AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume3, Number3. August 2019                                    Pp.37-50

An investigation into the interpreters’ challenges in conflict zones: The case of Darfur region in Sudan

Dept. of English Language & Literature, Rustaq College of Education, Oman 

Department of Languages & Translation, Dhofar University, Oman

Ishaq Burma

UNAMID, Nyla, Darfur, Sudan


Abstract PDF

The study is aimed to investigate and shed light on some of the challenges encountered by local interpreters and language assistants working for UN peace-keeping missions, operating in conflict zones, namely in Darfur region, western Sudan. The study addresses the following research questions: what are the linguistic, social-cultural, mistrust and communication-related barriers that are encountered by interpreters and language assistants in conflict zones, how do they cope with these challenges, and what could be done to train them to handle such challenges and difficulties. The study adopted a qualitative methodology with semi-structured interviews being the main method of data collection. Twenty participants agreed to voluntarily take part in the investigation by allowing face-to-face interviews. Interview data was transcribed, coded and analyzed thematically. The results of data analysis showed that participants faced a range of challenges that negatively affected their job. They reported difficulties understanding and dealing with some social and cultural issues specific to the region. They also reported some serious life-threatening incidents ranging from physical and verbal attacks. For example, interpreters encountered hostilities from their fellow citizens accusing them of siding with enemy parties involved in the conflicts. Additionally, communication barriers were reported by participants as being the most salient challenge they experienced even when they interpreted accurately, as they would still encounter communication breakdowns caused by the inherent differences in the indigenous languages and varieties in addition to some cultural barriers. The paper offers some insights and implications for the conflict zones’ interpreters’ training and professional development.

Cite as:

Ali, H. I. H., Alhassan, A.m & Burma, I.  (2019). An investigation into the interpreters’ challenges in conflict zones: The case of Darfur region in Sudan. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies, 3 (3) 37-50.


Dr. Holi Ibrahim Holi Ali is an assistant professor of applied and TESOL. He has an M.A in ELT
and another M.A in translation. He has a PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Huddersfield, UK. His teaching and research interests include translation and interpreting. He has
presented widely at national and international conferences and published extensively.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0608-6146

Dr. Awad Alhasssan is an Assistant professor of applied linguistics & TESOL in Dhofar
University, Oman. He is also affiliated to Khartoum University in Sudan. His teaching and research
interests include EAP, translation & translator education, and EMI in higher education. He has
presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.
ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1147-0919

Ishaq Burma is a translator, interpreter and foreign language teacher. He has an MA in translation.
He worked as a translator and interpreter for UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for a number of
years. His teaching and research interests include translation and interpreting