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Working together to get the message right

FCDO Services’ Translation and Interpreting team delivered several high-profile translation projects during 2022/23. This important service has continued to support the diplomatic platform in challenging circumstances.

Our Translation and Interpreting team provides translation and interpreting services, both from and into English, in over forty languages.

We are the only customer-facing linguistic service within His Majesty’s Government (HMG) and, as such, regularly support the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and other departments across Whitehall.  

Throughout the last year the team have continued to work with a broad range of government customers on a variety of translation projects.   

Countering disinformation

When Russia invaded Ukraine, there was an urgent need for translation work to counter disinformation from Russia.

The team delivered urgent linguistic support from the beginning, translating key documents into Ukrainian and Russian, not least in order to help Ukrainians fleeing the war come to the UK.   

The team was also employed by the Government Information Cell, coordinated by the Cabinet Office, to help them translate social media messages into Ukrainian and Russian.

They rapidly translated a series of urgent messages that were disseminated via Twitter and other social media, all under the umbrella #standwithukraine.  

The situation at the start of the conflict was incredibly fast-moving. This meant policies evolved day by day.

As a result, our translators were in regular contact with stakeholders to ensure that each translation reflected the latest and most accurate information.  

Speech to parliament

On 24 February 2022, Boris Johnson addressed the nation about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

We translated his speech, along with his statement to the House of Commons, and some video messages into Ukrainian and Russian.

Our linguists were responsive and went the extra mile to deliver, supplying the then Prime Minister with phonetic transcription to support him to say a few words to the people of Ukraine in Ukrainian.  

Homes for Ukraine scheme

As the conflict continued, the profile of the response from Whitehall departments developed. Over the last year, because of the conflict in Ukraine, thousands of families and citizens have been displaced.

The Homes for Ukraine settlement scheme was quickly set up by the UK Government to assist those wanting to flee the conflict.  

With the Home Office as the lead department on this front, the Translation and Interpreting team was asked to translate a range of materials to support these efforts. These included guidance documents, visa applications and other forms.    

Being highly experienced in delivering translations for partners across government, the team were able to respond quickly to the peak in demand from our customers. These included the FCDO, Home Office, and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  

It was crucial that the translations of this content from English into Ukrainian and Russian were accurate and easy to understand, so those going through the application process could do so without being slowed down by unnecessarily complicated information.

Requests to translate this material often had to be turned around rapidly to meet customers’ own tight deadlines.  

Translation requirements were therefore prioritised so that the most urgent work could be delivered first, with translations regularly being completed ahead of schedule.  

Surprise presidential visit

At very short notice because of the extensive security surrounding the event, the team provided interpretation for the surprise visit of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to London on 8 February 2023.

This included a meeting with the Prime Minister and His Majesty King Charles III, and an early evening press conference.

With 48 hours’ notice, the team mobilised and responded quickly to field a Ukrainian interpreter for this high-level event in the spotlight of the world’s media.   

Wider language capabilities

The success of our Translation and Interpreting service has now opened new opportunities for the team.   

In the new post-Brexit landscape where the extensive linguistic resources of the European Union are no longer available to the UK, FCDO Services’ Translation and Interpreting team is now busier than ever.

The Interpretation team managed to deliver an interpreter within a very short timeframe. There was a conference taking place in Paris at the time, therefore we had limited translators available to us. The team moved into action and managed to call on all their contacts. The interpreter was great, she showed great flexibility with her time and aptitude, providing consecutive and simultaneous translation and travelling with the delegation throughout. Truly a visit to remember.” Protocol Visits Team

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    Our translators and interpreters have the clearance and experience to deal with critical situations and documents.