A Feminine Occupation? The Conflicts Inherent to Community Interpreting as Expressed by Female Student Interpreters

  • Miriam Shlesinger†
  • Tanya Voinova
  • Michal Schuster


Translation is a feminine profession. In Israel most practitioners are women and tend to manifest links between gender, status, self-perception, and the different types of capital at their disposal. While most translational occupations may be defined as semi-professional, community interpreting remains non-professionalized. In 2007, we launched a course to teach the basic skills required of a community interpreter and to impel students to leverage their language skills for the benefit of their respective communities. This study, which focuses on the written and oral discourse of the female students in this course, seeks to determine whether they perceive their community interpreting experience as “feminine” and whether they see their participation in the course as challenging the interpreter’s traditional role definition and fostering a more visible presence.


  1. Anderson, R. B. W. (2002). Perspectives on the Role of Interpreter. In F. Pöchhacker & M. Shlesinger (Eds.), The Interpreting Studies Reader (pp. 209–217). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Angelelli, C. (2004). Revisiting the Interpreter’s Role: A Study of Conference, Court, and Medical Interpreters in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker, D. W., Parker, R. M., Williams, M. V., Coates, W. C., & Pitkin, K. (1996). Use and Effectiveness of Interpreters in an Emergency Department. JAMA, 275(10), 783–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bancroft, M. (2005). The Interpreter’s World Tour: An Environmental Scan of Standards of Practice for Interpreters. Woodland Hills: The California Endowment. Retrieved from Scholar
  5. Barsky, R. F. (1993). The Interpreter and the Canadian Convention Refugee Hearing: Crossing the Potentially Life-Threatening Boundaries Between ‘Coccode-e-eh,’ ‘Cluck-Cluck,’ and ‘Cot-Cot-Cot’. TTR, 6(2), 131–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barsky, R. F. (1996). The Interpreter as Intercultural Agent in Convention Refugee Hearings. The Translator, 2(1), 45–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bassnett, S. (1996). The Meek or the Mighty: Reappraising the Role of the Translator. In R. Álvarez & M. Carmen-África Vidal (Eds.), Translation, Power, Subversion (pp. 10–24). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1985). The Market of Symbolic Goods. Poetics, 14, 13–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Camayd-Freixas, E. (2008). Interpreting After the Largest ICE Raid in History: A Personal Account. Unpublished manuscript. Retrieved from
  10. Chesterman, A., & Wagner, E. (2002). Can Theory Help Translators? A Dialogue Between the Ivory Tower and the Wordface. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.Google Scholar
  11. Edwards, R., Temple, B., & Alexander, C. (2005). Users’ Experience of Interpreters: The Critical Role of Trust. Interpreting, 7(1), 77–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Elderkin-Thompson, V., Silver, R. C., & Waitzkin, H. (2001). When Nurses Double as Interpreters: A Study of Spanish-Speaking Patients in a US Primary Care Setting. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 1343–1358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fenton, S. (2004). Expressing a Well-Founded Fear: Interpretation in Convention Refugee Hearings. In D. Gile, G. Hansen, & K. Malmkjær (Eds.), Claims, Changes and Challenges in Translation Studies: Selected Contributions from the EST Congress, Copenhagen 2001 (pp. 263–269). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Foley, L. (2005). Midwives, Marginality, and Public Identity Work. Symbolic Interaction, 28(2), 183–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freire, P. (1985). The Politics of Education: Culture, Power and Liberation. South Hadley, MA: Bergin and Garvey.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Friedman, A. (1999). Feminism, Femininity and Power of Women in Israel. In D. Yizraeli, A. Friedman, H. Dahan-Kalev, H. Herzog, M. Hassan, H. Naveh, & S. Vogel-Bizhawi (Eds.), Sex, Gender, Politics (p. 1947). Tel Aviv: Kav Adom – Hakibbutz Hame’uchad. [Hebrew].Google Scholar
  17. Golan, D., & Shalhoub-Kevorkian, N. (2014) Community-Engaged Courses in a Conflict Zone: A Case Study of the Israeli Academic Corpus. Journal of Peace Education, 11(2), 181–207.Google Scholar
