Simultaneous Interpreter Bengali, Burmese, Khmer, Vietnamese<>English in Malaysia

Interpreting is not an activity that is confined to mainstream languages and the combinations are almost endless. Besides the interpreting services shown above, we are increasingly noticing a surge in demand for simultaneous interpreting of SEA languages in Malaysia.

Interpreting from Bengali, Burmese, Thai, Vietnamese into English or Bahasa Malaysia is now “in vogue” due to the large immigrant population residing in Malaysia, estimated in more than 7 (seven) millions as of 2021, or almost 20% of the Malaysian population.. A large part, nearly half, comes from Indonesia, where language and culture are very similar to Malaysia’s. However, there is also demand for interpreting services in the combination Bahasa Malaysia<>Bahasa Indonesia. The fact is that both languages are not converging but rather evolving as two separate languages and, in years to come, we will observe the same difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese.

This need for interpreting services is only going to get greater due to Malaysia’s rapid economic expansion based on labour-intensive industries in all three sectors of the economy. Bengalis work more on primary industries while immigrant from Philipines are mainly focus on the domestic help sector. Each immigrant group has its own idiosyncrasies and interpreters have to be fully aware and cognizant of those facts.

In many cases, these interpreting services for Bengali, Burmese, etc are done in a context of “community interpreting” i.e. for detainees or victims of trafficking; as such cases, an additional layer of expertise is required, the ability of interpret for victims of a traumatic episode such as being trafficked. A very scarce soft skill that demands prior capacitation and a certain blend of empathy and detachment that is not easy to have unless the interpreter’s EQ is above average. We count with a very reduced but exemplary pool of interpreters duly trained in this domain. (interpreting for Arakanese, Roghinya, Bengali, Syrian/Iraqi Arabic, etc)

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