The IL Consultancy Translation Company Discusses the Important Role Played by Translators in Times of Crisis

As an accredited translation company, our expertise lies in the solid and nuanced application of interpretation and transcription services to allow for effective and unambiguous communications between parties that speak different languages. For this reason, we felt compelled to discuss the importance of translation and interpretation during the ongoing war in Ukraine.

It was on the morning of February 24th this year that Russian troops first stepped foot on Ukrainian soil, sparking a war that is soon approaching its 8th week. In order to bring about a swift and peaceful end to the war, NATO and its allies are in constant communication using its translation company to facilitate clear lines of dialogue among its diverse member nations. It is estimated that nearly 25% of Ukraine’s population has fled to neighbouring countries to seek asylum from the chaos.

As of late, the war has been described by many as the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War II. The task of assisting the millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine will be tackled on numerous fronts but this article will be paying specific attention to the importance of the roles performed by translators and transcribers. As a translation company, we can appreciate the resolve of those in Europe who are fulfilling duties similar to ours on such a grand scale and under such dire circumstances.

In this article, we are going to discuss what the role of a translator entails during a time of crisis. We will also discuss how certain organisations and nations are finding ways in which to navigate the language barrier as they assist refugees in any way they can.



The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) employs its own translation company consisting of 32 full-time personnel who specialise in translations and transcriptions between English and French – the organisation’s two official languages. NATO also employs Ukrainian, Arabic, Russian, and Dari translators. This diligent team of professionals deals with over 2000 meetings per annum.

In order to fulfil such a critical role within NATO, their interpreters must have a comprehensive and up-to-date understanding of current affairs. Since they are dealing with meetings and negotiations at the highest levels of international politics and security, it is essential that they remain abreast of the deeper context of what is discussed in these assemblies.

It is easy to translate words but translating idiomatic phrases and complex ideas requires an individual to not only be able to speak the languages but to also have a holistic understanding of the differing cultures. According to Tom Felch, NATO’s Head of Interpretation and Conference Services between 2012 and 2020, “You [must] see that gap between what they say and want to convey and must step in to fill it with the variable of another language”.

With Russia’s war with Ukraine on the border of three NATO countries threatening global security, NATO translators are working overtime to help our world leaders bridge the language barrier and collaborate toward an effective solution that leads to a de-escalation of the conflict and the saving of millions of lives. NATO’s translators have been working overtime as of late, assisting the organisation as it performs an intermediary role in the tense negotiations ongoing between Russian and Ukrainian officials.

These efforts have directly impacted the lives of millions of civilians for the better. For instance, NATO has been inextricably involved in the facilitation of humanitarian corridors – regions and routes placed under ceasefire for non-combatants to escape to neighbouring countries. It is essential for a professional translation company to facilitate diplomatic negations between nations that speak different languages. There are considerable risks to take into account when translators are unable to bridge the dialogue between what are essentially two different cultures.

Translators like the ones engaging in talks between NATO, Ukraine, and Russia will find themselves being the primary communication device in volatile situations. Even the tiniest infraction in their translations can lead to misconstrued intent and a subsequent escalation of conflict.

For this reason, NATO’s translators have to be constantly engaged with research materials that keep them up to speed with every facet and angle of the conflict. They need to know exactly what both sides’ demands are and understand the chain of command of each party at the table before talks begin.

With a comprehensive understanding of the facts in real-time, NATO translators should ideally be able to piece together a clear narrative from either side without vital details being lost in the fog of war.


Considering the organisation’s diplomatic importance, NATO’s translation company understandably has high expectations from its staff. Apart from a proficiency in both the languages they translate for, they need to be familiar with the translation of niche, industry-specific terminology and discourse. An important part of a NATO interpreter’s job is to stay neutral during proceedings. This can prove to be more difficult of a task than it sounds when it comes to negotiations during wartimes.

Since having such a comprehensive understanding of the conflict is crucial to the interpreter’s role, there is a likely chance for biases to develop which impede their ability to maintain a non-partisan stance during negotiations. If this were to influence how they do their job and if the other party picks up on this, talks can become disrupted or cease without any further headway.

