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UK: Translation costing public £100m
Thread poster: Nesrin

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
English to Arabic
+ ...
Dec 13, 2006

Oh no, they're out to get us....


UK: Translation costing public £100m

More than £100m of public money is spent on translation services in the UK, the BBC has learned.

Local authorities spend £25m, NHS trusts £55m and the courts £31m on interpreting languages.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6174303.stm

see also:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6172805.stm


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 09:59
English to Indonesian
+ ...
It seems to be a dilemma Dec 13, 2006

Hi Nesrin,

On one hand, all citizens are entitled to various public services. Because many immigrants cannot speak English, the government provide them with translation and interpreting services.

However, these services have made them unable to speak English. They might think, "What is the point of learning English if translators and interpreters are at our disposal?" It is really surprising to find out that a woman having lived in UK for 22 years cannot speak English at all. Strange but real.

Indeed, this policy is beneficial to us translators and interpreters. But in this case we should perceive from another higher viewpoint - social integrity.

Logically, English citizens must speak English. If an English citizen does not speak English, he/she is not a complete English yet. Or it may be said he/she is half English.:)


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Jun Zhu  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
English to Chinese
+ ...
what a load of rubbish... Dec 13, 2006

I was angry when I watched the program last night...how can they blame us for 'discouraging people to learn English'??? I felt like shouting at those ladies who spoke to the camera 'we don't feel we need to learn English because the translators will help us...' What is the program maker's problem?? There are tons of people like her who don't want to learn English due to their laziness and lack of motivation for education, God help them but don't blame us! This is so unfair!

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Evonymus (Ewa Kazmierczak)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 04:59
English to Polish
+ ...
... Dec 13, 2006

I fully agree with you Jun
rgds Ewa


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Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
Member (2004)
German to English
I think the tide is turning on immigration and integration Dec 13, 2006

and I actually agree with the new trend. I used to teach EFL and ESOL and there are simply too many people living in the UK for very long periods of time within their own communities and therefore feel little or no need to integrate at all. It is too easy to live within your own cultural group and never be faced with meeting people who don't speak your language, including English. This creates communities that are separate from each other and the "mainstream" culture. This lady was not alone - there are plenty like her - who never have to step out of their isolated comfort zone within their own communities. Are they lazy? Yes but we have to find a way to encourage (force?) them to integrate and providing everything in their own language is not going to help.
In the US the lingua franca in some areas is Spanish. What would it be in the UK? Bangla? Arabic? Hindi?
It's totally ironic that the English are USELESS at teaching languages to English-speakers, the whole world speaks English and yet you can live here and never speak it. But I know from my own experience that this is true of many communities.

Gillian


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Clarisa Moraña  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 23:59
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Questionnable example Dec 13, 2006

I agree with Jun Zhu.

According to the news artlcle "

Speaking through a translator, a Bangladeshi woman who has lived in the UK for 22 years and does not speak English questioned this spending.

She said: "When you are trying to help us you are actually harming. Even before we ask, all we have to do is say hello, they are here with their interpreters. We just sit here doing nothing and we don't need to speak in English at all."

" Common, is it because that translations and interpreters have been provided to that woman that she doesn't speak English? I don't think so, she is lazy, or something else.

I believe that translations are important in any country, to help newcomers to understand local rules and culture, but at the end of the day, everybody living in a certain country will have to learn its language.

Regards

Clarisa


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Policies should go hand in hand Dec 13, 2006

I do agree with you all - but those people (who have been living here for 20 years and still need everything translated) can't suddenly be told that they're going to have to do without a translator/interpreter. The NEED to understand what an NHS leaflet says, what their council is up to and what is going on in court.
I agree that people living in the UK need to integrate in the long run (and 20 years in definitely a long run!), so maybe they should be given more incentives to learn the language, maybe even given an ultimatum, after which they won't be offered the services of translators unless they pay for them.


HAVING SAID THAT...............................................

How many Britons living abroad see the need to learn the language of the country they live in?? I know several British people (and for that matter, Germans and French people) who live in Egypt, and who would never DREAM of taking courses in Arabic.
True, English has become the lingua franca, but it's worth a thought. Before we demonise the old Pakistani grandmother in London who barely ever steps out of her house, maybe we should ask ourselves what we would have done in her situation.

