Photo: Peter Bressler/Sveriges Radio
Photo: Peter Bressler/Sveriges Radio

With more refugees the need for interpreters increases

"We need more intensive training and better technology"
2:12 min

There’s been a shortage of interpreters in Sweden, and the great number of refugees arriving here over the past couple of months has made the situation more acute.

The Association of Swedish Language Service Providers is an industry organization created by several companies working with translations and interpreting. Elisabeth Cardoso da Silva works with one of its members, Semantix:

“There's been a 15 to 25 percent increase in the number of requests for interpreters,” she tells Radio Sweden. “One of the most dramatic increases has been in Dari, which is spoken in Afghanistan.”

The association says that besides Dari, the biggest need is for more interpreters who speak Arabic, Somali, and Tigrinya, which is spoken in northern Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea. The lack of qualified interpreters, according to the association, can slow down asylum application processing and health examinations.

Elisabeth Cardoso da Silva at Semantix says that they’ve had such a hard time finding enough interpreters at some times of the day that they’re trying to get their customers to use online or telephone services as an alternative. She says what is needed is more interpreter training programs and better technology:

“Everyone has to help out with this,” she says. “We need more intensive interpreter training. The programs have to go faster and there need to be more opportunities for qualifying as an authorized interpreter. Maybe public agencies should coordinate their requests better, and more might be done at a distance.”

The Association of Swedish Language Service Providers expects the coming year to bring with it a continued increase in the need for interpreters, which is a view shared by Mohammed al-Mokahal, an Arabic interpreter in Västerbotten:

“When those who receive residence permits are moved to various municipalities,” he tells Radio Sweden, “they get case workers at the employment service, and they might go to school, where they would also need interpreting. I think the need will be greatest in the major languages like Arabic, Dari, and Persian.”

The government is moving on the issue and next year plans to spend SEK 21 million on training more interpreters, and it will also look into ways to speed up that training.

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