Interpreter Role Boundaries

A challenging yet necessary aspect of being an interpreter is being able to confine yourself within the boundaries of the professional role and refraining from getting personally involved in an interpreting encounter and causing a conflict of interest.

This idea is so important that it’s a canon for both legal and medical interpreters. For example, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) lists “Limitations of Practice”as one of their canons. Likewise, the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC) includes “Role Boundaries”as one of their standards of practice.

Here are some examples of how interpreters can go beyond their role boundaries:

 – disclosing  confidential information  

 – soliciting business from patients

 – helping drivers cheat on driving tests 

 – stealing classified government documents  

 – giving legal advice

Check out the video below to get a better sense of how an interpreter should maintain their professional role:


Do you have any examples or stories of interpreters crossing their ethical boundaries? We’d love to hear them! Share them on our Facebook page!


We offer online training options for legal and medical interpreters as well as translators. Programs include training courses, tests, linguistic resources, training guides, and Skype lessons with interpretation instructors. Our training will benefit those who are aspiring interpreters, interpreters who want to prepare for a certification exam, or certified interpreter certification exams. Training options are available in Albanian, Arabic, Cantonese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hmong, German, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.