The current migration crisis is testing interpreting services across Europe. What is being done to ease the burden?

There are two topics one can predict will cause blood pressures to rise: migration, and interpreting services in courts and police stations.

Now they have come together. The EU took a great leap forward in guaranteeing minimum procedural rights when it passed the directive on the right to interpretation and translation for suspects and defendants (2010/64 EU) – little anticipating that the great EU migration crisis of 2015 would test the directive to its limits.

I am involved in a project funded by the EU, looking at the national implementation of the three existing directives guaranteeing minimum procedural safeguards. The three are the right to interpretation and translation (already mentioned), plus the right to information (2012/13/EU), and the right of access to a lawyer (2013/48/EU). The underlined letters in the previous sentence give the project its name: TRAINAC.

As you may know, the UK opted in to the first two directives, but not the third. Since my involvement means I look at the raw data as it flows into the project, I am in a position to judge how the UK fares relative to the other member states in its daily practices. The answer is: pretty well.


‘‘Be invisible,’’ says Rasha Ajalyaqeen, a retired interpreter for the United Nations. Leave your opinions behind; your voice should reflect the speaker’s feelings. When Libya’s dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, ranted in Arabic about Jews and Palestinians during his first appearance before the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, Ajalyaqeen’s English translation sounded equally agitated. ‘‘If he is angry,’’ she says, ‘‘you’re angry.’’

Beginners should strengthen their concentration and short-term memory by trying to repeat voices on the radio. ‘‘Learn to actively listen like it’s your profession,’’ Ajalyaqeen says. Forget pausing to find the right word: Fall more than 10 seconds behind, and you’ll start forgetting chunks of what was said. Aim for a lag time of between three and four seconds.


NUBSLI members this morning received leaked information about Capita’s charges under the Ministry of Justice contract. It reveals that Sign Language Interpreters, as usual, are talked about as being expensive yet do not receive anywhere near the money that is being charged for their services. A quick breakdown below…



“Working together to obtain the best evidence” was the subject of the First UK National Joint Training for Police Officers and Police Interpreters held at Cambridgeshire Constabulary Headquarters on Friday,  September 11th, 2015.

The day was attended by practising interpreters, police officers who work with interpreters, and academics specialising in relevant areas of linguistics. One of the issues that came out of the day was a need for greater understanding between interpreters and police officers of each other's needs to work most effectively together. As a result, a 'Language Services Working Group' comprising Cambs Police, the APCI, NRPSI, NRCPD, Manchester University and the College of Policing has been formed to take forward the lessons of the day.
The first priority for the Group is to produce guidelines for the use of interpreters, which would then be published by the College of Policing as guidance for police forces throughout the UK. This is your opportunity to have an input on the textbook for police in using interpreters.
The next two pages of this survey provide you with the opportunity to submit your feedback. Please complete the survey by 21st October 2015.


Dozens of assiduous interpreters roamed around the European Council's halls alongside frustrated, exhausted political leaders until the early hours of Monday, July 13, as one of the toughest negotiations between the Greek government and the country's international lenders for a new bailout deal dragged on for hours. If it weren't for these professionals diligently searching for the right words among such a host of languages being used, how else could the politicians from 19 different countries communicate with one another?

“The burden of responsibility is huge,” said Vangelis Panagiotatos, who often translates Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schauble's statements on behalf of the Greek state broadcaster ERT. “Our biggest enemy is fatigue,” said Panagiotatos, who during that weekend's marathon negotiations, remained in the studio at the Aghia Paraksevi headquarters in northern Athens for 30 hours, anticipating (as was the rest of the country) an agreement between the two sides.

In the last few weeks in the run-up to those crunch talks, interpreters from all fields were recruited: three for every language in each European Institution's designated booth, some in broadcasting studios carrying out direct translations and others attending discussions between three or four parties, whispering into their assigned leaders' ear. Additionally, interpreters who contribute to leaders' communication via phone are a case of their own.

“The interpreter is informed ahead of time. He's on standby, at a desk, over a phone, taking notes and translating in a sequential manner,” said one professional who asked not to be named. Discretion, in this case, is an inviolate rule.