25 Apr The Couch: We don’t have all day…
The Couch is a place to exchange ideas and brainstorm, not only for its contributors but also for our readers who engage in the ensuing discussions. Sometimes, the saying “Don’t shoot the messenger” has, even today, failed to catch on for some individuals. A special thank you to this week’s contributor for the Couch idea.
You are interpreting for a particularly acrimonious case. Each side is pressuring the other – discovery on both sides was insufficient, the parties are late for the day’s proceedings, preparation was poorly done, lawyers are passing the blame onto their subordinates; no one is taking responsibility. Parties are poorly prepared, and as a result, everyone is suffering because the case is stalling.
The judge is flustered. You, meanwhile, an experienced interpreter, have worked in all kinds of difficult situations, many worse than this one, and you are not fazed. You remain professional and are doing everything you are supposed to be doing.
Yet though you may be the best interpreter on earth, your performance doesn’t depend entirely on you. If people talk over each other, you still have only one voice; if an utterance is unclear, your interpretation will be, too, and you are not to blame.
And in the courtroom, as with anywhere else, there is always at least one person who does not understand the complexity of the task you are faced with. This time, that person is the judge.
Through no fault of your own, you need to request several repetitions and clarifications from both parties. The parties are exasperated, and the exchanges are emotionally charged and often illogical. You can’t bring clarity to what is already unclear.
Around the third time you ask for a repetition, the judge looks at you as though you don’t know what you’re doing. At the fourth request for a repetition, the judge calls you out: “Interpreter, need we ask for someone else? We don’t have all day.”
You keep interpreting. But the parties’ demeanor and communication are not improving. You get the feeling you will need to ask for several more repetitions before the session adjourns. But the judge, a very influential one in the local community, thinks you, and not the parties, are to blame. No one in the courtroom right now appears they would be receptive to explanations regarding the interpreter’s role.
What do you do?
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