Councils spend £43m on translators and interpreters for non-English speaking residents

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Octavio Armendariz  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:28
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Right to be informed in your own language May 7, 2013

The MP's comments seem outright xenophobic and do not take into account the difficulty that working migrants have in acquiring English. In the U.S., translation and interpreting into your own language is a legal right in order to access legal and social services. It doesn't matter what it costs. Not informing migrants of their rights and duties in their own language would be violating their rights. The UK needs to get used to the fact that it became a multi-cultural society a long time ago.

 

Airone
Local time: 09:28
Italian to English
absolutely disagree May 7, 2013

I'm not up on UK law but the MP is probably right when he says that in England there in fact is not a legal right to translation. Printing a disclaimer of essential rights is fairly cheap--contracting professional interpreters for minor court proceedings is decidedly not. If you go to Mexico, their language is Spanish and they do not translate everything into the other languages spoken in Mexico. I'm fairly confident that if you are before a court in Mexico, they will conduct business in Spanish and will not provide an interpreter at the state's expense.

Many countries expect migrants to learn the language of the land functionally after a certain amount of time--usually a few years. I know for a fact that Italy and Austria have this provision. For some reason, people think it is unreasonable when English-speaking countries do it. People are tiring of the conflict and endless difficulties that state-sponsored multiculturalism brings and there is a backlash, particularly in places where jobs are tight.

[Edited at 2013-05-07 11:09 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:28
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Doctors, lawyers and court officials cannot do it May 7, 2013

What many people do not take into account is the fact that while migrants learn enough of the local language to get by in everyday life, it may be quite limited outside their normal situations.

Legal terminology or describing medical symptoms are specialist areas, and it is quite normal for professionals to sit down with patients or clients who speak the same everyday language - English in the UK - and explain in layman's terms what they need to know.

That is not possible in other languages, and migrants will get out of their depth faster if they have to depend on their acquired English.

That is why a trained interpreter is needed - someone who can explain the specialist language.

It is not a requirement that English people understand the specialist language as general knowledge, but it is their right to understand their own situation, and it is also the right of foreigners who brush with the law - or are called as witnesses - to understand on an equal level what is going on.

It is vital for the health services too, that patients understand what is going on, what they are consenting to, and how they are expected to comply and cooperate. They will often have no problems if they can be told, at least at the beginning, in their own language, until they learn how to deal with the situation in English.

Freedom of mobility is one of the pillars of the EU, and with it goes the need for translation and interpretation of public business.

Smaller countries spend proportionally more on it - they do not necessarily have fewer languages to contend with. The country's own language may not be widely spoken elsewhere - many migrants will be able to manage perfectly adequately in the UK, but think of a language like Danish or Estonian...

I am not saying it is not a lot of money, but I would maintain that it is simply a necessity to provide adequate interpretation and translation services.


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:28
Hebrew to English
Need a better understanding of the current situation in the UK Octavio May 7, 2013

Airone wrote:

I'm not up on UK law but the MP is probably right when he says that in England there in fact is not a legal right to translation. Printing a disclaimer of essential rights is fairly cheap--contracting professional interpreters for minor court proceedings is decidedly not. If you go to Mexico, their language is Spanish and they do not translate everything into the other languages spoken in Mexico. I'm fairly confident that if you are before a court in Mexico, they will conduct business in Spanish and will not provide an interpreter at the state's expense.

Many countries expect migrants to learn the language of the land functionally after a certain amount of time--usually a few years. I know for a fact that Italy and Austria have this provision. For some reason, people think it is unreasonable when English-speaking countries do it. People are tiring of the conflict and endless difficulties that state-sponsored multiculturalism brings and there is a backlash, particularly in places where jobs are tight.

[Edited at 2013-05-07 11:09 GMT]


Thank you Airone, your post shows a deeper understanding of the current situation in the UK than Octavio's.

Octavio, I'm not sure why you instantly label the MP as "xenophobic". Let's look again at what he said:

“Councils have no legal obligation to provide translation services. They’re currently having to make difficult funding decisions and funding excessive translation should not be a priority. Those needing translation, in many cases, have lived in this country for many years and therefore have a responsibility to learn English.”

I don't think there's anything in that quote that is unreasonable or factually incorrect. We are in the middle of a double/treble-dip recession, corners are going to have to be cut and (leaving aside interpreting for a minute which is a different kettle of fish) EXCESSIVE translation is indeed unnecessary. Councils do not need every leaflet and pamphlet translated into a bazillion languages. It's the very definition of excessive. Furthermore, if you set out to settle in England and have been here for MANY years it's not unreasonable to expect you to learn English and there are some powerful arguments for this - i.e. unending and limitless translation creates a culture of dependency and blocks social cohesion - this is the reason why Brits abroad often don't learn languages - they can get by with English, with everything being provided for/to them in English! So they never learn and consequentially never assimilate. Not only being a missed opportunity, it's also not a desirable situation.

(At this point, someone usually points out the Brits on the Costa del Something, whilst I agree that British Expats should also learn the languages of the countries they settle in, the Brits in Spain usually (not always) RETIRE there, and are well beyond the age at which one might expect you to start picking up a new language, so with this rebuttal I'm never really convinced we're comparing like for like).

I think the immigration issues faced here are quite different to those in the US. And we certainly aren't as rich as the US, so the bottom line will be money I'm afraid.

The whole world doesn't have to be like America, nor would we wish it to.



[Edited at 2013-05-07 13:33 GMT]


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:28
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not so May 9, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

(At this point, someone usually points out the Brits on the Costa del Something, whilst I agree that British Expats should also learn the languages of the countries they settle in, the Brits in Spain usually (not always) RETIRE there, and are well beyond the age at which one might expect you to start picking up a new language, so with this rebuttal I'm never really convinced we're comparing like for like).


