Once upon a time there was… the MoJ and Applied Language Solutions. A modern-day saga

If you are an interpreter in the UK and you do not live in a cave, you must have heard at least once of this. I won’t bore all of you with the particulars, but as it’s my custom, I’ll try to do so by entertaining you a little.

Once upon a time, the unaware Royal Family of Albion, our far-from-fairy-tale-esque land (the Ministry of Justice or MoJ), thought they were doing the right thing for the motherland giving their support to a well-disguised (at least for them), self-professed-hero evil villain (Applied Language Solution, a LSP based in the UK). Firmly they believed the latter was the only way for them to sort out their never-ending problems with the erroneously so-called ‘cruel thieves’ of the realm, aka: DPSI interpreters. Little the Royals knew that their alleged saviour was in fact the above-mentioned evil villain and that he would ruin the only good there was left for the poor country, exploit unqualified interpreters and humiliate the professionals, leaving the system in a chaos. DPSI interpreters would finally not be willing to take anymore of this cr**p and would stage an uprise in order to make the Royal Family realise the unforgivable mistake they had made, in a challenge to save the world (to be continued)…

Obviously, we all know the MoJ was wrong, there is no such thing as interpreters with 6-digit-figure salaries and last time I checked none of them was driving a Maserati or renting villas in Barbados for the Easter break. Similarly, not all that glitters is gold and that is true all the more for Appl. Lang. Sol. – we would tend to think that the people ruling the country should know better than letting themselves be fooled around like this.

On one of the several professional e-groups and forums I am a member of, I have found a nicely drafted summary on the press coverage for the now referred to as the MoJ-Appl.Lang.Sol.*** saga, compiled by Klasiena P. Slaney (@NRPSInterpreter) who is more than happy for me to share it here. Of course, this is by no means all the material out there, so feel free to share any you may have found.

Here is the Framework Agreement signed with Appl. Lang. Sol. in August 2011. Press coverage in the UK supported by protests from judges, lawyers and interpreters.

    •    24/03/12: New courts service lost in translation
    •    23/03/12: “Court chaos as interpreter service goes private” (Video, Channel 4)
    •    19/03/12: “Attorney general urged to take action against ALS, which was awarded court interpretation monopoly, after string of delays ” (The Guardian)
    •    15/03/12: Polish interpreter about working with police / courts – the new unacceptable conditions in the UK. “Violent clients, traumatised victims, late payment – the life of a court interpreter. Very few people know what the job of a professional court interpreter involves. ALS is trying to get it done on the cheap ” (The Guardian)
    •    15/03/12: Private court interpretation company ‘should face contempt proceedings’  (The Guardian)
    •    15/03/12: “Protests at Westminster” (BBC) – Note: BBC should know better, but they call us ‘court translators’ O_o
    •    11/03/12: “Rabbit registers as court interpreter in the UK! ” (News Today)
    •    02/03/12: “Interpreters stay away from courts in protest at privatised contract” (Guardian)
    •    02/03/12: Prime-time news: Watch this report from evening news on Channel 4  for an damning summary of the disaster so far.
    •    23/2/12: “The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has decided to allow courts to revert to the old system of selecting interpreters from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) in order to avoid further hearings being adjourned as a result of interpreters from a new agency failing to turn up to court .” (thelawyer.com)
Monika Kokoszycka also published a very comprehensive report on AIIC’s Interpreting the World Facebook page:
    •    Part I  (posted 15.12.11):
    •    Part II  (posted on 25.02.12)

An insightful complement to the facts linked to above is available in this blog post, dated 22 March 2012 by Miguel Llorens, a financial translator (@miguelllorens).

Well, we all like fairytales, don’t we?

The only issue here is that, while fairytales usually have a happy ending (and – sooner or later – that always comes round) this is more of a saga and notoriously, all sagas have more than one episode.

So, at this point, I’m asking myself with a bit of concern: ‘Will Dart Vader (Appl. Lang. Sol.) and its empire strike back?

We shall stay tuned…

*** I have taken extra care in spelling in full the acronym ALS as Appl. Lang. Solutions as ALS is actually a trademark of a US based company (@ALSINTL) who showed its concern to me on Twitter recently and should rightfully be kept out of this mess. Thanks.

Back to basics

In Italian we say ‘si chiude il cerchio‘ ( = the circle has closed). That’s exactly how I feel now.

