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Interpreting: Does gender play a role?

When booking an interpreter, certain considerations need to be taken into account, such as:
– The required language pairs
– The nature of the event, for example if it is medical, legal, etc.
– The type of event, for example is it a court case, a conference, etc.
– The type of service, such as whispering, simultaneous interpreting, etc.

What about gender? Would the gender of an interpreter have an impact on the triadic situation of the interpreting assignment? Is this a fact which should be taken into account also?

The issue of gender evokes in me the following possible problematic scenarios:
An interpreter is called to an assignment in a hospital. The interpreter is male, the other-language speaker female. The circumstance of her admittance to the hospital may be of a very personal nature and one which she would no doubt prefer to discuss in the presence of another female.
Given the highly sensitive nature of cases such as rape or domestic violence, one can appreciate the choice of an interpreter of the same gender as the victim. Such cases are surely distressing enough for the other-language speaker. One can therefore appreciate the desire not to add the further stress of having to give explicit details of the event, through an interpreter of the same gender as the attacker. Making the other-language speaker feel at ease in difficult situations such as this must surely be of paramount importance. Although this type of gender casting is preferential, it should be remembered that interpreters are professionals and it is their ability to interpret to the highest standard in their given languages which is of greater importance. They are trained to be accurate, confidential, professional and impartial.

One can accept that the gender of a doctor would not take precedent to his or her ability to carry out his or her job to the highest standard. Should time be spent to search for a female doctor during a problematic labour, as a result of which the life of both mother and child could be in danger? The medical knowledge is the same for both male and female doctors: – the important factor, therefore, is surely the safety of the patient. Gender casting the medical professional can be viewed, therefore, as preferential but not essential. The same applied to the interpreter. The skill of the interpreter is key, not his or her gender.

Choosing the gender of the interpreter to match that of the other-language speaker can be preferable however the simple fact of the matter is that as a professional, the interpreter, irrespective of whether male or female is there to provide a service, to provide a means to facilitate two-way communication between parties of different languages.

At Lingua Translations, you can rest assured that we will provide the very best professional interpreting service. All our interpreters are degree qualified with at least five years’ professional interpreting experience.

For more information, to find out why you should choose Lingua Translations as your preferred language service provider, or to enquire about our translation services and professional interpreting services, simply contact us on:
Tel: +44 (0)1792 469990 or email:

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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