Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

The Influence of Governmental Policy on Public Service Interpreting in the Netherlands

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

The Influence of Governmental Policy on Public Service Interpreting in the Netherlands

Article excerpt

0. Introduction

Like many other countries in Western Europe, the Netherlands has been a recipient country of an increasing number of immigrants since the 1970s, rendering interpreting in the public services necessary. The Dutch legal framework for interpreting makes no distinction between the different areas of interpreting within public service institutions. Although there are specialized courses for legal interpreters offered by professional organizations, the Dutch institutions that provide interpreter training make no distinction between the different fields and offer general interpreter training courses at bachelor level. In keeping with this situation, the term "public service interpreting" will be used in this paper to refer to all kinds of interpreting in the public sector, including legal interpreting, as defined by Baraldi and Gavioli (2012):

Community or public service interpreting refers to rather well-established interpreting services in hospitals, courts, immigration offices and other public institutions and is the label that has been given to these services in the Anglophone and Northern European countries (Carr et al., 1997; Corsellis, 2009; Hale, 2007; Roberts et al., 2000). (p. X)

The role of the Dutch government in exercising quality control of translator and interpreter services is ambiguous at best. In 2007, under the Sworn Interpreters and Translators Act (2007), a certification system was implemented in which "certification" was defined as "a voluntary process by which an organization grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualification standards" (Stejskal, 2003). The certification system was and still is based on a professional register that manages sworn interpreters and translators; it was an important step towards the professionalization of the interpreting and translating profession. However, the main focus of the Dutch certification system is on public service interpreting in the field of justice, i.e. in cases concerning criminal law, immigration and police interrogation, where the institutions concerned are bound by law to use certified interpreters. Other areas in which public service interpreting is used, such as healthcare, are under no such legal obligation. As a result, the quality of interpreters and translators outside criminal law, immigration and police interrogations is hardly monitored.

Apart from its policy concerning certification, the government's financing policy has also influenced the way public service interpreting has developed in the Netherlands: for instance, it subsidizes TVCN, the Tolk- en Vertaalcentrum Nederland [Dutch Interpreting and Translation Centre], a merger of regional interpreting services, while, in contrast, its suspension of funding of interpreting services in the field of healthcare since 2012 has had serious repercussions for the interpreting profession.

The present paper provides an overview of these shifts in government policy regarding public service interpreting in the Netherlands and investigates how this policy, especially the policy concerning the certification and funding of PSI, has influenced the interpreting profession. I will first briefly discuss the "traits" that characterize the profession of PSI in the Netherlands by means of the sociological trait model of professionalization. After that, I will focus on the most prominent traits by giving an overview of the developments towards certification in the Netherlands, explaining the system and its legal aspects, and by giving a short outline of training and ongoing education. Next, I will look into government policy concerning market regulation, the introduction of fixed hourly fees and the funding of interpreting in the public service domain. Finally, in the conclusion, the most significant features of the government's role in the development of public service interpreting in the Netherlands will be summarized. For the purposes of this paper, only the situation of spoken language interpreters will be considered. …

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