Deutsch und südslawische Sprachen vor Gericht und bei Behörden - Spracheinstellungen und Sprachverhalten der in Deutschland tätigen Dolmetscher/innen

Translated title of the contribution: German and South Slavic languages in the courtroom and public service encounters - language attitudes and behaviour of German-based interpreters

Jim Hlavac, Goranka Rocco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This study examines attitudes, reported actions and professional practices in regard to language from an occupational group that consists of ´language experts´ − interpreters. Interpreters are excellent informants for research on ´lay´ attitudes on and about language as they deal regularly with such speakers while at the same time possessing specialist knowledge of language and linguistic practices. The paper focuses on the topic of linguistic variation, perceptions of ´native-speakerness´, accommodation to other languages, and nominated accounts for perceived difficulties in working with others – due to linguistic, extra-linguistic or other situational factors. It contextualises the sometimes separate and sometimes shared paths that characterise the standardisation of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, that were once encompassed by an hypernym, Serbo-Croatian and how these languages are classified formally by interpreter directories and universities in Germany and Austria. Empirical data from 18 practising interpreters are then presented that contain responses to the following features relevant to the discourse and interactional management of interpreter assignments: nominated first language(s) and ethnicity; perceptions of others’ designations and conceptualisations of the languages; ‘same-language’ vs. ‘congruent-language’ interlocutors and language variant employed; discourse features of German-speaking judicial officials and of allophone clients; the juxtaposition of the ‘mediator role’ of the interpreter; the performance of interpreting with a focus on whether the ‘form’ or the ‘content’ of others’ discourse is perceived to be more challenging. Informants report that various forms are used in regard to language designations, by both German and non-German interlocutors. Accommodation to others’ languages is reported by many, while metalinguistic comment relating to one’s proficiency in other languages is used as a strategy to overcome non-congruent situations (ie. Croatian-speaking interpreter and Serbian-speaking client). Further, the content of German discourse, and sometimes the form of its delivery is identified as feature of cross-linguistic transfer that interpreters find difficult to perform. Lastly, heterogeneity of linguistic proficiency among L2 speakers of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian and familiarity with the register and genre of discourse are found to pose compelling challenges.
Translated title of the contributionGerman and South Slavic languages in the courtroom and public service encounters - language attitudes and behaviour of German-based interpreters
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)206-241
Number of pages36
JournalLebende Sprachen: Zeitschrift fuer fremde Sprachen in Wissenschaft und Praxis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Language attitudes
  • Interpreters
  • Legal Interpreting
  • German
  • Bosnian
  • Croatian
  • Serbian

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