Sana Ullah Khokhar MCIL is director of Urdu Language Services, an agency providing a wide range of linguistic services, and an interpreter and translator working with Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English. He discusses his linguistic career in English; for the Urdu version see The Linguist, 56,4.

Languages have always played an important role in my academic career, as I have been actively involved in literary activities. At Punjab University in Pakistan, I was the editor of the Urdu section of the bilingual departmental magazine, which involved a lot of translation work.

When, after graduation from Glasgow University, I was offered a job by Alpha Translating Services, I accepted immediately. At Alpha, I gained professional linguistic qualifications, including IoLET’s DipTrans (Dipolma in Translation) and DPSI (Diploma in Public Service Interpreting), and memberships of the CIOL and ITI (the Institute of Translation and Interpreting). I was the first Urdu linguist to be listed on the Register of Chartered Linguists.

I have been working with a wide range of organisations, such as police, Ministry of Justice, Home Office, UK Border Agency, hospitals, educational institutions, businesses and voluntary organisation, and I like the diversifity of activities offered by the profession, which range from interpreting with police and courts to teaching language in the university and providing diversity training to airport staff.

Like any other profession, interpreting has its downside. It is hard when you are woken in the middle of the night by the police or hospital staff to help interpret for a victim of a crime, or a patient unable to tell the exact nature of their problem. However, I am always delighted at the end that I have been helpful in the administration of justice or in relieving the pain of a suffering patient. This profession is for someone who has a passion to help others and can work under pressure.

I encourage and help new linguists gain professional qualifications and memberships, and have been running a DPSI training programme at Alpha Translating Services. I helped the Crown Office in arranging a training programme for new linguists, and worked with them on the preparation of a training DVD, which is now used in the training of interpreters and professionals working with interpreters in Scotland.