Lack of qualified interpreters in the military unveiled

A former employee who screened interpreters for Afghan languages at Mission Essential Personnel has blown the whistle on his former employer, citing that the practice of sending interpreters into battle — even though they did not speak the language(s) for which they were hired to interpret — is widespread.

The video footage from ABC news is damning, to say the last. It clearly shows the interpreter violating many of the core tenets of interpreting — failing to interpret everything that was stated (omissions), interpreting things incorrectly (misinterpretations), making things up (embellishment), and even going so far as to say, “I hate these people” (referring to the Afghan villagers). Not exactly a model interpreter, to say the least. Some of the problems detected were:

* Interpreters who speak the wrong languages.
* Interpreters who pretend to speak a language.
* Interpreters without ethical principles and standards.

Military interpreters voluntarily risk their lives, and there are certainly many talented, well-trained interpreters that work in the field and should be respected for the work that they do. However, interpreters are also the gatekeepers to communication that is critical to the protection of the lives of thousands of troops and innocent civilians. When it comes to getting value for money, this is not the place to skimp. Only by implementing programs to thoroughly test, train, and monitor military interpreter performance, can the lives of others be protected.