October 30, 2012 § 7 Comments
Al viajar por el país ejerciendo esta fabulosa carrera de intérprete me entero de situaciones que existen en diferentes lugares y que de una manera u otra afectan a nuestra profesión en general. Mi trabajo me permite mantenerme en constante comunicación con cientos de colegas que viven y ejercen por todo el país y en el extranjero, si llego a su ciudad procuro darme tiempo para saludarlos, cenar con ellos, visitarlos, o lo que mejor se ajuste a su agenda de trabajo y compromisos personales. Fue de esta manera que recientemente me enteré, al viajar por una de las ciudades más grandes de los Estados Unidos, que en uno de los juzgados más codiciados para trabajar en esa zona urbana, y en el que han trabajado por muchos años varios colegas muy capaces, las cosas desgraciadamente han cambiado para mal.
Según me contaron, un familiar (pariente inmediato) del intérprete en jefe del juzgado, quien se encarga de programar a los contratistas y por tanto de la distribución del trabajo, obtuvo su certificación judicial recientemente. Obviamente esto es motivo de regocijo para el intérprete que se certificó y para el intérprete en jefe, su pariente inmediato. Parece ser que así las cosas, los intérpretes empezaron a detectar que su carga de trabajo había disminuido a niveles nunca antes vistos. Asimismo empezaron a notar que el nuevo intérprete pariente inmediato del “jefe” tenía un gran volumen de trabajo, tenía acceso a una oficina en el juzgado a pesar de ser contratista como todos ellos, y además tenía acceso a documentos normalmente fuera del alcance de quienes no son empleados del juzgado.
Durante una junta entre el intérprete en jefe y la mayoría de los intérpretes en esta zona metropolitana, el intérprete en jefe les manifestó que él estaba ayudando a su pariente inmediato debido a su parentesco, que eso era lo que haría cualquiera en su situación, y que no iba a dejar de hacerlo. Básicamente les reiteró que él no estaba bajo ninguna obligación de contratarlos a ellos y que si no les parecía la nueva situación entonces no tenían que trabajar en ese juzgado. Durante la misma reunión los contratistas lo confrontaron con la ley y el reglamento interno y le señalaron que está prohibido contratar a ese tipo de parientes, que la ley establece claramente que no puede haber favoritismos, conflicto de intereses, ni la apariencia de los unos y los otros.
Subsecuentemente los intérpretes se dirigieron a la administración del juzgado donde aparentemente el intérprete en jefe tiene cierto grado de apoyo, pero no de manera incondicional. El caso, a petición del intérprete en jefe fue enviado a las autoridades superiores en la capital para su revisión. Actualmente está pendiente su resolución, y mientras tanto el pariente inmediato ha dejado de trabajar en el juzgado ubicado físicamente en la ciudad, sin embargo sigue recibiendo trabajo en otros juzgados del mismo distrito judicial para lo cual se ha nombrado a otros programadores de intérpretes en lugar del pariente intérprete en jefe. A reserva de que aún no se ha dicho la última palabra en este asunto, me gustaría conocer sus opiniones sobre este caso y en general sobre el nepotismo en nuestra profesión. ¿Cuándo el coordinador de la agencia de interpretación, o el intérprete en jefe de un juzgado, o el encargado de contratar intérpretes en el hospital tienen a un hijo, cónyuge o hermana que son intérpretes, deben contratarlos? Y de ser así, ¿Se justifica que se les dé preferencia? En mi opinión hay que distinguir entre el intérprete en jefe de un juzgado quien es un funcionario público sujeto a reglas y disposiciones jurídicas especiales, y aquellos que administran una empresa particular donde no existe subsidio público. Espero sus opiniones.
October 23, 2012 § 3 Comments
This Friday I will be presenting during the ATA Annual Conference in San Diego. This is nothing new of course. Many of you have attended my presentations in the past; however, this time I will be covering ethics for interpreters.
