Recruiting Interpreters

It is highly likely that the members of the refugee family you sponsor will speak little to no English. One of your jobs as a Group will be to change that. But in the first few weeks and indeed months, you cannot expect the family to be able to speak or understand English very well. 

Attached - The Importance of a Good Interpreter - Blog by Muhammed Issa

What Language Will the Family Speak?

When the scheme was first introduced, it was designed to resettle families who were displaced by the Syrian conflict. So, currently, most sponsored refugees speak Arabic or Kurdish as their first language.

From 2021, the scheme was broadened to include people displaced by other global conflicts. Below you can find a list of resettlement countries and their languages.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, and a long list of people still in need of resettlement, most families arriving through the UKRS will still be resettled from this region, and the majority of will be Arabic speakers. So our advice at this time is to recruit Arabic-speaking interpreters.

But, if your group can provide for other languages, you should mention this in your application - this will be taken into consideration when you are matched with a family.

Attached - List of Resettlement Countries and their native languages

Update September 2021 - Afghanistan: The government has confirmed that groups will be able to sponsor Afghan refugees through the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. The official languages of Afghanistan are Dari & Pashto.

Volunteer Interpreters

Ideally, some of your volunteers will be able to speak Arabic, and they can do translation and interpretation in a voluntary capacity.

If you don't have Arabic/English speakers already in the Group you should be reaching out into the wider community to recruit some. Places such as local colleges/universities and mosques can be good places to search. 

Interpreters are often an incredibly important bridge between the family and the group and will be vital members of your group. We suggest that interpreters are invited to be part of your Core management team.

Attached - How to Find a Good Interpreter

The Challenge of being a Bilingual Volunteer

Being a bilingual volunteer can be a challenging role to manage. You can find yourself switching between roles - from translating to providing advice.

The group and the family may heavily rely on you. If the family have your phone number, it is not uncommon to be contacted them excessively, and at any hour of the day. It can be hard to refuse to help in these circumstances.

So you will need to have a clear discussion about boundaries. It important that you are not overworked, and that family members do not become dependent on you, at the cost of practising English.

More on the different interpreting options from Reset here.

Attached - Bilingual Volunteers

Professional Interpreters 

Even with Arabic speaking volunteers on board, your Group will almost certainly need to hire professional interpreters to help you with some aspects of early welcome and integration. This will ensure that the family fully understand what is going on during important processes such as signing up for benefits or registering for health care. It also provides confidentiality for sensitive appointments.

Here are a few useful websites to find face-to-face and telephone interpreters:



Institute of Translation and Interpreting

Big Word

Language Line

Absolute Translation

If you need help finding an interpreter, contact us at [email protected]. We may be able to connect you to people in your area.

How to Work with Interpreters

We've included some advice for how to work well with interpreters. Make sure that you establish sound ground rules at the start of your meeting - for example, how many sentences should you say before allowing the interpreter to translate? Should everything be translated word for word - or is a summary ok?

Attached - Tips For Working With Interpreters

Budgeting For Interpreters

It is hard to say exactly how many days of professional interpreting you will need, but you should plan (and budget) for an interpreter to be available:

8 hours a day x 5 days a week x 14 days

This is during the first fortnight after the family's arrival: Subsequently, you can set up a sort of 'on call' arrangement' and/or to hire in for occasional days thereafter.

Attached - How to Find a Good Interpreter

A good interpreter will charge about £200/£250 a day so you might need a budget of around £2,000 to £3,000 to cover interpreting needs. It sounds like a lot, but this is likely to be one of the biggest single costs your Group will incur.

Useful Apps

Tarjimly provides free, real-time interpreters for refugees through a mobile app.

Google Translate is not a perfect translation system by any means, but in many instances during your sponsorship you will probably have to rely on it for at least some of your communication with family members.

Video - How to use Google Translate

If possible, it is a good idea for non-Arabic speaking members of the Group to try to learn a bit of Arabic before the family arrives, if only so you can greet the family in their own language.  

Duolingo is great for that!

Filling out the Application Form: - Interpretation Services

1.6h. Please confirm that your group will have interpretation support available for the first year.

Please note that this is an essential requirement as set out in the Statement of Requirements


1.6i. How will your group ensure that an interpretation service is available 24/7 for the first week the resettled family are in the UK?    

EXAMPLE ANSWER: We currently have three Arabic speaking volunteers who will be available during the day. We will use telephone interpreters from XX telephone interpreting service in the evenings. If volunteers are not available for important appointments, we will hire professionals from XX to assist us. 

1.6j. How will your group ensure that there is sufficient interpretation resource available to support the resettled family during the intensive first four to six weeks?


Do you have a rota for volunteers? Any plans to recruit volunteer interpreters? Will you provide training for volunteer interpreters?

We will explain that they are entitled to a free interpreter at the Job Centre and GP, and advocate for this where necessary. 

1.6K. How much have your group identified within their budget to pay for professional interpreting services if required?      

EXAMPLE ANSWER: Unless you have a lot of volunteers who speak the language, this will likely be your greatest expense. We recommend a budget of £2,000 – 3,000. 

Tips for Working with Interpreters.pdf
Resettlement Countries.pdf
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