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.