Interpreters, translators call for warrants to regulate profession

Postgraduate students, faculty members says hurdle encountered during court hearing strikes sensitive chord • No warrant places Maltese translators at a significant disadvantage

Providing interpreters and translators with warrants would introduce a proper system, bringing the profession in line with EU member states.

Postgraduate students and Faculty members of the Department of Translation, Terminology & Interpreting Studies at the University of Malta expressed their concern regarding the widely reported lack of a professional interpreter during the Paqpaqli case hearing of 28 October 2016.

This, they said, struck a sensitive chord in the light of twelve years of qualified translators and interpreters trained to high levels at the University, many of whom now work in EU institutions.

The EU Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20/10/2010 stipulates the right of interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings.

The EU regulation 2016/1191 dated 6 July 2016 stipulates that Member States should produce a list of persons certified to translate public documents by August 2018. There has as yet been no attempt to compile such a list.

“There are currently a significant number of translators and interpreters who are qualified to translate public documents and to interpret in public situations, such as court cases. However, what is still lacking is the proper system to accredit these trained individuals. It seems that the moment is opportune to introduce a warrant in order to certify and regulate the profession. To date, such a warrant for translators and interpreters does not yet exist in Malta,” they said.

A warrant would bring the profession in line with other EU countries. People trained in the profession, as well as those involved in their training, believe that this regulation is long overdue in Malta.

Since the profession is not regulated, there is currently no quality control in the field. This means that any bilingual person might propose themselves as a translator or interpreter without any training whatsoever. This state of unregulated affairs also impacts on the judicial system and the right of an individual to a fair trial if they are granted an unqualified person to carry out this sensitive task.

“It is unacceptable that one of the highest institutions in Malta, and a pillar of our democracy, is resorting to people who are not qualified to act as interpreters and translators.”

It was explained that the lack of a warrant allowed unqualified individuals to produce low-level translations of legal, financial, technical and other official documents.

In addition, these subpar translations are produced at a lower rate than the proper market rate. Despite the low level of their work, unqualified people seem more attractive than the professionals in possession of a postgraduate degree in translation or interpreting thus putting in danger a whole professional group of individuals.

In addition, the EU regulation of 6 July 2016 also states that a certified translation carried out by a qualified professional who is recognized by a warrant in one Member State must be accepted in all Member States.

This puts qualified Maltese translators at a significant disadvantage because they are currently not in possession of a warrant.

“As a result, official, certified, accredited, sworn  translations by foreign translators are accepted in Malta by law, but those carried out by Maltese translators, since not backed by a warrant, can be refused in other Member States.

“The regulating of the professions of Translators and Interpreters by means of a warrant or similar accreditation is the way to establish these new professions locally, to provide recognition of our professionals in the systems of other member states, to bring Malta in line with Regulation 2016/1191 dated 6 July 2016 before the date of August 2018, to provide the necessary support system for fair hearings in our justice system, and to protect the students investing their time and resources in a profession that is still fairly new in Malta.”

Signed and endorsed by:

Prof. Joseph Eynaud, Prof. Charles Briffa, Prof. Clare Vassallo, Nadia Saliba, Shanna Mercieca, Daniel Cossai, Victoria-Melita Zammit, Michela Catania, Dorina Gabriele, Michela Barbara, Verdiana Cassar, Rebecca Bonello, Leanne Abdilla, Ruth Mercieca, Ruth Attard, Melvin Galea, Olyana Schembri, Ann Marie Chircop, Francesca Baldacchino, Sara Abdilla, Sarah Fava, Cressida Duca, Sachelle Schembri