Recently there’s been some news about translation within police departments around the world. In America, a woman dialled 911 and was told “No Spanish” when trying to secure help for a woman who has just been shot in the head.

This received a huge amount of criticism, especially considering that Spanish is the second most used language in the USA, with 38.3 million people speaking it. Translators are used by dispatch centres, who transfer a call to a translator, who then sends emergency services.

In this case, the woman who dialled 911 was made to wait 10 minutes as there were no translators available. It seems a common problem in many parts of the world, especially as we are becoming much more multicultural.

Some places are getting it right, however, which is certainly encouraging. Abu Dhabi provides ‘Instant translation services’ through their emergency hotline, and it is proving quite successful. This service is available in over 24 languages and dialects through the emergency number 999. It is available 24 hours a day and has handled around 17,600 translation related calls over the last 20 months.

The systems will automatically forward a call to the hotline service at a translation branch, where professional translators will assess and communicate information in the native language or dialect of the caller.

A representative of the Capital Police Directorate stated: “The United Arab Emirates being home to over 200 nationalities, communication with individuals who do not share a common language becomes a difficult task in many cases, whether they were submitting a report or suspects. Thanks to this technology, we can save both time and effort in our bid to maintain security and communicate promptly with the callers.”

He also added: “Our next objective is to provide language interpreting services to include a total of 45 languages and dialects, serving the majority of nationalities living in the country,” he added.

So what does this mean for British emergency services? In today’s vast and different cultural society, the question of increasing translation services is something that should certainly be raised. There are many qualified translators and their skills are invaluable when it comes to interpreting important and sensitive information from a source language to a target language. By understanding the importance of skilled translators, we can begin to ensure better communication between people.