The first time I lived in London I was a younger me (hey, not much younger though!) and had plenty of hope and ideas. It was the 6th July 2005, just one day before the London bombing. I’d arrived in Greenwich, where I was going to spend my stay, on a rainy and rather foggy day so typical of the glorious and beloved English Summer. I was overloaded with luggage, had a lousy phone with me with a SIM card borrowed from a friend and was, well, pretty much broke. Nice plan uh?

My stay was not very long. I still had uni exams to take in Italy and my career (or my mind!) was not defined yet (of course not!).

In 2006, I thought that ‘repetita iuvant’ so there I went, again. I was as a work placement for 6 months in a Central London agency (to which I still owe most of my admin skills, thanks Atlas!) and there I started shaping my life a bit better.

So, what’s the ‘back to basics’ adagio about? Be patient (always a good tip, in life and work).

I moved to Exeter in 2008 and I have to say, I could not see myself here at first (too small, too far, low diversity…) but I never give in. So I ‘carved’ my life here and I have to say, folks: this place is the town with the highest quality of life I’ve ever lived in. Safe, nice, green, cosy.

But business is business (very much so these days) so, to cut a long story short: get ready for the Big Smoke and feel free to visit in the next months…

Rainy London is relocating to the real thing. We cannot ignore London Calling.

Si chiude il cerchio, as it should (and I am very excited about it).

See you there!



ps.: my picture, below.


pps. A nice video, a tune I love. Be louder!

Running a translation & interpreting business in the UK (aka the English version of Val’s interview from Italiansinfuga.com)

As I do know that most of my readers are not Italian mother tongues, as I promised, here is the English version of my interview at Italiansinfuga.com, by Aldo Mencaraglia. Pls see previous post for more info.

Interview by Aldo Mencaraglia.

By setting up a translation business in the UK, Valeria Aliperta has shown what it takes to be successful abroad.

How did you become a translator?

Following a passion that dates back to when I was little (at 12, I already had a serious fixation for English and languages in general, and spent my first 2 weeks in England, studying in a college), I decided to attend a language-based high school (the liceo linguistico) where we learnt English, Spanish and French for a total of 18 hours a week. Still in love with a language-related career, I went to Genoa and obtained a BA in Translation & Interpreting Studies. After a 3-year course, I moved to Forlì (Bologna): quoting Giacomo Leopardi’s words, they were years of studio matto e disperatissimo (crazy and desperate studying), which led to obtaining the MA in Conference Interpreting at SSLMIT. Yes, I am indeed both a translator and interpreter.

What brought you to England and Exeter in particular?

A period of insane love for all Spain and Spanish things – it’s still there, trust me! – kept me away from Albion for a while. But in 2005 I started a work placement in a London-based agency and that was enough: again, love at first sight. I went back to the UK and among university, holidays and work, there you go, it was 2006.
My brand is telling it all about England – Rainy London Translations – but Exeter came along, once again, for love: my partner has been working here as a web designer for 3 years and since then, Devon has been my home.

What is the procedure to start a business in the UK?

It was fairly easy. Those who start working here – or are willing to – need to get a National Insurance Number. Candidates need to visit a Job Centre for an interview on they country of origin, arrival date and stay, and so on and so forth. Once you are ‘legally’ registered – as EU citizen, for me it was very easy but nationals of non-EU countries need visas – the wait is approximately 4 weeks or so before you are sent the NIN. Unless you are hired by a company, you need to register (using that number) as a sole trader on the HMCR website. I opted for professional accounting services for my tax return but anybody can do it personally. Above an income threshold of £10k per year, it’s worth setting up a limited company (Ltd). Accounting admin fees are around £500 a year, whilst setting up a business with Companies House is approximately £200 (one-off payment) – all this in 2 weeks! All you need is a ready-to-use ‘brand name’ to register the ltd: mine shows the love for London and the trademark rain of the City, summarised in the London Eye icon.

Can you tell us the difference between this and the Italian procedure?

All I can say is that in Italy the paperwork is much longer, not to mention taxes: 21% in the UK against a jaw-dropping 44% (more or less) in Italy! Plus pension contributions and the likes… I would not suggest it to anyone!

Pros and cons of being an entrepreneur in the UK?

I can only talk about the pros, so far! I hope I won’t need to take this back in the near future! 

What websites would you recommend for those who are willing to follow your steps?

The ones I mentioned above and the professional associations I belong to:

Chartered Institute of Linguists (IoL)

Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)

and last but not least… Rainy London Translations

Thanks Aldo for including me in your blog!

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