Kenya: We need a Professional Translation Sector
There’s a general consensus between Kenya’s business and elite class that their country is on a rebound.
There’s a general consensus between Kenya’s business and elite class that their country is on a rebound. Following the 2013 elections an international isolation was predicted, but that did not take place: instead, there’s been heightened activity in Kenya as business and world political leaders search for opportunities in Nairobi. Because of this frenzied conference bustle, the conference translation and interpretation services sector has grown quite significantly and, consequently, the demand for foreign languages, particularly French, is on the rise.
Unstructured and Unregulated Translation Sector in Kenya
Some Kenyan speakers of foreign languages have joined international agencies, while others are working as interpreters and independent translators. Unfortunately, though, demand for language services hasn’t improved the profession: instead it’s been exposed to amateurs and brazen profiteers. Sadly, the interpretation and translation sector in Kenya is unstructured and unregulated, thus leaving it exposed to unscrupulous players; most of whom have no idea at all of the sector’s complexities. These individuals are generally motivated solely by monetary gain.
Too often we’re seeing ill-prepared people who have poor general knowledge and no solid grounding in languages going from conference to conference, purporting to offer interpretation services, and leaving disappointed organisers in their wake.
Translation is a Specialised Industry
Translation is a specialised industry: it’s not a commodity. It requires a thorough mastery of languages and an extensive grasp of local issues – it’s a very complex profession. Because they’re offering their services to such diverse conferences, it’s vital that translators have the ability to comprehend concepts and be able to accurately communicate them in a foreign language.
Some of the issues being handled are just too important and complex to be handled by amateurs – we’re talking here about medical, legal and other very important and sometimes delicate topics. The translation sector must drop its haphazard existence, organize itself, and become professional. It’s up to the stakeholders in this sector to step in and rescue the industry from amateurs posing as professional translators. A threshold must be established to determine whether an agency or an individual is qualified to practice as a translator.
Translators Unite to Protect Industry
In addition, there’s a sense of urgency to sensitise industry players on the complexities of this sector; on both the supply and demand sides. Individual translators, project managers and stakeholders must understand the level of professionalism that’s required in the area of translation. Having a meeting of specialists translated by a benighted translator is just madness – and dangerous. It’s important, therefore, that experienced, professional translators stand up and protect their industry from ruin by amateur and unqualified translators. Failure to do so just brings the reputation of all the highly experienced and professional translators in the industry into disrepute.
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