Sociolinguistic profiles of users and providers of lay and professional interpreting services: the experiences of a recently-arrived Iraqi language community in Melbourne

Jim Hlavac


This paper focuses on a group of 66 recently-arrived Chaldeans and Assyrians from Iraq and the incidence of group members being users and/or providers of interpreting services in Melbourne. The distinction between ‘user’ and ‘provider’ is of interest: some informants belong to one group only; others were users who have now become providers; still others belong to neither group. The focus is therefore on lay interpreting, although contact with professional interpreters is also examined. Through a questionnaire, responses were elicited from informants in regard to the following: language acquisition and proficiency; domain use of language; intergroup relations and language use; language attitudes; and accommodation theory. Analysis reveals that providers of lay interpreting services differ from users in self-diagnosed level of proficiency, age, education level, language of thought, and media consumption. No significant differences are recorded in relation to length of stay, degree of ‘settledness’, social networks, attitudes towards L1, language purism and self-representation. In the self-reported behaviour of providers of lay interpreting services there is evidence that they are attuned to their own and others’ spoken varieties in ways that users are not. Through empirically-collected data, this paper seeks to locate characteristics of users and lay providers that otherwise remain unexplored.


lay interpreters; users of interpreting services; profiles of interpreters; sociology of interpreting; community interpreting; multilingualism; Chaldean; Assyrian; Arabic; Iraq

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