Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Research Ethics and Church Interpreting


This article applies recent discussions of ethical aspects of Interpreting Studies to research on church interpreting. Lessons from this case study are then applied to field research on interpreting more broadly, with an emphasis on the specific ethical and methodological issues that arise when examining client expectations of interpreters. It begins with an examination of the concepts of informed consent and reputational risk as explored in the work of Elisabet Tiselius (2021, 2019), as well as the concept of positionality in the work of Chris Mellinger (2020). These ethical concepts are then applied to a critical reading of the research that focuses on locating problems and challenges of church interpreting and evaluating the performance of church interpreters (hereafter called PCE). This research, which began with the work of Adewuni Salawu (2010), sees the goal of research as improving the quality of church interpreting by offering an evaluation of the practice, using criteria created by each researcher. This tends to lead to arguments that church interpreting should be professionalized via training existing interpreters or replacing them with professionals. It is argued that research on PCE is ethically questionable, in light of recent discussions of research ethics, due to the selection of data and the placement of the researcher as the sole arbiter of interpreting quality. These choices lead inexorably to reputational risk for research participants. The paper then reflects on how researchers could engage in the evaluation of church interpreting more helpfully, if important modifications are made to the PCE. This then allows the wider relevance of these concerns to field research in Interpreting Studies to be discussed with a special emphasis on research seeking to understand client expectations of interpreters. In all cases, it is argued that the views and interests of those experiencing and delivering the interpreting must be foregrounded, even at the expense of restricting the research that can take place. The results of refusing to do this will be the loss of access to research sites, broken trust with research participants, and ultimately, research that is theoretically and methodologically impoverished.


Research ethics, informed consent, church interpreting, reputational risk, faith-related interpreting



  1. Amato, A. and Mack, G. (2021) ‘The best interest of the child in interpreter-mediated interviews: Researching children’s point of view’, InTRAlinea. Online Translation Journal, 23. Available at:
  2. Bearden, C.E. (1975) A handbook for religious interpreters for the deaf. Atlanta, GA, USA: Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  3. Biamah, J.J.S. (2013) ‘Dealing With Communication Challenges during Interpretation of Church Sermons in UASIN GISHU County, Kenya’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(14), pp. 148–157.
  4. Bühler, H. (1986) ‘Linguistic (semantic) and extra-linguistic (pragmatic) criteria for the evaluation of conference interpretation and interpreters’, Multilingua, 5(4), pp. 231–235.
  5. Chiaro, D. and Nocella, G. (2004) ‘Interpreters’ perception of linguistic and non-linguistic factors affecting quality: A survey through the world wide web’, Meta: Journal des traducteurs, 49(2), pp. 278–293.
  6. Collados Aís, A. (1998) La evaluación de la calidad en interpretación simultánea. La importancia de la comunicación no verbal. Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares.
  7. Collados Aís, A., Macarena Prada Macías, E.S. and García Becerra (eds) (2007) La evaluación de la calidad en interpretación simultánea: parámetros de incidencia. Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares.
  8. Collados Aís, Á., Sánchez, M.M.F. and Gile, D. (2003) La evaluación de la calidad en interpretación: investigación. Granada, Spain: Editorial Comares.
  9. De Tan, A.K., Amini, M. and Lee, K.-F. (2021) ‘Challenges Faced by Non-Professional Interpreters in Interpreting Church Sermons in Malaysia’, International Online Journal of Language, Communication, and Humanities, 4(I), pp. 53–74.
  10. Diriker, E. (2004) De-/re-contextualizing conference interpreting: interpreters in the ivory tower? Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  11. Downie, J. (2015) ‘What Every Client Wants? (Re) mapping the Trajectory of Client Expectations Research’, Meta: Journal des traducteurs Meta:/Translators’ Journal, 60(1), pp. 18–35.
  12. Downie, J. (2021) ‘Interpreting is interpreting: Why we need to leave behind interpreting settings to discover Comparative Interpreting Studies’, Translation and Interpreting Studies. The Journal of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association, 16(3), pp. 325–346.
  13. Downie, J. (2023) ‘A comparative interpreting studies view of interpreting in religious contexts’, Translation & Interpreting Studies, Ahead of print. Available at:
  14. Eraslan, S. (2011) International Knowledge Transfer in turkey: The Consecutive Interpreter’s Role in Context. Unpublished PhD Thesis. Rovira i Virgili University.
  15. Karlik, J. (2010) ‘Interpreter-mediated scriptures: Expectation and performance’, Interpreting, 12(2), pp. 160–185. Available at:
  16. Mack, G. and Cattaruzza, L. (1995) ‘User surveys in SI: A means of learning about quality and/or raising some reasonable doubts’, in J. Tommola (ed.) Topics in Interpreting Research. Turku: University of Turku, Centre for Translation and Interpreting, pp. 37–51.
  17. Makha, M. and Phafoli, L. (2019) ‘Distortion of Meaning in Consecutive Interpreting: Case of‎ Sermons in Selected Multicultural Churches in Maseru’, Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 6(4), pp. 152–163.
  18. Mellinger, C.D. (2020) ‘Positionality in Public Service Interpreting Research’, FITISPos International Journal, 7(1), pp. 92–109. Available at:
  19. Mlundi, S. (2021) ‘Towards Professionalization of Church Interpretation in Tanzania: What Do Church Stakeholders Say about the Quality Criteria of Church Interpretation?’, The Bible Translator, 72(3), pp. 294–312. Available at:
  20. Musyoka, E.N. and Karanja, P.N. (2014) ‘Problems of Interpreting as a Means of Communication: A Study on Interpretation of Kamba to English Pentecostal Church Sermon in Machakos Town, Kenya’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 4(5), pp. 196–207.
  21. Rayman, J. (2007) ‘Visions of Equality: Translating Power in a Deaf Sermonette.’, The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter, 1(1), pp. 73–114.
  22. Salawu, A. (2010) ‘Evaluation of interpretation during congregational services and public religious retreats in south-west Nigeria’, Babel, 56(2), pp. 129–138. Available at:
  23. Sampley, D. (1990) A guide to deaf ministry: let’s sign worthy of the Lord. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Ministry Resources Library.
  24. Tiselius, E. (2019) ‘The (un-) ethical interpreting researcher: ethics, voice and discretionary power in interpreting research’, Perspectives, 27(5), pp. 747–760. Available at:
  25. Tiselius, E. (2021) ‘Informed Consent: An overlooked part of ethical research in interpreting studies’, INContext: Studies in Translation and Interculturalism, 1(1).
  26. Turner, G.H. and Harrington, F. (2000) ‘Issues of power and method in interpreting research’, in M. Olohan (ed.) Intercultural faultlines: Research models in translation studies. Manchester: St Jerome Publishing (Research Models in Translation Studies, 1), pp. 253–65.
  27. Tyulenev, S. and Zheng, B. (2017) ‘Introduction: Toward Comparative Translation and Interpreting Studies’, Translation and Interpreting Studies. The Journal of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association, 12(2), pp. 197–212. Available at:
  28. Vigouroux, C.B. (2010) ‘Double-mouthed discourse: Interpreting, framing, and participant roles’, Journal of Sociolinguistics, 14(3), pp. 341–369. Available at:


Download data is not yet available.