Our Interpreter's Skills and Specialisms - Justyna

  • 12/10/2016
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Many of our freelance professionals have personal talents outside of their freelance duties. In this series we will explore the specialisms and skills of some of our freelance professionals.

In our most recent interview we caught up with Justyna, a Polish interpreter and piano teacher based in Hastings. We discovered how her personal interests, medical training and background have all contributed to her working positively and effectively as an interpreter today.

Hi Justyna, can you give us an insight into your background before interpreting?

It was 1994 when I had arrived in the UK with very little English and the hunger to learn.

For the first two years in this country, I worked as an au-pair in Tunbridge Wells, and attended college to learn the language. I had made friends of various nationalities and life brought me to Hastings where I continued my education and got married to an English man for thirteen years.

The confidence in being able to express myself fluently grew and I decided to take the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting, opting for the Health option, as my interest in the medical field and complementary medicine was strongly developing. Realising that good health - be it mental, physical or emotional, is the main driving force behind achieving one's life purpose.

Other than interpreting, what other skills and qualifications have you obtained?

I have been teaching piano consistently since the age of 21, and now pride myself on having a lovely group of students at the Bonners Music School in Eastbourne as well as those I teach privately. We work towards grades and developing piano playing as a hobby.  Students of all ages, currently from 3 - 65 years old, enjoy a steady progress and each choose their own pace to use the skill for various reasons. It is very satisfying to know when they are being complemented and this in turn, builds their self-confidence and dedication to create further achievements.

My latest passion is for a modality called Access Consciousness, of which I am an Access Bars Practitioner, is greatly expanding my awareness and also adding an extra dimension to my professions. After all, interpersonal skills are the major component of every strong business relationship.

Every interest and the qualifications gained, allow me to be the best I can be in the role of a Public Service Interpreter and adds value to the quality of my performance.

The accurate relaying of the verbal content is always enhanced by getting the 'feel' for every individual I do the interpreting work. Adapting to unique situations at hand with sensitivity proves very important.

Why did you become an interpreter, and what has been your favourite interpreting experience so far?

It seemed logical to use my first language (Polish) in order to work professionally in the capacity of an interpreter. I have a keen interest in holistic health and I am also qualified as a Bach Flower Practitioner (using flower essences as a tool for healing) as well as an Access Bar Practitioner (using touch to alleviate stress and limitations). These are modalities which can help one to expand self-awareness and effective methods of clearing emotional blockages.

Being in the medical environment as an interpreter allows me to work with people who are working to improve their health and general well-being. I have some qualifications in person-centred counselling and all these skills and knowledge help me interpret for social or key workers. My favourite experience would be child birth – I feel fulfilled and helpful in these scenarios.

I simply love the feeling of walking into a hospital, knowing that I can support a patient awaiting her child’s birth, an operation or finding out the rest of a medical investigation. As an example - having had attended a regular treatment of chemotherapy with a Polish lady, I can confidently say that the role of a face-to-face interpreter in those situations is absolutely crucial!

Vandu has ultimately provided valuable opportunities for me to implement and fulfil all that I am about and I am forever thankful.


Thank you to Justyna, our Polish interpreter for her insight into the life of a freelance professional. If you’re interested in booking an interpreter or want to find out more information on our services, please call 01273 473986 or email .

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Inside Vandu HQ- Fletcher

  • 07/10/2016
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What do you do for a living?

I work here at Vandu co-ordinating the written translation requests. When clients have documents to translate from or into English I calculate the costs depending on the technicality of the text, formatting requirements, etc. and also give them the time scale once I have checked the availability of the translators.

I also deal with the new freelancer requests by checking their CVs and qualifications, then issuing the required documentations for them to sign and fill in before we can fully register them as a freelance professional. It also requires me to be vigilant for any fraudulent applications or scammers.

In between that I occasionally help the others in the office when needed and I also have a weekend job! Each year I assist with setting up Vandu’s annual conferences, the next one is just round the corner…                                      

What is your morning routine like?

Once I have made my way to the office the first thing I do when I arrive is check my email messages for any urgent or new translation requests. The moment they are dealt with and any other outstanding jobs are also complete I usually speak with the team to see if there is anything else I can help with. 

What’s the most interesting project you have ever managed?

