Sir: According to reports from Milford Haven, the coastguards in the early days of the Skomer disaster could not communicate with the powerful Chinese tug standing by to help the Russian crew on the Sea Empress. Improvising, a runner was sent to a local Chinese takeaway. Paul Chung, the cook, could not speak Mandarin, but a single Cantonese speaker was found on the tug to whom he could pass on instructions over the ship-to-shore radio.
This experience is unfortunately still common throughout Britain. Some hospitals, local authorities and police forces still have to fall back on a cook, a porter or anyone they can find in an emergency.
But more and more public agencies are now using Language Line and its telephone interpreters in 140 languages, who are at the service of subscribers within a minute or so of being called. If the coastguards had used Language Line, they could have been in immediate communication via a trained interpreter and the Sea Empress incident could have been a little less disastrous.
Young of Dartington
London, E2Reuse content