The Interpreter Project























































Uppdaterad: 20110209



The Interpreter Project is a research project - in reality consisting of two separate projects - started on September 1, 2008 and closes on August 31, 2011.


The two projects are: 

The Community Interpreter – a Cultural Broker

  • Financed by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond*
  • Owned by Lund University, Department of Cultural Sciences, Ethnology with the Folk Life Archives

Behind Closed Doors – The significance of community interpreting for guaranteeing legal rights and integration; with a special focus on the reception of separated children and the processing of their asylum cases is co-financed by the European Refugee Fund III.

  • Financed by the European Refugee Fund III
  • Owned by Medborgarskolan Syd, Malmö

The aim of our research is to:

  • analyse the position of community interpreters as cultural brokers in interpreted meetings and in communication between public service providers and clients /patients,
  • describe and analyse the reception of separated minors through the eyes of the community interpreter, and
  • analyse the significance of interpreting to obtaining legal and medical rights, and to integration processes

The Community Interpreter - a Cultural Broker

Every day many meetings take place between representatives of public authorities and private individuals who do not speak Swedish. The use of interpreters is thus a part of the work for many professional categories: social workers, healthcare staff, lawyers and teachers. This study investigates the interpreter’s role and experience of how interpreted meetings happen.

Over time, interpreters acquire extensive knowledge of the meetings between representatives of public authorities and individuals who don’t speak Swedish. They gain experience of how people communicate, how power is handled, what conflicts of loyalty can arise, as well as knowledge of issues that affect the rights of the individual. In spite of this, interpreters are rarely consulted about their experience in the context of public debate or included in inquiries that consider legal security, integration or discrimination. 

Behind closed doors - the impact of community interpreting according to legal security and integration with a special focus on the reception of separated asylum seeking children

There is currently little research into the area of interpretation and consequently little knowledge about the interpreter’s key position in processes leading to integration. Above all the interpreter has an important role in providing individuals with the opportunity to present their case and have it examined in a just way. Professional interpretation help doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, etc. to carry out their tasks in an adequate manner. This means that an unprofessional interpreter jeopardises legal security. 

The reception of separated minors and children is a complex and sensitive process. Many different parties play a role in the reception and integration of an underage individual, both on a general level and on a local level. The aim of this project is to analyse the significance of interpreting for legal security and integration in the reception and asylum procedures of separated children.

A large number of minors arrive in Sweden every year without any legal guardian and their number has increased in recent years from 816 in 2006, to 1,264 in 2007 and 2,500 in 2009. Many different parties play a role in the reception and integration of individual minors. On a general level, the Migration Board, the National Board of Health and Welfare and SKL all cooperate in this process. The child is to be offered accommodation, to start school, to meet health and welfare workers, psychologists and social workers while the asylum procedure is underway. 

In this process, two parties have a particular role. The child is placed under the guardianship of a trustee, who follows the child and speaks for it in various matters. The other party is the interpreter(s); it is not certain that the same one will be present at every meeting. 

Through various qualitative methods, the aim of the project is to investigate the entire field of interpreting; training, commissioning and procurement and the experiences of individual people. Above all this is achieved from the perspective and experiences of the interpreters, but also from the user perspective, that is of non-Swedish-speaking individuals and users within the various professional categories. Through field work in the form of interviews with interpreters, separated minors, observations of accommodation and asylum procedures, the reception of minors and the significance of interpreting are investigated.

*In 1962 a donation from the Swedish Central Bank (Riksbanken) was approved to create an independent foundation (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond). Its goal is to promote and support research in the Humanities and Social Sciences (


Eva Norström, Ph.D.




Kristina Gustafsson, Ph.D.




Ingrid Fioretos, Ph.D.


          © 2010