On the calendar - important dates for your calendar (May)

20/21 – Litha, Pagan/Wiccan

Litha marks the summer solstice – the longest day of the year. For pagans, it is a celebration of the sun and the light and energy it brings to all life. Many celebrate by lighting bonfires or staying up all night to watch the sun rise. There is a big celebration of the solstice every year at Stonehenge, where the famous stones align perfectly with the rising sun. 

22 – UK Windrush Day 

Every year, Windrush Day marks the anniversary of the first 800+ post-War Caribbean migrants’ arrival in Britain, on HMS Windrush. 

At the time of arrival these migrants were British subjects who were invited to help rebuild the country after WW2. However, many of these people later had their citizenship wrongly removed in what is known as the Windrush Scandal. Windrush Day honours their contribution and highlights the injustices of the scandal. Small grants are available to community groups wishing to celebrate the day; read more here.

FREE online events 

Regional health inequalities Tickets, Wed 5 Jun 2024 at 13:00 | Eventbrite Three ten-minute talks covering the health inequalities between the English regions. 

Supporting Men’s Health in the Workplace Tickets, Mon, Jun 10, 2024 at 1:30 PM | Eventbrite Looking at core issues affecting mens’ health in the workplace and how to better support men at work. 

June’s dates at a glance:


5 – Yom Yerushalayim, Judaism
7 – Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Catholic Christian
12-13 – Shavuot, Judaism
13 – Feast of the Ascension, Orthodox Christian
15-19 – Hajj, Islam
16 – Waqf Al Arafa, Islam
16 – Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, Sikh
17-20 – Eid Al-Adha, Islam
20 – Litha, Wicca and Pagan
22 – Saturday of Souls, Orthodox Christian
23 – Pentecost, Orthodox Christian
24 – Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Christian
25 – Eid Al-Ghadir, Islam
29 – Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Christian

Awareness and Events

4 – International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression
8 – Global Wellness Day
9 – Race Unity Day
10-16 – Men’s Health Week
12 – World Day Against Child Labour
15 – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
16 – Father’s Day
17-23 – Refugee Week
18 – Autistic Pride Day
20 – World Refugee Day
20 – Summer Solstice
22 – UK Windrush Day
24-28 – School Diversity Week
27-28 – TUC's LGBT+ Conference

Language News Multi Cultural

In other news: stories from the language industry and beyond (May)

DEI is a lightning rod for controversy – but the practice isn't dead - BBC Worklife A look at DEI initiatives in the workplace in the context of continuing debate about their place. 

North East firefighters to learn life-saving sign language skills - BBC News BSL training has been rolled out to the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service after two visits to schools with Deaf children highlighted the need to improve communication skills. 

Language Fact File - Somali

Spoken in: Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and northeastern Kenya.

Number of native speakers: 24 million

Learn some: Greet a long lost friend with ‘Wakhti dheer kuma arag!”, which means ‘long time, no see’.

Fast facts:

  • The Somali language originated in the Horn of Africa, probably in the first millennium BCE. This region is known for its linguistic richness and diversity, due to the historical trade and contact between different ethnic and cultural groups there. The predominant influence on the language has been Arabic.
  • Somali is officially written using a modified Latin alphabet, which replaced Arabic script in the 1970s. There are however three other writing systems also in use: Wadaad, Osmanya and Borama.
  • It is an extremely difficult language to learn! It has sounds from Arabic that learners tend to struggle with (kha, emphatic ha, qaf), tones similar to those used in the Mandarin language, irregular plurals, and an incredibly complex system for prepositions. What is more, Somali poetry is very culturally important and native users of the language often draw on classical poems in their everyday speech – leaving the uninitiated very confused!

The Linguist’s Story - May

Every month, we get to know a bit more about one of our linguists. This month, meet Sahra Ali, an interpreter working in Arabic and Somali.

Tell us about the work you do for TLS.

I currently work as an interpreter for TLS providing face-to-face, video-conferencing and over the telephone services.

What's been your favourite project at TLS?

I usually interpret for mental health projects - CAMHS, hospital wards and clinics. Working with children is always extra rewarding.

What has been your biggest challenge?

