Cheap Interpreting on Trial

The Lesson of Cheap Price Contracts The failure of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) contract to supply interpreters for court cases was widely covered in the local and national press. The contract was originally signed with Applied Language Solutions (ALS), a company later acquired by Capita. This article is not meant to be a protest as some interpreters have done, it just highlights the reasons for some of the failures under this contract. With many years of experience in the translation and interpreting business, I knew that problems with serious consequences were likely. From the MOJ‘s point of view, they focussed on the savings made by centralising through a single company, but failed to appreciate the process of employing experienced interpreters, particularly in the legal sphere. The common adage is that the lowest price isn’t always the cheapest in the long run, and you do tend to get what you pay for. The contract failed to deliver on two major counts, firstly the MOJ mistakenly thought they were getting a bargain but did not see or did not want to see the obvious, if you pay less you get less, and in this case lower quality, with some interpreters not turning up. Of the interpreters that did turn up some were not able to interpret at all and others were seriously deficient and were rejected by the courts. All this is well documented in press and industry reports where you can read about the many failures. Secondly, promises of high quality interpreters could not always be fulfilled because of the cheaper prices on offer. The prices are so cheap that qualified and experienced professionals will not work for these prices, so they rely on inexperienced persons, students, people working in restaurants who speak the language. Interpreting at this level though requires more than just an apprentice interpreter, bilingual or partially bilingual person. Again if you pay a bargain price, then it practically means that the company can only use cheaper interpreters with less experience, and consequential problems. Even cheap interpreters will not turn up when they realise the money they are being paid barely covers their expenses as highlighted by the following quote from the Sunday Express article published Sun, May 12, 2013, entitled ‘Interpreter’s ‘low pay’ halts a trial‘: A FURIOUS Crown Court judge had to adjourn a murder hearing because a Mandarin interpreter refused to turn up, claiming he would “not be making enough money”. The judge hit out when he...

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