Non-professional interpreters are individuals with a certain degree of bilingual competence who perform interpreting tasks on an ad hoc basis without economic compensation or prior specific training. Their awareness of the skills required to perform their interpreting duties correctly and the ethical constraints thereto is shaped by their own intuitions and subject to the expectations expressed by the parties to the encounters they mediate in. Most often they conduct their tasks individually and in isolation, which translates into little visibility, lack of group solidarity and prestige, and lack of public credibility, even if they may receive immediate social recognition by the monolingual speakers for whom they enable communication. In fact, every bilingual individual is a potential non-professional interpreter, as they are selected on the basis of their (apparent) competence in the two languages involved – spoken or signed – and their immediate availability. Non-professional interpreters range thus from relatives or friends or acquaintances – including children – of a person requiring language mediation; to in-house employees at the institution where interpreting is needed; to volunteers belonging to a wide array of civil organizations; to virtually any passer-by. Their presence is evident in the homes of minority-language community members; and it is most frequent in public services, where the interpreting profession is still little institutionalized (in health care centres, welfare and government offices, schools, police stations, prisons, churches, etc). These interpreters are relatively visible in business contexts, especially local ones (banks, post offices, shops), but also in mass media; and their presence is sporadic but crucial in conflict or emergency situations. Non-professional interpreting even occurs in the most professionalized settings (i.e. conference or court interpreting). Despite being an inherent feature of the daily lives of millions of citizens around the

world, non-professional interpreting has traditionally been chastised by academics and practitioners alike. When untrained, unremunerated interpreters continue to be used for various reasons – availability, lack of funds, parties’ unawareness of resources at hand or preferences based on interpersonal grounds (e.g. trust) – especially in community settings, this means that standards remain inconsistent, market structures are threatened and professionalization is held back. Such tensions have been reflected in the scant research to date, where this issue has either been approached in passing within studies on professional interpreting, or foregrounded as the object of analysis in an attempt to evidence the dangers of such practices. Nevertheless, an emerging

conceptual shift is giving birth to new avenues of research which address non-professional interpreting without preconceptions of what interpreting ‘should be’ – a movement that would ultimately enhance our comprehension of the field.