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Interpreting and Translating

Overview

Provides information and data on the Interpreting and Translating sector, which is one component of the Government industry.

The Interpreting and Translating sector includes qualifications in oral (interpreting) and written (translating) conversion of a language other than English to English and vice versa. VET courses at a diploma and above level are offered in this area, though higher education training may be necessary for some roles in this sector.

Nationally recognised training for the Interpreting and Translating sector is delivered under the PSP – Public Sector Training Package.

For information on other government-related training, see the Government cluster page.

Information sourced from the Public Sector IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Employment trends

For information on employment trends, see the Government cluster page.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There was a rise in both program enrolments and program completions between 2015 and 2017 for Interpreting and Translating-related qualifications, with a substantial rise in 2017 compared to 2016.  2018 saw substantial falls from 2017 levels. Program enrolments dropped from the 2017 peak of 21,440 to 8,310 in 2018. Program completions dropped from the 2017 peak of 12,140 to 5,960 in 2018.

All enrolments were at the diploma or higher level, with the Advanced Diploma of Translating having the greatest number of enrolments in 2018. All qualifications in this sector have an intended occupation of Translator or Interpreter.

In 2018, the vast majority of Interpreting and Translating-related qualifications were delivered by private training providers (92%). The Advanced Diploma of Interpreting was the only qualification to show a different pattern, with 54% of the training delivered by universities. The majority of subjects in Interpreting and Translating-related qualifications were delivered through domestic fee for service arrangements (53%), followed by international fee for service arrangements (41%).

The highest proportion of students enrolled in Interpreting and Translating-related qualifications were from overseas (43%). In Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have the highest proportion of students enrolled at 25%, 13% and 12% respectively. More than half of all training was delivered in New South Wales (53%), followed by Victoria (20%) and Queensland (11%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) media release, Census Reveals a Fast Changing, Culturally Diverse Nation, the 2016 Census revealed that Australia is a fast changing, ever-expanding, culturally diverse nation. Over 300 separately identified languages are spoken in Australian homes, with more than one-fifth (21%) of Australians speaking a language other than English at home. After English, the next most common languages spoken at home were Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, and Vietnamese.

The changing needs and demography of Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse society present an enormous challenge for the Interpreting and Translating sector. Skilled Interpreters and Translators are in high demand. The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) connects government, businesses and communities through the provision of credentialed, cost effective and secure language services. According to the Summer 2019 issue of their Talking TIS newsletter, TIS National provided more than one million telephone interpreting services and 120,000 on-site interpreting assignments in 2018. Their number of interpreters grew as a result of recruiting new interpreters in high demand languages such as Afar, Kunama, Sango and Tibetan, which are spoken by new and emerging communities. TIS National successfully transitioned their Interpreters to the new National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) certification standards. More than 85 per cent of TIS National's interpreting assignments are now performed by interpreters holding the new credentials.

TIS National is committed to supporting new and emerging communities settling across Australia by recruiting interpreters who speak their languages. Where NAATI testing is not available, TIS National proactively approaches interested parties and assists them in identifying development opportunities to become interpreters. This approach is crucial to ensure that as new communities settle, they can access services and remain connected through the help of interpreting services.

The above newsletter announced that in 2019 TIS National will be implementing a new initiative which is aimed at enhancing interpreters' skills and promoting their professional expertise and development. TIS National will launch a new e-learning platform, which will provide interpreters with access to e-learning through the TIS Online interpreter portal. E-learning will provide interpreters with more flexibility to undertake training in their own time and at their own pace. Some of the courses offered will contribute towards professional development points required for their NAATI recertification.

E-learning will also provide interpreters being inducted to the TIS National panel with an improved understanding of what is expected of them. The modules will introduce new interpreters to TIS National systems and processes, and reinforce their responsibilities. Interpreters will need to complete and pass the induction modules before they can accept assignments. Further e-learning modules will be progressively added to the platform that will enhance interpreters' professional development. Current interpreters will initially benefit from e-learning modules to develop their understanding of Work Health and Safety and how to make the most out of learning from feedback.

The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Limited (NAATI) Annual Report 2017/18 highlights the Indigenous Interpreting Project (IIP). Since 2012 NAATI has been working with the Australian Government and the Indigenous interpreting sector to increase the number of credentialed Indigenous language interpreters. From 2015, NAATI has been funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) to continue this important work in South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. In June 2017, PM&C confirmed the IIP would continue to receive funding to June 2021.

