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Translator and Interpreter Training in Aotearoa New Zealand

By Vanessa Enríquez Raído

Formal education of translation and interpreting (T&I) in Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) began in the late 1990s with the establishment of the first T&I Studies centers at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the University of Auckland (UoA). These centers marked the first time that dedicated T&I programs were offered in the country. Prior to this, the Auckland Institute of Technology (AIT; now AUT) had offered non-language-specific T&I courses (as opposed to complete programs) in English to a diverse group of students in 1988 and 1990.

For more than 30 years, AUT has maintained a diverse range of T&I courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels. The UoA, on the other hand, has recently withdrawn its T&I program. In addition to AUT, other institutions in Aotearoa have also recognized the increasing demand for qualified T&I practitioners and have developed their own programs and micro-credentials. These include Victoria University of Wellington and UNITEC Institute of Technology in the North Island, as well as the University of Canterbury in the South Island. These programs are designed to help increase the supply of trained professionals in this field, which is essential for serving the needs of the country's diverse ethnographic, linguistic and cultural makeup.

A diverse landscape 

Aotearoa is home to 160 languages and 213 ethnicities, making it a particularly complex environment for T&I practitioners to train and work in, particularly those working with low demand languages. It is not uncommon for tertiary education institutions to have a diverse student body, reflecting the country's ethnic diversity. According to the latest Census data (2018), the six largest ethnic groups are European, Māori, Pacific peoples, Asian, MELAA (Middle Eastern / Latin American / African), and ‘Other ethnicity’. This diversity could be seen, for example, within the former T&I program at the UoA. Graph 1, based on enrolment data from 2006 to 2017 in a compulsory course titled "Theory and Methodology of Translation," shows the ethnic composition of the program's student body.

graphique-158Graph 1. Students’ ethnic composition (in Enríquez Raído, 2018: 370).

The data shows that Asian students have traditionally been the largest ethnic group in the T&I program at the UoA. This group was primarily made up of students from a Chinese background—with a smaller number coming from Japan and Korea—followed by Pākehā (Māori term for New Zealanders primarily of European descent).

Aotearoa’s growing diversity has not only led to an increased demand for translators and interpreters, but also to a greater awareness within the government of the need for tighter monitoring and professionalization of T&I practitioners in the public sector. In 2017, the Language Assistance Services (LAS) Programme was established by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) to implement the recommendations of two reviews concerning the provision of interpreting and other LAS in the public sector. These reviews, conducted in 2015 and 2016 respectively, identified several issues that were preventing people with limited English language proficiency from accessing public services in an equitable manner, such as the inconsistent use of qualified practitioners, gaps in the availability of LAS outside of business hours, and funding constraints related to government-contracted LAS.

Solutions on the way

To address these concerns, the LAS Programme has implemented a certification requirement for interpreters who wish to work in the public sector. Starting on July 1, 2024, all public service interpreters will need to be certified by Australia’s National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). In the lead up to the implementation of the new standards and certification requirements, the government is inviting all eligible interpreters to register through the NAATI website. As part of the registration process, interpreters will have access to a transition support package that includes financial support for testing and training services, as well as development opportunities to help them meet the necessary standards. Funding is also available to the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI) and to T&I educational providers in the country to enhance and increase the opportunities available for professional development and to help interpreters maintain their certification every three years.

Lastly, let us also note that to be eligible for NAATI certification interpreters must have completed prerequisite training at a NAATI-endorsed program (currently available at the institutions mentioned above) or hold a relevant qualification in accordance with the NAATI Certification System. In addition to completing the prerequisite training or passing the necessary NAATI tests, the New Zealand government requires eligible interpreters to complete a mandatory New Zealand context course before July 1, 2024. This course is being hosted on NAATI Learn and is intended to ensure that T&I practitioners working in the public sector have the knowledge and skills needed to effectively and accurately facilitate communication in the specific context of Aotearoa.

Dr. Vanessa Enriquez Raido is a Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Vic in Barcelona, Spain. Before joining the University of Vic, she worked as a Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Auckland for nearly three decades. Her main research interests intersect the fields of Translator Education, Translation Technologies, Information Behavior and Translation Process Research.


Enríquez Raído, V. (2018). Teacher Motivation and Emotions vis-à-vis Students’ Positive Perceptions of Effective Teaching and Learning: A Self-Case Study of Longitudinal Data in Reflective Translation Pedagogy. Translation, Cognition and Behaviour, special issue on "Translation as an emotional phenomenon for the journal", 1 (2), 361–390.

Enríquez Raído, V., Ridgeway, Q., And Crezee, I. (2020). Professional, Ethical and Policy Dimensions of Public Service Interpreting and Translation in New Zealand. Translation and Interpreting Studies, special issue on "The Ethics of Non-Professional Translation and Interpreting in Public Services and Legal Settings", 15 (1), 1–21.

Statistics New Zealand. 2018. Ethnic group summaries reveal New Zealand's multicultural make-up. Retrieved from on 12/28/2022.

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