Thursday, 15 March 2012


Michael Moore and Jobcentre Minus, sorry Plus (must remember the irony in their name), have announced a scheme which will give unemployed people 50% off train fares if they are travelling to interviews. 

Great! I don't want to rain on their parade, because every little bit helps, but despite what His Smugness Lord Baldermorte said today, there are NOT NOT NOT plenty of jobs for the unemployed, and the ones that there are, are often part time, some with what are called 'zero hour' contracts, which means that there are different shifts and hours required every week. The minimum that an employee can be given in any given period hours. (Not handy when there is rent to pay, kids to feed and electricity to buy.)

Additionally, there aren't THAT many train routes away from the central belt, so unless you are in "Edingow" this may be of limited use. 

Thirdly, even with 50% off, Scotrail fares are some of the most expensive in Europe, and if you have to travel by train to interview, won't you have to travel by train to do the job? 

Fourthly, I'm not certain I'd trust Scotrail to get me to an interview on time. I once trusted them to get me to a post PGD examination in Aberdeen, with near disastrous results.

And lastly First Scotrail receives subsidies amounting to around 75% of the cost of operating the railways in Scotland so this is not, as was suggested by Moore, incredibly generous. (And just for a little bit of extra information, the salary of the highest paid director is over £400,000!)

The English Courts system is in turmoil because the translation service has been put out to tender and as usual they have made a mess of choosing the correct company.

The trouble is that to provide the service at the knock down cost Applied Language Solutions said that they would only pay a translator for the time (s)he actually spend translating. In most cases this is very short. A tourist who has witnessed a crime for example may be only 10-20 minutes in the dock to give evidence. But they could be called or recalled anytime, so they have to sit around, sometimes for hours, waiting... and so do the translators ... for no pay. The people who do that kind of work are highly trained, highly skilled ... they aren't going to hang about all day for 10 minutes' pay... 

So the good ones won't work for Applied Language Solutions. Trials have had to be abandoned because translators can't be found, don't turn up, or can't do simultaneous translation. 

But here's the big laugh. The Olympics organising body, whatever it's called, has to engage translating services for athletes, coaches and minders from all over the world.... and guess who put in the cheapest tender... and got the contract...


The word 'Duh' comes to mind.


  1. You've beaten me to it again Tris. My interpreter post is only half done.

    The problem with the tender is that in legal situation, who's to say the interpreting is accurate?

    For anyone associated with the Olympics I just don't care.

  2. ‎"Democracy simply means the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people"

    Oscar Wilde had a good point, no?

    Lenin explained also, if liberty is precious, isn't it too precious just to be cast around?

    Maybe I am just in one of my bouts of jaded cynicism again?

  3. Ouch, sorry SR. Do it anyway. This is only a wee random thought thing... Yours will have more detail.

    If I were in, say, Bulgaria (as I have been) and I was involved with a crime in some way (which I wasn't), I'd expect a perfect translating service, given that my Bulgarian is limited... to about 5 words!!! (Did you know that "thank you" in Bulgarian is "mersi" with an s!)

    This kind of translation is an immensely hard job. The person has to be totally bi-lingual and fast too, not to mention being au fait with all the technical terms and how to translate them.

    The translator interviewed on the radio (a completely bilingual lady with many years' experience) said she had no intention of being at court all day for £16.

    And nor would I.

    Did no one think this through?

    Silly question. Of course they didn't.

    No I don't care about the Olympics either, but I couldn't help laughing about the fact that this lot are being employed again despite clearly being not very good.

    Still they are cheap. And as we have to pay them I suppose we should be grateful. The fact that they can't do the job won't actually affect you or me.

  4. LOL Dean.

    You're too young to be so cynical. You should give it another 3 or 4 weeks before you get to that stage.

    Good quotes though...

  5. More proof that there are no such things as great men or good. Just men, sharing this erethral plain.

  6. Hold on a minute.

    If this 50% contribution to train fares happens (so people can apply for jobs that don't exist having as they do no hours with employers who can't take them on anyway because no one has any money to buy the stuff they make...)

    And the train companies are subsidised to the tune of 75%...

    Someone or something in the process is being subsidised to the tune of 125%. How does that work? Are we rehypothecating jobseekers some how?

    I probably shouldn't say this here because someone might steal the idea, but can't they use computers to translate? Just get a laptop in there, google translate (other translation matrices are available, I think...) Hey presto, (who says that anymore?!?) the witness just types in the answers and the computer does the rest?

    Or am I being too simplistic?

  7. I'm not sure that that's quite true, Dean.

  8. Yes Pa, that's reasonable... but you have to add, on railways that don't run over great swathes of the country.

    I've tried computer programmes to translate. I promise you, even today they are still rubbish. They take no little account of slang, and none of irony, and where there are double or multiple meanings for words they pick what they have been programmed to assume is the most normal. Hence "Cher Pierre" at the beginning of a letter, might translate as "expensive stone" rather than "dear Pierre (or Peter)". This propensity for inaccuracy might be a bit confusing in a court case.

