Interpreters join forces across Sussex as cuts hit their income

First published in News by , Chief reporter

Hundreds of official interpreters in Sussex are mounting a campaign against cuts to hourly fees.

Some 400 people across the county who act as translators for the NHS, councils and other public bodies have this week formed the Association of Community Interpreting Standards, officially launched at Eastbourne town hall.

The aim is to raise the profile of their work and to highlight a crisis in their profession – the pressure to cut their hourly pay rates, in some cases by almost half.

They say the pressure to reduce costs comes from budget cuts in the public sector and increased competition between big translation and interpreting companies.

Translator Ali Akbar, from Brighton, is one of the founding members of the association.

He said: “We appreciate that councils and the NHS are facing serious cuts – but as community interpreters we feel that we offer a vital service to very vulnerable people.

“We do more than translate, we also help people to make crucial decisions about their lives in a culture they’re not familiar with.

Pay eroded

“It’s very depressing to see how our pay is being eroded. Three years ago I could expect to earn between £26 and £30 an hour, with travel expenses paid on top of that.

“Now I can be asked to do an hour’s interpreting for as little as £16 an hour with no travel expenses.

“Once I’ve taken away time and money for travel I can end up earning about £3 an hour.”

Other work carried out by community interpreters can range from helping their client’s family to finding the right school or translating clauses of a tenancy agreement.

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Comments (12)

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4:37pm Fri 25 Jan 13

BornInBrighton1968 says...

I have lived and worked in Sweden, Germany and Austria. No translators there; the onus is on immigrants to learn the language, which I did.

Think how much money would be saved if all councils (that's you, Brighton Greens), Police and NHS did what every other country in the world does; insist that if you want to live and work here, you learn English before you arrive (and not rely on UK tax payers to fund translators)
I have lived and worked in Sweden, Germany and Austria. No translators there; the onus is on immigrants to learn the language, which I did. Think how much money would be saved if all councils (that's you, Brighton Greens), Police and NHS did what every other country in the world does; insist that if you want to live and work here, you learn English before you arrive (and not rely on UK tax payers to fund translators) BornInBrighton1968
  • Score: 0

5:04pm Fri 25 Jan 13

chilliman says...

I believe that immigrants should at the very least have to learn enough to get by in their chosen country. I have Indian friends, for example, where the wives have lived in the UK for over 40 years and can't get beyond Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank You. It's a similar story with friends from Africa and the Far East. The people I know would be severely disadvantaged if their family interpreter, usually husband, died - I had to act as executor for a Somali widow who spoke umpteen dialects plus Arabic and Italian but virtually no English. She took immediate action to go to English classes but hadn't done so for the 20-odd years she had lived in England because she didn't feel she needed to.

I was born abroad, in a Spanish speaking country, and have lived and worked all over the place. My parents learned the language whenever they moved, and I did the same with no expectation of official interpreters to help. It's also the best way to get to know a country, its' culture and people instead of living in an English enclave (sounds nicer than ghetto).
I believe that immigrants should at the very least have to learn enough to get by in their chosen country. I have Indian friends, for example, where the wives have lived in the UK for over 40 years and can't get beyond Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank You. It's a similar story with friends from Africa and the Far East. The people I know would be severely disadvantaged if their family interpreter, usually husband, died - I had to act as executor for a Somali widow who spoke umpteen dialects plus Arabic and Italian but virtually no English. She took immediate action to go to English classes but hadn't done so for the 20-odd years she had lived in England because she didn't feel she needed to. I was born abroad, in a Spanish speaking country, and have lived and worked all over the place. My parents learned the language whenever they moved, and I did the same with no expectation of official interpreters to help. It's also the best way to get to know a country, its' culture and people instead of living in an English enclave (sounds nicer than ghetto). chilliman
  • Score: 0

5:41pm Fri 25 Jan 13

nocando says...

Good. Translators are a counter productive expensive luxury even at £16/hr.
Time for the non english speakers to integrate and communicate. Isn't that what multiculturalism is supposed to be all about? After we've welcomed them to live with us it's pretty rude of them not to make any effort and then expect their adopted nation to do all the running.
The cost of translation across the board is pretty horrendous and largely unecessary. Cut it.
Good. Translators are a counter productive expensive luxury even at £16/hr. Time for the non english speakers to integrate and communicate. Isn't that what multiculturalism is supposed to be all about? After we've welcomed them to live with us it's pretty rude of them not to make any effort and then expect their adopted nation to do all the running. The cost of translation across the board is pretty horrendous and largely unecessary. Cut it. nocando
  • Score: 0

5:49pm Fri 25 Jan 13

HJarrs says...