That’s right, I will be delivering a presentation on that arid subject that most of us need in order to (at least) keep our licenses, certifications, or registrations current. The title of the presentation is: “The Client-Attorney Privilege and the Interpreter’s Duty to Maintain Confidentiality.” As you can see, it is a legal interpretation topic that up until now has been little explored by our colleagues, by the Judiciary and by the Bar. When I decided to tackle the “ethics presentation” one-ton gorilla in the room, I set some goals: First, the presentation had to be useful. I had to find a topic that interests interpreters, but more importantly, I had to look for something that would help them with their career; something that they could use time and again for the rest of their professional lives. Then, I decided to find a way to do it fun. Of course, we will not have stand-up comedy (Darn. I guess I thought of it too late to incorporate it) but we will have fun by making this session an interactive exchange where we all explore concrete situations that we face in our profession, and try to find a solution that is legal, ethical, and good for our practice (meaning: our business!) How many of us know when we are legally bound to do or abstain from doing something because of the person we are working for? How do we know when we are covered by the client-attorney privilege and when we are not? How do we stand up to a Judge when we are ordered to do something we are legally barred from doing? These are some of the everyday scenarios legal interpreters face all the time at courthouses, law offices, jails, board meetings, hospitals, and many other settings. The goal is that by the end of the session we will all understand the client-attorney privilege, when it affects the work of an interpreter, how it influences what we do, and what are the differences between this privilege and our ethical duty to uphold confidentiality. I believe that the practical cases I have selected will teach us how to correct some behaviors, how to detect a potential problem, and how to look for a solution. While we do this, I will also try to dissipate some myths about so-called privileges like the medical, religious, and others. My opinion is that this session represents a great way to get those ethics credits that you may still need, and at the same time you will learn something that will benefit your interpretation practice and business. The session will be presented in English. I invite you to join me this Friday, October 26 in the sapphire H room at 2:00 PM, and then, after the session is over, I invite you to join me and our good friend Freek Lankhof at the InTrans Book Service stand (6 & 7 of the Exhibition Hall) from 3:30-4:00 PM for a book signing of my new court interpreter manual: “The New Professional Court Interpreter.” I am sure you will like the book.
Please join me for a fun and useful interpreter ethics session in San Diego!
October 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Next week we will meet in San Diego during the American Translators Association annual conference. We will attend interesting presentations, establish new contacts, greet old friends, buy books, and we will have a lot of fun. However, we will also gather to do something else that is particularly important for all interpreters: we will vote for three directors to the ATA Board. These new officials will represent our interests before the Board for the next three years.
As a professional association, ATA has thirteen officials that make policy and decide issues that affect us all as an organization. We have a President, a President-elect, a Secretary, a Treasurer, and 9 directors. Being a board member is a hard job, it requires a lot of time and effort and the reward is usually the satisfaction of a job well-done. We are very fortunate to have very capable and dedicated people at the top of ATA.
The number of translators and interpreters in the organization’s membership are pretty similar, but only two of these thirteen officials are interpreters. They all do a magnificent job, but it is these interpreters that really voice our perspective in the boardroom. We are two professions united by the word, written and spoken. I am writing this piece because those two spaces where we as interpreters are represented in the boardroom are up for reelection. In other words, if we lose one of those two seats we will end up with nothing as it used to be in the past. In the pursuit of a more balanced organization we should strive to bring our representation up. To do that we cannot afford to lose these two seats. We just can’t.
Cristina D. Helmerichs is a veteran of our profession. She has a professional and administrative resume better than most. She has been an honest and measured voice for all ATA interpreters during the last three years. She was instrumental in the change of the organization’s tag that for the first time included us, the interpreters, as part of the association’s identity. She presently chairs the Interpretation Policy Advisory Committee, and a couple of years ago she played a significant role on an effort to understand and include many more of our colleagues who were frankly on the verge of leaving ATA and other professional organizations because they felt excluded and ignored. Cristina was Chair of the NAJIT Board of Directors from 1996 to 2004. During her tenure NAJIT saw unprecedented growth in membership; she is also a founder of the Texas Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (TAJIT) and an active member of the Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association.
