Equal access to community interpreting in Flanders – a matter of self-reflexive decision-making?

Britt Roels, Marie Seghers, Bert De Bisschop, Piet Van Avermaet, Mieke Van Herreweghe, Stef Slembrouck


The central issue tackled by this article revolves around decision-making by public service institutions in respect of the uses and perceived effects of community interpreting and translation in Flanders (Belgium) and/or other resources of language support (such as the use of a lingua franca, soliciting the help of a multilingual co-worker, etc.). The aim of the study was to obtain a clear understanding of processes and participant frameworks of decision-making with regard to language support within these institutions. Consequently, a qualitative survey was set up focusing on three selected geographic regions and, within these regions, on four domains of public service (health, education, public administration and employment assistance). Respondents were both institutional end users and immigrants. The results reveal a lack of national and local organizational policy and explicit procedures in the allocation of language support resources. This lack contributes to inequality in foreign language users’ access to the services of public institutions. It is recommended that a self-reflective framework be introduced for regulating access to a more systematic use of community interpreting alongside other instruments or strategies for bridging language barriers. Such a framework should be tailored to the needs of the institution’s clients and to domain-specific and local needs of the institution. It should also include the relative availability of other adequate instruments for bridging language barriers.


community interpreting; Flanders; framework; decision-making; institional end users; immigrants clients; inequality

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