How times change... I remember this article in the Daily Telegraph in February 2013 when a company was fined and convicted of breaching health and safety laws by using Google Translate. In February 2015 I see a tweet that a Google translated text was handed as evidence to a judge.

FEBRUARY 2015:

Tweet Google translate

 

DAILY TELEGRAPH, 16TH FEBRUARY 2013:

Daily Telegraph 16.02.2013

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The Iranian sports ministry has been accused of favoring men in athletic competitions. With the power of social media and translators who specialize in professional Persian translation women from Iran can voice their complaints for a global audience. Athletes do not have to be fluent in English to communicate their views with fans around the world. For instance, Iranian authorities have refused to acknowledge the accomplishment of Elham Asghari because they considered her swimsuit “too revealing”. She made a statement about her difficulty in obtaining permission to swim in the Caspian Sea. Her remarks have been translated from Farsi and posted on news articles online. Professionals in the field of Persian translation services have been influential in spreading her words to non-Farsi speakers outside of Iran.

In a video she has thanked supporters who have praised her for breaking a record despite authorities’ decision. This piece was initially uploaded on Facebook in the original language and later subtitled in English and posted on Youtube. The video with translated subtitles has garnered thousands of viewers on social media websites. In another video she stated that individuals who are not capable of swimming 20 meters have disqualified her from her record breaking swim. Since her words have been translated by translators who offer professional Persian translation many people around the world have heard her voice and sent her encouraging messages. Asghari has waived off the criticism, pointing to seven witnesses who confirmed that her outfit followed the Islamic dress code and that she had swam in the absence of men observers. Her friend has also expressed her disappointment with the decision to letting Asghari’s record-setting swim go unrecorded.

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If you go to see a doctor in France, Germany and Poland, nobody will provide you with an interpreter. I was talking to my sister about this the other day. 

She lives in Italy and says if you go to a doctor there and you speak the language, fine. If not, well too bad. You communicate with your hands. The situation in Britain regarding translators must be unique.

 

I have been a Polish translator in England since 2008. When I started it was really, really busy. I would have three cases a day. I was working day and night. I have less work now, but I think that’s mainly because there are so many more interpreters.

In some ways it is surprising that more Poles than any other nationals require interpreters here. Most Polish nationals – specially the younger generation – learn English at college. 

 

Some hospitals or GP surgeries use telephone interpreters but from my experience it doesn’t really work. Take NHS cases. Patients sometimes want you to be there when they are given local anaesthetic. I’m next to the patient and the doctor with the scalpel, so sometimes you see things that could make you faint.

 

For me the most exciting projects are crown courts. A year ago we did quite a big murder trial in Carlisle – it lasted for a month and a half, lots of defendants. We had all those reports, pathologists’ reports, so this was very demanding stuff.

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Whenever apologists for the failings of Capita TI appear before Parliamentary Committees, they always present the declining number of complaints as evidence that the contract is getting better and better. I've done some analysis of the published statistics, and it throws up some interesting figures. 

For example, if a linguist fails to attend an assignment, you'd imagine the booking clerk would be pretty angry and would almost certainly complain. Not so. In the last set of statistics covering the 2nd quarter of 2014, there were 227 instances of 'did not attend' but there were only 98 complaints, a complaint rate of 43%. The figures are even more striking when you consider instances of Capita being unable to supply a linguist. 1,780.instances of not being able to supply resulted in only 329 complaints, a rate of 18.5%. Combining these two examples, the rate for complaining has fallen steadily over the last year, from 33.5%in Q1 2013, to 21.3% in Q2 2014.

As time goes by, it is clear that court staff are becoming less willing to complain, even though they still have plenty to complain about. Why would this be? Two reasons spring to mind. Firstly, it is seen as a complete waste of time making a complaint because nothing will come of it. The MoJ has made it obvious that it backs Capita to the hilt and isn't prepared to do anything that would provoke Capita to walk away from the contract. Secondly, court staff don't want to jeopardize their careers by complaining about a contract that Handcock and Brennan hold so close to their hearts. We've already seen the MoJ threaten disciplinary action to prevent staff contributing to the Justice Select Committee forum. Who wants to stick their head above the parapet and be perceived as a 'whining winnie', when all it will achieve is push them to the front of the queue for redundancies?

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Hello fellow linguists!

My name is Carla Avenia Koency, and I am currently finishing my MA in Conference Interpreting at the National University of Ireland - Galway. I will only get this much coveted degree once I finish my thesis, which I chose to do on the privatisation of court interpreting in the UK.

Some of you might have already heard of me because I was recruiting court interpreters for a questionnaire. That was the initial part of my research... Now I'm on the second part: a survey, one that will only take 10 minutes of your time (no writing required! just clicking!). 

I even made sure that it's extra convenient for you to fill out: you can even access it through your phone!

So, I please ask you to take a few minutes from your busy schedule to click through my questionnaire. It will help me, of course, but also remember that it helps me help you. The more of us there are out there writing about this topic in an academic context, the more attention it will get. Or at least, so I hope. 

Link to the questionnaire: http://questionpro.com/t/AK9EtZRQw3

Please share it with your colleagues! Don't be shy. 

And of course, if you have any questions, you can find me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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