebot (Universitat Jaume I, Spain) and Melissa Wallace (University of Texas at San Antonio, United States)


Though far from new (Harris 1973), the scholarly examination of non-professional translators and interpreters is an emerging and increasingly legitimate object of study (Martínez-Gómez 2015a) in TIS (Translation and Interpreting Studies). Non-professionals have been seen to negatively impact service quality (see Hale 2016) even while they have also been shown to represent, in some circumstances, the only source of language mediation available (Lázaro-Gutiérrez and Valero-Garcés 2014). In studies aimed at providing suitable frameworks for the development and institutionalization of professional translation and interpreting, where higher status is the goal, the role that non-professionals play is considered problematic, risky, or threatening to the process of professionalization (Ortega Herráez et al. 2004, Marizzi 1988, Mayoral Asensio 2012, Cummins 2011). In some societies, training institutions view non-professionals as a threat (Martín 2015) and as the cause (EFE 2014), rather than the consequence, of market disorder. Others recognize non-professionals as serving specific social needs (Pérez-González 2010).

Approaches focusing on social closure (Parkin 1974) and opposing non-professionals, however prevalent among professional translators’ blogs, social networks, journals or codes of ethics (Mayoral Asensio 2012, Cummins 2011), are far from universal. Professional practitioners often engage with non-professionals and trainees in cooperative translation projects or in providing interpreting services for major international events (Boéri 2010), as well as in myriad public service settings. Indeed, language mediation practices in some societies actively account for the crucial intervention of non-professionals in public service and judicial settings, especially when trained and tested translators and interpreters are lacking for speakers of languages of lesser diffusion (LLD). In fact, some social systems provide specific pathways by which translators and interpreters with no specific formal training and credentials can access the professional market. Such is the case of the Argentinian “Colegio de Traductores de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires,” which includes a register for non-professionals that can be accessed when professional translators are not available for the language pair, date or territory in need (CTPCBA 2011). The same can be said of the duty imposed on Catalan language service providers (LSP) tendering their services in the fields of justice, most notably when serving law-enforcement agents. In these settings, LSPs have the obligation to offer ongoing development to their translators and interpreters, whether trained or untrained (Departament d’Interior 2016).

Although several scholars have begun the important process of inquiry into non-professional translation and interpreting (see Aguilar-Solano 2015; Martínez-Gómez 2015a, 2015b, 2015c; O’Hagan 2011, 2012; and Susam-Sarajeva & Pérez González 2012), the complexities of defining and studying volunteers and non-professionals in public service and legal settings  through the lens of ethics has yet to be systematically examined. Volunteers’ and non-professionals’ role definitions, codes of conduct, standards of practice and personal ethos represent fairly uncharted territory meriting empirical studies that can bring interdisciplinary approaches, models and methods (Olohan 2014) to bear on this emerging area of inquiry. This volume, to that end, aims specifically to explore the overlap between translatorial ethics and ethos in the context of non-professional translation and interpreting, to more fully define the interplay between professional (codes of) ethics and role definitions in relation to non-professional practitioners, and to interrogate how ethics are instantiated in practice and in training.

For this issue of Translation and Interpreting Studies (TIS), the guest editors invite contributions including but not limited to the following lines of research:

  • Models of professional ethics in the development of the translation professions: Consequentialist versus deontological models; conflicts between materialistic and post-materialistic values in regulating the translation professions
  • The (public) service ideal in the translation professions: How is the best interest of the client taken into account in processes of professionalization and codes of ethics? What is the role of natural translators and interpreters in fulfilling the mission of the translation professions?
  • Training and ethics for non-professional translators and interpreters as mediators in public services: experiences and approaches developing and delivering crash-courses and continuing education; use of real-world case studies
  • The roles of non-professional translators and interpreters in human crises: the role of  untrained natural translators and interpreters in promoting multicultural understanding; ethical approaches to the provision of remote professional translation and interpreting services
  • Partiality and multi-partiality in translation and interpreting: the impact of natural translation and interpreting on roles and scopes for practitioners, scholars and trainers; power imbalances as a source of sociocultural and psychosocial exceptions to impartiality
  • Descriptive approaches to norms governing ethical conduct for professional versus non-professional translators and interpreters
  • The integration of non-professional translators and interpreters into professional communities
  • Transnational or cross-cultural case studies documenting professionalization initiatives for non-professionals
  • Ethical approaches to remuneration practices for non-professionals in public and legal settings
  • The ethics of trainee placement: unpaid service learning of translators and interpreters as an ethical grey zone
  • The ethics of (activist) volunteerism as a translator or interpreter
  • Implications for clinical outcomes: the role and status of dual role providers (as opposed to professional interpreters) in healthcare settings
  • Unfunded mandates: non-compliance with language access legislation and the fiscal consequences of contracting non-professional translators and interpreters


Timeline for Authors

Abstracts (400-500) words due to guest editors 1 October 2017
Decision on abstracts 1 November 2017
Submission of full manuscripts 1 July 2018
Decision to authors 1 January 2019
Final versions of papers due to guest editors 15 September 2019
Publication of special issue March 2020

Contact Information and Submission Instructions

Authors interested in contributing to this special thematic issue should submit an abstract (400–500 words) to both of the guest editors: Esther Monzó Nebot ( and Melissa Wallace ( Please include a brief bionote about the authors and their university affiliation in a separate file. All abstracts and manuscripts should adhere to the Translation and Interpreting Studies style guide (

Authors of abstracts that are accepted for consideration will be invited to submit a full manuscript that is 6000–7500 words in length (exclusive of bibliography). Every manuscript will be submitted to a double-blind peer review that includes at least two referees.

Electronic version of the CFP:


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** Photo by Flickr user Dan Mason (see original), used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.