As an interpreter, my greatest challenge has been navigating the intricacies of language, which extend beyond mere words. Language embodies cultural nuances and variations, including dialects and accents, which initially presented a significant challenge that I was able to eventually overcome.

Can you tell us about a time your work has made a difference to someone's life?

Each project feels impactful because it enables clients to access vital services and assistance they require. Acting as the communication bridge between clients and the help they need makes this meaningful work.

Tell us something interesting about you.

I can speak six languages! Arabic is my mother tongue and I’ve studied English, Italian and Somali, as I lived there. I also speak Kutchi and Urdu because my husband is from India.

What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?

To add another language to my portfolio! I would like to learn Turkish next as my grandfather is from Turkey.

TLS in partnership with Redbridge Council to provide on-demand BSL service

TLS in partnership with Redbridge Council to provide on-demand BSL service

We are delighted to have worked with Redbridge Council and Sign Solutions to launch a brand new on-demand BSL video service for their residents.

When Deaf residents contact the council, they can now have the conversation interpreted live on video via a BSL interpreter, giving them agency and control over the communication.

A Deaf Redbridge resident said: “I don’t want to rely on my husband to communicate and make phone calls for me. I find it really stressful. The new system is perfect because if I want to phone or come in and speak to someone on reception, I can go into a room and get an interpreter on a video call.”

Speak to your account manager if you think video interpreting would be useful for your service users. 

Do you know about Easy Read translation?

Accessibility is very close to our hearts at TLS; it’s also a legal obligation under the Equality Act (2010). All organisations must provide information to their users in an accessible format.

What does this mean? Accessibility covers so many different areas, but at its heart just means considering your entire audience and the various barriers they may face in communicating with you.

Easy Read is a method of taking complex information and re-working it into an accessible, easy-to-understand format. This can help learning disabled service users to live more independently and have more agency in decisions about their lives.

The basic guidelines of Easy Read are:

  • Text should be broken down into short sentences
  • Images should be selected to represent each sentence of text where possible
  • Language should be simplified wherever possible, and any necessary complicated words or terms should be explained
  • Text should be in a large font size, minimum 14pt
  • Text should be presented on A4 pages where possible, as A5 or smaller are not as accessible
  • Text should always be aligned on the right hand side of the page, and images should be aligned on the left-hand side of the page
  • Complex or ornate fonts or formatting should be avoided
  • Design elements should be kept to a minimum so as not to distract from the information.

Talk to us if you would like to know more about providing Easy Read translations for your service users, either by speaking to your account manager or calling 0203 376 8182

your month ahead - Important upcoming dates for your calendar (May)

6 - 12 – Deaf Awareness Week

 Deaf Awareness Week, launched by the UK Council of Deafness, takes place annually and aims to raise awareness of the barriers that prevent deaf and Deaf people from participating fully in our society. These can range from lack of access to BSL interpreters or captioned content, and can result in social isolation and mental health problems, reduced access to essential services and limited job opportunities. The theme this year is Celebrating Love and Trust.

26 – Lag B’Omer, Judaism  Lag B’Omer marks the revelation of the Zohar, a seminal text for Jewish mystics, as well as the anniversary of the end of an ancient plague that killed 24,000 Jews between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot one year.  Weddings, parties and haircuts are forbidden during the 49 days of Omer, but on Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day, restrictions are lifted and the celebrations are lively. The most common way to celebrate is with a bonfire – these are held all over the world where there are Jewish communities and symbolise the light of spiritual revelation.  As well as building fires, followers also go for family picnics, sing songs and, for many, give their children their first haircut.  FREE online events  Free webinar on 'How belonging impacts wellbeing and workplace productivity' from d&i Leaders, Tuesday 30 April, 11:05-11:55.  Free lecture on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Public Health from CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, Thursday 2 May, 21:00-22.30.  May’s dates at a glance:  Religious and Cultural  1 – Beltane, Wicca and Pagan2 – Twelfth Day of Ridvan, Baha’i3 – Feast of Saints Philip and James, Catholic Christian3 – Holy Friday, Orthodox Christian5 – Pascha (Easter), Orthodox Christian6 – Yom Hashoah, Judaism9 – Feast of the Ascension, Christian10 – Akshaya Tritiya, Hindu and Jain13 – Yom Hazikaron, Judaism14 – Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Judaism14 – Feast of Saint Matthias, Catholic Christian19 – Pentecost, Christian23 – Birthday of Guru Amar Das, Sikh23 – Vesak, Buddhist23 – Declaration of The Báb, Baha’i26 – Lag Baomer, Judaism26 – Trinity Sunday, Christian29 – Ascension of Baha‘U’llahm, Baha’i30 – The Feast of Corpus Christi, Catholic Christian31 – Visitation of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholic Christian  Awareness and Events  5 – International Family Equality Day6 - 12 – Deaf Awareness Week8 – World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day13 - 19 – Coeliac UK Awareness Week15 – International Day of Families16 – Global Accessibility Awareness Day17 – International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia21 – World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development21 - 22 – TUC's Disabled Workers' Conference22 – International Day for Biological Diversity24 – Pansexual Visibility Day

