How does one become bilingual?
They say you can truly speak to someone’s heart only if you speak their mother tongue. Well, this is relative with so many young people these days that study foreign languages from an early age and even settle down in a foreign country for good. That means a lot of people need to learn and, thankfully, get used to speaking a second language proficiently as they have to use it on a daily basis. When you have had a decade of practice, you can no longer consider the language you have willingly ‘adopted’ to be a foreign language. Little by little you become ‘bilingual’.
Interpreters can save your business
However, not everybody living in a foreign country or visiting it for the summer holidays is bilingual. Moreover, people travel abroad on business and not all of them can use the language of the host country effectively. In such occurrences, the host business company will provide a professional interpreter whose role is to enable appropriate communication between the parties involved and to ensure their mutual understanding on a personal and business level alike. Without a knowledgeable and experienced interpreter, business cannot be done properly and economic relationships may fail. More often than not, a company will be ‘saved’ thanks to the knowledge and communication skills of an interpreter.
Interpreters and justice
There are thousands of examples coming from the countries where immigration levels are high to support this idea. In hospitals, doctors may not share a common language with their patients; the Court of Law needs interpreters to solve their cases; the UK Visas and Immigration has to deal with stowaways every day; NGOs fight against corruption and criminality in developing countries. Men and women working for the above-mentioned institutions and organisations need to be proficient in more than their native language; otherwise they require ongoing help from local interpreters.
Interpreters can save your life
When it comes to saving lives, the role of an interpreter is even more precious. Some incidents require firm action on the spot. Any minute wasted may bring about disaster or hefty costs. An interpreter in place at the right time will not only enable direct communication between the parties, but also contribute to the outcome of the situation.
Suppose you are visiting the British Isles and have just been involved in a freak accident. Someone calls 999 and the paramedics come to the rescue. You are taken to the nearest hospital and the surgeon on duty decides that you should be operated on. You do not speak English and your operation and treatment depends on your medical history or your tolerance of certain medication. How can the British doctors obtain information from you if no one there speaks your language? The only way to sort things out is to phone an interpreter and put him/her through to you. When the clock is ticking and your life is at stake, the interpreter is the only one who can provide you with another chance – the missing link that can save your life.
Here is another example: you are a visitor to Britain, staying at a relative’s place. You can hardly speak English but are brave enough to venture on the streets of your host city on your own. Like any individual on unfamiliar ground, you walk quietly along a side road paying attention to everything on your way. Suddenly you witness an incident – a group of hoodies attacking a young man, one of them nicking his iPhone and money. There are no CCTVs in the area but an elderly woman has witnessed the incident from a nearby house and calls the police. In a few minutes a couple of robbers are caught half a mile away but the one holding the victim’s belongings is nowhere to find. You are the best eye-witness but though you can (mentally) describe the perpetrator very well, your level of English won’t do. You offer to help the police but they will certainly need an interpreter who can speak your language in order for you to give evidence of the facts. Again, the interpreter is the link without which this case may never be solved.
With a little imagination you can find many other examples of critical situations in which the expertise of an interpreter may turn the tables, radically changing the course of things. This is why local authorities work hand in hand with such professionals whose knowledge and experience in languages can really make a difference.