A connected community without language barriers

An Interview with Dr Oktay Eser

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to talk with Dr Eser about his time in Australia and the publication of his work: Understanding Community Interpreting Services: Diversity and Access in Australia and Beyond. 

The book looks at community interpreting as a market offering in an industry that meets the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse members of the Australian community. It focuses on the importance of creating value and satisfaction for stakeholders, including customers as well as community interpreters. Uniquely, it brings together the disciplines of interpreting and management.

Conducted through video meetings and via email, the interview provides an insight into the thinking behind the book. 

Oktay, why did you write the book? 

In the first place, I would like to remember the late Dr. Sedat Mulayim (1965-2016). He was the discipline head of the T&I Department at RMIT University. Sadly, he passed away in 2016 after his battle against cancer. He was a great man and a colleague. He turned me on to community interpreting and translation. So, I have dedicated the book to his loving memory.  

As for the book, I work at Amasya University in Turkey, a country which has experienced a massive intake of about 4 million refugees predominantly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran over the last decade.  

This unprecedented influx of refugees has happened in a relatively short period of time. The diversity that this movement has brought about has caught Turkey by surprise in some respects and many of the government departments and agencies have found themselves struggling to cope.  

So, this book is an example of research resulting from a clear social need which remains unmet in many countries as they do not regard or provide community interpreting services as a profession. With the world becoming more and more diverse, government departments and agencies in certain countries lack in preparedness towards meeting the needs of those who need to communicate through the services of a professional community interpreter to access public services.  

Therefore, I wanted to draw on the Australian experience of developing community interpreting services as a profession that spans more than half a century beginning from the late 1970s when NAATI was founded.  

Dr. Miranda Lai from RMIT University helped me greatly conduct my research into community interpreting services by providing outstanding collaboration, support, and feedback. Without her generous help, this work would never have seen the light of day. 

What might you readers get from it? 

The book looks at community interpreting services as a market offering that satisfies the needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) members of the Australian community, with an additional chapter on the Turkish context.  

It brings together the two disciplines of interpreting studies and management studies. It offers insights into the Australian landscape of community interpreting services as it discusses the challenges faced and the strategies developed through the lived experiences of the core stakeholders.  

This is, I believe, where the book’s competitive advantage lies. Despite significant challenges, Australia is further down the road of professionalization and social inclusion as a linguistically and culturally diverse country, and I feel that it can provide a good example for Turkey and other global contexts looking to set up or improve their community interpreting services.  

The book also focuses on some concepts like services and externalities from a management studies lens. 

If you had to highlight aelement/finding of the book what would it be and why? 

Diversity is a very dynamic ever-evolving phenomenon. Despite all the experience that Australia has accumulated over the course of time, there is no saying all is well. There are massive issues that need to be solved. The stakeholders must keep alert and vigilant to the needs of CALD people and be able to work together to deliver better services down the road.  

What do you see as the key differences between the Australian and Turkish interpreting and translating industries? 

The main difference between Turkey and Australia lies in the fact that Turkey is not dependent on skilled migration in terms of diversity. It usually attracts migrants and refugees predominantly from the countries that suffer from conflicts going on across the border or from low-income countries. 

This creates a big need for professional community interpreting services as these people may not have a good command of Turkish to access public services such as healthcare, law, education, and social services.  

The Australian experience of community interpreting services can show the way by unpacking how a variety of stakeholders function to satisfy the needs of CALD people to be socially inclusive. In order to grapple with this challenge that affects the frontline practitioners (community interpreters) and clients (refugees, migrants or overseas patients), the interpreting industry in Turkey seems to be lacking some of the core stakeholders all together or in some respects.  

A big asset for Turkey is the human resources available. As of 2019, the number of the departments of translation and interpreting grew to 69 universities with 115 programmes at the undergraduate and vocational levels in a variety of the EU languages or the languages spoken in the neighbouring countries such as Arabic.  

There are PhD opportunities as well. What remains to be done is to design a sustainable interpreting industry that encourages community interpreters to upskill themselves, but also retains qualified ones in the profession to deliver quality services for CALD members of the community.  

Dr Oktay Eser is Associate Professor at the Department of Translation and Interpreting, Amasya University, in Turkey, and the book is the result of his post-doctoral research into community interpreting services as a profession in Victoria, Australia in 2018.

His book has just been and is available to purchase from Palgrave Macmillan and can be found HERE 

Dr Eser’s post-graduate studies in translation and interpreting were undertaken at Istanbul University, Turkey. He also holds an MA in Business Administration from Istanbul Kültür University. He took post-doctoral research into community interpreting services as a profession in the State of Victoria, Australia in 2018.  

A translator between Turkish and English, he is a member of Çeviri Derneği (Translation and Interpreting Association, Turkey), and the International Federation of Translators (FIT). His research interests include translation and interpreting pedagogy, community interpreting, translation and interpreting services, professional ethics, and virtual reality. He has published research papers and books in translation studies.  

His recent books are titledÇeviribilimde Edinç Araştırmaları (Competence Studies in Translation)Translation and Interpreting as Sustainable Services: The Australian Experience; and Understanding Community Interpreting Services. 

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