Letter: Interpreters are poorly paid

Cape Argus

What most media groups have failed to publicise is the poor remuneration received by court interpreters, says Julia Smuts.

Cape Town - I am employed as a language practitioner at a government institution and am occasionally called to work as a simultaneous interpreter.

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Oscar Pistorius enters the dock at the North Gauteng High Court. The writer says she feels the deepest sympathy for the two interpreters commissioned at Pistorius's trial. Picture: Marco Longari

As a result, I am aware of how taxing and stressful it can be to interpret for a high-profile audience and I feel the deepest sympathy for the two interpreters commissioned at the Oscar Pistorius trial to do consecutive interpreting (an even more challenging form of interpreting than simultaneous interpreting).

What most of the media groups have failed to publicise so far is the poor remuneration received by court interpreters in our country of 11 official languages (leave aside the various foreign languages often requiring interpreting in a court) from the Department of Justice.

Do we know whether highly skilled professional interpreters were initially approached to interpret at the Pistorious case, but refused because of the insultingly low payments they would have received for their services?

The issue of a lack of language recognition and language empowerment on the part of many government bodies, even after the recent promulgation of the South African Official Languages Act, is something that seems to receive disgracefully little publicity or attention in official circles.

The time may indeed have arrived now to pay closer attention to giving proper recognition to professional language practitioners, even those providing their services to government bodies on a contractual basis.

I look forward to seeing how the Pan South African Language Board intends taking the lead in this regard.

Julia Smuts


* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus

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