  9. Tris,

    I see you haven't contributed to Conan's request on ten ways to identify a cybernat. Are you too snobby to be a cybernat? If I had a double-barrelled name I'd probably be snobby too! However, I could only make one contribution so you can make up for it.

    John Macdonald-brownlie

  10. PS: There is no Gaelic word, or English come to that, for "Duh" - Is it Bulgarian, by any chance?

  11. They certainly aren't John.

    I didn't know Conan was needed info in cyber nats. I'm perfectly happy to contribute, despite being posher than el duce di Rothsay's mum.

    And the word for Duh in Bulgarian is дух.


  12. Once again the crazy dash to have everything provide by the private sector as cheaply as possible make a complete fiasco of everything and makes English courts a laughing stock. When will these idiots get it into their thick head that the private sector does not provide everything better than the state? What exactly have they privatised that is now better run than it was when it was nationalised? Water in England? Well they don’t have any do they? Trains? A hugely subsidised joke: Prison service? A by word in overcrowded incompetence; Electricity? We are all fleeced by the big six that seem to act like a pack when increasing prices to astronomical levels; Gas? Much the same as electricity with the though of switching supplier so complex that the thought of it makes most people sick; Telecommunications? Again the thought of contacting them or switching is fine if you like to speak to people in India and have hours to spare; Busses? Once run to provide an essential service now run to provide the likes of Brian Souter with squillions while pensioners can walk to the main routes. In a word they are all awful or at best equally as awful as they were when everyone owned them!

  13. I think, Munguin, that the concept that things would be far more efficiently provided if there was competition has been discredited.

    There is very little real competition and despite the "watchdogs", which turn out to be poodles, the companies seem to operate in cartels.

    Not only that but, the idea was sold as individuals owning shares in these institutions, but of course they were soon bought up by big organisations and then sold off to France, German, China and Qatar, etc.

    Now, we know that in many cases the French and the Germans do things far better and cheaper than we do, but that's not because they are intrinsically more decent than British management, but because they aren't allowed to fleece the public. Thus EdF provides cheap electricity in France, because the French government sets the price increases; here, with no such constraints, EdF fleeces like any other company.

    The efficiency argument is farcical. Railways cost taxpayers far more than they used to when they were state owned and if they were less efficient before, they would simply have stopped operating altogether. They also cost the traveller more than anywhere else in the world.

    The courts will be a disaster. Some half witted minister was saying that they will hold the company to its price and they will get not a penny more. But already I note magistrates courts in England have returned to the old, more expensive system. So that's probably half the work that the privatised company no longer has to deal with (effectively doubling the price of the contract).

  14. My partner's daughter is a translator and was on the protest march in London the other day. Up until the law was changed to allow those heading the agencies to make more money the interpretors were on good money (as they should be considering the qualifications they have and the amount of tests they had to go through) but that did not guarantee consistency of work. Sometimes there would be no translation jobs for weeks. Other times, especially in a long and complicated court case, they may be in continuous employment for weeks.
    What the government have done is given money to their co-conspirators (the agencies) which should have been going to the interpretors. They haven't saved any money they've just added another link in the chain, a link which is ripping off the highly educated translators thereby forcing them out of the system. A legal system, I may add, that desperately needs good, highly trained interpretors to allow the justice system, in this country of the UK, to run in the manner it was designed for. As the labour party government gave the NHS money to their newly employed managerial cronies and private companies running the NHS the Tories are doing exactly the same thing to the Justice department with their creeping privatisation of the justice system.
    What next from these corrupt UK governments, the re-establishing of selling off our orphaned children to the colonies again?

  15. Heaven only knows what next.

    The minister they sent along to the Today Programme assured listeners that it was cheaper, but it wouldn't surprise me that he was lying.

    Absolutely vital that good translating is available and your partner's daughter must be extremely highly qualified. It is not enough to speak both languages with total fluency. When nuances of meaning are important and can mean the difference between justice and injustice, quite rightly we demand translating skills of the highest level.

    Of course it's a very up and down job. The more obscure your language, the less likely, and less frequently you are to be called upon, but that's something every translator knows. The English don't try people from Mongolia every day !!!

    I hear the police got very unpleasant with some of the protectors... practising, no doubt, for the summer.

  16. Someone sent me this wee joke Tris - Don't know if you have heard it?


    If Scotland gains its independence after the forthcoming referendum the remainder of the United Kingdom will be known as the Former United Kingdom (F.U.K.).

    In a bid to discourage the Scots from voting Yes in the referendum, Unionists have now begun a campaign with the slogan: Please Vote No For FUKs Sake!

  17. Brilliant, Billy ... :)