It is widely acknowledged that interpreters need to have knowledge of the cultures represented by the languages they work with (e.g. Roy 2002, Angelelli 2004, Wadensjŏ 2008). However, it is not clear what interpreters are expected to do with this knowledge. Some scholars recommend that interpreters be cultural mediators (e.g. Katan 2004 & 2014). As an attempt to examine existing guidelines on interpreters’ roles in the face of cultures/cultural issues, the research reported in this paper compares and contrasts the codes of conduct for interpreters from a number of associations and institutions in the UK, the US and China. The research has collected three different sets of data and has sought to investigate (1) in what ways interpreters are expected to do with their knowledge of cultures; (2) to what extent interpreters’ role as cultural mediators is referred to or defined in these codes of conduct; and (3) whether or not relevant guidelines are practically helpful for interpreters to deal with the range of cultural issues they may encounter in interpreting. Data analysis suggests that while cultural knowledge is a requisite for interpreters, the expectation for them to be cultural mediators may depend on the types of interpreting setting they work with and further guidelines are needed so that interpreters are clear on what they are required to do in dealing with cultural issues. The paper then discusses the implications of these findings and points to some directions for future research.
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