We’re very pleased to announce that our translation agency, which we’re calling ‘Speaking Your Language’, has launched – and our interpreters are already out working with clients.
As you may remember, we ran a training scheme earlier this year to give interpreters the opportunity to gain a level 2 OCN Community Interpreting qualification, allowing them to work not just for us, but for other agencies and companies. The Community Interpreting Skills course was developed and adapted especially for them, and the first trainees qualified in October.
We started the agency, and developed the course, because we’d identified gaps in the services available from external agencies. Newly-arrived clients often have language needs that aren’t covered; we occasionally need interpreters at short notice; and POWs often have to spend time before an appointment explaining the nature of their work to an external interpreter. So the tailored course covers the more sensitive issues that may come up in community work, as well as the more standard interpretation skills.
And the newly-qualified interpreters are already putting their skills to good use, working with Gateway staff to interpret during client appointments.
We also saw it as a way of offering part-time work to many of the people we had engaged with through our services; in fact 75% of our interpreters are former clients.
For now, this is a ‘soft launch’, providing interpreters for our own clients, but we will be opening it up in the new year. Maxine Brown, Programme Administrator for the interpreting service, explains, “it’s internal at the moment; interpreters have been working with POWS and Lighten Up clients, to allow us to test out our processes. In the new year we will open it up for external bookings.”
Since finishing the Gateway course in September, interpreter Paul, who speaks the East African languages Tigrinya and Amharic, has had a couple of bookings to work with POW clients.
One had housing issues, so Paul helped the POW to explain the options available to them and to sort out some of the problems. He says, “We explained what benefits they were entitled to – housing benefit and child tax credits in this case – and then I called the electricity company, on their behalf, to sort out some issues with their utilities. When there’s a language barrier, problems can become very drawn out. Phonecalls can be virtually impossible to follow, and of course it can get very expensive, so this is much needed work.”
Maxine agrees. “These are community, not business, interpreters – so they’re working with ordinary people and with social issues. The interpreters tell us it’s much more interesting work because of that.”
As part of his work with another agency, Paul already works with family solicitors around immigration issues, but this new qualification means he will be able to translate for a much wider client base. “It’s opened up a big world for me. I can take this certificate to many other types of agencies and departments. I’m interested in all the corners of life, so I’m especially keen to work with the Police and the UK Border Agency. I’m going to knock on every door!”
Another recent Gateway graduate, Nadine, had done some interpreting work in the past and was looking to get back into similar work – this time, with a qualification. “I was looking for something that I would be able to fit around childcare,” she says. “I found Gateway’s course on the internet and it sounded ideal. It meant I could get a qualification and follow that up with flexible work.”
The tailored course gave her more skills than she was expecting. “We learnt about safeguarding and confidentiality – things that are important when you’re interpreting in the community. I’m really confident about this type of work now.”
Since gaining her qualification Nadine, who speaks Arabic, has already had some interpreting work with a POW client. She was able to help the client to explain her situation to the POW and, in the next appointment, she will help them complete a housing application.
Although the opportunity will be there, Nadine hopes that when the interpreting agency is opened up to external clients in the new year it will offer her enough work without her needing to register with other agencies.
“I’m already really enjoying working with Gateway,” she says. “I felt really good about the first job; it felt easy. I was able to introduce myself properly, explain why I was there and the confidentiality the service offers. I feel much more professional and confident.”