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Linguistic Challenges

Pietro Naj-Oleari_Interpreters_20110215_268The UK is already one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries, 
but mass migration in Europe is causing a huge increase in demand for 
interpreter services, reports Nick Burchell of Clear Voice

INTERPRETERS IN THE UK are witnessing major changes in the languages required by clients, as government organisations, private companies and public sector services face up to the increasing challenges of migration and globalisation.

The UK’s only nationwide not-for-profit interpreters, Clear Voice Interpreters and Translation, has experienced a huge increase in demand for its high-quality services throughout the country over the past year.Calls increased by 126 per cent year-on-year during the period January to December 2015, according to recently-published figures in the annual report of the charity Migrant Help, its parent organisation. All Clear Voice’s profits go to support Migrant Help, so the increase in demand has resulted in more funds being made available to help people in need.

Although Clear Voice offers its clients scores of languages, just 10 accounted for 85 per cent of calls received in the year 2015:

1. By far the most requested language for interpretation was Arabic (29 per cent).
2. Farsi (13 per cent), mainly spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan.
3. Kurdish Sorani (9 per cent), a Kurdish dialect spoken in Iraq, mainly in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Province of western Iran. Along with Arabic, it is one of the two official languages of Iraq.
4. Tigrinya (7 per cent), the native language of ethnic Tigray-Tigrinya people in the Horn of Africa. It is the most-used language in Eritrea and is also spoken in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.
5. Urdu (6 per cent), the national language (alongside English) and lingua franca of Pakistan , as well as an officially recognised language in six Indian states.
6. Albanian (6 per cent), primarily spoken in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and parts of Greece, but also recognised in Italy, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Romania.
7. Chinese Mandarin (6 per cent), simplified or traditional Chinese has more native speakers, nearly one billion, than any other world language. Mandarin is also spoken in Taiwan and Singapore and is the most common form of Chinese used among diaspora communities around the globe.
8. Amharic (4 per cent), the official language of Ethiopia and the second-most spoken Semitic language in the world, after Arabic, with 22 million native speakers in Ethiopia alone.
9. Punjabi (3 per cent), the native language of the Punjab region of Pakistan and India.
10. Pashto (2 per cent), one of the two official languages of Afghanistan, and one of the main regional languages of neighbouring Pakistan. Pashto is the language used in the Afghan national anthem.

These figures make particularly interesting reading when compared to the 2011 Census for England and Wales, which asked respondents what their ‘main language’ was.

The vast majority (92.3 per cent) reported English (English or Welsh in Wales) as their main language, but a significant number of respondents, 4.2 million, had a main language other than English.

Polish was the next most common language with 546,000 people, or 1 per cent of the population, reporting it as their main language. About half that number claimed Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali or Gujarati as their main language.

The top 10 languages other than English also included Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish.

In England and Wales, 1.3 per cent reported they could not speak English well and 0.3 per cent claimed not to speak English at all, with concentrations of non-English speakers mainly in London and the West Midlands.

In Northern Ireland, after English, the most-spoken languages in households were reported as Polish, Lithuanian, Irish Gaelic, Portuguese, Slovak, Chinese, Filipino, Latvian, Russian, Malayalam and Hungarian.

In Scotland, 93 per cent reported that they used only English at home. Significant minorities spoke Scots and Polish (each 1 per cent) and Gaelic (0.5 per cent) with a top 10 completed by Urdu, Punjabi, Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Arabic.

Worldwide, the most commonly spoken languages, by numbers, are:

1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. English, which is still considered the most influential language due to the large number of countries in which it is spoken
4. Hindi and Urdu, which share a history, many common words, and a grammar. Many linguists consider them different ‘registers’ of the same common language
5. Arabic
6. Portuguese; although the vast majority of Portuguese speakers live outside Portugal, in Brazil, Angola and Mozambique
7. Bengali
8. Russian
9. Japanese, although almost everyone who speaks Japanese lives in Japan and the island group of Okinawa, making it the most concentrated geographically of the major languages
10. Punjabi, which recently overtook German for 10th spot.

The UK is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. It scores 97 out of a maximum 100 on the Herfindahl-Hirschmann index that measures a country’s diversity of immigrant birth countries.

There are more refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people seeking safety across the world now than at any time since World War II. In 2014, the UN estimated this figure at 59.5 million, up from 51 million in the previous year.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s Global Overview 2015 reported that the majority of the increase in new displacement during 2014 was the result of protracted crises in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria. These five countries accounted for 60 per cent of new displacement worldwide.

Iraqi civilians suffered the most new displacement, with at least 2.2 million displaced in 2014, while at least 40 per cent of Syria’s population, or 7.6 million people, have been displaced – the highest number in the world.

Working across many different sectors, including government, immigration, prisons, housing, healthcare, business, finance, tourism, manufacturing and leisure, Clear Voice is constantly reshaping its offer to deal with fast-moving changes in client requirements.

We remain the ethical choice for telephone, face-to-face and written and audio translations with no set-up charges and clients only paying for what they use. Many of our interpreters have experienced migration and are able to provide a sympathetic and culturally-sensitive service when dealing with asylum seekers or the victims of trafficking.

With the increased demand, Clear Voice is always looking for professional, enthusiastic and customer-focused linguists with high ethical standards to become part of our team, particularly if they are fluent in one of the highly-requested languages in last year’s top 10.

For more details visit www.clearvoice.org.uk or call 
T: 0800 520 0380.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


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