The Voice

interpreting

Today is international translation day. On September 30th each year we celebrate the work of linguists all over the world who strive to break down communication barriers.

These celebrations aren’t confined to a single day, and last Friday the British Library hosted the International Translation Day symposium. Representatives of the British Centre for Literary Translation, the Translators’ Association, Literature Across Frontiers and Wales Literature Exchange gathered to discuss industry developments. Among the topics was continuing professional development for linguists, and that’s always something worth discussing.

There has been a lot of negative publicity around interpreting services in the UK in recent years. I’d like to assure readers that the expertise and commitment of interpreters in this country are beyond reproach. Every day Language Connect works with gifted professionals who constantly seek to improve their skills and add value for their clients. Constantly refining their understanding of technique and subject matter, because simply speaking a second language isn’t enough. Being bilingual doesn’t make you an interpreter, any more than passing your driving test makes you a Formula One driver. An interpreter will listen attentively, process language, understand its nuances, idioms and cultural quirks, then find and deliver precisely the right words in the target language, all in a fraction of a second.

They will use their expertise to communicate across any boundary. Earlier this month Language Connect was delighted to support the Tate Modern with an innovative performance featuring artists who perform as a dance partnership while in different countries.

Sister and brother Selma and Sofiane Ouissi use Skype to practice and perform “together”. Their work is a fascinating marriage of technology and human artistry.

Their performance at the Tate Modern, as part of the BMW Tate Series, concluded with a live question and answer session, accompanied by an interpreter. When artists invest so much of themselves into what they do, any explanation of it needs to be conveyed with the utmost accuracy. When the client confirmed that our interpreter had done this impeccably, keeping a cool head and paying close attention to detail, it made all the hard work worthwhile. By putting in the effort to understand the client’s needs and select the right person, we made a contribution and gave people their voice.

We’re in the business of bringing people together. Whether it’s a group of “C” level executives at an industry conference, a doctor and patient in an emergency room or artists seeking to share their vision with an audience, we believe in giving everyone a voice. When we celebrate international translation day we’re celebrating the talent and dedication of linguists all over the world who help us do that.

To all of them I say thank you and happy international translation day.

Amy Lovejoy

Do It Yourself?

social justice

 

Need a lawyer?

For an increasing number of people embroiled in legal action in the UK the answer may still be yes, but it’s the question that needs updating.

Since drastic Legal Aid cutbacks were implemented in April 2013, more and more people have to ask themselves whether or not they can afford a lawyer. For those who can’t the options and the consequences can be ugly. The impact in England and Wales has been telling. Year on year, the number of people representing themselves in Welsh courtrooms almost doubled between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Crispin Masterman, a former family judge in South East Wales has recently drawn attention to the damage this can do to the family unit. Mr Masterman and many others in the profession are convinced that removing lawyers from the legal process directly causes delays, and where proceedings concern family law he fears that children often suffer most,

“The damage that’s done is both emotional and probably, in some cases, psychological as well, and the difficulty is that parents don’t see this, they’re so tied up in their own issues that they forget that the child’s welfare is the paramount issue.”

Anticipating this increase in “per se” representation, the Bar Council of England and Wales published a detailed guide for anyone considering this route when the funding cuts were first announced. Well-intentioned as this was, can untrained, unqualified private citizens really be expected to represent themselves adequately in a highly-charged courtroom setting?

The National Justice Committee certainly doesn’t think so. Comprising the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, the Justice Alliance and the Criminal Bar Association, this group has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the cutbacks. Its members believe a fundamental principle – and the concept of social justice in this country – has been compromised.  

The legal profession hasn’t always been portrayed flatteringly in the media or in popular culture. For every Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird there are many more John Miltons, portrayed by Al Pacino in The Devils’ Advocate as not only a venal attorney but the devil incarnate. Many people question the motives and even the necessity of lawyers. Professionals on both sides of the Atlantic would no doubt prefer to identify with the slogan of the 1996 American Bar Association’s national convention:

“Freedom, Justice, Liberty — without lawyers they’re just words.”

Language service providers can easily identify with the lawyers they support. Where Google offers a cheap substitute for professional translation, self-representation is the budget alternative to skilled professional advocacy. In both examples, important details will be lost along the way. We sympathise with those who have no alternative to self-representation and we applaud the lawyers who continue to stand up for their rights, but the message is clear. Professionals get the job done. Just as language issues need to be resolved by a professional translator, the courtroom is an arena for the lawyer.