TLS Christmas Message 2023

As we look back over another year together, I am filled with appreciation for our customers and the TLS team. 

What a challenging year it has been! Our country and the world continue to suffer from the effects of the global pandemic, wars and the resulting economic pressures we now face. The cost of living crisis has put even more pressure on the public sector, and our customers and communities are having to make difficult decisions daily to deliver the best outcomes they can. Many in our communities face increased intolerance from a hostile political atmosphere. 

Mindful of these challenges, I am proud that we have all done our bit to make the world a better place during this time. You, our customers, have continued to prioritise accessibility and inclusion for your service users. The TLS team has pulled together to overcome financial pressures and continue to put people with communication needs at the heart of what we do. 

While it seems prices everywhere are going up, we have kept ours steady by streamlining internal systems, investing in technology for improved quality and responsiveness and launching our money-saving remote video interpreting service in spoken and sign languages.

TLS customers will know that we stay true to our strong ethical foundations, even during difficult times. This year, we have delivered social outcomes by sponsoring bi-lingual residents to gain an accredited interpreting qualification. We have also developed and delivered a brand new system for Bettertogether, whose Shared Lives service provides long term care for people in our community.

Together in 2023 we achieved extraordinary things, and we are committed to making an even bigger difference in 2024. 

We have exciting plans to share with you over the coming months, so keep reading your Monthly View to stay up to date. On the agenda so far is a new assessment framework for language professionals, sharing and providing training and guidance across a range of equality and diversity related themes and focusing on how we can deliver even better value for money. 

On behalf of the whole team, I would like to thank you for your continued support. Rounding off this unprecedented year, I wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday and hope that 2024 brings you and all your loved ones a healthy and happy year.

- Jaimin Patel, Managing Director.


Specialised training keeps linguists in top condition

The importance of quality language support in medical settings is in the news, but at tls it is always high on the agenda. We are proud to provide linguists who are specialised and experienced in supporting health care bookings of all kinds. 

To keep our interpreters at the top of their game, we recently joined forces with our partners in the NHS North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) to hold a free training day for our interpreters. 

The aim of the event was to equip interpreters with strategies for clinical encounters, share good practice, improve accessibility for patients and service users and improve quality of care by minimising interpreting errors. 

The trainees shared glowing feedback: “Thank you for a wonderful conference. I can’t believe such quality has been delivered for no cost!” said Helen Merry, a BSL interpreter. Arabic interpreter, Abdulrahman Heidari, commented: “Thank you for holding such a training session, other agencies don't have such events” and Folasade Okunade, a Yoruba interpreter, said: “This is a brilliant program, hoping to attend more trainings in future”.

Book one of our interpreters online now.

Calendar Snapshots

4 January – World Braille Day

Celebrated every 4 January since 2019, World Braille Day marks the invention of this writing system for blind and visually impaired people. It is held on the birthday of its inventor, Louis Braille. 

From Braille to Screen readers

Over the last 100 years, communication support for blind people has made huge advances. Audio content is much more accessible now, thanks to the enormous strides technology has taken, and screen readers, audio books and audio descriptions all help make the written word more available.

We at tls now offer Braille translation (creating documents in Braille for your blind and visually impaired service users) and support for Deafblind people.

Make your interactions count

If you have blind or visually impaired service users, there are a number of ways to make your meetings with them more accessible and comfortable.

  • Introduce yourself, especially when entering a space.
  • Speak directly to the blind or visually impaired person, and use their name so they know you are addressing them. 
  • Use normal language, at a normal volume, and hand gestures. Blind and visually impaired people often use language such as ‘see you later’, so don’t worry about causing offence with that. 
  • If you have to give directions, remember to be very descriptive; eg instead of saying ‘the room you need is down there’, describe the journey: ‘walk straight ahead and it’s the third door on the left’.


In your diary

FREE Diversity and Inclusion online talk

18 January – join a free 50 minute online talk about what’s on the horizon in 2024, from D&I Leaders. Click here to register or find out more. 


January’s dates at a glance


1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Catholic Christian

Gantan-Sai (New Year), Shinto

5 Twelfth Night, Christian

6 Epiphany, Christian

7 Feast of the Nativity, Orthodox Christian

7 – Baptism of the Lord Jesus, Catholic Christian

8 Seijin No Hi, Shinto

13 Lohri/Maghi, Hindu and Sikh

14 Old New Year, Orthodox Christian

15 Makar Sankranti, Hindu

15-18 Pongal, Hindu

17 Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, Sikh

18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Christian

20 Timkat, Ethiopian Orthodox Christian

25Conversion of Saint Paul, Christian

25 – Thaipusam, Hindu

25 – Tu Bishvat, Jewish

25-27 Mahayana New Year, Buddhist


Awareness And Events

4 World Braille Day

15 Martin Luther King Jr Day

21 World Religion Day

24 International Day of Education

25 Robert Burns Night (Burns Night)

27 Holocaust Memorial Day

Language News Multi Cultural

In other news: stories from the language industry and beyond

BBC: NHS interpreting service problems contributed to patient deaths

In late November, the BBC reported on failures in language support contributing to the deaths of 80 babies between 2018 and 2022. In an online article, it highlighted two other maternity cases, detailing how one woman had tragically died in labour, while another had had her womb removed. Neither had adequate language support to know what was happening to them. 

