Conflict and Resolution: An Example

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Every Spanish court interpreter in the US has probably found herself (or himself) in the following situation: a Spanish-speaking attorney who is determined to intimidate or critique the court interpreter. Here in Las Vegas, we have a lot of Spanish-speaking attorneys, and their language skills vary widely, from virtually non-existent to completely fluent. Many professionals outside the languages industry tend to overestimate their language skills, which sometimes doesn't stop attorneys from criticizing and challenging professional and certified court interpreters' skills. That's the problem, so to say, with language: everyone uses it every day, but having the attorney critique the court interpreters' rendition is like having the paralegal critique the judge. OK, so perhaps that's not the best analogy, but the point is: these situations can be uncomfortable and challenging. How is a certified court interpreter to deal with this? Now, if your language is Punjabi or Zulu and you live in the US, chances are this has never happened to you. If your language is Spanish, we bet you are nodding by now.

Let's illustrate this with a recent example from Judy's practice.

Last week, Judy went to interpret for a Spanish deponent in a very complicated case that involved several counterclaims. Once all the parties were present, Judy counted the attorneys, and there were seven of them. Yes, seven. One of them, clearly the leader of the pack, started the conversation:

Attorney: "You know, Judy, all of us here speak Spanish. You better watch out! We will be checking up on you."

What Judy really wanted to say: "Great! I read a lot of John Grisham novels, and my hubby is an attorney, so you better watch out, too! I will be making sure you follow all rules of evidence."

Of course Judy didn't say that. Rather, she did the following.

Judy: "That's great, Bob! Learning another language is always very enriching, and I am glad you've chosen such a wonderful language. I look forward to facilitating language access today."

Sometimes, it's just that easy. And the best thing you can do to stop any needless commentary is to simply do an outstanding job. Of course, you might still get critiqued even if you are right and they are wrong, but it comes with the territory and you learn how to stay cool and composed.

Now, this is what happened halfway through the deposition.

Attorney: "Wow, Judy, you are a superstar."

What Judy wanted to say: "I know."

What Judy said: "Thank you, Bob."

What about you, dear court interpreter colleagues? How do you deal with these situations?


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