Cristina complements these impressive administrative credentials with her professional trajectory as an interpreter. She has worked in the federal court system nationwide, she has been a pillar to the court interpreter scene in the state of Texas for many years, and she has been a conference interpreter all over the country. Cristina is a regular interpreter trainer, a workshop instructor, and a rater of the federal court interpreter examination. I know all these things because I have been a member of these organizations when Cristina has been in charge; I have worked with her all over the country interpreting, teaching, and rating federal exams. I have traveled half way across the world with Cristina. I have pet her dogs at her home, and I have been her classmate when we studied diplomatic conference interpretation in Argentina together. Cristina has been a great friend and she is a spectacular human being. Anybody in Austin will agree with this statement. I invite you to vote for her next week because we need her at the table.
I also encourage you to reelect Odile J. Legeay, the other interpreter on the board. Odile is another great professional and very capable board member. During the last three years she has been instrumental in the development of tools that have come to aide all freelancers, such as the standard agreement she developed. Odile is also a great human being. I know all these things because just as in Cristina’s case, I have seen it first-hand. I have worked with her, attended conferences and activities with her, and I have been to her home in Houston where I have seen how well-liked and loved by her peers she is. Together with Cristina, Odile is a voice that we as interpreters must keep at the top of ATA’s decision-making structure. We need their representation. In fact we cannot afford to do without either one of them.
It is also relevant to mention that Cristina and Odile are two of only three Spanish linguists on the board. This is also important when we think that ATA is the most important professional association in the United States, and the U.S. is the number two country with the most Spanish speakers in the world just behind Mexico. Voting to reelect Cristina and Odile will continue to allow all ATA interpreters to have a voice on a Board of Directors where an overwhelming majority of the members are translators, and it will also help ATA to be more representative of its community (The United States of America) and its membership (Spanish interpreters and translators) by keeping two of the Spanish linguists as part of the Board. The other Spanish linguist, a translator, is not up for reelection this time.
Finally, because this election day we can vote for three directors, I would like to invite you to also vote for Corinne McKay. She is not an interpreter, she is a French<>English translator (and a very good one) who has been instrumental to our joint profession. I know Corinne as a person and she is a great human being, she is responsible and committed. I had a chance to observe her up-close when she was President of the Colorado Translators Association (CTA). At the time I was living in Colorado and I was Chair of the Colorado Association of Professional Interpreters (CAPI). I have seen Corinne present at professional conferences, I saw the key role she played during the ATA annual conference in Denver two years ago, and I know that although not an interpreter, she has tried to bridge that gap in Colorado organizing events to bring the professions closer. I know this because a few years back she invited me to do a presentation on conference interpretation before CTA.
Dear friends and colleagues. I appreciate all of our colleagues that are running, I am sure they are all honorable and capable professionals and human beings, but this time I invite you to keep our voice at the table by reelecting Cristina Helmerichs and Odile Legeay, and I invite you to cast your third vote for a great translator who has proven to be capable as an administrator and will no doubt be a friend to the interpreter community. Please cast these three votes.
October 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
During my career I have noticed that every four years during the Presidential election season in the United States many interpreters are faced with the Electoral College topic even when their assignments are non-political. Because of its American uniqueness, this topic presents a challenge to many colleagues who usually work outside the United States and to others who live in the country but grew up somewhere else. In fact, the Electoral College is one of those issues that many Americans do not fully understand, even if they vote every four years. Interpreters cannot interpret what they do not understand, and in a professional world ruled by the market this topic will continue to appear on the radar screen. Therefore, a basic knowledge of this legal-political process should come in handy every four years.
