I read in http://www.lesoir.be/ today (in the paper copy, cannot find it on the Internet) that the “Commission permanente de contrôle linguistique” has given thumbs up for letting people use English when they call 112 in Belgium. You can now be served in Dutch, French, German and English. The three official languages of Belgium and English. Le Soir also reports that in France you can get help in 128 languages with the help of interpreters. So for people living in Belgium; in case you are injured, ill or the witness of an accident don’t forget to first learn Dutch, French, German or English, or just don’t call 112. I mean how awful would it be if we made use of interpreters, the delicate linguistic balance of the country may be threatened, or the vile foreigner may decide he will never learn the country’s language properly since he can actually get the help of an interpreter should he be in distress. It is ironic that the country with the biggest group of professional interpreters is so far behind when it comes to using and training social or community interpreters.
Through the Flemish news from De Redactie, I got the good news that the demand for public service interpreters “Sociaal tolken” is increasing in Flanders. Last year it was 43000 events compared to this years 50000. The figures seem fairly low to me, but I suppose it reflects the fact that although Belgium is the home of conference interpreting, community interpreting is not quite there yet. So, it is good news in the perspective that authorities are actually acknowledging the need for organising, training and providing community interpreters.
The Redactie also tells us that the interpreters are trained for the task, through role plays and other techniques. I looked up the training and found information from the Vlaams minderheden centrum here, and from the Centrale ondersteuningscel voor sociaal tolken en vertalen. The latter seems to be a special unit for community interpreting and translation at the Flemish centre for minorities.
For the French speaking community I can only find information about how to start working as a social interpreter, but not anything about training. Maybe somebody can enlighten me on this.
I have said in an earlier post that the use of community interpreting is not very well established in Belgium, I still believe that, but clearly after my research since yesterday, I have to admit that Belgium or at least Flanders makes progress in the area.