A few months ago, I was interpreting for a Spanish-speaking witness at a relatively routine deposition for a civil litigation matter. I've done hundreds of these, but they are always exciting, challenging and potentially contentious. There's nothing like being in the middle of five lawyers barking at each other, but alas, this particular assignment was very civil on every level.
Without divulging any details about the case (all identifying details have been changed), the deponent was testifying about a trip to a supermarket. The deposing attorney asked her about which articles she had purchased. Here's what happened.
Deponent (Spanish): Bueno, compré calabacín, zanahorias, papaya, plátanos y romero.
Judy (interpreting into English): Well, I bought zucchini, carrots, papaya, bananas and..... um, excuse me, the interpreter is drawing a blank. Allow me to briefly come up with this term. (5 endless seconds pass). Um, I am very sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but may the interpreter look up this term in an upcoming break and then supply the correct term for the record?
Opposing counsel, smiling: If the interpreter will allow it, I think I know the term.
Judy (happy): Certainly, counsel, thank you.
Opposing counsel: It's rosemary. I believe the word you are looking for is rosemary.
Judy: Yes, of course. Thank you, counsel. Counsel, would you please repeat the question for the deponent so we can get her full answer this time? Apologies for the confusion. The interpreter will be buying lunch.
Deposing counsel: No problem. I am craving lamb chops with rosemary.
An hour later, the deposing counsel called the firm that had hired me for this deposition and requested that he not work with anyone else but.... me. I was afraid he'd call and say the opposite, but my fears were unfounded. Turns out he was impressed with my performance, blunder and all, and it's reassuring that no one expects perfection 100% of the time: it's how you recover from potential errors that matters. I have done many depositions at this particular firm since then, and a few weeks ago, I saw opposing counsel in the elevator. He said hello, and then he said he might consider calling me Rosemary so I wouldn't forget (I won't anyway). We both laughed all the way to the top floor.
Would you care to share (that rhymes!) one of your interpreting blunders, dear readers?