Project background

The increasing number of refugees in Germany has led to an enormous increase in the demand for community interpreting in social work in order to be able to provide adequate consulting and care for this target group. However, there are no uniform standards yet for the qualification of community interpreters in this field of work. As a consequence, community interpreters with varying qualification levels are used in social work. Often persons with no qualification in community interpreting are requested to assist. However, community interpreting, in particular in the field of social consulting and care for third-country nationals, is an enormous challenge. Community interpreters often work under great time pressure, sometimes with very stressed and needy clients and for low payment.

Existing qualification measures in Germany range between workshops running for half a day on the one hand and one-year full time trainings or two-year Master programmes on the other hand. In addition, the designations given to the people with such different qualifications are rather diffuse: volunteer interpreters, refugee pilots, refugee tutors, community interpreters, integration pilots, integration mentors, intercultural tutors, cultural interpreters, cultural pilots, cultural mediators, language pilots, language mediators, language and integration mediators, language and cultural mediators – to name just a few.

As a result, this enormous diversity poses a problem for the institutions and parties integrating community interpreting into social work with refugees. In such a complex area without any uniform quality standards, the competences of people qualified in such different ways are difficult to assess for social agencies, for example. Vice versa, this large but hardly structured diversity of offers leads to uncertainty amongst those wishing to qualify in community interpreting: on which basis can they choose a suitable training course which enjoys recognition and opens up employment opportunities for them? Last not least, the communication between the refugees and the various players in social and administrative institutions – and thus the quality of social services itself – suffers under these conditions.

For the above reasons a consolidation and clear definition of this professional field is much needed. ZwischenSprachen would like to contribute to that by developing and publishing quality standards for the qualification of community interpreters in social work with refugees based on empirical data and through scientific methods.