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Audience 'misconduct' during interpretation
Thread poster: Sandra Alboum

Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jul 12, 2006

Help. I need to bounce this off of others and see what everyone thinks. Sorry it is so long.

Yesterday, a well-trained colleague and I worked an event for a local government entity. It was a hearing that began at 6:30, though the topic for which they wanted interp services was probably going to be covered from 7:00 or so till 9:30. The fact was that the topic ran from 8:00 - 11, but we were asked by certain non-English speaking audience members to interpret the whole stretch, 6:30-11 (even though the items between 6:30 and 8 were not of any pertinence to those audience members and were not why these people had come). We left at 11. The meeting was still going on, but they had moved on to other subjects and our audience members had left.

[Pardon my incoherence. It was a LONG LONG day yesterday.]

My partner and I were proving both simul and consec interp services during this meeting. Most of the services were simul, for when English speakers were giving statements and discussing the topic. However, there was a "public comment" period provided, when 43 people signed up to speak for 2 minutes each on their thoughts on the subject. Some of these 43 speakers were English speakers, some were Spanish speakers. This is where my problem came to light.

During the public testimony, if a Spanish speaker was at the podium, my colleague was providing consec interpretation for them using a mobile mic she had been provided. The Spanish speakers were given 4 minutes to testify, since the government figured that they deserved their 2 minutes plus 2 more minutes for the interp time.

If someone was testifying in English, they would do so at the podium, using their 2 minutes, and I would be providing simul for the Spanish speaking audience members who had earphones on.

Well, most of the people giving testimony have no idea about public speaking and mumbled, stumbled, and bumbled their way through their comments. My colleague and I were having a VERY hard time hearing and understanding what they were speaking to.

During one consecutive stint for one of these 43 people, my colleague made a few mistakes on what the speaker had said. She bungled a couple numbers (though she states that she interpreted what she heard) in a sentence and left off the proper name of a place.

An audience member, who I have since learned has a reputation for being a general pain in the rear, ran up to the podium and pretty much yelled into the mic, "This translation is horrible! The speaker said [X number] and [Y number] and [name of a place]!"

My colleague became frustrated and excused herself somewhat brusquely from the consec microphone, and left it to me, and she moved to the simul microphone.

I was horrified. I was horrified because 1) I have never seen someone be corrected like that in public in such a rude fashion, 2) We were working very hard at this assignment and having serious comprehension problems, 3) We are human and in the end, while the mistake is not good, it didn't bring the world crumbling down.

Last night after I got home (around 1am), I wrote my client a long email, apologizing for my colleague's abrupt behavior and providing some suggestions that may help us improve the services we provide in fora such as these. I also offered a small discount for the trouble. I must note that this is one of my favorite, best, and most loyal clients, and I wish to keep them that way.

But I couldn't sleep at all last night. I had a dream that someone had submitted all the interpreting mistakes that had been made (and I am sure there were several - we were both DRAINED by the end of our stint, between the work AND straining to understand people's diction AND follow the topic, which was complicated) were submitted to the local newspaper and it was going to ruin my business and bring down the whole local government!

Can someone please put my mind at ease? I'm working on little sleep, restless mind, and to make matters worse, I have a dentist appointment this morning. Ugh.

Thanks.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 18:24
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Have a bite of good chocolate Jul 12, 2006

Perhaps it helps a bit. Negative feedback is always disrupting, even if you know it is not justified.
But nobody is perfect.
Regards
Heinrich


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Kevin Kelly  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:24
Member (2005)
Russian to English
+ ...
Don't worry about anything that's not likely to bother you on your death bed... Jul 12, 2006

This is my general rule of life and it especially applies to situations such as the one you describe.

I spend four hours every day doing simultaneous interpretation into and out of Russian for lectures and seminars at an educational institution that operates in three languages. At least 90% of the speakers I interpret are not native in the language they're speaking. The vast majority of them speak in a machine-gun, barely coherent and garbled stream of consciousness, with horrible pronunciation to boot. Very often, even daily, I encounter passages that I simply do not understand. It is rare for me to encounter a native speaker able to speak understandably and at a reasonable pace.

So believe me, I understand and sympathize with what you went through. The only way I've found to cope with it is to constantly remind myself that the responsibility for good communication lies first and foremost with the speaker. If he/she fails to give me a comprehensible message to work with, the fault lies not with me, regardless of what some ignorant [pardon my bluntness] audience member seems to think.

My advice is to just do your best and let the chips fall where they may. In the big picture, it's not very important.


