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Poll: Have you ever interpreted/translated in an unexpected emergency situation?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 20:46
SITE STAFF
May 14, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever interpreted/translated in an unexpected emergency situation?".

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
Drama in real life May 14, 2007

I answered no because I’ve never found myself in a situation like that. It would be interesting (probably even inspiring) to hear from someone who helped out in an unexpected emergency.

Come on all you Good Samaritan translators/ interpreters; I bet there are lots of others like me who would like to hear your stories!!


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:46
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Assisting a fellow traveller May 14, 2007

In 1986, I spent two months in Málaga learning Spanish. At the end of the course, I drove from Málaga to Santandér via Madrid. Somewhere about 100 km out of Madrid, I passed a car stopped at the roadside. I drove on, but then had second thoughts and went back to see if I could help. The stranded driver was an Arab from Tunisia who spoke French, but no English or Spanish. My French is not good, but we managed to communicate somehow in that language. I drove him to the nearest emergency phone, and using that, I had to communicate with the Spaniard at the other end, who knew no English, French or Arabic, and had to interpret his Spanish into French and the Tunisian's French into Spanish. I then drove him back to his car to await the haulage truck from the nearest garage, which duly arrived, and after a bit more interpreting for the mechanic's benefit, went on my way. That was my good deed for the day!

[Edited at 2007-05-14 16:08]


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Evi Wollinger  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:46
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
happened twice... May 14, 2007

the situations were unusual, but almost identical: two tourist couples (not a lot of tourists where I am either...), both times the husband had a stroke and was taken to hospital, both times the wife did not speak the language at all. Both times it was a life and death crisis. Both times the husband passed away and I had to interpret all the conversations with doctors, funeral homes, arrangements for transport back home.
Only in one of the situations, though, I also had to interpret the request by the doctor to have the husband taken off life support. That was very tough.
Hope it does not happen again!!


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 05:46
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Sad moments May 14, 2007

A colleague died after being knocked off her bike some years ago. Had to guide her parents (from Belfast) through all the morgue release/closing bank account etc etc procedures. And get power of attorney signed for the subsequent court case. Lawyers were very understanding and patient, and accepted that my translation for them of the proceedings towards signing of power of attorney was sufficient, without calling for a sworn translator. This would have made the whole process much longer, since at that stage there was no sworn translator resident in our city.

That aspect of the situation may provoke comment, which is why I mention it. (I like to stir things up?).

Other colleagues have run next door from our premises to the law courts to translate for (belligerent on several occasions) stray foreigners of various nationalities and linguistic inclinations when making their statements. Also on an unofficial basis...


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:46
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
On vacation May 14, 2007

A couple of years ago I was on vacation in Liguria - Cinque Terre - with friends and we had stopped for lunch. One of the towns is by the sea, but the port has boulders rather than a sandy beach.
We were getting ready to continue our hike when we saw a man rush past us carrying a little boy with a huge gash on his head. He was followed by his wife and daughters, babbling in French. They took the boy into the nearest restaurant, but I immediately sensed that they didn't speak any Italian. So I pushed my way through the crowd, explained who I was and offered to help.
My French is pretty rusty (though serviceable ), and luckily there was also an American tourist who was fluent in French. So we did a three-way interpreting job and stayed with the family until the ambulance arrived. The docs and the family were very grateful that we helped them communicate!
Catherine

[Edited at 2007-05-14 18:27]

[Edited at 2007-05-14 21:46]


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Ivana de Sousa Santos  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:46
French to Portuguese
+ ...
Several times May 14, 2007

I mostly interpret when I have foreign friends coming from abroad. It happens quite often and the last time was last Summer when I had some friends from Switzerand here. My husand doesn't understand French pretty well, and my friend's husband doesn't understand Portuguese at all, so I had to do the interpreting.

14 years ago I had to interpret a whole movie to my mum. I don't remember the name of the movie but it's with Robbin Williams when he dresses himself like a lady to be next to his kids.

It was amazing that the movie was already at the Video Club because it had been at theatres not long ago, so I brought the movie.

The film was already available because it wasn't subtitled nor dubbed.

My mum was pretty disappointed because she doesn't understand a word of English, so I had to translate everything from the beginning till the end. It was also my first interpreting experience, without even thiking about being a translator one day.