The problem here is your facts aren't correct. yes a lot of British Expats come to Spain to retire, but most of the British people who live in Spain (just over 68%) are below age 65 and only 32% are older. So two thirds of them have no excuse not to learn Spanish.

Anyone who knows British expats in Spain knows that very few of them speak Spanish, regardless of their age (though a lot of the younger kids are learning because their parents send them to Spanish schools, so the kids speaks Spanish but the parents don't).

These are the figures from the Spanish Institute of Statistics (INE) for 2011, these figures show details for people born in the UK (i.e. any kids born in Spain to British expats don't appear in this statistic) and that are registered as residents in Spain.

Total Bristish expats: 294,646
Aged 0-64 = 200,444 = 68.03% of the total
Aged 65+ = 94,202 = 31,97% of the total

[Edited at 2013-05-09 11:05 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:28
Hebrew to English
31% still a hefty chunk! May 9, 2013

Which is also why I said "usually [not always]". I would also argue that learning a (new) language over the age of 50 is a bit of a challenge (so the percentage would creep up even higher).

My point remains that I don't think you can compare aging British migrants in Spain and the relatively youthful majority who immigrate here.

I believe I have previously conceded (if not in this thread, then another similar one) that the British in Spain who can't hide behind their pension SHOULD learn Spanish.


 

Alex Lago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:28
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
+ ...
People stick to their own kind May 9, 2013

Sorry I probably failed to explain myself properly

Sure if we count the over 50s I'm sure the percentage will change but the problem here is that even those who are under 50 and could learn the language tend to hang out with other immigrants from their own country.

Having lived in various "multicultural" cities one thing I've learned (which I in fact think is quite sad) is that people prefer to be around people from their own country. If you go to a country and don't speak the language but the country has a large amount of people who speak your language and you can get by without learning the "local" language than, sadly, most people will do just that.


 

Back to basics
Brazil
Local time: 04:28
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Two things May 9, 2013

Firstly: one can argue about the economic viability of this system, but in view of the fortunes spent on warfare and other "nice things", I personally think that the amount of money mentioned is "spare change". Moreover, it is my personal belief that any country that prides itself on being called "civilised" should have this kind of system. I do not know who said this: You can judge a society by the way it treats its minorities. (by the way: Thatcher´s funeral cost about 10 million, whereas the cuts to the budget for the Arts Council amounted to approximately 12 million...Why can that kind of creative accounting not be applied to something "civilised"? They can even make a profit!)

Secondly: I am a strong advocate of the principle of reciprocity, meaning that if this system is sent to the bin, and if there are cases in the future in which British citizens run into problems abroad, they should be treated exactly the same way as foreigners are in GB, even knowing that in countries with "smaller languages" most people get by in English, especially those with a higher education. In that case, however, not a word of English should be spoken. It is very useful to sit in the opponent´s chair every now and then. It has a tendency to put everything back into perspective.

For the record: I am also a strong advocate of multi-linguism and I am more or less an Anglophile, but every now and then I get the impression that the British (or only some of them, I would like to think) are under the assumption that the Empire still exists. Wake up people! Adapt and thrive (you have everything or a lot going for you), or don't and wither. First advice might be to start learning languages instead of staring at your own belly button; a large part of the population could start with their own language, by the way.

PS: just noticed that the figure mentioned is for a three year period: that makes it even more laughable! 43/3 = +/- 14 million a year. Thatcher´s funeral: about 10 miilion spent in one day. Of course we need priorities, but perhaps we should straighten them out just a little bit.

[Edited at 2013-05-09 16:12 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:28
Hebrew to English
I think there is/shoud be a clear demarcation.... May 9, 2013

Stefan Blommaert wrote:
For the record: I am also a strong advocate of multi-linguism and I am more or less an Anglophile, but every now and then I get the impression that the British (or only some of them, I would like to think) are under the assumption that the Empire still exists. Wake up people! Adapt and thrive (you have everything or a lot going for you), or don't and wither. First advice might be to start learning languages instead of staring at your own belly button; a large part of the population could start with their own language, by the way.


...between the kind of English-speaking person who wants the promotion of the English Language here (in England, the US or any other Anglosphere country) and the kind of English-speaking person who thinks the whole world should speak English, regardless of their location.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:28
Chinese to English
Flagrant violation of Gricean principles May 10, 2013

Stefan Blommaert wrote:

...in view of the fortunes spent on warfare and other "nice things", I personally think that the amount of money mentioned is "spare change".

Allow me to rephrase that: chump change, because only chumps would argue about it.

"High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b9b71ae2-b1a1-11e2-b324-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2SqbeUCEa

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP and chairman of the public accounts committee, which has led the charge on tackling tax avoidance by large companies, called for more transparency around settlements.
She said: “We now know that four settlements alone were worth £4.5bn, which just shows what huge sums of money are involved."
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b9b71ae2-b1a1-11e2-b324-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2Sqb9AiJ8

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but if there were a conspiracy, this is exactly how they'd do it. Set the proles arguing over the millions, while we keep the billions for ourselves.

In reality, it's just a toxic combination of lazy journalism and easily-fueled xenophobia that keeps these stories alive. There may be waste in there; no system is perfect. But by cutting language services we are (a) hurting a bunch of vulnerable people and (b) hurting our own industry. Direct your outrage/anger/desire for reform not at little services that help people (legally justified or not), but at the freaking casino finance system that does nothing but harm, and wastes a lot more of your money.

....
Oops, didn't explain the Grice reference: this article (the one about language spending) does not comply with the principle of relevance.

[Edited at 2013-05-10 01:27 GMT]


 


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Councils spend £43m on translators and interpreters for non-English speaking residents

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