Making Yourself Popular With Attorneys

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As a federally certified court interpreter for Spanish, Judy works with attorneys on an everyday basis. Most are quite grateful to have the services of an interpreter, as it enables communication with their clients and/or the other party. There are a few things that attorneys have told us that they appreciate throughout the years when it comes to interpreting rendition, and there's one thing that stands out. 

It's something all court interpreters know, and it's part of our code of ethics: it's about interpreting fully and faithfully. This means that you have to be very, very precise. And that's the feedback Judy has gotten the most: that the clients and everyone involved appreciate her precision. In practice, this means interpreting "um" when the non-English speaker says "um" and not omitting anything, not finishing sentences for the non-English speaker, etc. You just have to resist the urge to complete sentences or answer verbally when the deponent (or defendant, of client, or witness) did not. This can be difficult, especially in the beginning, and one can be tempted to make things easier by just "helping out a bit," but as court interpreters we are not allowed to do so. 

Consider this example:

Attorney: Ms. Quiroz, so you were at home the morning of February 21?
Interpreter (Judy): Señora Quiroz, ¿así que usted estaba en casa la mañana del 21 de febrero?
Deponent (Ms. Quiroz): A-ha.
Interpreter (Judy): A-ha.
Attorney: Did you mean "yes"? 
Interpreter (Judy): ¿Quiso usted decir "sí"?
Deponent (Ms. Quiroz): No entiendo.
Interpreter (Judy): I do not understand.
Attorney: Sorry, let me make this clear. Please provide audible answers. So that means answering "yes" or "no" so we can take your answer down for the record.
Interpreter (Judy): Perdón, permítame clarificar esto. Le ruego dar respuestas verbales. Esto significa que debe decir "sí" o "no" para hacer constar su respuesta en el acta. 
Deponent (Ms. Quiroz): Ah, ya entendí. Sí, estuve en casa.
Judy: Ah, I understand now. Yes, I was at home.
Attorney: Thank you.

Of course, this would have all been a bit less painful if Judy had interpreted "yes" instead of "a-ha" the very first time the deponent spoke, but it wouldn't have been correct. This is the one thing that attorneys comment on the most: that accuracy is key for them. As one of our favorite attorneys said last week: "I may not speak Spanish, but I am smart enough to pick up on a lot of things." In summary: be precise, don't omit or add, and you will make yourself popular with attorneys and other clients. We'd love to hear your comments, dear readers!

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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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