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High pressure on interpreting agencies

High pressure on interpreting agencies

After a year in which as many as 160,000 refugees have come to Sweden to seek asylum, many of society’s institutions are under strain. As one of the Nordic region’s largest interpreting agencies, Semantix is also feeling the pressure.

Published 5/30/2016

During the autumn and winter, we have experienced a greater demand for interpreting than ever before. For example, the number of interpreting orders in Dari, which is spoken in Afghanistan, rose by more than 300% compared with the same period in the previous year. We are also experiencing significantly stronger demand for Arabic, Somali and Tigrinyain particular. We do not always have enough interpreters, and this is obviously a major problem when it affects important social functions and, in the long run, individuals who need interpreters when dealing with asylum issues, healthcare and other forms of contact with authorities.

Here at Semantix, we are doing our utmost to address this situation, including by recruiting more staff for our offices around Sweden. By expanding our customer service and interpreting coordinator teams, and of course by also recruiting new interpreters, we are working hard to deal with the growing stream of orders. Our IT developers are also working to make our IT services even better, making administration simpler and more efficient for our customers and interpreters.

Book at alternative times

Under the present circumstances, we would also appreciate our customers’ help, particularly when it comes to interpreting requests in Arabic, Dari, Somali and Tigrinya. One problem is that most orders are for interpreting during the busiest times of the day: 10:00-12:00 and 13:00-15:00. For example, around 80% of interpreting assignments in Arabic take place during these periods.

We are currently producing a ‘booking curve’ that will clearly show the availability of interpreters when placing an order. When you log in to our eTolk booking portal, you will see an overview of the booking situation so that you can see which times are already ‘high pressure’ times. If more customers can order interpreting at alternative times – earlier in the morning, at lunchtime or later in the afternoon – we are more likely to be able to meet demand and find available interpreters for all assignments.

Coordinate interpreting bookings

Another way of being more certain of having your interpreting needs met is for orderers within the same department to coordinate their meetings when interpreters are needed. For example, a healthcare centre can arrange appointments for Arab-speaking patients on the same day, and can book a single interpreter for the entire day. The interpreter’s time can then be used more effectively, with less time wasted and spent travelling.

Use a telephone or video interpreter

In many cases, it is also easier and more convenient to book a telephone interpreter. Telephone interpreters can be found quickly throughout Sweden. Remote interpreting is both economical and environmentally friendly, and is also an ideal alternative if there are no interpreters nearby for a particular language or specialisation. There is also less risk of conflicts of interest.

At Semantix, we have also developed our own video interpreting solution – the Interpretab – which combines the accessibility of telephone interpreting with the benefits of having an interpreter on site.

A need for more interpreters

Ultimately, we still note that more interpreters will be needed over the coming years. Semantix’s vendor team for interpreting is therefore being given greater resources in order to find more new interpreters to recruit all around Sweden. We will also be developing our internal introductory training so that more interpreters can start working sooner. Semantix’s introductory training is being offered to interpreters of languages in which there is a shortage, and particularly in regions where we lack interpreters.

Semantix also welcomes the Swedish Government’s decision (in Swedish) to find a more long-term resolution to this situation. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education has recently been commissioned with reviewing the opportunities for starting shorter, more intensive training for face-to-face interpreting. We are convinced that cooperation between politicians, education providers, users of interpreters and the language industry can result in more effective interpreter training while still maintaining a high level of quality.

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