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Community Interpreting Skills – setting up a translation agency

21st June 2013

interpreting-courseA couple of months ago we wrote about our need for more flexible interpreters, and our plans to address the need directly by setting up our own interpreting agency.

The creation of our own translation agency will have wide-reaching benefits, as it also gives us the opportunity to generate employment.

Naturally, we feel that our interpreters need to be suitably trained – not just to ensure quality, but to prepare them for going into the sort of situations that Gateway staff often do. So we’ve set up a Community Interpreting Skills training scheme in preparation for the business launch.

We’re very pleased to say that it’s now week three of the course delivery and attendees are well on their way towards obtaining formal qualifications.

“This is an OCN course in Community Interpreting Skills, but we’ve developed it further, to match Gateway’s values,” course leader Sarah Clay explains. “So, as well as basic interpretation skills, participants also learn about challenging discrimination and promoting equality. Because the interpreters will be working in communities with potentially vulnerable people, we also include training around boundaries and safeguarding. They need to be aware of cultural issues and be prepared to advocate for a client in certain circumstances.”

Between them, the nine course participants speak ten languages, including Polish, French and Arabic. All are keen to formalise a role that many have been doing “unofficially” for years.

Ferzana works as a family support worker at a children’s centre. “I already do a lot of interpreting for families, so I’ve wanted to do a course for a while,” she says. “I did a GCSE in Urdu and got an A* – that gave me the confidence to carry on and look for a professional qualification. I found out about this Community Interpreting Skills course through volunteering as a befriender for Gateway. It’s perfect – and I can already see how it will be beneficial across all of my work.”

Paul has been working for a translation agency for the last four years and has wanted to become qualified for a while. He found out about this course when one of Gateway’s Pregnancy Outreach Workers used the agency he works for.

“I’ve already got a lot of experience, but this is my chance to get a certificate – a professional qualification,” he says. “This course is good because it’s all about working with the community and it’s a bit more than the usual basic interpreting course. It links perfectly with the sort of interpreting jobs I already do: working with family solicitors around immigration issues. You often have to be very sensitive and gain people’s trust in a short amount of time.”

A condition of the Gateway interpreting scheme is that participants must sign up to our agency at the end. But, of course, they can join other agencies too, so that they have as much chance as possible of finding work. We hope that this qualification will lead to more paid work for all of our students, especially if they have been doing it informally anyway.

Paul is already feeling positive about his future career. “Hopefully it will lead to more work. Finding out that I was already doing things right is giving me confidence – and I’m very pleased to finally get the chance to make things official.”

Gateway will be launching our translation agency in September. It will be a resource that’s available to other organisations; as well as supporting our clients, our interpreters will be available to hire. For further details, contact Gary Hillyer at Gateway Family Services.

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  1. julio robles

    could you advice us on setting up a translating agency in the south west? thank you

    • Katherine Hewitt

      Hi Julio
      Our agency is still in it’s infancy but happy to talk about our progress to date. Please give us a call on our main line number 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to Katherine.

  2. Mo blue

    I am very interested in setting up a free translation service in Manchester. I was wondering if you could advise me of the best starting point

    • Michelle Bluck


      I’m not sure if we have spoken about this a couple of weeks ago, as i have already discussed this with someone who was from Manchester.
      If you would like a chat about this please give me a call at the office.