The influence of governmental policy on public service interpreting in the Netherlands


  • Esther de Boe University of Antwerp


public service interpreting, legal interpreting, healthcare interpreting, professionalization, certification


In the Netherlands, the government has become involved in public service interpreting by issuing measures shaping the professional conditions for interpreters and by monitoring the quality of their services. Under the Sworn Interpreters and Translators Act (2007) a register was set up for interpreters who meet predefined requirements for “basic interpreter competencies”. According to the 2007 Act, institutions in the legal domain as well as in the immigration and police services are obliged to work exclusively with certified interpreters. In this way, the government has contributed to the professionalization of legal interpreting. In recent years however, this development has been reversed in other sectors of public service interpreting (PSI). Some forms of PSI, it would seem, are more equal than others. In public health for example, there are only advisory regulations concerning the use of interpreters, and there is no obligation to work with certified interpreters. Although the government was initially involved in the administration and financing of interpreting agencies in all the fields of PSI, over the years it has gradually transferred this responsibility to the users of these services. In 2012, the government stopped most of its funding of healthcare interpreting. In spite of the presence of several indicators of professionalization of interpreters in the Netherlands, such as certification, a code of ethics, compensation and a system of continuing education for interpreters, their effectiveness is limited because they concern only interpreters working in the legal domain or in immigration and police services. The level of professionalization in PSI as a whole could be increased if the government were to implement its theoretical stance that both legal and healthcare interpreting are matters of public interest enshrined in the Dutch law, and if other fields of PSI besides legal interpreting were included in the existing framework for certification, training and continuing education.