[Edited at 2006-12-13 12:04]


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Myriam Garcia Bernabe  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
And let us not forget... Dec 13, 2006

...that those of us who pay taxes in the UK and work as interpreter/translators for the public services contribute to that expenditure.

But the main problem, as always, is the misconception about what we actually receive for those services. Not many people realise that the relevant authorities mostly outsource these contracts out to agencies nowadays pushing the cost up.

Myriam


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Elizabeth Sumner
Local time: 03:59
Russian to English
+ ...
Ooh this programme made me mad! Dec 13, 2006

I watched the article on BBC news last night and I can say it put me into a scurling rage - so annoyed only one of my husband's Geordie expressions could describe it; it's quite an expressive dialect

If they want people to speak English then don't blame the translators and interpreters, it's a policy decision. You can't fault someone for taking on a job that's available.

I would have thought that interpretation in particular facilitates a person learning a language. People are far more likely to meet with other people from different backgrounds if initially they have help overcoming the communication barrier.

Hey ho, people always say the British are bad at learning other languages...it now seems that the ones who do are just making things worse!

Lizzy


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:59
German to English
+ ...
Terminology? Dec 13, 2006

Elizabeth Sumner wrote:

I watched the article on BBC news last night and I can say it put me into a scurling rage - so annoyed only one of my husband's Geordie expressions could describe it; it's quite an expressive dialect


Way - ay, Lizzy!

Yes, I also noted a spousal explosion.

I think it was clear that they mostly meant interpreting, rather than translating. At least that's what all the people in the various snippets included were doing and of course that does cost just a few bob more.

However, click on "Have your say" here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6172805.stm, where they speak of "translation services". An interesting string, BTW, (wiv some innovative grammer).

I suppose all the neighbours will now think that "translators" are coining it in at their expense and we will have to suffer stony glares from acquaintances, have irate taxpayers chasing us with Molotov cocktails etc. (innit!)

(I shall refrain from commenting on whether people should learn the native language of their country of residence (after 22 years).

Chris



[Edited at 2006-12-13 17:48]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 04:59
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Of course they should learn English, but.... Dec 13, 2006

I did not see the programme in question, but I do get into a similar discussion now and then - about why immigrants to Denmark need interpreters instead of 'just learning the language' ...

Of course immigrants should learn the language of the country they live in, wherever it is. But it's hard work.

It took me about a year to get fluent at everyday Danish, and I attended a good language school for at least six months. I'm also, in all modesty, naturally quite good at languages (I had a degree and spoke some French and German as well as English before I came to Denmark.)

It is far heavier going if you do not speak any related language, or cannot read the alphabet. It is really difficult if you can barely read your own language. I know a Tamil who lives in Denmark whose children all went to university. He speaks excellent Danish in fact, but he can't read or write much in any language. He is retired now, but has worked as a painter and decorator most of his life.

When 'ordinary' citizens need help from public services - be it doctors, solicitors or any other specialists - the specialists have to 'translate' or explain to their patients or clients what is going on.

Doctors don't expect patients to walk in from the street and understand all the technicalities of their diseases and conditions just like that. Some of us with higher educations can read things up for ourselves, but not everyone is able to, even if they do speak English (or the local language) perfectly well.

If we could all understand legalese without help, most lawyers would be out of a job. But their clients don't actually speak the same language - or domain of the language - and take it for granted that the lawyers will help.

Doctors, lawyers and other professionals are not necessarily linguists, and they are not necessarily experts in explaining to immigrants about the differences between the health system in the UK (or wherever) and the system in other countries.

We who are used to the blessings of a welfare state do not always know our rights and obligations, and they are not the same from country to country. We ask the experts for help, and immigrants who literally do not speak the language need interpreters who can first explain the situation, and then relate it to the client's or patient's national and cultural expectations.

So it is a complete misunderstanding that health service interpreters and court interpreters prevent immigrants from learning the local language. Everyone should preferably be able to read a newspaper, talk to the teachers at their children's school, or the assistants in shops etc. without an interpreter. As I said, it is not easy, but it is possible.

On the other hand, there will always be a need for specialist translators and interpreters too. You can't expect immigrants to speak English BETTER than the native speakers, or at least in more specialised domains ...

Danes are more or less forced to learn another language if they go anywhere outside Denmark, so at least they know what learning a language involves. Brits who haven't seriously tried it themselves are just cases of the pot calling the kettle black!

