The Linguist

The Linguist 57,3 – June/July 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 7 of 34

8 The Linguist Vol/57 No/3 2018 FEATURES Joanna Drugan looks at the role of linguist crime fighters, and what ne they work with police to make the battle against transnational organis C rime is increasingly transnational and multilingual. According to Europol, in 2013, 70% of the estimated 3,600 organised crime groups in the European Union had multinational membership and communicated across at least two languages. Today's linguists therefore have a critical role to play in helping the police to investigate serious crimes. What are their experiences of interpreting and translation in this demanding context? How do they help the police understand, prevent and prosecute such crimes? And what professional and ethical challenges do they face in doing so? These are the questions asked by the joint UK-Belgian Transnational Organised Crime and Translation (TOCAT) research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Our understanding of globalisation is often too narrow. Beyond the familiar themes of trade and international movement, crime and communication are, more than ever before, transnational. As the sociologist Margaret Beare has stressed, since the end of the Cold War, "Transnational crime has flourished… with the opening of political borders and integration of economies". 1 Increasingly, such crime is highly organised and global in scale. For the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), transnational organised crime "encompasses virtually all serious profit- motivated criminal actions of an international nature where more than one country is involved", 2 including drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal trade in wildlife, counterfeit goods or cultural property, and cyber crime. Even within a single country, crime can be transnational in its organisation, impact or management. Crimes may be directed from one country, for example, but carried out in a different country by a group of people from various other countries. A global plague Transnational organised crime is also characterised by its scale, variability, rapid evolution and complexity. According to UNODC, it is "an everchanging industry, Crime and transla adapting to markets and creating new forms of crime. In short, it is an illicit business that transcends cultural, social, linguistic and geographical boundaries and one that knows no borders or rules." 3 We need to treat it, say Detective Chief Inspector Stan Gilmour and Politics Lecturer Felia Allum, as "a plague spreading alongside increasing globalization – the darker side of modernity." 4 And, since it is organised and transnational, it must rely on communication (spoken, signed or written) across languages. This means any effective organised response must involve linguists. Until now, most research on transnational organised crime has not had language as its focus. However, once you look for them, issues of language and communication are almost invariably apparent in studies or work to combat it. In 2015, for instance, Europol recognised that crime is increasingly organised in 'networks' whose members communicate in multiple languages. My view is that shining a light on language, communication, translation and interpreting is likely to bring new insights and IMAGES © SHUTTERSTOCK

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 57,3 – June/July 2018