What Is Refugee Interpretation, and Why You Need This Course

By: Cheryl

By: Cheryl Lu, Social Media Coordinator

Every year, Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of permanent residents from all over the world. Among them, a huge part consisted of refugees. Recently, the number of refugees in Canada has gradually been increasing. In 2021, this number just reached a new high with over 130,000 people, an increase of over 19 per cent from 2020. With such a huge population from a diverse background fleeing from traumatic pasts and seeking support for a new life, MCIS feels a strong need to address the language barrier they may face and bring to discussion the particularity of providing language services to this specific community; namely, interpretation for survivors of various trauma, including torture, war trauma and sexual violence.

This summer, MCIS introduced a free online training program along with the publication of our training manual: Healing Voices: Interpreting for Survivors of Torture, War Trauma and Sexual Violence. Designed to be used as a manual to support our five-day program, this book can also be used independently for training refugee interpreters or interpreting for displaced migrants in any part of the world.

What makes interpreting for survivors of trauma different?

Interpreting for survivors of trauma can differ from other types of interpretation in  many aspects. As your clients may have just escaped danger and are still under its impact, they can exhibit unusual behaviours that require you to take different approaches when interpreting. For example, survivors of torture may be sensitive to the devices that an optician uses for vision examination, as the use of strong light is common in torture. Survivors of trauma may also become emotional during a mental health session and speak in long and rapid speeches. It takes training for an interpreter to know how to take notes and interpret them without interfering, which could reduce the effect of the therapy. Some survivors of sexual violence may purposely use ambiguously gendered pronouns or speak in a narrative that implies shame in their own cultures that can be difficult to convey in the other languages. It’s the interpreter’s job to identify them. Even an interpreter’s positioning or posture in a session could be critical, as some survivors may have traumatizing experiences of being attacked from the back. There are many details involved in providing professional language services for survivors of trauma, and they are crucial to follow if interpreters are to build trust with their clients and get them to open up.

What will I learn in this program?

This five-day training program will be divided into nine modules.

  1. In the first module, you’ll learn about trauma, the delicacy of interpreting for survivors, and how your interpretation may affect a person’s future by helping determine if they’ll be granted a legal refugee status.
  2. In the second module, you’ll learn the fundamentals of interpreting in mental health settings, and it will also prepare you for clients’ sudden behavioural and emotional reactions.
  3. The third module will prepare you to manage your emotions and safeguard your mental health, while staying neutral and professional.
  4. In the fourth module, you’ll learn about the ethics and boundaries of trauma-informed interpretation.
  5. The fifth module will guide you through addressing communication barriers such as cultural differences and misunderstanding and help you master how and when to intervene for clarification.
  6. The sixth module discusses cultural dilemmas, where you’ll learn how to help your clients better articulate their cultural views, needs and concerns.
  7. The seventh module specifically discusses legal interpretation, its differences from other settings, and performing legal interpretation outside the courtroom.
  8. In the eighth module, you’ll gain a better understanding of issues related to sexual and family violence, including child abuse, and how they may amplify trauma in a survivor and affect you as the interpreter.
  9. In the last module, the course will bring together previous modules’ lessons and reinforces them, while addressing issues surrounding sight translation.

To prepare interpreters for making wise decision and showcase the right body language when it comes to real-life interpreting, each module will be combined with case studies, exercises, and scenarios.

Why should I take it?

As a social enterprise with the benefit of our language professionals and communities in mind, MCIS Language Solutions encourages every interpreter who’s practicing at a professional level to apply for this program. It’s an excellent opportunity to acquire advanced skills for free, prepare yourself and adapt to a continuously changing market, be empathetic and sharp to the surrounding world, and stay protected from potential emotion overcharge. Along with complementing your knowledge about interpretation in medical and legal settings, at the end of the course, you will also receive a completion certificate that is now globally recognized.

To register for the program, click HERE

To view a downloadable version of the training manual, click HERE