Local Authority uses Google Translate to accommodate Ukrainian Refugees

Local Authority uses Google Translate to accommodate Ukrainian Refugees

A local authority had to resort to using Google Translate because there were not enough interpreters available.

North Tyneside Council welcomed Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion in April & May; however, they could not make adequate provisions for translation & interpretation services.

While the Council did have access to translators and interpreters, their existing provision was insufficient to cope with the sudden surge in demand. At the time of writing, there are 258 Ukrainian refugees in North Tyneside, with 37 more expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

The Council claimed they are "using everything they could" at their immediate disposal to assist those fleeing Putin's invasion. 

The authority's welfare and tenancy support manager, Ian Rice, said: "We do throughout the authority have access to interpreters and translation services.

What we very quickly found was that whilst we do have access to those facilities, the numbers, particularly in April and May time, were just not enough.

"So, we used Google Translate."

Staff at the Council also used Microsoft Word's inbuilt tools to translate email correspondence with the refugees, although Council officers acknowledged that these are less than perfect. 

However, despite the inherent imperfections of AI translation, the Council claim to have received no complaints and has claimed that the services had helped to open up a basic dialogue with their guests. The Council has stated that professional translations were sought in situations requiring a more thorough approach.

Moreover, several Ukrainians who spoke English were able to act as interpreters. "We have had a couple of our Ukrainian guests help us out and volunteer to translate, and a number of our guests who are school teachers have helped," added Ian Rice. "We are using everything we possibly can to help and support them, and quite a number of them speak quite good English," 

The Government and International Red Cross have also provided support to the authority.

The UK is the 8th most popular destination for those fleeing the war in Ukraine, with 115,200 settling there. While this is a relative drop in the ocean (only 1.8% of the total who have fled the war), it is a significant increase on the number of Ukrainians previously in the UK. 

Such humanitarian crises can place sudden and unexpected demands on an authority's translation services. A survey of Ukrainian refugees found that more than half are already working in the UK, and roughly the same amount expect to stay in the UK for three years or more.

Clearly, then, these people will need legal services now and in the longer term. Employment lawyers, conveyancers, family lawyers etc, are all likely to come into contact with a Ukrainian speaker in the coming years, and with the world as it is, more humanitarian crises are unfortunately likely. 

As such, it pays to have a trusted legal language service partner who can assist with your needs, whatever the language. 

Contact IMD Translations

If you need a legal translator or interpreter now, or think you may in the future, contact IMD Translation now - whatever the language, and whatever the legal practice area, we are here to add value to your service.

Because in Legal Matters, Language Matters.