Language News Multi Cultural

in other news: stories from the language industry and beyond (April)

Language barriers can cause medical harm - BBC News  A woman who went to her GP with a urinary tract infection missed opportunities to have her stage 4 cancer detected, as she used her son to interpret, a report has found.  AND FINALLY: Deaf interpreter Topher González Ávila has gone viral for his exuberant interpretation of I’m Just Ken at the Oscars. Watch his fabulous performance here!

Language fact file: Farsi/Dari/Tajik

Spoken in: Iran (Farsi), Afghanistan (Dari), Tajikistan (Tajik)

Number of native speakers: 72 million  

Learn some: If you are introduced to someone, say it’s nice to meet them with ‘khoshvaghtam’! 

Fast facts:

  • While Farsi and Dari are dialects of the same language, they are only mutually intelligible when written. The spoken form of each dialect sound very different. By contrast, Farsi and Tajik are only mutually intelligible in their spoken forms but not their written forms!
  • Farsi is one of the oldest languages in the world that is still spoken. A Farsi reader can read poetry written around 300AD with little trouble compared to an English speaker reading something in English of that time. 
  • Farsi poetry plays an incredibly important role in everyday life. The language is so well known for its poetry that the walls of the UN building in New York City are inscribed with words from famous Farsi poet, Sa’adi. They read: “Human beings are members of a whole, since in their creation they are of one essence. When the conditions of the time bring a limb to pain, the other limbs will suffer from discomfort. You, who are indifferent to the misery of others, it is not fitting that they should call you a human being.”

Best practice guide to interpreting for refugees and asylum seekers

Providing communication support for refugees and asylum seekers comes with its own unique challenges and needs extra care and preparation. Most people will not flee their home country without having faced significant adversity there and may come to you in a traumatised state.

At TLS, we supply interpreters who are trained and experienced to handle these interactions in a sensitive and appropriate way. They will approach emotional and difficult conversations with professionalism and care. They will communicate but not advocate.

You can play a part in making sure you support your service users who are refugees or asylum seekers. Here are some tips around communication support:

  • If you can, find out before making the booking whether your service user would prefer an interpreter of a particular gender and political or cultural background. For example, it may not be appropriate to use an interpreter who is from an ethnic group that has been involved in violence or oppression in the service user’s country of origin.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers may not know they can request language support. Posters in reception areas can help raise awareness, especially if they are displayed in a variety of languages. Speak to us if you need one of these.
  • Ensure reception staff know how to book an interpreter and offer this option proactively. Keeping a language ID chart at reception can help staff identify what language a patient speaks.
  • Be aware that, as with any potentially traumatised service user, you may need to take the conversation slowly. If the conversation is face to face, position yourself in a way that does not intimidate or make the service user uncomfortable. A triangular seating arrangement is usually best, but the UN Refugee Agency recommends that interpreters sit slightly closer to child service users than they do the client, so as not to inadvertently take a position of authority.
  • As always, use professional language interpreters. It may be harder to persuade people coming from countries where they were persecuted by authorities not to use friends or relatives, but it is always best. Take the time to explain why and please do ask us for any support with this that you may need.

Talk to us if you would like to know more about how we support refugees and asylum seekers in our bookings, either by speaking to your account manager or calling 020 3373 4000.