What Would You Have Done?

This is the second installment of our new feature What Would You Have Done? in which we bring real situations for our readers to comment on. The idea is for us to help each other overcome or prepare for unexpected situations. Drop us a line.

And if you have an experience to share, please write to the Editor. Our work is confidential and all identifiable details are removed from the stories shared with us to maintain our compliance with our Code of Ethics.

The story below is one that takes place in almost every deposition, and many of you are familiar with the feeling we interpreters get and how uncomfortable we feel.

Depositions, being less formal than court hearings, afford us more opportunities to address attorneys, ask questions and clarify doubts. We also get to feel more personally targeted. It seems that opposing attorneys try to object and disrupt interpreters just to unsettle them and then blame the loss of the case on bad interpreting.

The colleague in our story certainly felt that way after a long, drawn out deposition in which opposing counsel was bilingual. Objections were not only a matter of form or language used by the deposing attorney. They were also directed to the interpreter, disrupting the rhythm of the proceedings, as well as the conciseness and clarity of the records, not to mention the interpreter’s concentration and mental agility.

In the case used for this article, the interpreter confronted the attorney, and explained that in one specific challenged rendition the word choices made were based on the case being criminal rather than civil, and that the choice had been informed by the interpreter’s personal experience practicing law for over a decade in the country of the deponent’s origin. There was no more criticism or critique of the interpreter’s rendition as the deposition resumed.

What would you have done?
1-   Acted exactly as the interpreter in the case
2-   Relied on the tried and true “The interpreter stands by his/her rendition.”
3-   Informed the attorney who hired you to tell opposing counsel to stop interrupting.
4-   Removed yourself from the case, asking the agency to send someone else.
5-   …

2 thoughts on “What Would You Have Done?”

  1. Lee Roth says:

    It is very important for the interpreter to hold his/her ground, never take it personally and do not get defensive, do not justify your choice of words if you are sure that you are right. ”The interpreter stands by her/his rendition” is golden!

    1. Gio Lester says:

      Thank you, Lee.

      I think that as far as the record is concerned, our boilerplate response is enough, but would you speak with either attorney afterwards, during a break? Counsel who hired you might be feeling insecure; opposing counsel might be feeling good at being able to disrupt proceedings.

      This is one of those situations when the professional must exude experience without being aggressive.

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