Just over a year ago we supported a gentleman who was running a set of training days for new employees. Some of his new staff did not speak English so we arranged an interpreter to attend to support those staff during the training over a couple of days. The gentleman came back to say they had benefitted massively from our support and thanked us for our help training his new employees for their upcoming work.

What is the best part of what you do every day?

I enjoy working with my team knowing that we are helping people who would struggle to access the services they are entitled to without the support of our freelancers. I have a great time with all my colleagues in the office since we get on so well and I also appreciate speaking with the freelancers as they’re always happy to help whenever they can and respect us as we do them.

At Vandu we have over 1500 interpreters and translators in over 100 different languages. For your free translation quote please call 01273 473986 or email



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The Issues of Youth Migration

  • 03/10/2016
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Youth migration, and immigration as a whole, is currently one of the most prevalent topics in the world. Along with gun-control and terrorism it is one of the most fiercely debated subjects, featuring prominently in the US presidential race and the recent Brexit vote. Whilst it’s been made clear (or perhaps not very clear at all) how receiving immigrants can affect a country, how does it affect the country the people are leaving and what are the different reasons for the youth leaving in the first place? Diversity Resource International (DRI), whom work in partnership with Vandu Language Services have recently held seminars in Brighton and London on the subject with Professor Tadesse, Minister of Higher Education in Eritrea visiting to speak on the subject.

So why do young people leave their home countries? There are many different reasons, and they can be split into two sections: Push and Pull factors. Push factors are the reasons people might leave an area, such as nearby conflict in the case of Syria, or causes like poverty, high crime, a lack of services such as hospitals or education, or environmental problems such as crop failure, drought or natural disasters. Pull factors are the reasons an immigrant might want to come to a specific country, such as higher chances of employment, better education, political stability and a country’s wealth. A case study in youth migration is the country of Eritrea; there are push factors like a national service conscription that the government can impose for a very long time for low wages, a problematic border dispute with neighbouring Ethiopia, as well as a highly debatable political situation (it could fill another blog itself) that involves a lot of censorship and a government party that has been in power for over twenty years. The pull factors for these young Eritrean’s are quite interesting. There is obviously no national service in the west, education and healthcare are much better, the west is politically stable as well, but an interesting notion that Professor Tadesse recorded when speaking to disaffected youth was that the west was a ‘paradise’. Of course we know this not to be the case, but you can see why it might be strewn this way, social media and tales from Eritrean diaspora, Hollywood movies and glamorisation of western culture. The opportunity that the west seems to promise can be all too seductive to a young man or woman, disillusioned with what they think they can achieve in Eritrea. When you add the push and pull factors up, and then add the preferential treatment Eritreans get, (around 90%, so much that there are reports of Ethiopians and Sudanese pretending to be Eritrean) emigrating can be too alluring to resist, even with an incredibly perilous journey in between.

The results of youth migration are mixed. On an individual level, an immigrant is generally more likely to be wealthier in their new country, women’s authority within their families and in society often rise to a more equal standard and there are chances for higher academic intelligence for these young men and women. However, an absence of parents (as is often the case with youth migration) can have a serious impact upon the psychological, social and emotional development of a child, which can lead to bad behaviour and sometimes poor life decisions. On a grander scale, youth migration can lead to what is known as a ‘brain-drain’, where a country is deprived of the social and economic contributions of its young citizens; this is particularly problematic for a developing country like Eritrea which has a very low rate of returning migrants, resulting in money spent outsourcing for professionals. The other side to this is that places with a higher rate of returning youth migrants of whom have received better education can result in a ‘brain-gain’, meaning better contributions to their society than if they stayed.

Youth migration can affect an individual, a family and a country in varying ways, and the larger the migration invariably leads to a more serious effect on the country the youth migrate from.


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British Sign Language

  • 30/09/2016
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Within Britain the most common form of Sign Language is called British Sign Language (BSL). BSL has its own grammatical structure and syntax, as a language it is not dependant nor is it strongly related to spoken English.

Sign Language is a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language. Sign Language is used mainly by people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments.

We caught up with Manda one of our BSL interpreters.

When did you first start as a BSL interpreter?


 Why did you become an interpreter?