Because we are once again approaching the final days of the presidential campaign and election day is three weeks away, I decided to put my legal background and my passion for history to work (I have a Law Degree)
Every four years when an American citizen goes to the polls on a Tuesday in November to elect the new president of the United States, that individual does not vote for any of the presidential candidates. We Americans vote for a preference (Republican, Democratic and occasionally other) and for electors who will go to Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, in the month of December to cast all electoral votes from that state, in favor of the candidate who represents the preference of the majority of the state voters as expressed on that Tuesday in November. In other words, we vote for the people who will go to Washington D.C., to vote on our behalf for the presidential candidate who received the most direct votes from the citizens of that state during the general election. After the November election, those electors are pledged to the candidate who received the most votes in that state. The result: We have direct vote elections in each state, and then we have the final election in December when the states vote as instructed by the majority of its citizens. It is like a United Nations vote. Think of it like this: Each state elects its presidential favorite; that person has won the presidential election in that state. Now, after the November election is over, in December the states get together in an Electoral College and each of them votes. This is the way we determine a winner. The states will each vote as instructed, honoring the will of its citizenry. We do not have proportional representation in the United States.
Historically and culturally this country was built on the entrepreneurial spirit: Those who risk everything want everything, and when they succeed, all benefits should go their way. We are an “all or nothing” society. That is even reflected on our sports. All popular sports invented and played in the United States have a winner and a loser by the end of the game: We do not like ties because we associate a tie with mediocrity. A baseball game can go on forever until a team wins. We do the same in politics. Once the citizens have voted, the winner gets all the benefits, in this case all the electoral votes; it does not matter if he or she won by a million votes or by a handful. You may remember how President George W. Bush was elected to his first term; he won the state of Florida by a very small margin, but winner takes it all, therefore all of Florida’s electoral votes went to him and he became the 43rd. President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams got to the White House with a smaller margin than George W. Bush.
I mentioned earlier that we like the principle of winner takes it all. Although that is true, we are a country of fairness and justice with such diversity that the only way to achieve this goal is through a balance of the rights of the people on one side, and those of the states on the other. (For those who have a difficult time understanding why the states have rights separate from the people, please imagine the United States as a mini-world where each state is an independent country. Then think of your own country and answer this question: Would you like a bigger or more populated foreign country to impose its will over your country, or would you like for all countries to be treated as equals?) In December when the electors or delegates from each state meet as an electoral college in Washington D.C. to cast their state’s electoral votes, all states have a voice, they are all treated as equal. This is the only way that smaller states are not overlooked; their vote counts.
We find the final step to achieve this electoral justice to the states of the United States of America (all fifty states and territories that make this country) and to the citizens of the country, in the number of electoral votes that a state has; in other words, how many electors can a state send to Washington D.C. in November. The answer is as follows: The constitution of the United States establishes that there will be a House of Representatives (to represent the people of the United States) integrated by 435 members elected by the people of the district where they live. These districts change with the shifts in population but additional seats are never added to the House. When the population changes, the new total population are divided by 435 and that gives you the new congressional district. The only limitations: An electoral district cannot cross state lines (state borders) therefore, occasionally we will have a district slightly larger or slightly smaller, and every state must have at least one electoral district (one house member) regardless of its population. The American constitution establishes that there will be a Senate (to represent the 50 states) integrated by 2 representatives or members from each state, for a total of 100 senators elected by all the citizens of that particular state. When new states have been admitted to the Union (the last time was 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii became states number 49 and 50 respectively) the senate grows by two new members.
As you can see, all states have the same representation in the Senate (2 senators each) regardless of the state’s size or population. The House of Representatives on the other hand, has more members from the states with larger population, but all states have at least one representative in the house. This way the American system makes sure that the will of the majority of the people is heard in Congress (House of Representatives) and it assures the 50 states that all of them, even the smaller ones, will be heard as equals in the Senate. You need both houses of Congress to legislate.
