Ryerson University Professor Creates A Tamil-English Legal Glossary


For separating couples, it’s confusing enough to try to distinguish between shared custody and split custody in plain English. For people who must rely on, say, a Tamil interpreter to explain legal terms like those, it’s an even bigger struggle, fraught with the possibility of big mistakes.

In response to a provincial report raising concerns about the quality of court interpretation and the lack of Tamil interpreters, a Ryerson University language professor has launched Canada’s first English-Tamil legal glossary to fill the gap.

“In Toronto, we have more than 200 languages being spoken. We need to make sure both court interpreters and settlement agencies have a reliable, consistent and relevant resource to perform this work,” said Marco Fiola, chair of Ryerson’s department of languages, literatures and cultures.

“Translation and interpretation happen in the city on a daily basis, but the training opportunity focuses mainly on English and French and not on other languages.”

The launch of the free online glossary was welcomed within Toronto’s 60,000-strong Tamil Canadian community.

Sri-Guggan Sri-Skanda-Rajah, a seasoned immigrant settlement counsellor, said he often comes across questionable interpretation while helping his clients deal with legal matters in court.

“I sit there and listen to the interpretation and I’m not able to satisfy myself with the professional interpreters certified by the Attorney General’s office,” said Sri-Skanda-Rajah, of Tamil Eelam Society of Canada Multicultural Settlement Services.

“We are dealing with people’s freedom and rights. If the interpretation is not adequate, people will very well end up in trouble. If you make a mistake on a single word, the meaning would be very different and the person would be in deep trouble.”

The English-Tamil glossary includes the 700 most commonly used legal concepts or terms, and is based on a similar interpretation tool between English and French. Similar resources, said Fiola, are already available in Chinese, Hindi, Punjabi, Russian and Spanish. Read more from The Star.

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