Conference to highlight need for qualified interpreters

Languages students

23rd July, 2010

The importance of qualified interpreters for asylum seekers and immigrants in the UK, as a basis for human rights, will be highlighted at the 6th international Critical Link conference at Aston University, this week.

The conference, Interpreting in a Changing Landscape, will suggest that despite qualified interpreters being an essential support mechanism for individuals seeking medical or legal assistance, their services are often underutilised and underestimated.

This unique event, a UK first, will bring together representatives from every sphere of the worldwide public service community including academics, interpreting practitioners, employers, trainers, policy makers, service providers and service recipients.

Elaena Wells from Aston’s School of Languages & Social Sciences believes the events aim is to shed new light on the vital role that public service/community interpreters play in our world and debate issues around the role of interpreting in our changing world. She explains, “If an asylum seeker has a medical or legal problem, and they can’t communicate properly, this could put them at risk. It still happens all too frequently that family members perform interpreting in medical and legal settings instead of qualified interpreters. This can cause problems and even danger. A recent case, for example, highlighted that a victim of domestic abuse needed to explain her injuries and how they came about, but the perpetrator of her abuse was acting as her interpreter.” 

Professor Christina Schaeffner from the School of Languages & Social Sciences at Aston, who is an organiser of the event, added, “There is not enough training provision in the UK, let alone government support for interpreter training courses. The conference will therefore have a significant role to play in raising awareness of some of the key issues around community interpreting.”

Aston Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julia King, will open the event, which runs from Monday, July 26th – Friday, July 30th, with guests including Councillor Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader, Birmingham City Council.

The conference is particularly relevant to public service employees, including police and health professionals. The event will highlight the unique link between Aston University’s research in this area and wider professional practice and academic research. Areas covered will include political, legal, human rights, trans-national, economic, socio-cultural and sociolinguistic aspects of public service/community interpreting.

Other strands to the conference will include the use of innovative new practice and technologies to improve public service interpreting such as webstream interpreting, interpreting in conflict zones and the ‘virtual courtroom’.

Find out further information with a copy of the full conference programme or contact Professor Christina Schaeffner at c.schaeffner@aston.ac.uk.


For further press information please contact Sally Finn on 0121 204 4552.

 Notes to editors:

  • Previous Critical Link conferences have taken place in Vancouver (1995 and 1998), Montreal (2001), Stockholm (2004) and Sydney (2007).

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