NHS England has responded to the investigation by saying that interpreting was “vital for patient safety and a review would identify if and how it can support improvements in the commissioning and delivery of services”.

The Diversity Dashboard: Disability Influencer launches world’s first truly accessible retail site

Disability influencer Mike Adams OBE has launched the first accessible online shopping site, The site beats disability discrimination on two fronts: by conforming to standards of accessibility, making it possible for everyone to use, and by promoting businesses that support disabled people. 

And finally…

BBC: Endgame author Omid Scobie criticises translated extracts of royal book

No one is safe from the perils and pitfalls of bad translation – not even the Royal Family! Late in 2023, Royal commentator Omid Scobie published Endgame, a book about the relationship between King Charles and his two sons, William and Henry. However, soon after publishing, Scobie was forced to beg the public to ignore badly translated snippets of his book, which gave incorrect or misleading versions of events.

Language Fact File: Polish

Spoken in: Poland, with Polish speaking communities in Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania. 

Number of native speakers: 41 million. 

Learn some: Christmas is a big celebration in Poland. Wish your Polish friends a merry Christmas by saying ‘Wesołych Świąt!’ (Pronounced vees-oy-ih shvi-ou-t.)

Fast facts:

  • Polish has one of the longest histories among Slavic languages, with the first recorded sentence appearing around 1270. This was ‘Day, ut ia pobrusa, a ti poziwai’. It was spoken by a man to his wife, and is an expression of care and affection, meaning ‘Let me, I shall grind and you take a rest’. 
  • According to the 2021 census, Polish is the most commonly spoken immigrant language in the UK, with more than 600,000 speakers. 
  • This is not an easy language to learn, with consonant clusters, irregular pronunciation and unique letters. We all love a ridiculously long word, and Polish delivers, with Dziewięćsetdziewięćdziesięciodziewięcionarodowościowego! This translates as ‘of nine hundred and ninety-nine nationalities’ and we challenge you to say it after a mulled wine or two!

The Language Shop provides interpreting and translation support in Polish. Ask your account manager if you would like more information.

The Linguist’s Story - Magdalena Szpilman

Every month, we get to know a bit more about one of our linguists. This month, meet Magdalena Szpilman, who works in Polish and English.

Magdalena, tell us about the work you do for TLS.

I work for TLS as an interpreter, between Polish and English. I have a PhD in Medical Communication and most of my work is medical.

What’s been your favourite project at TLS?

Whenever I get sent to ENT [ear, nose and throat department] or audiology! I absolutely love it. These were the subjects of my medical translations at the very beginning of my career, and also speaks to my personal history as a long term ENT patient and hearing impaired person. Not only can I relate to the patients, but I can also make use of my expertise.

For instance, I once had a service user who came for ear cleaning, but by providing interpreting support, the clinician was able to refer the patient to a surgeon as this was what was required.  Without a qualified interpreter, the service user may not have been able to explain the underlying issues and left without getting the treatment that was needed.

What has been your biggest challenge?

What was a surprise initially was how much of the work is in mental health. I was prepared for medical interpreting – I have been doing highly specialised medical translations for journals etc for years. But since I’ve been working as an interpreter in the UK, the medical language is less challenging but the personal interactions more so.

What I’ve found helps the professionals is giving them some cultural background, so what I can tell them about the patient’s education level, language background. Certain treatments eg CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy] require understanding abstract concepts and I have to work around that with the professional, explain that the concepts need to be simplified so that it can be interpreted effectively

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

It doesn’t always feel dramatic, but it’s things like being there accompanying someone when they get a difficult diagnosis, or a bad prognosis, even holding someone’s hand while having chemo. It’s such a huge responsibility to have, especially in the medical sphere.

Tell us something interesting about you.

I did a PhD in Medical Communication and finished this year. In the UK it’s more commonly called medical humanities. In short, the whole idea is to study the patient’s narrative of illness and look at how it affects their entire life; a more holistic approach. What I decided to do was focus on the physician, because if they are not taken care of and their story isn’t heard, there won’t be anyone to treat us. Burn out among medical professionals is an enormous problem and suicide rates are high.

What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?

The last 12 months were very challenging but successful. I think for the next 12, I would love to do more translations and more advanced translations. I also want to settle a little bit and stop doing a million things at once! Take some mental rest. Having said that, I’m already preparing an e-course for Warsaw University at the moment!

The Language Shop (tls) Local Authority case study: Tower Hamlets Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services

The Language Shop (tls) has more than 30 years’ experience in providing language services to Local Authorities across the country. In fact, we started out as a department of London Borough of Newham and the Council remains a major stakeholder in tls today.