I quite agree that people that decide to settle in another country should make an effort to speak the language. It would seem to me that very little is translated in this country into other languages, scandelously so as we have so many foreign tourists yet we treat them as second class if they don't speak and read good english.

I should imagine many of the council services help people, possibly mainly women, to not be so isolated and therefore more likely to be able to engage with the council and wider society making it more likely that they will learn english.

I had to laugh at the comment about Sweden etc. I have yet to meet anybody from Scandinavia that does not speak good english, and I have seen translations in Germany (english!).
I quite agree that people that decide to settle in another country should make an effort to speak the language. It would seem to me that very little is translated in this country into other languages, scandelously so as we have so many foreign tourists yet we treat them as second class if they don't speak and read good english. I should imagine many of the council services help people, possibly mainly women, to not be so isolated and therefore more likely to be able to engage with the council and wider society making it more likely that they will learn english. I had to laugh at the comment about Sweden etc. I have yet to meet anybody from Scandinavia that does not speak good english, and I have seen translations in Germany (english!). HJarrs
  • Score: 0

6:11pm Fri 25 Jan 13

Para2805 says...

They arent going to get much sympathy with this one. I don't get paid the time it takes me to get to work nor the extortionate bus fare either. This one cut that is welcolme. If people want to live here, learn the language, simple. Sorted.
They arent going to get much sympathy with this one. I don't get paid the time it takes me to get to work nor the extortionate bus fare either. This one cut that is welcolme. If people want to live here, learn the language, simple. Sorted. Para2805
  • Score: 0

6:48pm Fri 25 Jan 13

John Steed says...

some years ago my then wife was a home office translator, the pay was surprisingly good, , however there where not many proficient translators around then, now there are large numbers of foreign nationals available who speak vertually all the languages in the world, its a matter of supply and demand, no shortage of supply and the demand is falling, translation can and does take place via the phone. at a pinch it can be run through google,
any person living in this country can happily learn the language very quickly, plenty of help is available however this is not the issue as it would be wrong to expect all visitors and tourists to all be fluent in english (or welsh or gaelic) what is needed is simply what was in place, an enhanced rate for the first hour and a guranteed number minimum hours per instance where possible, it never was a gravy train but it is an important service to ensure justice, medical treatments, safety of our borders etc gets carried out without danger or delay.
some years ago my then wife was a home office translator, the pay was surprisingly good, , however there where not many proficient translators around then, now there are large numbers of foreign nationals available who speak vertually all the languages in the world, its a matter of supply and demand, no shortage of supply and the demand is falling, translation can and does take place via the phone. at a pinch it can be run through google, any person living in this country can happily learn the language very quickly, plenty of help is available however this is not the issue as it would be wrong to expect all visitors and tourists to all be fluent in english (or welsh or gaelic) what is needed is simply what was in place, an enhanced rate for the first hour and a guranteed number minimum hours per instance where possible, it never was a gravy train but it is an important service to ensure justice, medical treatments, safety of our borders etc gets carried out without danger or delay. John Steed
  • Score: 0

7:29pm Fri 25 Jan 13

imnotpc says...

BornInBrighton1968 wrote:
I have lived and worked in Sweden, Germany and Austria. No translators there; the onus is on immigrants to learn the language, which I did.

Think how much money would be saved if all councils (that's you, Brighton Greens), Police and NHS did what every other country in the world does; insist that if you want to live and work here, you learn English before you arrive (and not rely on UK tax payers to fund translators)
Exactly,well said.As they say 'when in Rome'...
[quote][p][bold]BornInBrighton1968[/bold] wrote: I have lived and worked in Sweden, Germany and Austria. No translators there; the onus is on immigrants to learn the language, which I did. Think how much money would be saved if all councils (that's you, Brighton Greens), Police and NHS did what every other country in the world does; insist that if you want to live and work here, you learn English before you arrive (and not rely on UK tax payers to fund translators)[/p][/quote]Exactly,well said.As they say 'when in Rome'... imnotpc
  • Score: 0

12:06pm Mon 28 Jan 13

gingerbbm says...

It's hardly the fault of the interpreters that the UK has a lot of people that don't speak English. Seems that the vitriol of the commenters on here is based on unhappiness with the immigration policies, rather than the provision of adequate assistance for people in need.
It's hardly the fault of the interpreters that the UK has a lot of people that don't speak English. Seems that the vitriol of the commenters on here is based on unhappiness with the immigration policies, rather than the provision of adequate assistance for people in need. gingerbbm
  • Score: 0

12:52pm Mon 28 Jan 13

manctofu says...

