‘That’s not how we speak': interpreting monolingual ideologies in courtrooms

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The paper examines the operation and impact of monolingual ideologies relating to English in interpreter-mediated courtrooms in Australia. This is an issue relevant to courts in many geographical places, especially in Anglophone nations with common law systems. Using recurrent thematic analyses, the paper draws on interviews with 36 court interpreters working in Australia. From the perspective of legal interpreters, the paper explores three specific language ideologies linked to a ‘monolingual mindset’ [Michael Clyne (2005) Australia's Language Potential, UNSW Press.] of courtrooms: accent as a key marker of Australian English according to standard language ideologies; monolingual assumptions that there is only one version of each language; and negative perceptions of the bilingual abilities of court participants from minority backgrounds. The findings illustrate the ‘us-them’ distinction as both a cause and an outcome of the perpetuation of monolingual ideologies, which, in turn, feed into the conditions for the production and reproduction of existing power structures and ideological uses of language, with ramifications for the fairness and justice of legal processes. The paper concludes by highlighting the pervasiveness of monolingual ideologies in courtrooms, the need for multilingual and multicultural training of legal professionals and the relevance of collaboration between interpreters and legal professionals to addressing monolingualism in Australian courtrooms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-70
Number of pages21
JournalGriffith Law Review
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Australia
  • courtrooms
  • interpreting
  • language ideologies
  • monolingualism


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