By now I guess everybody knows that the interpreting market has probably been one of the sectors most heavily affected by the spread of the Coronavirus all over the Globe. Congress venues and training centers have been closed down, trade shows have been cancelled or postponed to 2021 and companies have put a halt to their business meetings.

At the same time, some Medical interpreters have been working continuously to help fight against the outbreak, supporting physicians and nurses. I, too, have dedicated an article to this topic: Quando il gioco si fa duro.

For sure, this pandemic has changed the way everybody lives and works. Many businesses have accelerated their pace and moved to online platforms to continue communicating with their partners and customers, while Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI) has become the buzzword among translation agencies, colleagues and companies, with all its pros and cons.

During the lockdown, as you might have read in other articles of my Blog, I tried to react to the endless number of frustrations received every day from translation agencies and colleagues informing me that almost every assignment was annulled or deferred.


One way to act was to grasp the opportunity offered by the Association TradInFo to join the 3-week Course on the digital platform Future Learn held by the University of Glasgow entitled “INTERPRETING FOR REFUGEES: CONTEXTS, PRACTICES AND ETHICS”.

This linked with my signing up – at around the same time – as a member and volunteer of EMERGENCY, a humanitarian organization founded in 1994 to help civilian victims of war and poverty. EMERGENCY has given the authorities all possible help to manage the Coronavirus outbreak. So, here I was, a member of EMERGENCY (Group of Ravenna, my hometown) and attending a course on Interpreting for refugees.


The term Humanitarian Interpreting has been adopted by the organizationTranslators Without Borders, “a U.S. non-profit organization that aims to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian and international development efforts worldwide”. Humanitarian Interpreting refers to the work of interpreting in situations of natural disasters, conflicts, post-conflict areas, emergencies and crises. It also includes interpreting with refugees and asylum seekers at all stages and in different settings.

In Italy there is no official Register for such figures.


A professional interpreter has to be preferred to a person connected with the refugee, survivor of trafficking or asylum seeker because he/she can ensure:

–       proficiency in both languages and linguistic accuracy (including, hopefully, interpreting dialects)

–       the ability to manage highly stressful situations

–       complete translation of the communication, without omissions, thus reducing inaccuracy or misunderstandings.

Moreover, interpreters have to follow a Code of Ethics that ensures they work following Confidentiality and privacy policies (neutrality and impartiality are key) for the benefit of both the client and the interpreter. There is no unified Code for everybody though.

Consider that you might find yourself working with children and young people, women, victims of torture: all of them pose very challenging circumstances in which one has to work.

Of course, It is helpful for the interpreter and the service provider to meet before the interpreting session begins. Just as in any other interpreting assignment. But It’s even more important here to collect names, define the purpose of the session and any other relevant detail, always underlining the interpreter’s neutrality. A final discussion and debriefing with the service provider might also be advisable, always bearing in mind the risk of engaging on a personal level with clients throughout the process.

There are so many more interesting things I learnt from this course and I still haven’t told you the reason why I found consistency between this course and my belonging to EMERGENCY. The second part of this article will be published next week on my Blog!