Reducing translation will encourage segregation

Ruth Kelly's recent comments that the need to cut down the amount of translation to encourage immigrants to learn English is the wrong approach, argues a leading translation and interpreting company, Applied Language Solutions.

Ruth Kelly’s recent comments that the need to cut down the amount of translation to encourage immigrants to learn English is the wrong approach, argues a leading translation and interpreting company, Applied Language Solutions.

Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of ALS, argues with the suggestion that the use of translation is a “crutch” for immigrants deterring them from learning English; stating rather that translation and interpreting is a necessary support mechanism for the integration of immigrants into mainstream society whilst they are learning English. However, Gavin agrees with Ruth in that more immigrants should learn English, and also calls for the need for the Government to implement a more cost-effective translation and interpreting scheme to reduce the cost.

Gavin said: “This is obviously a knee-jerk reaction to the previous outcry over the cost of translation to the Government that Ruth Kelly hasn’t thought through very well. It’s great in theory to say that everyone must be able to speak English and I agree that learning English is certainly the key to a truly cohesive society. However, what is unrealistic is to expect immigrants to be able to speak our language fluently before they arrive, or within the first two weeks of arriving, as the majority of immigrants won’t have had previous access to any resources that would have enabled them to learn English beforehand. Everyone who has learnt or is learning a language will understand that it is best to live and breathe the language, and therefore providing translation and interpreting is a necessary step in supporting immigrants whilst they are learning English.”

“Ruth Kelly’s argument that translation and interpreting should only be provided in emergency situations can potentially lead to long-term problems, but how do you define an emergency? Official documents translated by Government bodies that are necessary for everyday life include range from Council Tax forms, housing association forms and medical forms to employee contracts, so how are immigrants supposed to understand such important information if it isn’t in their language. An extreme but possible example is if an immigrant approaches a hospital with a medical emergency and neither they can speak English nor the hospital doesn’t have a means by which to communicate with the patient through translation or interpreting, this can potentially lead to a life or death situation for the immigrant.” 

“At the end of the day, non-English speaking communities are people who require access to public services too. Reducing translation will exclude immigrants from society and public services, leaving them living in a world of mystery and running the risk of making what is already a segregated society more segregated.”

“On the other hand, providing interpreting services and documents to immigrants in their own language whilst they are learning to communicate in English will give them a better chance of integrating with British citizens, learning our culture and getting employment in this country, which subsequently means they will contribute to our society faster. It will also enable them access to services, such as health and medical, again highlighting the necessity of providing instant access to their language through translation and interpretation services.”

“What the Government need to be looking at is a more long-term plan of providing more cost-effective translation, and re-investing the money into language lessons.

Applied Language provide translation and interpretation services to many different local governments, public and emergency services, educational establishments and many other public bodies and quangos, and identifies that more Government bodies should join forces and take advantage of the value of shared translation made possible by industry-specific technology known as translation memory.

Gavin said: “A significant amount of the information authorities have translated is the same; yet they continue to purchase translation separately, which obviously has a major impact on the cost to the Government. The amount spent could easily be reduced and more money allocated to English lessons if the Government looked to using advanced translation memory technology. This is a central translation pot if you like that works by remembering and storing translation, which would allow each individual body to access the same high-quality translation at a reduced rate without having to individually pay for the full cost of translation again. Using translation memory can reduce the cost if translation by up to 70% and the Government need to start looking at this technology as an alternative way of saving money, rather than reducing the level of necessary translation.”

Applied Language has approached Government, both nationally and locally, with the need to share translation memory across all departments, and have come up against a brick wall in trying to get authorities to agree to it.

Applied Language Solutions are a rapidly growing language solutions company that deliver a high quality personal and corporate language service with optimal quality, price and delivery.

Applied Language translates all kinds of documents from simple letters to large technical documents, including whole websites and printed catalogues, for specialist Medical, Legal, Financial and Marketing organisations. The company is committed to using only professional in-country translators and interpreters, of whom they have over 6,000 on their books. These translators work in over 150 languages including all the major European, Asian, African, Middle Eastern and American languages.

Applied Language Solutions now have eight offices world wide: Huddersfield, California, Paris, Barcelona, Sofia, Guatemala City, Hong Kong and India, and are proud to work with prestigious customers such as Nike, United Nations and Yahoo!. The company was honoured to be the winner of HSBC Start-Up Star Awards 2006.

For a FREE quote visit or call +44 (0)845 367 7000 in the UK or +1 (800) 579 5010 in the US to talk to one of the team.

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