Faiz – interpreter of the month for December – tells his story
Our Interpreter of the Month project thanks one of our incredible interpreters for their excellence, dedication, and for going the extra mile. This month we are celebrating Faiz, who interprets Pashto, Dari, and Farsi. The whole Clear Voice team are very grateful for all that you do and for the feedback your work receives!
Faiz has been working with Clear Voice for a few months after arriving in the UK from Afghanistan this summer. He has a fascinating background, having worked in a senior political role at the British Embassy in Afghanistan. This offered him the opportunity to interpret for then Prime Minister Theresa May, amongst other senior political figures and diplomats. The past year has unfortunately been one of massive upheaval and change for Faiz and his family. It was an honour to speak to him about his story so far…
My life in Afghanistan
I have been interpreting for 13 years, but interpreting was not my only role. In Afghanistan, I used to work for the British Embassy in Kabul as a Senior Political Officer, a role I held for the past 9 years. I left my role at the embassy at the end of July because I was relocated to the UK as part of the ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme.
At the British Embassy, interpreting and translating was one of my core responsibilities, including interpreting for British diplomats and MPs who were visiting Afghanistan. It was a daily business for me. I would go to meetings with ambassadors, diplomats, cabinet ministers, governors, civil society activists, journalists, women’s groups and so on. I interpreted for then Prime Minister Theresa May MP, for Penny Mordaunt MP, and for other senior political figures when they visited Afghanistan. As Senior Political Officer interpreting was not my only job. I was also working on the Afghanistan peace process, Afghanistan foreign policy issues, the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and other external political issues.
Prior to working for the British Embassy, I spent four years working for the United Nations in Afghanistan. The United Nations has a political mission to the country called UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) and I worked for this as a Human Rights Officer. Part of my role was translating United Nations documents on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, conflict detentions, elimination of violence against women, freedom of press, and United Nations statements. I would also attend meetings with United Nations staff members and would act as interpreter in these situations. I studied a BA degree in Law and Political Science at Kabul University, the main university in Afghanistan. My work for the United Nations applied these studies to human rights issues, and the interpreting and translation I undertook was also related to human rights.
Leaving Afghanistan suddenly
The past year has been a tough time, it’s been a huge change and shift. I took the decision to leave Afghanistan when the province of Herat collapsed to the Taliban. When that happened, I felt it was only a matter of time until the entire government collapsed. If a huge province like Herat could fall, then I felt the smaller, less well-resourced provinces would fall in turn. Back in Afghanistan I had a great job, working for the embassy in a very senior position. I was enjoying my job, working on strategically important political issues. I lost that role when I left Afghanistan and unfortunately the British Embassy were not able to continue my employment in the UK.
Finding work as an interpreter
So, when I arrived in this country, the first thing in my mind was finding a job. I researched how I could become an interpreter as it was very important to me to find work. I thought it would be good to be busy. When I studied the background of Clear Voice I thought it was a good organisation. They have existed for a long time and support Migrant Help. It seemed like a good place to start. I applied as a freelance interpreter and have been working for Clear Voice for several months.
I came to the UK with my wife and my little boy, who is eighteen-months old. We are now living in Surrey. It is a very good location and I’m happy about that. I still have family in Afghanistan, four of my brothers, my mum, and my sister. So far, they are fine. Kabul is very different and many people have lost their jobs. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of me visiting my family for the foreseeable future. We just have to see how the situation develops, how the Taliban govern, if the new government will receive international recognition, and so on.
The languages I interpret for
I interpret and translate for Pashto, Dari, and Farsi. Pashto is my native language, which I was brought up speaking. My wife speaks Dari and my university studies were conducted in Dari, so I sometimes think I speak better Dari than I do Pashto! And I also speak Farsi, which Dari is a dialect of. There is a lot of overlap between the two, with some differences in vocabulary and pronunciation.
It’s been very busy with interpreting for these languages with many, many Afghans arriving in the UK and needing support. Many of these people were evacuated from Kabul later in the summer and they come from a variety of different backgrounds. For example, former government employees, security employees, and people with connections to Britain.
How my time with Clear Voice has been so far
I offer face-to-face and telephone interpreting and enjoy them both. Throughout my career I have gained a huge amount of experience performing face-to-face interpreting, but due to the COVID pandemic I have now also spent a lot of time working remotely. I transitioned to delivering interpreting over video or telephone which prepared me well for the telephone interpreting I undertake with Clear Voice.
I am very grateful to Clear Voice and am enjoying my work with you. The team who take bookings, process job sheets, and so on, make me feel fully supported. I find Clear Voice to be a professional team who are doing a great job.