Ever wondered what an interpreter does all day?
Last look in the mirror at my professional attire. Yes, everything is perfectly in place. Can’t forget my work bag with my notepad, dictionary, and bottled water.
Heading for a deposition. Only 25 miles away but lots of traffic this morning, and, oh, took a wrong turn back there. Will I get there on time by 9am? It’s a new client so I want to make a good impression.
Arrived. (insert space between “arrived… but”)
But the parking is challenging. Circle around the block a few times and, finally, got a spot at a public parking lot for a decent price.
Rushing to the building, only 20 minutes left.
Elevator, did I get off on the right floor? Oh, no signs on the doors. Just a bit more time looking around and, finally, found my location.
Early is on time.
The court reporter is already setting up. I take advantage and peek at the caption to scan for information that will help me interpret (attorney’s and client’s names, dates, addresses, case related info), and spend some time taking notes.
The case turns out to be a simple car accident but I am interpreting for both the defendant and his wife.
The defendant keeps getting confused with the direction of travel, number of traffic lanes, and the specific location where the accident took place. I feel foolish interpreting a different story each time.
The defendant keeps getting more anxious and lost with each question. He speaks some English, which does not help at all because he’s constantly interjecting English words, but often incorrectly, which adds to the confusion. There are frequent calls for clarification.
Whew, 2 coffee breaks and 3 hours later… the depo is finally wrapped up!
Getting a quick lunch.
Run across the street to pick up a quick bite, how about something healthy? Maybe a salad? Hopefully I will manage to arrive early enough at the next location so I can eat before the appointment starts.
Finally eating lunch.
Was back on the road again but managed to not get stuck in traffic. Found the doctor’s office in no time and can enjoy a picnic lunch outside on a park bench before it’s time to head in.
Again, early is on time.
The patient is there and tries to start a conversation. I politely explain I am not allowed to speak with him without a third party present and I am only there to interpret, to which the patient nods and starts speaking to me again… of course! I excuse myself to the hallway pretending I need to call the office urgently and continue to wait there until the patient’s name is called.
And it’s a neurological exam so I brace myself, these appointments always take long!
There are no simple “yes” or “no” answers here, each question is fully answered with the most possible detail. Not sure who is getting more tired here, me interpreting or the doctor taking notes.
Time to evaluate motor skills, that’s the best part, I get to speak in one or two word sentences now.
But the patient insists on buying me coffee, like we are old buds, and he wants to tell me more of his horrific accident story. “No thank you” and I run to my next appointment!
Battling rush hour traffic, again.
The IME lasted longer than anticipated but, thankfully, the courthouse parking lot is nearly empty at this time and I can easily find a space.
Sometimes on time is on time.
After rushing to check in, I sit down in the first row and wait until my litigant gets called. Night court, traffic violation case. Those with representation usually get called first, then cases with interpreters. I quickly scan the room; it should not be long.
I warm up my simultaneous skills by silently interpreting in my head; the judge speaks loud and clear, what a relief.
Just 4 cases later and my litigant stands before the judge. Quick 2 minutes of simultaneous interpretation whispering in his ear while the judge speaks.
Then I switch gears to consecutive mode; this time a short exchange between the parties out loud:
Judge: “How do you plead?”
LEP: “What should I say?” (in the foreign language)
Interpreter (Me): “What should I say?” (in English)
The LEP looks confused. Thankfully the judge takes the lead on this… and with a fine and some community service we both soon get to go home.
Finally, home sweet home. But what a satisfying day.
It’s a day in an interpreter’s life!
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