The three objectives of the Indigenous Interpreting Project are:

  1. Increase the number of certified Indigenous interpreters and examiners.
  2. Increase the range of Indigenous languages for which there are certified Indigenous interpreters.
  3. Increase the accessibility of interpreting resources for Indigenous interpreters and organisations.

In a January 2019 media release, Scholarships for Budding Interpreters, the NSW Government Minister for Multiculturalism announced a $100,000 pilot program paving a pathway for up to 45 students across NSW to become practicing interpreters. The NSW Interpreter Scholarship Program will support people who speak in-demand languages with fully funded scholarships to study interpreting at NSW TAFE. Course graduates will be eligible to become Recognised Practicing Interpreters with the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). People who speak Assyrian, Burmese, Chaldean, Greek, Italian, Kirundi, Khmer, Kurmanji, Maltese, Nepalese, Tamil, Tibetan, Tigringa, Thai, Tongan, Pashto, Rohingya, Samoan, Somali or Vietnamese were encouraged to apply. The 12-month pilot program commenced in Sydney and was rolled out to regional NSW in mid-2019.

The article Ensuring Interpreting Quality in Legal and Courtroom Settings: Australian Language Service Providers' Perspectives on Their Role, was published in The Journal of Specialised Translation, Issue 32, July 2019. The authors, Ludmila Stern and Xin Liu, found that formal training opportunities in Australia remain limited:

  • Existing courses do not cover all the languages in areas of need, even in established international and community languages, not to mention the so-called “new and emerging” (N&E) and Aboriginal languages.
  • Access to training can be difficult, especially in rural and regional Australia.
  • Of the seven Australian universities that train interpreters, only one offers interpreter training in the N&E languages.
  • Among the ten vocational institutes (TAFE), only one is dedicated to Aboriginal languages interpreting.

In the above article, the authors argue that there is a long-standing tension, in Australia and internationally, between the growing demand for professional interpreting in legal settings, including courts and tribunals, and a shortage of qualified interpreters. The article explores the ways in which eight major Australian Language Services Providers (LSPs) address the challenges of providing interpreting of a quality required in legal settings, including courts. In-depth interviews with LSPs' management reveal an uneven pattern of initiatives undertaken to address interpreter training and legal/court expertise. To mitigate risk, some LSPs, especially those employing interpreters in the Aboriginal and N&E languages, have undertaken capacity building and assumed a trainer's role not historically expected of them. While the scope of these initiatives remains limited and the pattern uneven, most LSPs have identified the necessary steps for interpreter upskilling, even if they remain aspirational.

In another article by Ludmila Stern and Xin Liu, See You in Court: How do Australian Institutions Train Legal Interpreters?, in The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, published online in May 2019, the authors question: How well does Australia prepare interpreters to fulfil the linguistic needs of its numerous communities, including ‘established’ migrant, indigenous, ‘new and emerging’ and deaf, in a variety of legal settings? This study provides an overview of formal legal interpreter training offered by two types of educational institutions: academic and vocational.

The survey of the existing courses, curricula, aims and outcomes, content and settings, teaching methods and assessment, identifies the characteristics of these two approaches, considers advantages and disadvantages of each system, and questions their effectiveness for preparing competent graduates for legal settings. Relying on the educators' opinions, the authors consider what roadblocks Australian educational institutions encounter in meeting the requirements of the legal system and satisfying the needs of communities where qualified legal interpreters are particularly lacking.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT)

National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI)

 

Relevant research

Annual Report 2017/18 – National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Limited (NAATI)

Census Reveals a Fast Changing, Culturally Diverse Nation [media release] – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

Ensuring Interpreting Quality in Legal and Courtroom Settings: Australian Language Service Providers' Perspectives on Their Role – Ludmila Stern and Xin Liu

Scholarships for Budding Interpreters [media release] – NSW Government Minister for Multiculturalism

See You in Court: How do Australian Institutions Train Legal Interpreters? – Ludmila Stern and Xin Liu

Talking TIS: Summer 2019 – TIS National

 

Data sources and notes

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • PSP – Public Sector Training Package
    • PSP60916 - Advanced Diploma of Interpreting (LOTE-English)
    • PSP61110 - Advanced Diploma of Interpreting
    • PSP61112 - Advanced Diploma of Interpreting
    • PSP60816 - Advanced Diploma of Translating
    • PSP61010 - Advanced Diploma of Translating
    • PSP61012 - Advanced Diploma of Translating
    • PSP50916 - Diploma of Interpreting (LOTE-English)
    • PSP52410 - Diploma of Interpreting
    • PSP52412 - Diploma of Interpreting.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

 

Updated: 08 May 2020
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