I also had to interpret all the songs from the movie "Moulin Rouge" because my mum wanted to see it in French to understand it and the songs were in English. And the words of the songs in this movie are really important because it's a continuation of it.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Marriage Licence May 14, 2007

Last summer a young couple wanted to get a marriage licence but since the groom did not speak much English the Registry Office insisted on an interpreter, so they called me on the spur of the moment. The groom spoke Flemish and was barely audible, the bride spoke Afrikaans and rattled a mile a minute, I speak Dutch and I'm hard of hearing. Originally they also wanted me to interpret at their wedding but thank god, they later decided that it wasn't necessary.

Note added: I didn't realize the poll was about emergency situations. Of course this doesn't qualify as an emergency situation - I was the one who was in distress.

[Edited at 2007-05-14 20:00]


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Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:46
Spanish to English
+ ...
2 medical emergencies May 14, 2007

While at a conference in Spain last fall, there were 2 medical emergencies that came up.

In the first, an English-speaking woman with heart condition realized she did not have her heart medication. Luckily there was an American doctor also attending the conference, and together we went to the pharmacy where I helped interpret for him to find the appropriate European equivalent for the medicine she had been taking back in the U.S. We got it to her just in time.

The second was a bishop from Africa who was diabetic and whose insulin ran out while we were there. So likewise I went with the doctor to a number of Spanish pharmacies to get the right type of insulin for the bishop, and not a moment too soon.

I was happy to be at the right place at the proper time. It is challenging to find oneself in an emergency situation like this, yet everyone is so grateful for the work that is done.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't know about "emergencies" May 14, 2007

but helping people comes naturally, perhaps because I started out as a conference assistant (you get all sorts at Information).

One instance I particularly remember was after an assignment in France. I was in a cheese shop when an American woman came in and started asking the shopkeeper things she couldn't understand. The American lady ended up buying a whole lot of stuff and the French lady was so happy she gave me a recipe book that the establishment published and vacuum-packed me a Pont d'Evêque. I dropped it on top of my luggage in consignment at reception and went on touring until my transfer.

When I got back, the receptionist gave me dizzy look and asked "do you have a cheese there?" "Yes," I said, as a matter of fact I did. Her eyes sort of crossed with a glazed look. "It's a good cheese", she said.

I could smell it too


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 05:46
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
Interpreting in emergency situations May 14, 2007

Hi. Once. long ago, I was working in a hostel in Amsterdam. Two American guests came to me one evening and said that their friend was ill and could I call an ambulance. I did, but since the friend was not deathly ill, the hospital suggested they take a taxi. They thought that was funny. Ok, maybe it wasn't a real emergency, but I thought I'd share anyway.

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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:46
English to Polish
+ ...
Dozens of times May 14, 2007

Being sworn interpreter/translator involves interpreting for the police, and they deal with emergencies only.
A memorable occasion was one New Year Day years ago. When you see a policeman in full gear (cuffs, pistol etc) on your doorstep at 8:00 in the morning on a New Year, the first thing you do is try and recollect the whole night ... However, I finally comprehended that some poor foreign chap got his car broken into during the night. His windshield was smashed, the temperature was something like -15 C, he was en route to a destination 600 km away ... and we had to go through the routine interrogation and paperwork first, and then look for someone to fix the windshield. You know how many service centres are open on a New Year? Absolutely none. So the police got the addresses of centre owners and we started touring them one by one in a police van until we found one willing - and already sober enough - to work. The whole thing finished at about 4-5 pm But the year was a fat one, so meeting a policeman first thing in a new year must be a good omen


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Miguel Miranda  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:46
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No May 14, 2007

No way!

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PRAKAASH  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 10:16
Member (2007)
English to Hindi
+ ...
24 hrs. May 15, 2007

Many a times, I have provided my outsourcers with the translated docs within the time frame of even less than 24 hrs., after working out continously for hrs. in a day.
I'd to help out few foreigners in a hotel in Nepal once as they were in a village/remote area.
I have helped out few foreigners in Gorakhpur Railway Station once, when they were touring India and I was going back to Delhi.
So, there are many instances and many a times, I've just done it for free as a friendly gesture!

PRAKASH SHARMA


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Jussi Rosti  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:46
Member (2005)
English to Finnish
+ ...
Our daughter was born May 15, 2007

I had planned to work a lot to save some money before our first daughter would be born. So, I was trying to meet the deadline of a huge and long project which was scheduled for the next morning when our daughter decided to join us 7 weeks before due date - this was completeley unexpected.

So, I spend the night in the hospital and saw my daughter come to world. In the morning I drove to home to finish the project, and then back to hospital.

I was only about 2 hours late, and I think I managed to complete the job with quality even though I haven't slept at all and was otherwise somewhere in outer space.


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