Going back to the Electoral College, the number of electoral votes each state has is the same as its number of Senators and Representatives. The total number of Senators and Representatives is 535 (425 Representatives and 100 Senators) Washington D.C. is not a state, therefore it has no Representatives or Senators, but it has 3 electoral votes to put it on equal footing with the smaller states for presidential elections. Therefore, the total number of electoral votes is 538. Because of this totals, and because of the American principle of winner takes it all that applies to the candidate who wins the election in a state, to win a presidential election, a candidate must reach 270 electoral votes. This is the reason why California, our most populated state, has 55 electoral votes (53 Representatives and 2 Senators) and all smaller states have 3 (remember, they have 2 Senators and at least one Representative in the House)
The next time you have to interpret something about the Electoral College in the United States remember how it is integrated, and think of our country as 50 separate countries who have an internal election first, and then vote as states, equal to all other states, on the second electoral round in December. Because on November 6 of this year we will know who won each state, we will be celebrating the election or reelection of a new president, even though the Electoral College will not cast its votes for another month. It is like knowing how the movie ends before you see it.
Electoral votes by state Total: 538; majority needed to elect president and vice president: 270
|state||number of votes||state||number of votes||state||number of votes|
|District of Columbia||3||Missouri||11||Tennessee||11|
|Indiana||11||New Mexico||5||West Virginia||5|
Yerba Mala ¿Nunca muere? Cuando ciertas personas a cargo de tomar decisiones finalmente se hacen a un lado.
October 12, 2012 § 3 Comments
Al platicar con muchos de ustedes por todo el país y en algunos lugares del extranjero me he dado cuenta que en muchos lugares nuestra profesión se está renovando. Nueva sangre con nuevas ideas y mucha más preparación académica y empírica está constantemente surgiendo en todos los campos: militar, conferencia, comunitaria, y judicial.
En mi opinión, este fenómeno se hace aún más palpable en la interpretación judicial y en la de conferencia donde muchos de los “protagonistas” eternos de antaño empiezan a desaparecer. El cambio me motiva y emociona, ya que muchas personas que hasta hace poco ocupaban cargos de relevancia para nuestra profesión por fin están desapareciendo. Estoy de acuerdo que esto también es triste pues muchos colegas valiosísimos, excelentes profesionales y figuras legendarias e irreemplazables en la historia de nuestra carrera también se están alejando de la cabina o ausentando de los tribunales. También es cierto que tarde o temprano todos vamos hacia allá. Sin embargo, el hecho que muchos individuos mediocres y sin interés alguno en el crecimiento de nuestra profesión se estén esfumando del paisaje es positivo. Reconociendo a aquellos pioneros que abrieron brecha en esta carrera y agradeciendo a quienes dieron los primeros pasos en esta nuestra profesión, también debo mencionar las bondades de la desaparición de esos otros individuos nocivos que tanto daño hicieron a nuestro gremio. Me llena de alegría y me colma de esperanza para nuestra noble profesión el irme enterando que muchos de estos oportunistas y convenencieros se están jubilando, retirando del ejercicio profesional, o que simplemente se están saliendo de esta carrera por las razones o en las maneras que sean. Al ver esto, recuerdo ese dicho mexicano que dice: “Yerba mala nunca muere” y cómo siempre existe una excepción que confirma la regla.
Queridos colegas, les pido que aprovechen este espacio para opinar sobre este tema, y si así lo desean, para que en unas cuantas líneas mencionen a algunos de esos gigantes de la interpretación que se estás retirando. Respecto a los malos, les pido que se abstengan de mentarlos en estos espacios. Mejor vamos a concentrarnos en los buenos y a los nefastos vamos a castigarlos con el látigo de nuestra indiferencia.
October 9, 2012 § 3 Comments
Today we will talk about the use of English pronouns. Pronouns are used in place of a noun that has already been mentioned or that is already known, often to avoid repeating the noun. For example:
Kate was tired so she went to bed.
Michael took the children with him.
Kieran’s face was close to mine.
That is a good idea.
Anything might happen.
Personal pronouns are used in place of nouns referring to specific people or things, for example I, me, mine, you, yours, his, her, hers, we, they, or them. They can be divided into various different categories according to their role in a sentence, as follows:
- Subjective pronouns
- Objective pronouns
- Possessive pronouns
- Reflexive pronouns
The personal pronouns I, you, we, he, she, it, we, and they are known as subjective pronouns because they act as the subjects of verbs:
She saw Catherine.
