“Syrian refugees slam interpreting services in Saint John.”
CBC News/New Brunswick
A response from Critical Link International
Dec 9, 2017
Critical Link International commends the actions of the Saint John refugee community in shedding light on the inadequate services provided under the guise of “interpreting services” (“Syrian refugees slam interpreting services in Saint John” Dec 8, 2017 CBC News). This is not to lay blame on the YMCA, they are not alone in the perpetuation of clumsy language services, nor are they alone in their lack of understanding of the interpreting profession.
At the core of the issue is not that access to interpreting services is limited, or that “interpreters” are not qualified to do the job, or a lack of Arabic (insert any other language) speakers, or a shortage of “talent”. At the core issue is that interpreters are professionals with title protection and certification under legislation in Canada (Community Interpreter and Medical Interpreter are legally protected titles under the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council – CTTIC) but the role is rarely understood. Bilingual volunteers are NOT interpreters – they are bilinguals. There are many of us in this world that are bilingual and multilingual. We are not all interpreters. An interpreter is a professional with a specific set of skills, aptitude, education, and ethical code of conduct that engages in continued competence, is screened for competencies and maintains a “member-in-good-standing” status with professional membership organizations. As would any other professional.
But beyond the lack of awareness and understanding about the true function and specialization of the community interpreter, is also a profound lack of understanding of languages and intercultural communication. Interpreters are not born; they are created through competency-based education. And for that investment, interpreters should be adequately paid for their professional proficiency and expertise. And THAT is truly the central problem: Inadequate compensation for professionals, unrealistic expectations of unskilled volunteers, and erroneously designated services result in the patchwork of programs currently in existence across Canada (if not worldwide), with some regions and sectors more advanced than others.
A scratch at the surface of the activities undertaken under the title of “interpreting services” in Canada would illuminate a Pandora’s box of irregularities and risks.
Critical Link International
About Critical Link International
Critical Link International was founded in 1992 in Canada. Due to a continuous global growth, Critical Link re-incorporated as an international organization and in 2010 became Critical Link International. CLI continues to promote and advocate for interpreters working in health, legal and public services, both regionally and globally. We are a virtual organization, with a Board of Directors from 7 different countries, and over 350 international members world-wide. CLI works closely with other international and regional organizations to ensure that quality language services, provided by professional interpreters, are an integral part of all public services.
Critical Link sits as an expert member at the ISO TC 37 Terminology and other language content and resources, and the Health Standards Organization, Technical Committee for Communication in Health Services, through the role of the President.