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

See the sights. Catch a show. Get a divorce…

divorce

 

Paris – the city of love. 

Rome – the eternal city. 

New York – the city that never sleeps. 

London – divorce capital of the world. 

 

While the UK’s capital might have hoped for a more romantic association, its lawyers could hardly have asked for a more lucrative one. For a range of reasons, the UK in general and London in particular has become a magnet for the super-rich who are falling out of love.

International visitors value the even-handed approach and discretionary elements of English divorce law. And they will be aware of the eye-catching financial settlements of recent years:

  • In 2006 insurance broker John Charman was ordered to pay his wife Beverly £48m.
  • In 2008 Heather Mills was awarded £24.3m in her highly publicized split from Sir Paul McCartney.
  • In 2011 Russian oligarch Boris Berezowsky is believed to have agreed a payment of £220m to his wife of 20 years, Galina Berashova.

More international and commercial arbitrations take place in London under English law than in any other city in the world. Added to this, the Times has reported that one case in every six that come before courts in England and Wales include an international element. With so much at stake, financially and personally, there’s no room for error in the presentation of evidence. Every word and every nuance matters. When a client’s native language isn’t English, translation and interpreting from a proven legal specialist will convey information precisely, in sense and spirit, giving other professionals the platform to do their jobs equally well. 

Those seeking to end a marriage in the UK will find few jurisdictional barriers in their way. It’s not necessary for either spouse to be British born or British domiciled to file divorce proceedings under English law. Jurisdiction can be established through residence of either party, or sometimes simply by the proof of a commercial connection to the country. And for both parties, there are firm arguments in favour of a London settlement.

English Courts recognise that there should be no discrimination between the contributions of a homemaker and breadwinner in a marriage, so the starting assumption in all cases is an equal division of matrimonial assets. While this has been refined to allow exceptions, it remains a compelling point.

Crucially, Pre-Nuptial and Pre-Marital Agreements have no statutory force in England and Wales. They may be looked at on a case by case basis as part of the tapestry of a marriage, but won’t be given the weight they receive in other territories.

It’s also fair to say that overseas citizens seeking legal representation may be attracted to the UK by the quality of the professionals who practice there. Long standing leaders such as Farrer & Co continue to balance their clients’ emotional and economic interests with consummate skill, while Stowe Family Law have proved for decades that London has no monopoly on quality. The firm has a London presence along with five offices in the north of England, and is home to some of the country’s most respected practitioners. 

Divorce capital of the world may not be the most romantic title, but when it signifies fairness and professional competence it’s nothing to shy away from.

 

David Jones

Chinatown

Chinatown

 

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

In Chinatown, the celebrated 1974 film noir, a private detective played by Jack Nicholson attempts to do the right thing for his client but his actions inadvertently do far more harm than good. The movie’s closing line sees a colleague asking him to walk away and put the events behind him. A cynical movie character struggling with that scenario is one thing, but how much more difficult must it be for a principled officer of the court? One of the problems facing our legal professionals recently surfaced in a real life “Chinatown” scene, and as with the movie it offered no immediate prospect of a happy ending.

Earlier this month a Crown court judge asked a defence barrister to search the Chinese restaurants of Cardiff for an interpreter after the agency contracted to provide one failed to do so, not once but twice. Liu Sun, the defendant, had been arrested for offences related to importing prohibited goods. She denied the charges, but was denied a fair hearing on two consecutive days when no Mandarin speaking interpreter was provided. His Honour Judge Burr, no doubt exasperated, made the request but it was refused. Understandably and fortunately. While it could open up a string of employment opportunities for catering staff, this isn’t a precedent we want to set.

Until February 2012, courts in England and Wales were at liberty to hire freelance legal interpreters from a national register. The decision to award a near monopoly to a single language service provider was intended as a cost cutting exercise, promising savings close to £20 million a year. A large part of the saving was to come from legal interpreters being forced to accept reduced rates from the only employer in the market. What else could they do?

The reality has been very different, of course. Skilled professional interpreters simply refused to be held to ransom and boycotted the process. A review started by the Public Accounts Committee in December 2012 uncovered tales of an interpreter register peppered with fictional names and even family pets. At regular intervals since then we’ve heard positive noises indicating that the ship has been steadied, but this Cardiff episode suggests that responsible legal professionals and their clients may be back to square one.

So what does the future hold?

Should pizza waiters be drafted in for Italian interpreting assignments?

Should sushi servers be called upon to mediate Japanese renewable energy trade deals?

Or should we draw a line in the sand and leave crucial linguistic tasks to suitably skilled linguists?

Skilled courtroom interpreters aren’t just speakers of a language. They are specialists, comfortable with the chosen mode of interpreting, with the terminology of their field and with the pressures of any given case. They are professionals, as much as the officers of the court they serve.

And like the solicitors, barristers and judges they work alongside, they have no appetite for scenarios where a client has been done more harm than good. They don’t want Chinatown. By working together, the legal profession and their support partners can deliver something very much better.

 

David Jones