University Of New South Wales: Multilingual graduates set to help the state’s diverse communities

More than 40 multilingual students are set to bolster the NSW government’s interpreting ranks after successfully completing its Interpreting Scholarship program, facilitated by UNSW Sydney.

Multicultural NSW and UNSW worked together to develop the 20-week, micro-credential to qualify bilingual candidates to sit for the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) Certified Provisional Interpreter examination. A passing grade will allow them to work as interpreters for Multicultural NSW, where they will also receive additional mentoring and professional development.

Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure said the new graduates will be welcome additions among the state’s interpreting professionals.

“Multicultural NSW is Australia’s leading provider of interpreting services, and each of these graduates has a chance to join its ranks and fill shortages in key languages,” Mr Coure said.

In 2020, Multicultural NSW recognised a gap in the supply of demand for language-specific interpreters and approached UNSW – a world leader in interpreting pedagogy and research – to develop a course to train suitable bilingual candidates and address the increasing shortfall of professional interpreters.

Translation services in more languages
Interpreters play a crucial role in ensuring that language is not a barrier to accessing information or services within communities and UNSW collaborated with Multicultural NSW to extend its course offerings to include more languages as needed in the community.

“Interpreting is a very difficult and demanding profession that requires high level training of competent bilinguals,” said course designer and convenor Professor Sandra Hale. “Training opportunities for many community languages have been limited in Australia. UNSW is very excited to work with Multicultural NSW to fill this critical gap, to ensure that non-English speakers in NSW can access quality interpreting services to remove the language barrier and enable their full participation in society.”

Among the key languages the new interpreters will be covering include Filipino, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Macedonian, Nepali, Portuguese, Serbian, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese.

Mr Coure said with a growing number of people in NSW speaking a language other than English, interpreters are more important than ever.

“The latest census data shows us that more NSW residents are speaking a language other than English at home. Those numbers will continue to grow as more of the world’s citizens choose to find a brighter future in our great state,” Mr Coure said.

Translators supporting their communities
“This scholarship program is about tapping into the availability of these languages in NSW, where we can create job opportunities for people to use their language skills and in turn help their communities.”

Turkish-Australian student Sena Uzun said she felt the course had prepared her well for community interpreting after completing a bachelor’s degree in translating and interpreting in her former homeland of Turkey.

“I think what Australia is doing in terms of providing support, and services to multicultural and linguistically diverse communities is very important,” Ms Uzun said.

Thai-born Lydia Armour said she felt she was better equipped to support her Wollongong Thai community after the course.

“The level of support from Multicultural NSW and the depth of knowledge from lecturers, tutors and the Thai tutor was amazing,” Ms Armour said.

“I’m very invested in my Thai community and this is an important way that I can ensure everyone has fairer and more equitable access to services and information.”

ADA Short Courses is a new initiative at UNSW’s Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture.

“ADA Short Courses showcase the faculty’s expertise in equitably disseminating cutting-edge research with real-world impacts, benefiting our communities. They build skills, enrich careers, and accessibly promote lifelong learning to a wider audience,” said ADA Academic Director Nicholas Apoifis.

In 2019 the NSW government committed to providing scholarships to 400 multilingual students over four years, with 265 having already completed the program.