The ignorance about interpreters in these comments is sad, but not surprising. I am an interpreter and fully agree that anyone who moves to another country should make an effort to learn the local language - absolutely. However, interpreting is a highly-skilled, pressurised job that takes years of studying, preparation, preparation, exams and expensive fees. To then end up earning the equivalent of £3 an hour for it - and this has happened to me - is more than depressing. Interpreting is not an immigrant-only service. Consider these examples: if you were on holiday in Cornwall and a Frenchman crashed into your car, would you want him breathalysed, arrested and interviewed? If a Polish lorry driver caused an accident that killed someone (as happened recently) - how do you think the facts are established? What if you were mugged and the only key witness was a Japanese tourist - or indeed anyone who did not speak English - would you be happy for the case to be thrown out and your attacker to walk free because there were no interpreters? After all, 'they should speak English', right? Would you be happy that justice could not be served? Would you be happy for an unqualified, inexperienced person with a smattering of Japanese to interpret the witness statement and get it wrong? Consider these before you make crass, ill-informed, silly statements about immigrants and interpreters. We do a wide variety of work that helps lots of different types of people, and we are now expected to accept wages on a par with McDonald's staff.
The ignorance about interpreters in these comments is sad, but not surprising. I am an interpreter and fully agree that anyone who moves to another country should make an effort to learn the local language - absolutely. However, interpreting is a highly-skilled, pressurised job that takes years of studying, preparation, preparation, exams and expensive fees. To then end up earning the equivalent of £3 an hour for it - and this has happened to me - is more than depressing. Interpreting is not an immigrant-only service. Consider these examples: if you were on holiday in Cornwall and a Frenchman crashed into your car, would you want him breathalysed, arrested and interviewed? If a Polish lorry driver caused an accident that killed someone (as happened recently) - how do you think the facts are established? What if you were mugged and the only key witness was a Japanese tourist - or indeed anyone who did not speak English - would you be happy for the case to be thrown out and your attacker to walk free because there were no interpreters? After all, 'they should speak English', right? Would you be happy that justice could not be served? Would you be happy for an unqualified, inexperienced person with a smattering of Japanese to interpret the witness statement and get it wrong? Consider these before you make crass, ill-informed, silly statements about immigrants and interpreters. We do a wide variety of work that helps lots of different types of people, and we are now expected to accept wages on a par with McDonald's staff. manctofu
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Mon 28 Jan 13

manctofu says...

And a final statement: those saying other countries do not have interpreters are quite simply wrong. Of course they do, for goodness sake.
And a final statement: those saying other countries do not have interpreters are quite simply wrong. Of course they do, for goodness sake. manctofu
  • Score: 0

1:05pm Mon 28 Jan 13

gingerbbm says...

Well said, @manctofu.
Well said, @manctofu. gingerbbm
  • Score: 0

11:28am Sun 3 Feb 13

BrightonRPSI says...

