With the recent debate on Afghanistan interpreters that have risked their lives working with British Forces in Afghanistan and are not in a position to hop on a plane back home and out of sight of the enemy, I wanted to focus my blog on why risking the lives of local interpreters is such a necessity to the safety of our own nationals in zones of conflict and war and how much British troops, emergency services and journalists (a small example) rely on local interpreting services during operations and times of crisis.
Relationships between troops and local communities are vital for an operation to have a successful outcome . Once a connection is made, troops may be able to access information that can prepare them for any attacks from the enemy and help them protect other locals. It is important to realise that the interpreters are risking their lives as much as the troops. Forging relationships is a difficult but necessary job. If our troops were unable to communicate with local communities and guide them on how to make the place they live in a safer and a more sustainable environment for when the war is over, the operation would be pointless.
Interpreters are needed to understand cultural issues, something that no-one other than locals know best. Our forces might be trying to aid the community, but without knowing how to approach a situation, the people might get put off before the attempt to help them has even begun. Although in the UK we live in a very liberal country where human rights is encouraged and cultural differences are accepted, some countries where troops are deported on a mission have strict rules on religion and rights of citizenship and it can be tricky to gain the trust of local communities without having one of their own on board.
Journalists reporting in conflict and war zones rely heavily on interpreters to guard their safety, above anything else. They protect reporters as they can tell the journalists when the situation is too dangerous and when the time comes for when they need to leave that location, or even the country. Interpreters are also important for arranging meetings and interviews with insurgent leaders, among other high profile people. Fluency in the local dialect is as important as actually having an interpreter to hand at all, when in zones of conflict and war. For example, if an interpreter is needed for a journalist in Iraq, it all depends on which area of the country they are required. They may need to be able to understand Kurdish in a Kurdish speaking area of the country or they may need a Shiite Arabic interpreter in other parts.
Few organisations entrusted with delivering emergency services and humanitarian aid to crisis zones are fully equipped to get over language boundaries. Interpreters are needed in these areas to assess real needs and help in the selection of where financial aid is placed.
If you find yourself in need of emergency aid where the language barrier is stopping this from happening, then Veritas Talk can assist you. We recently helped a customer of ours who was unable to communicate with hospital staff when his mother became unwell on holiday.