Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong

New HK group urges more interpreter services for ethnic minorities

New interpreters' group looks to raise standards and speak up for neglected ethnic people

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 11:15am

More interpreters should be made available to ethnic minorities, according to a newly launched group that hopes to raise standards in the profession.

Ester Leung Sin-man, who sits on the advisory committee of the Multilingual Interpreters and Translators Association, cited as an example the need for Arabic translators in hospitals receiving patients from the Middle East who could be infected with the new coronavirus.

She also pointed to a 2010 court case involving the murder of a Mongolian man at Chungking Mansions, which was later adjourned because a translator failed to turn up.

"We are lacking quantity and quality," Leung said, referring to a serious lack of diverse language skills among interpreters serving the courts and hospitals.

Even when the authorities managed to locate interpreters for crucial cases, they were not properly trained, she said.

To improve accessibility to high-quality interpreters, the association, which was launched yesterday, will set up an online public directory.

A major organisation that provides interpretation services for ethnic minorities in public hospitals, the HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre, had around 80 interpreters who had handled 5,000 cases in the past 18 months. However, Leung said the workload was too heavy for them and there were many people in need who could not avail of the service.

She hoped the government would allocate more resources to instruct trainers and service providers, and to set up an accreditation system for it.

Lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who attended the association's inauguration, said the service was essential, especially in legal and medical areas which may involve matters of "life and death".

"In communicating with mainstream society, precision and fairness must be ensured, especially in legal and medical areas, to guarantee fair treatment," she said.