We drove Nick home.
I waved at her.
The personal pronouns me, you, us, him, her, it, and them are called objective pronouns because they act as the objects of verbs and prepositions:
Catherine saw her.
Nick drove us home.
She waved at me.
Here’s a table setting out the different forms:
Notice that the personal pronouns you and it stay the same, whether they are being used in the subjective or objective roles.
The personal pronouns mine, yours, hers, his, ours, and theirs are known as possessive pronouns: they refer to something owned by the speaker or by someone or something previously mentioned. For example:
That book is mine.
John’s eyes met hers.
Ours is a family farm.
Reflexive personal pronouns include myself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. These are used to refer back to the subject of the clause in which they are used:
I fell and hurt myself.
Daisy prepared herself for the journey.
The children had to look after themselves.
Now I ask you to please share your most common difficulties when dealing with pronouns.
October 5, 2012 § 7 Comments
Durante el verano dedico buena parte de mi tiempo a la enseñanza de nuestra profesión; es durante estos meses del año que muchos estados de la Unión Americana concluyen su ciclo fiscal y por lo tanto programan talleres y presentaciones para satisfacer sus requisitos de educación continua ya sea al final o al inicio de su año fiscal.
Durante mi viajar por el país impartiendo estas clases me percaté de un fenómeno relativamente nuevo y que se ha ido acentuando en los últimos dos o tres años: Cada vez son más los intérpretes médicos que acuden a estos cursos anteriormente aprovechados exclusivamente por intérpretes judiciales. Al concluir una ponencia, o durante un descanso, yo acostumbro platicar con los estudiantes y es así que me he enterado que muchos de ellos toman estas clases primordialmente dirigidas a los intérpretes que trabajan en los tribunales no porque desean convertirse en intérpretes jurídicos, lo hacen para estudiar, practicar y aprender con la meta de presentar y aprobar uno de los exámenes de interpretación médica.
Independientemente de lo encomiable que resulta la dedicación de estos colegas, me he dado cuenta del deseo que tienen de profesionalizar su ramo de la interpretación. Enhorabuena porque el campo médico es bien difícil, yo lo sé bien debido a las conferencias médicas que he interpretado durante mi carrera. Sin embargo, al charlar con estos intérpretes médicos, también me doy cuenta que mientras ellos estudian y se esfuerzan por capacitarse, el ejercicio de su especialidad profesional está en gran parte monopolizado por agencias de interpretación que tienen contratos de exclusividad con los hospitales, cobran bien por el servicio prestado, y pagan sumas irrisorias y desproporcionadamente bajas a los intérpretes que contratan. Por lo que los colegas me cuentan, me he enterado que un intérprete médico no puede trabajar en los hospitales a menos que lo haga a través de una de estas agencias. Inmediatamente la pregunta llega a mi mente: ¿Tanto estudiar, tanto esforzarse para ganar una baba de perico mientras la agencia está ganando dinero a carretadas? Algo no parece correcto.
La experiencia que conozco y con la cual encuentro un punto de referencia es la de la interpretación judicial ya que las agencias que trabajan con intérpretes de conferencia, al menos las buenas y más conocidas, pagan bien y tratan al colega con respeto. Yo recuerdo casos en interpretación judicial cuando el intérprete no podía contratar directamente con el juzgado o con los abogados. Si quería trabajar solo tenía una opción: la agencia. Recuerdo que así era, y por cierto con resultados nefastos de explotación y mediocridad en parte del suroeste de los Estados Unidos donde hasta hace no mucho tiempo los intérpretes no trabajaban directamente para los tribunales ni negociaban directamente con los bufetes jurídicos. Platicando con mis colegas sé que este ”sistema” sigue imperando en algunos estados. El ejemplo más palpable de poca paga y mediocridad en muchos (agrego que no todos) quienes prestan sus servicios en el campo jurídico lo seguimos encontrando hasta la fecha en los juzgados administrativos de migración.
