Insults, offensive language, and taboo words in court interpreting in Spain: A corpus study of interpreted renditions by higher education students


  • Coral Ivy Hunt-Gómez Universidad de Sevilla



Interpreter training, profanity, court interpreting, taboo language, Spain


The court interpreter’s performance is integral to ensuring a fair trial. When dealing with insults, offensive language, and taboo words it is especially important to interpret renditions accurately and completely, as uttered insults or other expressions of verbal violence may be considered an aggravating factorof an offence, or they may in themselvesconstitute the offence of defamation [injuria] or defamatory allegation of a criminal offence [calumnia] under the Spanish Criminal Code. An experimental study was carried out in order to test the hypothesis that students with a good language and interpreting skills are unable to interpret this type of rendition in a court setting. A corpus was created compiling the renditions of 46 higher education students while they did the interpreting exercises from a collection of specific teaching materials based on the use of audiovisual recordings of real criminal trials (Hunt-Gómez, 2013). There were 123 renditions per student, with a total number of 5,658 renditions, of which only those containing insults, offensive language, or taboo words were analysed, transcribed, and categorised according to the student’s ability to convey meaning and to express the intensity of the original message. Results showed that dealing with impolite or taboo language was an added difficulty for students, despite their command of both their working languages and interpreting techniques. Consequently, interpreting training should include specific exercises in order to trigger students to produce a pragmatic equivalent when dealing with these types of renditions so that future interpreters are equipped with the appropriate strategies when faced with real-life situations.