Tag: community interpreting skills

Speaking Your Language: our new interpreters start work

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.

Our second intake of interpreters during their course, with their tutor Sarah Clay

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.”

Paul’s story

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!”

Nadine’s story

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.”

Community Interpreting Skills – setting up a translation agency

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.