You are attempting to speak with a member of the public, but you soon realise that their English just isn’t good enough to communicate. Your lack of mutual comprehension means you are both left frustrated by the appointment. Without anyone to translate, you struggle to convey what you need to.
The UK is currently facing a shortage of skilled interpreters, meaning scenarios like the one described above are increasingly common. In 2020, the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent body that advises the government on migration matters, recommended that interpreters should be added to the Shortage Occupation List. This is a list of professions where employers find it challenging to recruit people with the required skills from within the UK.
Why is there such a shortage of interpreters?
Challenges in sourcing interpreters
While it is relatively easy to find speakers of certain languages in the UK (such as French, Spanish or German), both public sector organisations and private businesses often struggle with sourcing speakers of less common languages. Here are some of the main reasons why:
- Increased demand
The UK is an increasingly multicultural country, with people speaking more foreign languages than ever before. In London alone, over 300 languages are spoken besides English. This increase in diversity means that there is simply greater demand for interpreters’ services. At the same time, there is a wider of variety of languages that interpreters are needed to cater for. This means that it is more challenging to source interpreters when you need them and there’s greater competition for their services.
- Challenges of booking interpreters
Many professionals in both the public and private sector simply don’t know how to book an interpreter for the time they need. For example, in a recent survey of doctors, challenges related to organising services and a lack of knowledge about how to arrange interventions were both cited as top reasons for not booking in interpreters even if they would be helpful.
- Budget constraints
Another common challenge with booking interpreters relates to budgets. Most interpreters are freelancers and a fully qualified professional will cost upwards of £48 per hour. If you only need someone for a 20-minute intervention, you’ll still be charged for one full hour plus travel expenses, meaning it may not be financially viable in many situations.
Interpreters are often required to work at unusual times and in unusual places. For example, they may be needed to work in the middle of the night at police stations, or to travel far from home when working at border control. These unsocial hours and inconvenient locations can make it challenging to find an interpreter when you need one.
- Limited linguistic skills in the UK population
Most UK citizens are monolingual and have limited proficiency in other languages. This means that there is a relatively small pool of interpreters available compared to other countries which have more citizens who speak multiple languages.
Learn more: What does interpreting really cost?
How Speechly helps with the shortage of interpreters
Speechly is a real-time translation application which offers a form of interpreting between English and 35 other global languages. When you need to communicate with someone who does not speak English you can use Speechly to talk to them instead. You speak into the app in English and your voice audio is then translated by the application into the target language. This then instantaneously produces an audio file that is played to the listener. They can then reply back in their own language and you hear English in return.
Speechly helps to address the shortage of interpreters by allowing you to access translation services more flexibly and frequently than you might otherwise:
- Speechly is available 24/7, meaning that you do not need an interpreter to travel to your offices when you need one
- The app is cost-effective and you only pay for the amount of time you are using the service (saving on additional costs such as travel for in-person interpreting)
- Speechly allows you to provide interpretation where otherwise you might simply try to ‘do without’ or postpone a meeting or appointment
Of course, an application like Speechly cannot replace all forms of interpretation. But, by filling in the gaps and allowing fluid communication in a wider variety of scenarios, it relieves the pressure on interpretation services and allows you to conduct more routine appointments, meetings and interviews – even when there is a language barrier.
Keep reading: When do you need interpreting services?
Addressing the shortage of UK interpreters
Demand for skilled interpreters is only going to continue to rise in the coming years. And this is where smart applications like Speechly can help. By providing interpretation services flexibly and cost-effectively when you need them, you are able to communicate with more people and therefore save time and money.