• University of Glasgow

Interpreting for Refugees: Contexts, Practices and Ethics

Learn skills to meet the challenges of interpreting for refugees and share your experiences with other interpreters in the sector.

7,658 enrolled on this course

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Interpreting for Refugees: Contexts, Practices and Ethics

7,658 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Intermediate level

Find out more about how to join this course

Learn about humanitarian interpreting and the role of the interpreter

On this course, you’ll discover the role of the interpreter and explore the specific challenges of interpreting for refugees.

You’ll cover topics like cultural awareness, ethics and emotional reflexivity when working in situations that require cross-cultural communication.

You’ll consider the different work contexts you may be in as an interpreter for refugees, and learn the importance of your own wellbeing as well as your duty of care to the people you’re working with.

You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with other interpreters and tutors to share your knowledge and experiences.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds SUBJECT 1: Armed conflicts, persecution, and man-made and natural disasters are pushing large number of people to flee from their countries to seek refuge elsewhere. The arrival of people seeking refuge who speak a wide range of different languages creates the need for interpreters who are called to work in fragile environments, in conflict zones, in refugee camps, and in other areas where international humanitarian law and refugee law applies. Interpreters have also become more widely recognised as important political players, with their involvement in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan in particular, receiving widespread media attention.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds SUBJECT 2: State systems such as courts, asylum systems, and medical institutions, as well as international organisations like the United Nations and the European Union also rely heavily on interpreters. Interpreters working in the asylum system play a crucial role, one that often exceeds their usual job description. They may be pressured to assume responsibilities that lie outside their role. For example, by being asked to assess an asylum seeker’s credibility. The growing prevalence of interpreting in all the means of private and public life has also heightened the need for a better understanding of their social relevance.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 seconds Due to the huge demand for interpreters speaking refugee languages, the service of the humanitarian interpreter in many refugee receiving countries is delivered by refugees and migrants without adequate training. The growing professional community of humanitarian interpreters are in need of adequate support.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds SUBJECT 3: Humanitarian interpreters hold a central role in addressing the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe and beyond. The context of their work is in constant change and calls for an up to date training. This course promotes the concept of humanitarian interpreter and touches upon different topics such as ethics, communication, cultural awareness, and emotional reflexivity. It provides an opportunity to meet online with other interpreters and tutors to share knowledge and experiences.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 seconds SUBJECT 4: This course provides an interactive learning opportunity for humanitarian interpreters and also their trainers to support their work with refugees and asylum seekers. We believe that the course will also be of interest to learners outside of the professional community of interpreters, for example to humanitarian workers and intercultural mediators. Students interested in interpretation and mediation who aspire to work for organisation that support refugees will also find useful information and points for reflection. The course develops over three weeks and attendance is flexible, self paced, and free of charge. As a learner, you will undertake a series of online activities supported by multimedia teaching materials such as readings, videos, and podcasts.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds You will be given the opportunity to discuss the course’s topics with fellow learners and also with us, the tutors. We look forward to meeting you online.


  • Week 1

    Humanitarian interpreters’ definition, beneficiaries and work challenges

    • Introduction

      In these initial steps we meet the team of four educators, and the learners are invited to introduce themselves. We also begin to get into the topic by considering what may different about interpreting in humanitarian contexts.

    • Defining the role of the humanitarian interpreter

      Over the following steps we consider what it means to be a 'humanitarian interpreter', what qualifications they may need, and consider some of the consequences when family members interpret.

    • Recipients of humanitarian interpreting

      In the next steps we will discuss the people who are the recipients of humanitarian interpreting: refugees and survivors of trafficking. We will also consider their needs and common experiences.

    • Summary

      To close week one, we watch an interview with an experienced humanitarian interpreter, and test our learning in a short quiz.

  • Week 2

    Different work contexts for humanitarian interpreting

    • Introducing the linguistic and pragmatic aspects of humanitarian interpreting

      This section introduces this week's content and gives you an opportunity to hear the poem in Scots language and discuss some linguistics aspects of interpreting.

    • Physical and mental health context

      In this section we share videos with some practical examples and reading to help you to understand and discuss interpreting in health context.

    • Interpreting in legal and social services contexts

      In the next steps we will explore issues and considerations that may be specific, or especially important when interpreting in a legal context or social services.

    • Summary

      We conclude the second week with a quiz and short overview of the next week.

  • Week 3

    Ethics, duty of care and self-care in humanitarian interpreting

    • Introduction to ethical codes and concerns

      In the first steps for week 3 we will consider the ethical issues that interpreters may face and examine some of the elements that may be included in a code of ethics for interpreters to follow.

    • Understanding good practice

      In the following steps we will explore good practice for interpreters. We will consider how we can manage some of the more challenging issues that may occur during our work.

    • Emotional reflexivity and interpreter’s wellbeing

      Humanitarian interpreters often work with people who are experiencing and expressing high emotion. In the next steps we consider the impact of such emotions on the interpreter and what we can do support our wellbeing.

    • Conclusion

      In these final steps of the course we will invite learners to assess on their own learning and compare their self-reflections with those of other learners. We will watch a final summary video before the end of the course.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore the role of interpreter in diversity of humanitarian settings
  • Identify issues and understand the contexts in humanitarian interpreting
  • Collaborate to share best practice in interpreting in humanitarian context
  • Evaluate ethical dilemmas applicable in the context of interpreting for refugees
  • Apply and adapt approaches and tools in interpreting in humanitarian context

Who is the course for?

This course provides an interactive learning opportunity for anyone working in a humanitarian interpreter role, their trainers and service providers.

The course will also be of interest to humanitarian workers and intercultural mediators as well as students interested in interpretation and mediation who aspire to work for organisations that support refugees and asylum seekers.

Who will you learn with?

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Inclusion at the University of Glasgow (School of Education).

I am a diversity trainer and currently work with Glasgow University. I specialise in delivering courses about refugees, human trafficking, equality, gender and religious & cultural diversity.

I am a professor of migration and diversity at the University of Glasgow, School of Education. I work in the area of human migration and intercultural education.

Post-doctoral Research Associate and Associate Tutor (School of Education, University of Glasgow)

Who developed the course?

The University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

  • Established

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

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  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

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$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

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Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 4 Aug 2024

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