What you should know about bilingual advocacy

  • 04/03/2019
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“All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy.” Samantha Power, US United Nations Ambassador."

How do you define advocacy? For many, it means showing solidarity by speaking up for people who are facing inequalities and need support. An advocate may show support by speaking out on issues around gender, race, or sexuality for example. For someone whose first language isn’t English, advocacy means getting support from another person to help them express their and wishes in another language and to help them stand up for their rights.

A professional bilingual advocate is a qualified interpreter who helps their client communicate in another language. Along with this, they also help their client with specific issues that might affect their health and wellbeing or other areas of concern. An interpreter shouldn’t be confused with a bilingual advocate, however. An interpreter should simply be the voice of their client. A bilingual advocate is not only the voice but also aims to bridge the gap of inequality and power between clients and service providers.

While interpreters and translators are widely known professions, bilingual advocacy is becoming increasingly popular as a profession in its own right. Bilingual advocates are especially in demand for minority ethnic communities and health and social care agencies.

Below, we’ll be learning more about bilingual advocacy from one of our senior advocates at Vandu, Chiling Chan. Hear about her experiences of being a bilingual advocate and the impact of bilingual advocacy on communities and individuals.

Meet Chiling

How did your career as a bilingual advocate get started?
“I started as a bilingual advocate after I’d been helping communities in the past to solve their issues. My job as a community worker later trained me to be an advocate and I have been continuing working as an advocate for many years since then. I took a bilingual advocacy course and other courses as well to help develop my skills and get the relevant qualifications.”

What are some differences between a bilingual advocate and an interpreter?
“A bilingual advocate is different from an interpreter because a bilingual advocate is on the side of the client. An interpreter on the other hand must remain neutral. A bilingual advocate follows the issues of a client until these issues are solved, while an interpreter often just has a one-off session with the client.”

What are the benefits of working with a bilingual advocate?
“Bilingual advocates give more than just a voice to their clients. They also analyse their situation and support clients throughout the process. There are many real-life situations, where a bilingual advocate can make a huge difference to the lives of their clients.”

In which real-life situations are bilingual advocates used?
“One example we worked on was a case where a client was a carer of her disabled husband. In that situation, a bilingual advocate would typically arrange an adult social care assessment with the client and the client’s husband. A bilingual advocate would make sure the carer and her husband get equal opportunities to receive this assessment and also support from the adult social care services. A bilingual advocate may also contact charity organisations that help the carers to support the client.”

How has COVID-19 impacted the need for bilingual advocacy?
“COVID-19 has led to a big increase in telephone outreach support. A bilingual advocate needs to make sure that vulnerable and older people who live isolated at their homes can get emotional support. Sometimes they might organise food parcels to be delivered to their homes for example. Bilingual advocates have also been sharing information around the COVID-19 vaccine and explaining to communities about the benefits of being vaccinated.”

Contact us

We hope we’ve given you a quick overview of what bilingual advocacy is and why it’s so important. You can find more information on our services page here. If you’re interested in a career as a bilingual advocate, Vandu’s sister company Diversity Resource International (DRI) provides a range of training opportunities for interpreters, translators, and bilingual advocates here.

Vandu Languages offers top interpreting services in Sussex. Our interpreters specialize in languages ranging from Amharic and Tigrinya to Russian and Mandarin, plus many more. Feel free to contact us about our translationinterpreting, and bilingual advocacy services.

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