Speaking our clients’ language – with a training course for interpreters

There are over 200 different languages spoken in Birmingham, so many of our client visits require interpreters. Our staff already speak a range of languages including Punjabi and Urdu; however, the clients who are really in need of our services are those who have recently arrived in the country. They bring new language needs and, generally, interpreting services are not geared up for that.

For a while now we’ve been using translation agencies but we find that it doesn’t allow us to deliver as flexible a service as we’d like. We occasionally need to access interpreters with short notice; POWs need to spend time before an appointment giving an interpreter background information and explaining what they are trying to get out of the visit.

Luckily, we are often able to interpret for clients using the skills of our own staff and volunteers. For example, a client who was recently referred to our POWs service is from Democratic Republic of Congo and speaks French. Although none of our POWs speak French,  one of the Gateway volunteers is from Madagascar, so it’s her first language. With help from the volunteer, our POW was able to introduce herself and Gateway to the client. Between them, they were able to start giving the client the support she needs.

In this video, Pregnancy Outreach Worker Shazia explains how, by offering her skills as an interpreter, she can persuade women to attend important appointments that they wouldn’t otherwise have the confidence to.

So we’ve decided to fill the gap – and formalise things – by setting up a training scheme for interpreters.

The training will lead to a formal qualification – an OCN Level 2 in “community interpreting”. But, like the training we give our volunteers, it will also include things like confidentiality, safeguarding, and work on boundaries. As well as giving us more control, this will give trainees a load of extra transferable skills that we hope will be useful to other organisations, leading to further interpreting work for them.

Many of the trainees already signed up are former clients themselves, so they are very well placed to understand how the service works, as well as a natural empathy for the client. As well as providing a translation service, they will be able to act as an assistant to the POW.

We’re hoping the course will open up work opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. The opportunity to gain a formal qualification, and to start earning money by working for us and other organisations could be the beginning of a new career.

Want to find out more?

Our first group of interpreters will start on Thursday 16th May 2013, but there are still some places available.

You don’t need any prior qualifications – just a willingness to learn! However, although English will probably be your second language, you need to be able to speak English well.

So if you speak French, Somali, Arabic, Bengali, Romanian, or any other language that is spoken in Birmingham, and think you could benefit from our scheme, get in touch.


  1. Rosemarie Simpson says:

    Great way to provide additional skills for people within local communities and to help individuals to access much needed services.

  2. Vicki says:

    We have had a great response to our story last week, We must give priority places to those people who will be able to work for our new nterpreting service which we will be launching shortly – sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  3. Yasir A. Amin says:

    It is very great opportunity for all interested to have this chance to develop the skills and enrich the experience they have.

  4. Suckvinder Singh says:

    I would like to become a interpreter I speak clear English & Punjabi but don’t know were to start can you help?

    • Katherine Hewitt says:

      Hi Suckvinder
      Thanks for getting in touch. We already have enough interpreters that speak Punjabi but happy to add you to the waiting list in case we have need for more? In terms of how you get started there are a few options, you could look at doing a bit of interpreting on a voluntary basis to get some experience or just go straight ahead and enrol with one of the commercial agencies.
      Best wishes Katherine

  5. Saima says:

    I am interested in becoming a interpreter in Urdu and punjabi I currently work in the Nhs health sector and are looking for a change in career.

    Please could you advise me further

    Thank you

  6. Julie Taylor says:

    I know one of my clients from the Jobcentre is doing an interpreter course with you; can you tell me if you are able to translate documents for a jobseeker, through your interpreters? A Jobseeker from France is a qualified pharmacy technician and has to have a translation done to be able to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council. Please can we have a chat?

    • Katherine Hewitt says:

      Hi Julie
      This sounds interesting and we have two French interpreters. Give me a call and we can find a way of providing what you need.
      I’m Katherine and you can reach me on 0121 456 7820

    • Katherine Hewitt says:

      I’m not sure if we’re recruiting at present and also can’t tell if you’re local to Birmingham. Still thanks for contacting us and we’ll be in touch.

  7. Raluca says:

    Hello there!I would like to become interpreter and to get some money for it,as I have been doing as voluntary for so many years already..I live in Birmingham (Oldbury) and I speak Romanian. I also speak Turkish and Italian,not as good as my mother language. Thank you!

    • Joanne Harper says:

      Hi Raluca. we are in the process of setting up a new training course so can I ask you to send your details(including contact number and email) to our Programme Manager Michelle Bluck – michelle.bluck@gatewayfs.org
      Look forward to hearing from you

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