On February 1, 2023, a group of European researchers published a report on crisis translation and interpreting training. Leading the project were John O’Shea, Chairperson of FIT Europe, Sharon O’Brien, Associate Dean for Research at Dublin City University (DCU), and Federico Federici, Professor of Intercultural Crisis Communication at University College London (UCL).
The report is based on a survey conducted among 60 professional associations that were members of FIT Europe at the time of the survey. Between June 2022 and September 2022, the authors collected responses from 16 of the 60 European member associations.
The aim of the survey was to assess the current mental health and well-being support provided to language professionals offering their services in multilingual crisis settings and to determine if the organizations would be developing or deploying training in the future.
The authors emphasize the importance of training in helping language professionals understand the psychological risks of working in crisis settings, dealing with and reducing stress, preserving their ability to work in challenging settings, and coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and stress-related mental health risks.
Current Training Options
Although the evidence cannot be conclusive, the results of the survey indicate that there is an interest in training for multilingual crisis communication support.
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In addition, the responses highlight that there is limited but valuable experience in providing aftercare support and a need to discuss the possibility of providing model training to enable national associations to embed it into their continuing professional development (CPD) programs.
More specifically, 18.8% of the responding associations reported offering some form of training or are piloting projects to offer psychological support to their members, and 56.3% of the respondents are considering offering training in the future.
According to the authors, “it will be extremely useful to identify in the future whether the 43.7% of associations that do not have any plans for training face legislative or operational restrictions.”
Besides training, sharing experiences is also important for 87.5% of the respondents, who actually encourage their members who have worked in crisis settings to share their experiences with others.
“Understanding why 12.5% of respondent associations reported that they do not encourage their own members to share their experiences would be important,” said the authors.
The Need for a Model Training Syllabus
The majority of training provided is primarily aimed at interpreters, with a focus on post-traumatic support, while some training is offered to professionals working in refugee centers.
In addition, the authors found that each association reported different approaches, highlighting the lack of a systematic approach.
The authors suggest that the next steps will be to identify good practices from other sectors, — such as healthcare refugee interpreting or emergency response services — which may provide useful models of training opportunities that could be extended to other professional categories, such as translators and intercultural mediators.
They also suggest that there is a need to explore the possibility of creating a model syllabus for cross-disciplinary training supported by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other specialists, which could enable national associations to tailor training to their specific needs and legal/professional frameworks.
According to the report, national associations with past experience in organizing aftercare training emphasized the need to incorporate cross-disciplinary expertise in any training developed to support translators, interpreters, and language service providers operating in crisis settings.
The report concludes by recommending the creation of a framework of reference with training options made available by FIT. The implementation should be tailored to the needs, resources, and operational context of each local association.