  18. Golan, D., & Shalhoub-Kevorkian, N. (2019). Engaged Academia in a Conflict Zone? Palestinian and Jewish Students in Israel. In Understanding Campus-Community Partnerships in Conflict Zones (pp. 15–38). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. [This volume].Google Scholar
  19. Hale, S. (2007). Community Interpreting. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hertog, E. (2010). Community Interpreting. In Y. Gambier & L. van Doorslaer (Eds.), Handbook of Translation Studies 1 (pp. 49–54). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Herzog, E. (2010). The Politics of Genderization in Education: Who Is Served by the Feminization of Education? In E. Herzog & Z. Valden (Eds.), On the Teachers’ Back: Power and Genderization in Education (pp. 37–72). Jerusalem: Carmel. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  22. Hsieh, E. (2008). ‘I Am Not a Robot!’ Interpreters’ Views of Their Roles in Health Care Settings. Qualitative Health Research, 18, 1367–1383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hsieh, E. (2009). Interpreters as Co-Diagnosticians: Overlapping Roles and Services Between Providers and Interpreters. Social Science & Medicine, 64(4), 924–937.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Inghillieri, M. (2003). Habitus, Field and Discourse: Interpreting as a Socially-Situated Activity. Target, 15(2), 243–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jänis, M. (1996). What Translators of Plays Think About Their Work. Target, 8(2), 341–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Katz, I., Dor-Haim, P., Matzliah, E., & Yaacov, L. (2007). Community-Academia Partnership: A Summary Report. Jerusalem: Zofnat. Retrieved from [Hebrew].
  27. Katzenelson, I. (2000, October 13). The New Translators, the State of the Arts. Yediot Aharonot, pp. 27–28. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  28. Katzman, A. (1986, June 4). Translators: How Do You Say ‘Lousy Conditions’ in Hebrew? Koteret Rashit, 35–37. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  29. Leanza, Y. (2005). Roles of Community Interpreters in Pediatrics as Seen by Interpreters, Physicians and Researchers. Interpreting, 7(2), 167–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. LiteracyDotOrg. (2009). Paulo Freire – An Incredible Conversation, 1996 [YouTube Video]. Retrieved from
  31. Martin, A., & Martí, I. A. (2008). Community Interpreter Self-Perception: A Spanish Case Study. In C. Valero-Garcés & A. Martin (Eds.), Crossing Borders in Community Interpreting (pp. 203–230). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Merlini, R., & Favaron, R. (2007). Examining the ‘Voice of Interpreting’ in Speech Pathology. Interpreting, 7(2), 263–302.Google Scholar
  33. Michael, S., & Cocchini, M. (1997). Training College Students as Community Interpreters: An Innovative Model. In S. E. Carr, R. Roberts, A. Dufour, & D. Steyn (Eds.), The Critical Link: Interpreters in the Community (pp. 237–248). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Neal, R. D., Ali, N., Atkin, K., Allgar, V. L., Ali, S., & Coleman, T. (2006). Communication Between South Asian Patients and GPs: Comparative Study Using the Roter Interactional Analysis System. British Journal of General Practice, 56(532), 869–875.Google Scholar
  35. Niska, H. (2002). Community Interpreter Training: Past, Present, Future. In G. Garzone & M. Viezzi (Eds.), Interpreting in the 21st Century (pp. 133–144). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pillow, W. S. (2002). Gender Matters: Feminist Research in Educational Evaluation. In D. Seigart & S. Brisolara (Eds.), Feminist Evaluation: Explorations and Experiences (pp. 9–26). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  37. Pöchhacker, F. (2000). The Community Interpreter’s Task: Self-Perception and Provider Views. In R. P. Roberts, S. E. Carr, D. Abraham, & A. Dufour (Eds.), The Critical Link 2: Interpreters in the Community (pp. 49–65). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pöchhacker, F. (2006). ‘Going Social?’ On Pathways and Paradigms in Interpreting Studies. In A. Pym, M. Shlesinger, & Z. Jettmarová (Eds.), Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting (pp. 215–232). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pöchhacker, F., & Kadric, M. (1999). Hospital Cleaners as Health Interpreters. The Translator, 5(2), 161–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rudvin M., & della Corte S. (2005, April). Gender Distribution Among Community Interpreters in Italy. Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Public Service Translation and Interpreting. Translation as Mediation on How to Bridge the Linguistic and Cultural Gaps, Università of Alcalà, Spain.Google Scholar
