The Challenges in Interpreter Recruitment

Multiethnic Variation Ethnicity Crowd People ConceptBy: Evgenia Karakehayova

Hmong interpreter in a Saskatoon Hospital…

Bari Kuku interpreter at a Women’s Shelter…

Hainanese for an elderly client…

These are some of the requests that we receive every week in Vendor Management. I am both a Recruitment Coordinator and accredited Bulgarian interpreter, and in this post I will talk about the top 3 challenges that I have encountered when recruiting interpreters. Also, I am going to share my experience and the challenges I faced when providing services to people in need.  

  1. Interpreters do not disclose the rare dialects that they speak on their resumes

From my experience at MCIS, many polyglots or speakers of rare languages/dialects do not disclose the ability to speak the language. Usually this is because they believe that there are no assignments in these rare languages/dialects or because this knowledge is not relevant. For example, a Mandarin speaker may have Uyghur as a mother tongue, but not disclose this information on his/her resume thinking that Uyghur is not a useful language. Incidentally, rare languages are the most difficult to recruit, and people’s tendency to not disclose this information exacerbates the struggle. My advice to speakers of rare languages and dialects is: please, please, please include all of your languages in your resume! No matter how rare or obscure you think your language is, this piece of information is essential for recruiters. By doing so, you will be helping me, yourself, and an isolated senior, a child or to any vulnerable member of your linguistic community.

  1. Interpreters are harder to find in remote locations

Although the GTA is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in North America, most of the remote areas in Ontario are very linguistically homogeneous. This means that it is challenging to provide interpreters, as most interpreters are located hundreds of kilometers away from the end user. Usually, we have to send interpreters from the larger cities, travelling over 150 km. This creates a cost, which needs to be assumed by the client or by the interpreter. We are working diligently to find alternative solutions, but in the interim it is important for clients in remote locations to understand why it will be more difficult to staff assignments which do not provide compensation for travel. 

  1. The industry has difficulty with retention

Most interpreting positions are freelance. There are some positives associated with this – more control of personal schedule, changing environment, etc, but the reality is that a good portion of interpreters are intimidated by the fluidity and uncertainty associated with this career. For this reason, not many interpreters choose to stay in the industry for the long term as they prefer a more stable profession. MCIS supports people who wish to transition into different careers, and we work hard to continuously train new interpreters so that the language service industry remains well-staffed, but we also encourage government funders to invest more in language services so that language minorities will have more reliable access to career language professionals.

In conclusion, I want to remind all interpreters of how important your job is, and how you help hold the fabric of society together. You give dignity to the vulnerable. We often take for granted the ability to communicate, but those who don’t face the challenges and difficulties of not being able to accomplish everyday activities. I have witnessed the difference when a client is able to understand, process, and make decisions for themselves because of the interpreter’s work in relaying the message in a language that the client can understand. This experience is extremely rewarding, and it also shows the crucial importance of interpreters to improve the well-being of our society. MCIS will continue to work with all stakeholders to make this industry as sustainable and professional as possible.

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