Local Authority interpreting services span a range of complex assignments and environments, from social services and refugee support to housing and education. One such specialist area is Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Mobrea McKenzie-Govera and Julie Smart, CAMHS Administrators at Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, commented:

“As we are a service that offers support to individuals from different backgrounds and languages, it is imperative that we communicate with each patient and the families of patients.

“Without tls this would be a very challenging and difficult task as we facilitate different groups including parents who often do not speak English but need to know the progress of their children's health and welfare.

“We appreciate the professionalism of tls’ interpreters and other staff in understanding confidentiality and being able to connect with our patients. We consider their language services a part of the vital package of support we offer to our service users.”

The Language Shop (tls) charity case study: Carers First

Carers First works directly with and for carers, providing personalised information and tailored support in the way that suits them, helping them find balance and to live their lives to the fullest.

The Language Shop (tls) has been working with charity Carers First since 2017. We provide interpreters who have experience in dealing with a full range of complex situations 24/7/365 face-to-face or remotely, which is vital for the charity and their clients.

Renée Lindsay, Team Lead, Carers First, says:

“The Language Shop (tls) has been a key service which we have collaborated with regularly to provide support to carers by removing any barriers to communication.

“They are incredibly accessible and easy to use, with interpreters that can provide support on-demand, on the phone or in person. tls has provided a service that is invaluable to us and we cannot recommend them enough.”

tls shares the same values as charities like Carers First and works with some of the UK's largest third sector organisations to meet the language needs of their clients.

May dates for your diary

Calendar snapshots

5th – Vesak, Buddhism

Sometimes called Buddha Day, Vesak celebrates the Buddha’s birthday. Celebrations vary from country to country but are colourful and joyful. People clean and decorate their homes. Some hold ceremonies where water is poured over statues of the Buddha, to signify purification of thoughts and deeds.

8th – 14th – Mental Health Awareness Week

The Mental Health Foundation has held this awareness raising week every year since 2001, with the aim of helping to remove the stigma around mental health problems. Each year has its own theme; this year it is anxiety. Go to to find out more.

28th – Pentecost, Christian

Celebrated by Western and Orthodox Christian churches, Pentecost commemorates the Holy Spirit appearing to Christ’s Apostles and other followers while they were celebrating the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot. It is considered by some to be the birthday of the Christian faith.

This month’s dates at a glance


1 –      Beltane, Wicca and Pagan

2 –      Twelfth day of Ridvan, Baha’i

Birthday of Guru Arjan Dev Sikh

3 –      Feast of Saints Philip and James, Catholic Christian

5 –      Vesak, Buddhist

9 –      Lag BaOmer, Judaism

14 –    Feast of Saint Matthias, Catholic Christian

18 –    Feast of the Ascension, Christian

19 –    Yom Yerushalayim, Judaism

23 –    Birthday of Guru Amar Das, Sikh

24 –    Declaration of the Báb, Baha’i

25 –    Feast of the Ascension, Orthodox Christian

26-27 – Shavuot, Judaism

28 –    Pentecost, Christian

29 –    Ascension of Baha‘u’llah, Baha’i

31 –    Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholic Christian

 Awareness and events

1 -       Bank Holiday UK (May Day)

1-7 –   Deaf Awareness Week

7 –      International Family Equality Day

8 –      Bank Holiday UK (King’s Coronation)

World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day

8-14 – Coeliac UK Awareness Week

8-14 – Mental Health Awareness Week

15 –    International Day of Families

17 –    International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

18 –    Global Accessibility Awareness Day

21 –    World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

22 –    International Day for Biological Diversity

24 –    Pansexual Visibility Day

29 -     Bank Holiday UK (Spring Bank Holiday)

Rare Language Fact File: Spokane

Native to: Northwestern USA

Number of native speakers: approximately 64

Spoken by: The Spokane Nation

Learn some: ʔa x̣est skʷekʷst (pronounced ‘ahh khest skwekst’) means ‘good morning’. For more, including audio, go to

Interesting facts:

  • Spokane is the name given to a group of indigenous American tribes from this part of the country. It is commonly believed that the word ‘spokane’ means ‘children of the sun’. However, this is not exactly correct: Spokane was the name given to these tribes by white colonisers and is not used by indigenous people to refer to themselves. It seems that, while the word can mean sun, the name is simply a rendering of an 19th century tribal chief’s name into English.
  • We often think of indigenous Americans as nomads, and during the summer they did camp in the mountains, hunting and gathering food. But the Spokane Nation had permanent, underground homes along the Spokane River for the cold winter months.
  • The 19th century Gold Rush brought an influx of white settlers to the area, and in the scramble for land, many important religious and cultural sites were flooded, dug up or built upon. The Spokane people suffered the same fate as many other tribes, ending up on reservations where poverty and its attendant social problems were rife. The Nation was awarded a small amount of compensation by the US government in 1966 and again in 1981.

The Language Shop provides support in any language you may need, including many of the rarer ones. Please speak to your account manager about your requirements.