La pregunta entonces queda: ¿Qué deben hacer estos intérpretes médicos capaces, entusiasmados, motivados y profesionales para recuperar su campo profesional y de esa manera justificar (para ellos, no para doctores, pacientes o compañías de seguros) el requisito de la certificación médica? Me gustaría escuchar sus opiniones, especialmente las de aquellos que están en esta situación. Les pido que incluyan sus comentarios y que se enfoquen al tema de este artículo: la interpretación médica como rehén de las agencias. Ya dejaremos para otro día la disyuntiva de que existan dos certificaciones médicas y aún no haya uniformidad ni consenso respecto a este tema.
October 1, 2012 § 2 Comments
As a veteran interpreter I have seen many things, faced numerous obstacles, and solved hundreds of situations such as bad equipment, poor booth location and lack of research materials, noisy courtrooms, difficult accents, and rotten clients. I am sure you had your fair share as well. However, I came to a realization a few weeks ago when I was teaching a seminar in the great State of Texas. I lived in a border state for many years and I had to face the bilingualism problem on a daily basis, but nothing I ever went through compares to the story I am about to tell you:
There is a judge in Houston Criminal Court who has very little regard for her interpreters, this combined with her colossal ignorance of the interpreter profession, of who the officers of the court are , and her self-centered goal of only caring for the next election (because state judges are elected by the voters in Texas) have resulted in a very uncomfortable work environment for our good colleagues.
I lived in New Mexico for many years and I experienced first-hand the constant struggle of interpreting from and into Spanish in a place where most people have an idea of the language and many of them speak it at an average level. It is very difficult to work under these circumstances, especially as a court interpreter because in an environment where the judge, attorneys, clerks, police officers, witnesses, and jurors understand, or think they understand, at least some of what was said in Spanish, puts the interpreter in a place where he or she is constantly on the spot, been “corrected”, receiving unwanted “suggestions”, and sometimes being challenged by one of this so-called Spanish speakers.
There was a case in another state some years ago where a member of the jury, who supposedly spoke Spanish, disapproved of the official interpretation of a witness during a trial and during deliberations informed the other jurors that she spoke Spanish, that she understood what the witness said in Spanish, and that the interpretation had been incorrect. She then told them what in her opinion the witness really said, and that swayed the jury. Because of that comment by the bilingual juror there was a conviction that otherwise would have never existed. Once the circumstances during deliberation were known by the judge and attorneys, the defense filed an appeal that made it all the way up to the State Supreme Court where the conviction was overturned. The reality was that the interpreter had been right all along. The juror did not have the necessary knowledge of the Spanish language to really comprehend what was said and then interpret it into English accordingly (like the interpreter did) In their decision, the Justices clearly indicated that the court, including the jury, has to abide by the official interpretation into English provided by the certified professional court interpreter. That is the record in the case, it is not there to be doubted or debated by other bilingual speakers. As a result of that case judges in that state now read an instruction to the members of the jury clearly telling them to rely on the interpretation and not in what they may believe was said as they are not professionally trained to interpret.
The absolute opposite of what this court decision stated happens every day in this Houston Texas Criminal courtroom. Whenever there is a trial before this judge that requires Spanish interpretation, from the beginning of the proceedings the judge asks the Spanish-speaking jurors to “…let (her) know if something that the interpreter said was wrong… Because (in that case) we’ll try to figure it out, and if we can’t come to an agreement (of what was said) then we’ll get an expert…”
This is what she says with the licensed interpreter (in Texas there are no certified interpreters, they are licensed) present and interpreting to the defendant! Of course, most freelancers now refuse to work for this ignorant “judge”, but the staff interpreters are stuck with her, at least until the next election. Once I heard the story I concluded that no matter how bad we think we have it when doing our job, there is always somebody who has it worse. I would like to see what you think about this situation, and I would love to hear any suggestions you may have for the Houston interpreters who deal with this individual on a daily basis.