  41. Schuster, M. (2009). Access to Healthcare for Language Minorities: Kol La’briut Telephone Medical Interpreting Service as a Case Study. (Doctoral dissertation). Ramat Gan: Bar Ilan University. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  42. Schuster, M., & Shlesinger, M. (2007). Access from a Different Perspective: Access to Vital Services for Language Minorities. In D. Feldman, Y. Danieli-Lahav, & S. Haimovitz (Eds.), Access of the Israeli Society to People with Disabilities in the 21st Century (pp. 639–661). The Official Publications Bureau. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  43. Sela-Sheffy, R. (2005). How to Be a (Recognized) Translator: Rethinking Habitus, Norms and the Field of Translation. Target, 17(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sela-Sheffy, R., & Shlesinger, M. (2008). Strategies of Image-Making and Status Advancement of Translators and Interpreters as a Marginal Occupational Group: A Research Project in Progress. In A. Pym, M. Shlesinger, & D. Simeoni (Eds.), Beyond Descriptive Translation Studies: Investigations in Homage to Gideon Toury (pp. 79–90). Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Semyonov, M., Lewis-Epstein, N., & Mendel, H. (2000). An Updated Index of Socio-Economic Status of Occupations in Israel. Megamot, 40(4), 706–729. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  46. Shlesinger, M. (2007). Making the Most of Settling for Less. Forum, 5(2), 147–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shlesinger, M. (2008). Healthcare Interpreting – Legal Requirement, Necessary Evil, or Best Practice? In L. Epstein (Ed.), Culturally Appropriate Health Care by Culturally Competent Health Professionals: International Workshop Report (pp. 71–84). Israel: The Israel National Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research.Google Scholar
  48. Shlesinger, M., & Voinova, T. (2012). Self-Perception of Female Translators and Interpreters in Israel. In B. Adab & G. Shreve (Eds.), Discourses of Translation: Festschrift in Honour of Christina Schaeffner (pp. 191–212). Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  49. Shlesinger, Y. (2007). Vicarious Traumatization Among Interpreters Who Work with Torture Survivors and Their Therapists. In F. Pöchhacker, A. L. Jakobsen, & I. M. Mees (Eds.), Interpreting Studies and Beyond (pp. 153–172). Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur.Google Scholar
  50. Simeoni, D. (1998). The Pivotal Status of the Translator’s Habitus. Target, 10(1), 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simon, S. (1996). Gender in Translation: Cultural Identity and the Politics of Transmission. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Splevins, K., Cohen, K., Joseph, S., Murray, C., & Bowley, J. (2010). Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth Among Interpreters. Qualitative Health Research, 20(12), 1705–1716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. State of Israel, Ministry of Health Director. (2011, February 3). Circular no. 7/11 on Linguistic and Cultural Adaptation and Accessibility of the Healthcare System. Retrieved from [In Hebrew].
  54. Tate, G., & Turner, G. H. (1997). The Code and the Culture: Sign Language Interpreting – In Search of the New Breed’s Ethics. Deaf worlds, 3(13), 373–383.Google Scholar
  55. Treiman, D. J. (1977). Occupational Prestige in Comparative Perspective. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  56. Venuti, L. (1995). The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Voinova, T. (2010). Translators Talk About Themselves, Their Work and Their Profession: The Habitus of Translators of Russian Literature into Hebrew. (Master’s thesis). Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan. [In Hebrew].Google Scholar
  58. von Flotow, L. (1997). Translation and Gender: Translating in the ‘Era of Feminism. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing.Google Scholar
  59. Warming, K. (2006). Men Working in Women’s Profession: A Sociological Interview Study Focusing on Redefinitions of Work Functions and Masculinisation Strategies in Four Gender-Labeled Professions in Denmark. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam Shlesinger†
    • 1
  • Tanya Voinova
    • 2
  • Michal Schuster
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Translation and Interpreting StudiesBar Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.Independent ResearcherRa’ananaIsrael
  3. 3.Faculty of the HumanitiesUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations