It is easy to believe that interpreting is merely a case of translating one language for another. However, this is a misnomer particularly where public services are concerned. Interpreting is probably one of the most crucial and sought after need in the public service industry. From Social Services to housing, benefits and court interpreting, the process requires considerable other skills to that of understanding a particular language.
The Social Services department, particularly in cases of child protection require not only accurate translation during interpreting but sensitivity and, above all, confidentiality. Without those components the interpreting can be more of a casualty than a help. When for instance a child is to be received into the care of the local authority, a great deal of sensitivity is crucial on the part of the interpreter who is often the person to convey a very distressing message to a parent or relative. A good public service interpreter will also understand the importance of timing. The task of interpreting in the circumstances described above cannot be hurried. It is often necessary for a distressed person to take time out before commencing. Any interpreting undertaken for the Social Services in those circumstances should be preceded by an explanation to the client as to what he/she may expect and how it will be undertaken. The Social Services department should require a written undertaking of confidentiality and should further ensure that the interpreter is not known to the client in any capacity even living in the same vicinity.
Public service interpreting is also often used by the housing department particularly in multicultural areas where for many, English is not the first language, or where asylum seekers are concerned. This will also require a preliminary explanation to the client explaining the process that is to take place and also to explain the client’s rights and the limitations of any service required before the actual interview takes place.
Court interpreting also involves confidentiality and prior checks that the client is not known to the interpreter. It is sometimes the case that an interpreter is required urgently, particularly where someone who does not speak English has been arrested on a serious charge and is to be brought before Magistrates imminently. It is the task of the interpreter to explain to the client what is happening and what the charge is. The interpreter will be working with a solicitor who will explain everything to him/her. Most solicitors will become familiar with a translation service that provide good interpreters. A good Court translator will be experienced in working in the Courtroom and will have the appropriate public speaking skills. The interpreter will translate word for word which may well include swear words and abusive comments but interpreting means just that, interpreting exactly what is being said. The purpose of interpreting is to take the place of the person so that what is being translated is just as if the person was saying it themselves.