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Steps taken to regulate the translation and interpretation industry in South Africa

interpretation industry in South Africa

The translation and interpretation industry is a fast growing one. The need and demand for these language skills has continued to grow steadily in the country. This growth has been precipitated by Governments recognition that citizens have a right to access information in schools, hospitals, courts and other public institutions without being impeded by the language barrier. Just like any industry or sector of the economy, the interpretation and translation industry has always required proper regulation.

In South Africa, the South African Translators Institute (SATI) is the largest association representing professional, academic and amateur translators and other language practitioners. Established in 1956, this organization has done an extremely commendable job of giving language practitioners a professional status as well as a sense of pride in their profession. Over the years, SATI has empowered language practitioners by creating a platform to connect them with those seeking their services. Unfortunately, there is only so much that this prestigious organization could do on its own because the interpretation and translation industry has been largely ungoverned and for almost 60 years.

There is however a looming bright picture to this gloomy state of affairs. The South African parliament in the first quarter of 2014 passed a bill which is currently awaiting the president’s signature to be passed into law to regulate language practitioners in South Africa. Apart from regulating the language practitioner industry, the law will also provide for the establishment of the South African Language Practitioners Council, which will act as an advisory body to the Minister of Arts and Culture on issues affecting the language profession.

The formation of the South African Language Practitioners Council has been long overdue but this is only the tip of the iceberg. We should expect to see incredible growth and an overall increase in the quality of service delivery in the interpretation and translation industry if the Council and SATI join forces. This development will indeed bring about the long awaited sanity and make the work of language practitioners something the country can be proud of.

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