The impact of additions in Shona and English consecutively-interpreted rape trials in Zimbabwean courtrooms

Paul Svongoro


This article investigates the conflict between interpreters’ ethical guidelines and the reality in Zimbabwean courtrooms. Although court interpreters’ instructions generally prescribe verbatim translations of original utterances, the reality in the courtroom may demand deviation from what the guidelines prescribe. Focusing on the effect of emphasising and down-toning additions on source language texts in four consecutively-interpreted rape trials heard in Shona and English, this study reveals that court interpreters are aware that their primary goal is to ensure that participants fully understand each other’s intentions. Interpreters therefore adopt a strategy for conveying renditions which would ensure that a speaker’s communicative intention, and not only his/her words, is available to an end receiver. The resultant renditions would nevertheless reveal some additions which may impact on the propositional content and style of the source message and hence the administration of justice. I therefore argue that interpreted courtroom dialogues are essentially ‘three-party’ (Mason, 2000: 9) face-to-face transactions involving two primary speakers and one interpreter.



ethical interpreting guidelines; court reality; emphasising in interpreting; down-toning in interpreting

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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