Building capacity in new and emerging languages

TIS National is committed to building capacity to support new and emerging communities settling in Australia.

TIS National is committed to building capacity to support new and emerging communities settling in Australia

TIS National is committed to building capacity to support new and emerging communities settling in Australia 

One of the most fascinating aspects of being part of the interpreting industry is building capacity to address the ever-changing language demand.  

Over the last decade, TIS National has successfully built capacity in languages spoken in Myanmar including S’gaw Karen and Rohingya. We’ve seen significant demand growth for Nepali, Swahili, and Hakha Chin. We’ve worked to develop our capability in languages widely spoken in Afghanistan, including Dari and Hazaragi. We are now well-placed as settlement in Australia again grows from this part of the world. We’re seeing strengthening demand for services in Mongolian and Tibetan, as well as in languages spoken across the Pacific, particularly Samoan and Tongan.  

One the biggest recent success stories is building capacity to supply high-quality services in Kurmanji.  

In 2016, there was little demand for Kurmanji with TIS National receiving just 58 requests over a 12-month period. That all changed when Australian began settling Yazidi people from Northern Iraq and Syria and demand began to grow. By 2020, TIS National received more than 25,000 requests, many of these to provide services to people who have settled in Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Toowoomba, and Wagga Wagga. The huge surge in demand was challenging and required intensive efforts to build capacity both in terms of supply and quality.  

TIS National values NAATI certification. In line with the TIS National Interpreter Allocation Policy, we allocate the highest credentialed service provider available to meet client requests. As a result, more than 95% of all services provided by TIS National are delivered by interpreters who hold a credential issued as part of the NAATI Certification System.  

When faced with a rapid demand surge, initially there may not be a pool of providers who already hold NAATI credentials. It becomes necessary to find new entrants to the industry. 

TIS National’s team of experienced Interpreter Liaison Officers (ILO) assess the potential of those keen to develop an interpreting career. While unable to assess the applicant’s LOTE skills, those seeking to join the TIS National panel undergo interviews which assess their ability to effectively communicate in English as well as their knowledge of and ability to apply the AUSIT code of ethics.  

Once added to the panel, new interpreters are mentored by an ILO through induction, a follow-up interview six weeks after commencement, and through discussions based on feedback received. Those new to the industry can call their ILO to debrief if they have a difficult assignment. They also have access to the TIS National eLearning platform and a range of other resources in the interpreter portal.  

In 2019, TIS National established a capacity-building program in partnership with RMIT University, funding a group of service providers to undertake a Translating and Interpreting Skill Set Course.  

The priority language in the initial program was supporting Kurmanji service providers to gain the formal training which provides the pathway to become a Recognised Practicing Interpreter.  

Almost two-thirds of Kurmanji service providers now hold a NAATI credential. TIS National has also successfully grown supply and can meet demand for services in Kurmanji. With the question of supply resolved and a growing pool of trained interpreters holding a NAATI credential, TIS National’s Interpreter Allocation Policy starts to incentivise those who have not yet undergone training to consider doing so.  

TIS National worked closely with RMIT to support participants in its initial capacity-building program. Participants were required to meet English language competency to gain a place in the program.  

The Interpreting Skills for NAATI Certification program is designed for people who already have work experience as an interpreter and it is taught by trainers who are skilled industry practitioners.  

The program is comprised of four subjects. It covers ethics in interpreting and translating, preparation for an interpreting or translating assignment, communication and discourse management techniques. and building glossaries. 

Ninety percent of participants successfully completed the first program. This made them eligible to undertake testing to become Certified Provisional Interpreters in languages where testing is available, or to apply to become Recognised Practicing Interpreters in languages where it is not.  

Before considering a second program, TIS National evaluated the first one. Participants were positive about the training and appreciative to have both their course and NAATI fees fully funded. Here’s some of the comments from TIS National interpreters who participate in the capacity building program:  

“I was grateful that I did not have to pay for the course from my own pocket. I like that the course was conducted after hours and am very happy to have completed it.” 

“The course was rigorous and covered topics that are essential to be a competent interpreter. There was a lot of writing and speaking so the teacher could determine who was capable and who should get the certificate.” 

“I found learning about note-taking especially beneficial, even though it was a little tricky.” 

“I appreciated learning with other practicing interpreters so we could share relevant experience. I valued having a teacher who had experience as a practicing interpreter.” 

“The course itself is unique. I appreciated learning more about privacy and also techniques to politely avoid conversations with the non-English speaking clients, especially when cultural expectations are different.” 

“The case studies drew on very real scenarios and I learnt a lot from them. Thanks to TIS National for this opportunity as I would not have been able to achieve this on my own.”  

“It was useful for me to know about managing my emotions in different interpreting situations and also about how to build a glossary that will assist me.” 

“The program gave me both the confidence and knowledge to sit for the NAATI test.”  

“It was the first time I had any formal training in interpreting. Learning about legal aspects and about ethics in greater depth was very helpful.”  

“It gave me the encouragement to develop my career at a higher level which I hadn’t considered before — I may consider post-graduate study.” 

“I had a real sense of accomplishment when I completed the course.”  

With the initial program a clear success, TIS National is currently conducting a second capacity-building program for interpreters from its panel who provide services in a wide range of languages to support new and emerging communities settling in Australia.