Telephone interpreting in lawyer-client interviews: An observational study


  • Han Xu
  • Sandra Hale University of New South Wales, Sydney
  • Ludmila Stern University of New South Wales, Sydney


telephone interpreting, interpreted lawyer-client interviews, interpreter code of ethics, interactional management, choice of pronouns


This paper presents the findings of an observational study of 17 telephone interpreted lawyer-client interviews in New South Wales, Australia. It focuses on the lawyers’ and interpreters’ interactional management approaches when they work together remotely. The study highlights a number of issues pertaining to this particular mode of interpreting, including a distinct lack of briefing, ignorance of existing protocols, poor working conditions and at times technical problems. The study found mixed results relating to interpreters’ compliance with the code of ethics. The vast majority of interpreters adhered to the normative practice by using the standard first-person pronoun, however instances of interpreters adopting extra roles were prevalent, which is most likely due to lack of training and adequate credentials. Interestingly, most interpreters were passive participants, who rarely initiated coordination functions. On the other hand, the lawyers seemed conversant with the role of the interpreter and demonstrated active coordination strategies to help interpreters overcome some of the inherent challenges of telephone interpreting. The paper concludes with a number of recommendations.