I went to Art College to study fashion but found it very competitive which left me feeling uncomfortable so I dropped out. The unexpected free time lead me to start travelling - I became an au pair in Germany - finding German fairly easy to learn. I followed this with living in Barcelona for a while and picked up Spanish. In the end I could speak 4 languages to varying degrees, and looking for a career to replace the fashion, I decided that being good with my hands and good with languages that I might be good at sign language. When I went to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People to get advice about careers they told me it would take me 7 years to become an interpreter! Well, that seemed way too long so I resigned myself to working in care with young deaf people in south London. My employer paid for my training, and after 3 years I moved to working for a deaf services team in Surrey Social Services. Again I was provided with further training and a lot of career development which took me from social work into interpreting (as a trainee) 6 years later. These roles gave me such a wealth of experience with deaf people from all sorts of walks of life - and allowed my language skills to flourish. Without this experience I would not have been the community interpreter that I am today.

 What has been your most memorable experience so far as an interpreter?

I have interpreted inside Buckingham Palace, when a deaf man got an OBE, at No.10 Downing Street, for David Miliband. I particularly love the bookings that take you behind the scenes, including cremations, surgical procedures under general anaesthetic and ghost tours! One funny experience I had was when a GP asked me if I wanted her to check my breasts for lumps, as she was checking my client’s anyway!

 What is your typical routine as a freelance professional?

My diary is my sacred book! I don't like to use an electronic diary - I like the feel of the paper! I work 5 days a week but occasionally do half days which is nice when you get a lie in. I have 2 and a half days of regular work and fill in the rest with adhoc work which keeps things varied and interesting. However, I also like to do the regular days as it gives me the opportunity to work closer with other professionals and be part of a team which I would miss otherwise. Of course I’m checking my phone regularly for suitable assignments and read any preparation material when I get some down time. I do my invoicing in the evening while I’m watching TV. Assignments can be health appointments, mental health therapies, job interviews, training courses, magistrates court, office support, probation interviews and child protection, weddings, etc. I’ve even been flown to Jersey for a 2 hour meeting as there are no BSL interpreters there!

I am also part of a support group of other BSL Interpreters. We communicate mostly via our google group email and will post dilemmas, advice, co-working and training opportunities - as well as to look for emergency cover if one of us is ill. We meet up at someone's house every 2 months and always have a meal together at Christmas. Last year we ran in the Colour Run! Most of my work is in Brighton or within 30 miles and I rarely get home later than 5.30pm. I can even walk to some of my bookings!


Do you know someone who would benefit from a BSL interpreter? Or want to find out how to make the most of our services? Please contact one of our representatives on 01273 473986 or email           


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Why aren't British people learning more languages?

  • 20/09/2016
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John Worne recently wrote that “Language learning is vital for the UK’s future prosperity and global standing. Languages are essential for our trade, prosperity, cultural exports, diplomacy and national security.” So why are language courses taken at university and college on the decline in Britain? There may be a number of reasons.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you have to look at British history. At its peak, the British Empire had colonies on every single continent other than Antarctica, some of which had been in place for centuries. This would leave a lasting legacy on many cultures throughout the world, and meant that the use of the English language would become widespread or at least familiar to most places on Earth. Because of this, English has become the de facto language for international business, science, technology, politics and other sectors. The tourism industry also uses the English language quite heavily, and the rise of technology such as google translate and other software programmes contribute as well. So when you add these points up and the decline in students taking higher-education language courses, it suggest that Britain may be resting on our (linguistic) laurels; and for a while you could argue it was forgivable, particularly in the 90’s and early 2000’s when America was the sole super-power in the world, however things are less clear cut now. The world is becoming a smaller place, and the rise of the Asian markets are changing the global landscape.

There needs to be a fresh impetus on learning languages in Britain, particularly amongst young people. The jobs market is a fiercely competitive place, and the skill of languages can be the edge over your opponent; for example a financial advisor who can speak Mandarin will be more in demand than a monolingual one. Moreover, learning a language is the doorway to a new culture and way of life so an open mind towards these aspects are always needed, particularly now in light of recent events. So what can we do? There are suggestions of teaching children languages early in their education, which would make sense as younger brains are known to find it easier to learn languages, but perhaps a culture change is what is needed most; while it becomes more apparent where Britain stands amongst the world powers, it doesn’t mean we should recede into ourselves, in fact the call for multilingualism has never been stronger. 

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