Netflix absorbs all UK court interpreters - really?


Originally published on December 22, 2021 on LinkedIn.



Pictured: Squid Game - photograph as published on Mail Online

This article as published on Mail Online supports that the UK is facing a shortage of court interpreters as the online streaming industry generates more demand due to popular foreign dramas such as Squid Game, Money Heist and Lupin.

Let's take a closer look.

It is true that foreign language productions have become more and more popular, but let's consider the word foreign for a second. Foreign for whom? Is Squid Game a foreign show to a Korean person in Korea? No, absolutely not. Is Emily in Paris foreign to them? Absolutely yes. So let's call them non-English language productions instead, shall we?

It is also true that the UK faces a shortage of skilled linguists, as per the Migration Advisory Committee. With Modern Foreign Language (MFL) subjects uptake dropping at school level and the general attitude in British society of "oh, everyone speaks English" and "it's too hard for me to learn foreign languages", that is hardly a surprise. Add the pandemic, and Brexit and yes, of course, the fewer the foreign talent, the fewer the foreign languages.

It might be a little known fact, but it is also true that police, courts and healthcare services all rely on translators and interpreters. However, we cannot support that the growing popularity of foreign dramas on streaming platforms is fuelling the chronic shortage of skilled interpreters for court hearings and other public services. The shortage is fuelled by the lack of decent working conditions for qualified, professional and experienced translators and interpreters, including rates of pay, terms & conditions, fair remuneration for time away from desk, travel reimbursement, research and preparation allowance, intellectual property rights and more.

According to Mail Online "experts say that the rush to find foreign-language speakers to add subtitles or dubbing to these programmes means there are too few available for other work". I would love to know who these experts are. And let's also add that to perform subtitling or dubbing, being a foreign language speaker alone is not enough. And then, being a subtitler requires an entirely different skill set to being a translator, or interpreter.

Given the Migration Advisory Committee recommends professional, qualified linguists should be added to the official skills shortage list, why hasn't this happened yet?

The lack of professional, qualified Public Service Interpreters causes not only trials to collapse, but also obstruction of justice. But let's be careful with the words we use. There is no lack of professionals. There's lack of respect and understanding for what professional linguists do and how technical and demanding our job is.

Netflix has announced it will spend £377 million on expanding its list of Korean films and series, while Disney Plus plans to spend £24.8 billion on content in 2022, including foreign-language programmes, all of which will go to large localisation agencies who are likely to choose the cheapest translator/subtitler for the job.

It is great to see Professor Jorge Diaz-Cintas, of the Centre for Translation Studies at University College London, being quoted further down the article saying "The arrival of Netflix, but also newcomers like Disney Plus, it has had a knock-on effect on the number of people they need to translate these programmes. 'The impact has been felt at many different levels – there is a huge volume of material that needs to be translated and they need more people to do the translation. Because of the volume of programmes that are produced, the translation industry desperately needs newcomers to be able to deal with the amount of work."

And even better, it is good to see Mail Online quoting industry representatives such as Paul Wilson, CEO of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, supporting the argument that poor pay is causing many to leave the industry, particularly in the public sector and that "Translation is a highly skilled profession. Understandably, many are choosing to take work in other sectors that pay better."

In any case, translators, interpreters and subtitlers, have been too many times in the news recently, presented as a rare breed under extinction. At first, the news claimed there aren't enough subtitlers, and then that all the interpreters left the public sector and became subtitlers.

The truth is, qualified, experienced, and certified translators, interpreters and subtitlers, do exist. Being one of them, I can tell you that for sure. While industries, governments, and the general public fail to understand the value of our work, it will continue to appear as if we do not exist, and so the public sector and audiences will suffer and complain.



Vasiliki is a translator, interpreter, transcreator, blogger, consultant and director of Greek to Me Translations Ltd. She works with English, Greek and French herself and has a team of trusted colleagues who can cover other languages. The offered language services serve mainly the legal, creative, and psychometrics industries.


Vasiliki is a Chartered Linguist, member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and Panhellenic Association of Greek Translators (PEM). She is registered with the Greek Embassy in the United Kingdom as a certified translator and interpreter. She holds a BA in English Language and Linguistics and Masters in Business Translation and Interpreting. She is a Steering Group Member of the CIOL Translating Division (CIOL TD) and CIOL Business, Professions and Government Division (CIOL BPG). She is an Associate Lecturer in Legal Translation at London Metropolitan University teaching Legal Translation, Translation for International Organisations, Linguistics, Translation Theory and Strategy. She is a public speaker and writer for industry magazines.


Her mission is to help organisations and individuals achieve their goals through the power of words. Through mentoring, Vasiliki helps aspiring or young translators to overcome self-limiting believes, build a business mindset and achieve their highest potential.



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