Ministry of External Affairs outreach getting lost in translation

2018-01-12 / Новости

Ministry of External Affairs outreach getting lost in translation

An extreme deficiency of translators, interpreters and foreign language experts in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is seriously hindering its diplomatic outreach. It has been found that the Interpreter cadre of the Ministry is limited to just 33 personnel covering seven languages. In addition, the linguistic base of India's diplomats is limited to five UN languages and only 35 per cent of officers posted abroad serve in their respective language zones. As India takes centre stage in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), it lack an interpreter to translate Brazilian, Russian and Chinese into proficient Hindi. Two years ago, it was left to a Russian diplomat to interpret Modi's meeting with Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Olegovich Rogozin.

As many as 200 Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers are not equipped with any of the foreign language.

Over the years, MEA has increased Chinese language experts. Taking cue from such experience, it told the Parliamentary Standing Committee recently that it was planning a robust programme to impart foreign language training to IFS officers.

There are currently 76 Chinese language-speaking officers. This is the fifth largest group after Arabic (100), Russian (94), French (86) and Spanish (81).

To make up the deficiency of interpreters, the Ministry has often used its officials as interpreters. The parliamentary panel took exception to this practice, saying it compromises the actual performance of officers as well as the job of interpretation. "Therefore, the Committee strongly recommends that the interpreter's cadre in the Ministry should be strengthened significantly and simultaneously invest in their capacity building programme," it stated.

Even though the MEA imparts foreign language training to Officer Trainees (OT) and their confirmation in service depends on passing the compulsory Foreign Language examination, the linguistic base is largely limited to the five UN languages. The panel has pointed out that there was enough anecdotal evidence in a variety of countries where Indian diplomats are unable to appear on television discussions for want of expertise in local language.

Not only foreign language, there is shortage to ably translate even from a foreign language like English into Hindi and vice-verse as both the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and various other ministers on foreign trips have started delivering speeches in Hindi. Many times, the Lok Sabha secretariat has to lend their interpreters. The problem becomes acuter when the Lok Sabha secretariat cannot lend interpreters when a foreign visit falls during a Parliament session.