manctofu wrote:
The ignorance about interpreters in these comments is sad, but not surprising. I am an interpreter and fully agree that anyone who moves to another country should make an effort to learn the local language - absolutely. However, interpreting is a highly-skilled, pressurised job that takes years of studying, preparation, preparation, exams and expensive fees. To then end up earning the equivalent of £3 an hour for it - and this has happened to me - is more than depressing. Interpreting is not an immigrant-only service. Consider these examples: if you were on holiday in Cornwall and a Frenchman crashed into your car, would you want him breathalysed, arrested and interviewed? If a Polish lorry driver caused an accident that killed someone (as happened recently) - how do you think the facts are established? What if you were mugged and the only key witness was a Japanese tourist - or indeed anyone who did not speak English - would you be happy for the case to be thrown out and your attacker to walk free because there were no interpreters? After all, 'they should speak English', right? Would you be happy that justice could not be served? Would you be happy for an unqualified, inexperienced person with a smattering of Japanese to interpret the witness statement and get it wrong? Consider these before you make crass, ill-informed, silly statements about immigrants and interpreters. We do a wide variety of work that helps lots of different types of people, and we are now expected to accept wages on a par with McDonald's staff.
That was going to be my point, manctofu. I am an interpreter myself, and I have to work very hard and continue to improve my skills and knowledge even when I am not working. I absolutely agree that people should learn the language of the country they live in, but it's a long process that cannot be achieved overnight. Not everyone has the same ability and strength in learning languages, but you should not be denied fair treatment before that happens just because you simply could not understand the language and express your views. Interpreters are there to make sure that things are be said and understood correctly.
As an interpreter, you are expected to know everything. We are not doctors, legal professionals but we have to familiarise ourselves with all the technical terms, in both languages. Doctors in A&E do not pause and wait for you to google or check your dictionaries, judges do not give you time to find out what the sentences are before you interpret. Languages are easy to learn, to some extent. But professional language, used interchangeably, in a pressurised environment, instantly, is a profession that needs to be skilled. It's a general view that is shared by many British people that, immigrants, legal or not are legal, are here to abuse the system. Whether that is true or not, it's not up to us to decide, that is what the Immigration Services are for, and I believe they are doing something about that. For some people, many people I know, think that, any bilingual person can 'translate' ( I noticed previous comments referred us to 'translators', not interpreters.). They think we are ' lucky' to be able to speak two or more languages and 'earn' a living out of that. Not many interpreters and translators I personally know earn enough to pay tax including me. And It's not lucky to be able to speak 2 or more languages, it requires diligence and plenty of experience to be a proper linguist, not just a bilingual speaker. It's probably quite hard for most of British people to understand the frustration of the people who do not speak English well because English is spoken world-widely wherever you go. Well, again, to some extent. As manctofu pointed out, you wouldn't want someone who speaks 'good enough' English to 'translate' your Q&A/statement in a police station, or explain you consent form before your operation in a foreign country, would you? Same reason why you would want a qualified, experienced barrister to represent you in court rather than having someone who knows a bit about the legal system or even an law undergraduate to do the job. It's funny how people would use double standards for the same principle.
[quote][p][bold]manctofu[/bold] wrote: The ignorance about interpreters in these comments is sad, but not surprising. I am an interpreter and fully agree that anyone who moves to another country should make an effort to learn the local language - absolutely. However, interpreting is a highly-skilled, pressurised job that takes years of studying, preparation, preparation, exams and expensive fees. To then end up earning the equivalent of £3 an hour for it - and this has happened to me - is more than depressing. Interpreting is not an immigrant-only service. Consider these examples: if you were on holiday in Cornwall and a Frenchman crashed into your car, would you want him breathalysed, arrested and interviewed? If a Polish lorry driver caused an accident that killed someone (as happened recently) - how do you think the facts are established? What if you were mugged and the only key witness was a Japanese tourist - or indeed anyone who did not speak English - would you be happy for the case to be thrown out and your attacker to walk free because there were no interpreters? After all, 'they should speak English', right? Would you be happy that justice could not be served? Would you be happy for an unqualified, inexperienced person with a smattering of Japanese to interpret the witness statement and get it wrong? Consider these before you make crass, ill-informed, silly statements about immigrants and interpreters. We do a wide variety of work that helps lots of different types of people, and we are now expected to accept wages on a par with McDonald's staff.[/p][/quote]That was going to be my point, manctofu. I am an interpreter myself, and I have to work very hard and continue to improve my skills and knowledge even when I am not working. I absolutely agree that people should learn the language of the country they live in, but it's a long process that cannot be achieved overnight. Not everyone has the same ability and strength in learning languages, but you should not be denied fair treatment before that happens just because you simply could not understand the language and express your views. Interpreters are there to make sure that things are be said and understood correctly. As an interpreter, you are expected to know everything. We are not doctors, legal professionals but we have to familiarise ourselves with all the technical terms, in both languages. Doctors in A&E do not pause and wait for you to google or check your dictionaries, judges do not give you time to find out what the sentences are before you interpret. Languages are easy to learn, to some extent. But professional language, used interchangeably, in a pressurised environment, instantly, is a profession that needs to be skilled. It's a general view that is shared by many British people that, immigrants, legal or not are legal, are here to abuse the system. Whether that is true or not, it's not up to us to decide, that is what the Immigration Services are for, and I believe they are doing something about that. For some people, many people I know, think that, any bilingual person can 'translate' ( I noticed previous comments referred us to 'translators', not interpreters.). They think we are ' lucky' to be able to speak two or more languages and 'earn' a living out of that. Not many interpreters and translators I personally know earn enough to pay tax including me. And It's not lucky to be able to speak 2 or more languages, it requires diligence and plenty of experience to be a proper linguist, not just a bilingual speaker. It's probably quite hard for most of British people to understand the frustration of the people who do not speak English well because English is spoken world-widely wherever you go. Well, again, to some extent. As manctofu pointed out, you wouldn't want someone who speaks 'good enough' English to 'translate' your Q&A/statement in a police station, or explain you consent form before your operation in a foreign country, would you? Same reason why you would want a qualified, experienced barrister to represent you in court rather than having someone who knows a bit about the legal system or even an law undergraduate to do the job. It's funny how people would use double standards for the same principle. BrightonRPSI
  • Score: 0

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