OK, end of lecture, but I get worked up about it now and then too!




[Edited at 2006-12-13 18:20]


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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:59
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Speaking English is not enough Dec 13, 2006

I think that the fact that someone can speak English does not necessarily mean that he (she) does not need an interpreter or translator. Just because someone is able to buy bread and milk, or ask how to get to Trafalgar Sq does not mean that he is able to communicate well enough to defend oneself in the court, or fully understand complicated information given by the physician. Of course people who want to live in the UK need to learn English, but the cannot be expected to have sufficient command of this language for the purpose of such situations.
Moreover in case of EU languages, entitlement to receive public services in ones mother tongue is not some privilege given by the UK government but results from the EU law and is UK’s obligation.
Cheers S


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Andrea Riffo  Identity Verified
Chile
Local time: 22:59
English to Spanish
Outsider butting in Dec 14, 2006

That's a very interesting -and infuriating- article, thanks for posting it.

About blaming translators & interpreters of reinforcing the language barrier, that is utter BS. Say the situation were reversed: that the UK refused to help immigrants by providing language professionals. Then they would be accusing the UK of being hostile or unwelcoming.

About the Bangladeshi woman, I think the situation might be slightly different since -from what I understood- she was brought into the UK as a wife. In her case, at least, keeping her from learning the language is the surest way of exerting control. Apparently, unless her husband allows it, she is not "free" to take language lessons, so I can partially understand her resentment. Perhaps, if there were a law making English lessons compulsory for immigrants and providing easy access to such courses it would lessen the problem.

I have a friend who currently lives in England (PhD student). His family is from the former USSR and his grandparents moved to USA (illegally) before he was born. His grandmother, who has lived in the USA for decades, still speaks only Russian. My guess is that must also happen with lots of Latin American families residing in the US.


Regarding Nesrin's statement


How many Britons living abroad see the need to learn the language of the country they live in?? I know several British people (and for that matter, Germans and French people) who live in Egypt, and who would never DREAM of taking courses in Arabic.

True, English has become the lingua franca, but it's worth a thought.


Slightly off-topic, but I have seen something like this, though in a different situation and not limited to Britons, but to anglophones in general.

When backpacking through Europe a couple of years ago, I couldn't help but notice that at least half the English speakers approched the locals (in Poland, Hungary, Germany, etc) speaking directly in English, as though everyone should know the language. I found it quite rude.

That has also happened to me here in Chile, and my answer has been "no hablo inglés" [I don't speak English]. When foreigners politely ask first, they have my total attention and will to help as much as I can. Because of this, I made it a point to learn how to ask "excuse me, do you speak English or Spanish?" in Hungarian, Polish, etc.

Also, since I took German lessons for (only) 3 years, while in Germany I did my best to communicate in German, although I had not used the language in 6 years. I must have obviously been a source of amusement, but believe me, the responses I got were far friendlier, patient, and helpful that the ones other backpackers got. Most of the backpackers got the impression that Germans were cold and boring, while I have nothing but really good memories of my stay in the country, as well as a couple of new friends with whom I have not lost touch.

Greetings all


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Cecilia Paris  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 23:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
a few generations need to pass Dec 14, 2006

[quote]Nesrin wrote:

I do agree with you all - but those people (who have been living here for 20 years and still need everything translated) can't suddenly be told that they're going to have to do without a translator/interpreter. The NEED to understand what an NHS leaflet says, what their council is up to and what is going on in court.
I agree that people living in the UK need to integrate in the long run (and 20 years in definitely a long run!), so maybe they should be given more incentives to learn the language, maybe even given an ultimatum, after which they won't be offered the services of translators unless they pay for them.

[quote]

It may take several generations. Here is my own family experience:

My great-grandmother (English) came to Argentina with English husband to work in the ARgentine navy. She never spoke a word of Spanish. She did not allow her children to mingle or play with the local children and sent them to an English school. There was a British Hospital so no need for interpreters. No idea how she managed with the butcher and grocer.
This all English non integration attitude went diluting over the generations. I am third generation English and married a non English person (who learnt English together with our children) and my children feel embarassed when I speak to them in English in front of their (non-English speaking) friends and speak to me in Spanish.


Perhaps if the children learn the language at school, integration will eventually come naturally.



[Edited at 2006-12-14 11:25]


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