Peace talks are historically sensitive matters that are quick to implode or dissolve at the first sign of an issue. NATO translators are for this reason often both the intermediary and mediator between warring sides, hence why it is so important that they remain on the fence politically during discussions.


The TEFL Institute of the United Kingdom and its various branches are appealing to people around the world who are willing and able to take part in humanitarian aid for the children of Ukraine who have been relocated to neighbouring European countries during the ongoing, diasporic evacuation of civilians from their now war-torn home.

If you have a completed TEFL course, you are encouraged by TEFL to get involved in the pro-bono programmes they are running to provide these displaced children with a way in which to continue their education in English. This not only allows these children to remain academically active during their asylum but also potentially offers them respite from the trauma they have lived through.

Europeans in countries that are accepting Ukrainian refugees have the option of assisting with both online and in-person lessons and activities. For the rest of the world, digital programmes are easy to get involved in and offer an opportunity for people to provide direct assistance to those in need.TEFL custodians are in the process of establishing a web portal that Ukrainian parents can access offline educational material as well as online classes that are streamed and interactive.


Sharing a border directly with Ukraine, Poland has become the epicentre of refugee relocation. Since the war began on the 24th of February, more than a million Ukrainian children and students have crossed the border into Ukraine. As one can imagine, this has put pressure on Polish authorities to develop a solution for the educational needs of these children.


As of now, Poland is currently bolstering its education system by hiring new teachers and appealing to retired educators who may be able to resume their positions until Ukrainian children are able to resume learning in their home country.

In order to assist in addressing the language barrier, the Polish government is working in tandem with any willing translation company. Polish officials are also currently in the process of identifying Ukrainian teachers among the refugees who are willing to assist further by offering lessons to these displaced students in their own language.

The UK


Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s Education Secretary, stated in a public address that the country has prepared over 10 000 digital classrooms to accommodate over 100 000 Ukrainian refugee students entering the school system. Of course, an important facet that helps determine the effectiveness of this roll-out is the way in which the language barrier is dealt with.

This is where the work of translators becomes essential. With their help, UK officials have been able to launch fully translated resource packages in a relatively short period of time and well ahead of the expected arrival of these refugee students. Further, all 10 000 online classes have been equipped with automatic translation functions.

The project could not have come to fruition without the efforts of both Russian and Ukrainian translators; the two nations are considerably tangled culturally, hence why many Ukrainian refugees speak Russian as their first language.

For the past several months, these translators have been hard at work transcribing subtitles for online lectures, work sheets, videos, and quizzes so as to ease the transition into UK society where most of the population speaks English as a first language.

There is a matter of cultural assimilation at play here as well; these Ukrainian students require an education similar to their own to expedite the reintroduction of schooling but they also need to be taught in a way that assists them with integrating into UK society.

This is a tough job, especially for the translation company involved. As explained by Tom Felch, you are not only translating a language but its cultural context as well. It is uncertain when these Ukrainian students will return home if at all possible. This is why, for the time being, the process of cultural integration through language is critical.

Translators Are Essential during Times of International Crisis

The war between Russia and Ukraine illustrates the importance of translation, interpretation, and transcribing when nations are at war and millions are forced to flee into neighbouring countries.

The services of professional interpreters, like those who work for NATO, help our world leaders engage in diplomatic talks through which resolutions for the conflict may be found. This ultimately assists in the mitigation of casualties and destruction.

On the humanitarian front, we see the importance of effective translation systems in assisting the lives of refugee civilians fleeing from the conflict. When refugees find themselves displaced from home in regions with a completely different dialect and culture, translation plays a huge part in the assimilation process.

The IL Consultancy Translation Company

The IL Consultancy is one of South Africa’s most reliable providers of translation, transcription, proofreading, and editing services. Our team consists of language experts committed to expedient services delivered accurately.

Using industry knowledge gained over decades of experience, our translation company can help you reach your target market in any language. If you are interested in using our services, feel free to schedule a conversation with one of our specialists by submitting your contact details here on our website.