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Getting help through an interpreter is a human right

Interpreter and Interpreting Centre manager Bahar Manuchar

If someone cannot make himself understood in his own language, he needs an interpreter who can understand the language and cultural differences. Good interpreters are impartial, and do not express their opinions or show their feelings.

Bahar Manuchar, 37, who interprets the Kurdish language, worked for herself for 10 years and then set up the Finnish Female Interpreter Centre in Espoo. The company uses dozens of freelance interpreters, but if necessary Manuchar translates and interprets herself. Most of the clients are Finnish authorities in need of interpreting services.

“I am a professional interpreter and can pass on my skills to other interpreters. As a former registered nurse I know the vocabulary used in the health care services, which is extremely important when you are interpreting when a client is at the doctor’s.”

Manuchar studied to become a nurse in the city of Sulaimainya in northern Iraq, and had been working in the profession for 18 months when her family decided to leave their homeland. While Manuchar was doing voluntary work in a UN field on the Iraq – Iran border in 1991, her family came under fire and fled the region for Ankara, in Turkey. Manuchar moved to Finland in February, 1994.

“If an interpreter keeps quiet for half a minute, nothing happens. Things don’t move forward without the interpreter.”

“Helsinki was cold and slushy. My impression of my new homeland was not very positive. We came to Finland because my eldest brother lived here. At first I didn’t like it here in Finland at all, but I had to get used to it.”

Manuchar does not think Finland is an easy country to live in. “There are two doors here. One says ‘if you want to laze around go to the social welfare office’; the other says ‘if you want to try and do anything, you have to fight for it’. Many refugees arrive with all they possess in a carrier bag. They have to start all over again.”

Manuchar gained a qualification as a public service interpreter at the University of Helsinki’s Kouvola unit and qualified in Finland too as a state registered nurse. It took tremendous effort on her part to set up the interpreting business. She got no help or financial support but instead had to find out everything herself and deal with the bureaucracy.

“Foreigners need personal services when dealing with the bureaucracy, but the entire advice and guidance system seems to have been transferred to the internet. I wonder how immigrants manage just using on-line materials.”

An interpreter’s work, thinks Manuchar, is so hard that many do not last long in the job. Interpreting situations are often unpleasant. Manuchar points out to her own interpreters that the profession is like playing a role. You cannot put your entire being into the work, though the importance of the job should not be underrated.

“Interpreters cannot affect opinion, but it is somehow rewarding to see that a client only seems to get anywhere after the interpreter has arrived on the scene.”


Text and photograph: Anu Likonen, Jukka Vuolle and Nanni Akkola
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy

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Send To Friend | Last Updated 06/11/2009 | To page top

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