The Couch

The Couch – To speak up or not to speak up? What say you?

Our colleague is curious to see how our The Couch readers would handle some prickly situations he found himself into. What would you do, speak up or not? Read the post and see if you can lend a hand.


Could it be a cultural thing? Who was being culturally insensitive, our colleague or his clients? You will let us know, hopefully.

So, the client hangs up then looks at me with a complicit look and says, “He looks so weird. I ask myself sometimes if he is a toy or what. He’s coming up the elevator just now.” I still do not know who she is talking about. Then the elevator doors open and an elegantly dressed, very short man comes out. I notice that his face is that of an adult but his arms and legs are really short for an adult. Dwarfism.

It turns out that the gentleman was the client’s lawyer. Her words came back to my mind and I was filled with anger. But I did nothing. I was afraid that if I were to speak up, I might say something inappropriate and lose the agency their client.

The second time something awkward happened, I was helping prepare a witness, my direct client, and the lawyer was being so pompous I wanted to do him bodily harm myself. Alas, there I only had a voice and it was not even my own. Fine.

However, my client also noticed the lawyer’s attitude and voiced his frustrations, “I’ll kill that guy if he does that to me next time!” This was a boisterous expression of frustration. Or was it a threat? In my country it is not uncommon to hear friends tell each other “I will kill that [fill in the blank] if s/he does not stop [choose a verb]” – and it is never a real threat. But, could I apply my cultural sensitivities here? And if I misread my client and he came to the next session with a concealed weapon? Would I be able to live with myself? An addendum: my client and I were alone for just a moment while the lawyer handed his secretary a piece of paper.

Well, these issues are in the past and were resolved, but I would like to hear your thoughts on them. Would you speak up or not?


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Check out other topics discussed here and here.

 

7 Comments
  • Gladys Matthews
    Posted at 14:28h, 13 July Reply

    As uncomfortable –and even irking– as that kind of comments might be, I would not say anything. I’ve been around long enough to know that there are all kinds of people out there and it is not up to me to teach them good manners. A pompous person is very likely to remain pompous unless life (not me) teaches them a lesson.

  • Josephine Baldwin
    Posted at 14:41h, 13 July Reply

    I fully agree with the above comment. We (Interpreters) are hired to perform a service, not to judge others and definitely not to teach rude people manners. The thing to do, in my opinion, when someone is distasteful, rude and insensitive enough to voice derogatory comments or to vent their frustration with an Interpreter, is to remain poker-faced.

  • Lilia Banrevy
    Posted at 14:51h, 13 July Reply

    I agree with Gladys. Everyone has opinions and emotions and, those all come from different places. We can save ourselves from the stress by practicing tolerance and patience, grace and, especially gratitude, for all the experiences that enrich our lives. Living life from a non-judgmental position will make us wonderful professionals who will always have preference in our clients’ or agencies’ list.

  • Karen Borgenheimer
    Posted at 15:08h, 13 July Reply

    I totally agree with Gladys and Josephine.
    Developing a thick skin is par for our profession. Keep it to yourself and remain completely neutral and unbiased..

  • C Carrera
    Posted at 22:05h, 13 July Reply

    .
    With regard to first incident, I think it was right not to say anything since I think our opinion on that remark is not really asked for. The comment can also be due to ignorance about dwarfism.

    In the second incident, I remember a similar experience before when the LEP told me something like, “Let’s see what happens if he/she/something does/happens again”. I immediately felt a threat, so I told the LEP right away that anything he/she said I would interpret to his/her lawyer who was away for a moment. LEP immediately said, “No, didn’t mean it”. Of course, I do not know what else happened after that.

    Before I immigrated here from the Philippines, it is also common to say “kill someone/your child, friend, spouse” as an expression of frustration. I am not aware if there’s any new law passed there that now considers this a criminal threat. If it is such now, I will tell the LEP that I will interpret everything I hear to the lawyer, esp. any threats (whether interpreting here or the Phils.). That way, any explanation or protest by LEP can be addressed by lawyer, rather than intptr burdened with an info that may adversely affect one’s life and be unable to do anything abt it.

    Although situations are not always ideal, I find it best to do a pre-appearance interview (so called here in California). Before a court proceeding, an intptr can assess if we have same language as LEP.

    I also tell LEP that:
    a. we are neutral
    b. our services are free/no need to pay us
    c. we don’t give legal advice
    d. LEP shld answer in LEP’s native language
    e. say so if LEP does not hear, do not understand or wants a question repeated
    f. correct me if I make a mistake interpreting what LEP is saying & that’s OK
    g. I will interpret everything said to the best of my ability and not to say anything that LEP does not want to be interpreted.

    This always helps when you meet an LEP for the first time and it’s also that LEP’s first time in the court system.

  • Judith Kenigson Kristy
    Posted at 16:42h, 14 July Reply

    Referring to the second scenario, I’m with C. Carrera, – -“an ounce of prevention…” etc. . I have an explanatory “cheat sheet”, too, that I try to use when possible so that people know the ground rules from the beginning (I.e. “I will interpret everything you say””). But frankly what I don’t really “get” is why the previous writers seemed to be taking the position that the unappealing words are “theirs”, to the extent that they feel that if they express (Interpret) those words they are the ones “teach(ing) rude people manners”. Clearly, the first consideration is simply not to be alone, ever, with a client so the situation does not come up; but if the affected speaker (in this case, the lawyer) is present, the LEP’s comment should be interpreted. After all, the lawyer has a right to know what his client thinks of him, too. It affects their relationship of trust. I’m not there to filter that relationship.

  • peter r pei
    Posted at 17:50h, 16 July Reply

    I agree not to be alone with anyone . Always interpret when their own lawyer is present. Keep your thoughts to yourself, The culture may have shifted while we were away from our native country for such a long time.

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