Thursday, 8 July 2010

interpreting in the financial spotlight

I see another easy news story about the terrible expense of public service translating and interpreting ('Cash-strapped force defends up to £68-an-hour translators'). A funny one for several reasons:
(a) they are talking as usual about interpreting rather than translation;
(b) reading down, one learns that the regular rate is less than half the headline rate, and that the headline rate is for anti-social hours (freelancers need sleep too, and the occasional day off);
(c) I have just seen an advertisement for some occasional interpreting work that paid £9 an hour, which rather dents the image of plutocratic linguists living off the fat of the land. (I also, fwiw, recently came across an ad for an interpreting gig that pays $200,000+ a year, but that one involved Dari and Pashto and being shot at, so I'm going to say that one doesn't count).

It's good at least to hear the other side of the story from the police and in the form of a spirited comment by Pamela Mayorcas of the ITI. Not everyone may agree, but we live in a multilingual society where basic legal, medical and administrative access entitlements mean that we will continue to need interpreters and translators, just as we continue to need lawyers, police, plumbing, wifi signals, ramps, tea, coffee, water, telephones, oxygen etc. It's easy and seductive to fantasise about everyone learning English, particularly in these straitened times when everyone is looking for budget headings to cut; but any day any one of us could be mugged in Rome or accidentally rear-end someone in Estonia, and then we would be very, very grateful indeed to find that the police speak our language.

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