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Translators, interpreters needed for conference industry

Published:Monday | October 14, 2019 | 12:17 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Dr Rohan Lewis
Dr Rohan Lewis

Associate language professor at the University of Technology, Jamaica, Dr Rohan Lewis has asserted that Jamaica needs a larger corps of translators and interpreters.

“One of the economic ministries is looking at the expansion of the tourism market into the area of conferencing. If you are marketing Jamaica as a destination for conferences and international meetings, one of the things that goes with that is a translation sector that is able to deal with meeting that need,” he said.

Lewis explained that for this to become a reality, the training of translators on a larger scale must be facilitated through a language policy.

“If you don’t have the languages in the schools, you can’t train that group of people, and then you have to import translators for this conferencing destination that you’re trying to create,” he said.


With the increase in investors such as the Chinese, there is also a need for local capacity to be able to engage those businesses in ­foreign languages, he said.

“We need the kind of proficiency that doesn’t allow people to have to go to the Dominican Republic and bring English speakers here because that’s typically what ­happens,” he said.

A master’s degree in translation and knowledge of at least two ­foreign languages is required to work as a translator, and he said that translators could also ­benefit from the numerous jobs ­outsourced online.

“Once you have the training and the skills, you are able to tap into that global market via the Internet. It’s easy to access those jobs, but the challenge is to maintain quality and standards because anyone can access the job. Over time, it’s about how well you deliver,” said Lewis.

The fees charged are entirely dependent on who is offering the job and what they expect of the translator.

Lewis said that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has been working to develop a policy framework for foreign-­language education as students are missing out on valuable opportunities.

“There are a number of scholarships that are accessible all across Latin America, but our students are not able to access those scholarships to go on for graduate degrees in diverse areas. Our students have not taken up the opportunity to ­pursue foreign languages, and quite often, through no fault of theirs, it’s because the society has not prepared them,” Lewis lamented.