I Speak Spanish!

We speak Spanish, too. Photo taken in Mexico City.
Happy Friday! For today's post, we figured we'd send you off into the weekend with some humor. Fellow Spanish court interpreters can surely relate to today's (humorous) post. This is a situation that Judy, in her role as a certified court interpreter, encounters relatively frequently.

This is the situation: You walk into a deposition or into a courtroom, and next thing you know, the plaintiff and/or defense counsel walk(s) up to you to let you know that they also speak Spanish. Now, one might think that they are only making friendly conversation, but as those of us who deal with attorneys know, in litigation, attorneys don't say much without trying to make a specific point. When saying, "I speak Spanish!" what is really being said is this: "I will be checking up on you. You better watch out, interpreter." Now what? 

The problem which such a statement from an attorney is that there are really no possible reaction, except for maybe one, that do not make you sound at least somewhat defensive. That's a problem, because even though the attorney is clearly a bit aggressive here, as service providers, we usually want to keep our composure and maintain a friendly tone. That said, it's marginally possible that the attorney just wants to make conversation about his/her Spanish skills, in which case it's a great idea to start a high-register Spanish conversation about the expropriation of Mexican petroleum to show them the limit of their Spanish (kidding). Seriously, now: How do you react? Here are things Judy has wanted to say, but has never, ever actually said:

"Thank you for sharing. I am really worried about my performance now."
"Well, I really have been put on notice. Duly noted, counsel."
"Maybe you should just do the interpreting then and I can go have an espresso."

Of course, please do take this with a grain of salt (we told you this would be a humorous post). We'd never seriously think about saying anything like that, but it's fun to at least let these thoughts appear in your head. 

Usually, it's just best to say: "That's fantastic! It's a great language, isn't it?" and leave it at that (or something similar). We are very aware that many professionals, especially here in the American Southwest, do speak Spanish (some better than others). While humility and the desire to keep on learning are important for interpreters, so is confidence in one's skills and certifications. One doesn't become a certified court interpreter by osmosis or chance, just as no one becomes an attorney by taking a few criminal justice classes and watching a lot of Judge Judy. 

So, dear fellow court interpreters: Be proud of your skills, and let's welcome all the Spanish speakers into our proceedings. Now, we've heard from other court interpreters that sometimes there are entirely incorrect objections to certified court interpreters' renditions, and that's another topic--one that has actually not happened to us. What are your thoughts, dear colleagues? How would you react or how have you reacted when confronted with "I speak Spanish"? 


Josh Goldberg said...

Like you guys, I've been *tempted* to respond along the lines of, "Well, I'm Jewish. So I'll be keeping an eye on your lawyering". Let me assure everyone reading this that I'd never actually say that. My usual response is to smile and say, "It's a beautiful language". It's a nice, neutral response that doesn't require any further follow-up from either one of us.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on February 15, 2016 at 3:46 PM said...

@Josh: Thanks so much for your comment! We absolutely love your diplomatic and elegant response. Mind if we borrow it? It's much better than our uninspired responses. And yes,we completely believe you've never said things you have been tempted to say! But it's fun to think them once in a while, isn't it?

EP on February 20, 2016 at 9:14 AM said...

Spanish. Thinking back it makes me cringe. Not the language, the fact that I grew up in the Southwest surrounded by the language and never managed to learn it. I came to Europe and learned German instead! I love German but I still can't believe I never learned Spanish. Maybe there's still time... Good luck to both of you!

Seaghan Ó Buadhaigh on July 23, 2016 at 10:02 AM said...

Things I'd like to say in response, but probably wouldn't:

"Your mother must be really proud."
"And I'm wearing new shoes today. Let's go up and tell the judge together!"
"About 13% of the US population do."
"That's great. How many other languages do you speak?"
"What a coincidence, me too!"

Things I probably would say:

"Thanks for trying to put me at my ease, but I've done this before; I've got it covered."
"What's your favourite Latin American dialect?"
"I charge $50 per hour for conversational practice." (in Spanish)

I just found your site today and I love it. Thanks for taking the time and effort to put all this online. I can feel questions coming on... :)

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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