Yılmaz Düzen: Biography
Yilmaz Düzen was born in February 1962. In 1971, he and his family emigrated to Britain. His father worked as a tailoring machinist. Within seven months, Yilmaz had become fluent in English and his teachers were quick to see that he was a gifted linguist. His first tentative experience of interpreting was sight-translating newspaper articles to his father. In the 1970s, he established himself among the fledgling Turkish community as an effective spokesperson for the Turks in Britain.
In 1981, he was given a place at the University of East Anglia to study for a BA Honours Degree in French, Linguistics and Russian. In his third year, he went to live in Normandy, France where he continued his education at Université de Caen studying Philology. In his final year, Yilmaz took a one-year intensive training course in Conference Interpreting to European Economic Community (EEC) standards. By the time he graduated he had learned to communicate with a high level of fluency in French and Russian.
At the time, Turkish people did not regard interpreting as a profession. So much so that his father even tried to find him employment in the rag trade rather than see him embark on an interpreting career. However, Yilmaz persevered and began his interpreting career in the mid-1980s, working in the medical field and serving large numbers of Turkish patients who had just started coming to Britain. This was the era of Turgut Ozal: Prime Minister of Turkey. Currency restrictions had just been lifted, thereby allowing Turkish patients to seek medical treatment outside Turkey. By 1989, however, the devaluation of the Turkish currency and the establishment of quality hospitals in Turkey made trips to foreign countries costly and less necessary. This, in turn, caused Yilmaz to seek new areas of interpreting.
In 1990, Britain saw a large influx of asylum seekers from Turkey. In that year prospective interpreters were invited to sit an entry exam to join Scotland Yard’s list of official interpreters. Of more than 100 candidates, Yilmaz was the only one selected. He says: “At that time there were just a handful of interpreters. I was the only qualified interpreter to have received specialist interpreter training.”
Yilmaz subsequently applied to and was accepted as a member by all four professional bodies for interpreters and translators in the UK: the Institute of Linguists, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, the Association of Police and Court Interpreters and the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. He then went on to join the Council and Committees of these professional bodies thereby becoming not only the voice of interpreters, but also taking part in the decision-making apparatus that would ultimately affect his profession on a national level. Yilmaz was a Member of Council of the Institute of Linguists when the National Register was in its embryonic stages right up to the time when it was launched. In 1998, he was invited to join its distinguished Panel of Experts.
Throughout the 1990s, Yilmaz’ services were much in demand from every Criminal Justice System agency in the UK: police, courts, Crown Prosecution Service, National Crime Squad, specialist units, elite squads, customs, immigration service, probation services, the legal profession, and every other investigative body in the country including benefit fraud investigations and insurance fraud. In effect, Yilmaz had become the most sought-after Turkish interpreter in the UK as he faced a phenomenal demand for his services. In 2000, he was honoured to be invited to interpret in the Lockerbie trial, in the Netherlands.
In 2004, in the months leading up to Turkey being given the green light to begin EU accession talks, Yilmaz became the first approved and accredited European Commission conference interpreter in Turkish, selected from the UK, and he was one of only 20 Turkish interpreters recruited for EU interpretation services throughout Europe. In 2005, Yilmaz was listed in the Directory of Expert Witnesses, and so is called upon to give expert witness evidence on criminal and civil matters concerning complications and difficulties in the Turkish language. Yilmaz was also appointed official interpreter and translator to the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Department of Trade & Industry, European Central Bank, the world’s football governing body, FIFA and scores of other government bodies.
Over the years Yilmaz has interpreted for Heads of State, Prime Ministers, MPs, VIPs, dignitaries, high-level civil servants, media moguls, professional experts, actors, singers, the BBC, CNN, SKY TV, company bosses, CEOs, diplomatic missions, British, European and Turkish Institutions, International Arbitration Courts, Chambers of Commerce and many more.
For over three decades, Yilmaz has dedicated himself to the interpreting profession and has served his profession tirelessly and passionately. Since 2004, he has held the position of Interpreters’ Representative of the ITI-LRG (London Regional Group), a position in which he has been organising Interpreting Events and Conferences. In 2006, he was elected to the Council of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. He was a member of the select group of ITI, CIOL and AIIC interpreters, set up to agree the terms and conditions of prestigious Chartered Linguist status for interpreters. Yilmaz is also the architect of the ITI’s Police and Court Interpreter category, which was launched in 2007.
At the end of 2008, Yilmaz was crowned with the highest honour in Britain as a mark of distinction and professionalism: the award of Chartered Linguist status and admission to Fellowship of both the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists – thereby becoming the first interpreter to receive all three accolades together.
Yilmaz says he owes his achievements to his principled approach to life, giving high priority to education and training and always working in a disciplined and honest manner. He adds that from now on, he will endeavour to help establish a better working environment for future generations of interpreters, assist newcomers to the profession and work together with his colleagues with the collective aim of providing the very best Turkish interpreting services from his new domicile in Turkey, where he is now based.