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Raffaella Cornacchini  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:24
English to Italian
+ ...
did you read the local newspaper today? Jul 12, 2006

Nobody has reported the mistakes you imagine to have done (and I stress the word imagine, because you are not even sure about them), nobody has published them, your business is not going to be ruined, the local government is not bound to fall.
Let's face the truth: a faithful client values your work and it is very likely to call you again and your partner will probably appreciate the extra efforts you have done to help her/him (a friend in need is a friend indeed).
On the other hand it is very likely that the "nice and supportive" member of the audience is considered a thorn in the side not only by you but by the other people as well.
So vent your anger, have the piece of chocolate as Heinrich said, take a nice stroll and face next work.
And relax. That's history, you can't change it and there's no use in dwelling upon it.
raffaella


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Andres & Leticia Enjuto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 12:24
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Take a day off!!! Jul 12, 2006

Hi Sandra!

I think you need some good rest... away from PCs, microphones, customers, etc.!!! Everything will look clearer after that...

You are probably very distressed for the experience, and that is normal. Just don't take this as a reliable feedback of your (you and your colleague's) work, it's clear it is not!

As for your customer, I would not just offer a discount like that... that could be viewed as you accepting your "many" mistakes...
I would explain the customer the whole situation, just like you explained it to us, and express him that if he feels you did not give a good service you can offer him a discount...
Then, when he says your service was good, you just give him the discount anyway. This way you would have him admitting you did a good job, and keep him happy with the discount.

But I think in this case the discount will keep YOU quiet!

Just relax a little bit!

Andres


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Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Eso se te pasará Jul 12, 2006


An audience member, who I have since learned has a reputation for being a general pain in the rear, ran up to the podium and pretty much yelled into the mic, "This translation is horrible! The speaker said [X number] and [Y number] and [name of a place]!"


How did you figure out he was a pain in the rear? .

Sorry about having Mr. Jerkio ruin your day. He's probably one of those guys who's main aspiration in life is to be president of the neighborhood association. (He was a guy, wasn't he?)

I would not drink any coffee for the next few days, take a day off and have a brew. The latter of which is quite healthy according to current medical opinion.

Coming your way soon, Sandra. Good ole Maryland.


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not to be contrary, but ... Jul 12, 2006

Edward Potter wrote:


How did you figure out he was a pain in the rear? .

Sorry about having Mr. Jerkio ruin your day. He's probably one of those guys who's main aspiration in life is to be president of the neighborhood association. (He was a guy, wasn't he?)

I would not drink any coffee for the next few days, take a day off and have a brew. The latter of which is quite healthy according to current medical opinion.

Coming your way soon, Sandra. Good ole Maryland.




1. It was a woman.
2. I shouldn't drink coffee and I cannot have a brew. I'm almost 6 months pregnant. I may just have to OD on chocolate, as a previous poster mentioned. But only after my dentist appointment at 9:30 am.
3. When are you going to be in town? We can get together for a drink. You'll have beer. I'll have ... root beer.

Sandra


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:24
Flemish to English
+ ...
Monterrey Jul 12, 2006

You might consider getting some interpreter training at Moneterrey before you go into interpreting. Trained interpreters are less likely to fall for those pitfalls.

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xxxEmmanuelleAn  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:24
English to French
+ ...
You did the right thing Jul 12, 2006

Dear Sandra,

I think you did the right thing (apology + discount) but you could sue the woman in question for libellous behaviour. I've heard this has happened before.


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the suggestion, but... Jul 12, 2006

Williamson wrote:

You might consider getting some interpreter training at Moneterrey before you go into interpreting. Trained interpreters are less likely to fall for those pitfalls.


Hi. Thanks for the suggestion. My colleague works full time as an interpreter for the immigration courts, and I also do plenty of interpreting myself. We are both certified by the National Center for State Courts for interpreting in 31 states nationwide. We are not untrained novices.

Best,
Sandra


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HelioJP
Local time: 00:24
Japanese to Portuguese
+ ...
Do not worry, Sandra Jul 12, 2006

Hi Sandra
What has happened there was awful indeed and I understand really well how you feel after that. Especially now when you are expecting. Please relax and try to thing of the upcoming baby.
From my personal experience:
My wife, who is a translator and interpreter, was working all the time during her pregnancy, but often put down interpretation assignments just because things like that could happen anytime anywhere. She was translating a lot at home though, and now our son, who is 1 year old, likes different languages very much...
Good luck and take good care of both of you!
Helio


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 11:24
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Pregnancy, childbirth and work Jul 12, 2006

First, let me say I am so pleased to hear that your pregnancy is progressing as it should...

I didn't post here earlier because I wasn't sure you wanted to announce the news.

As you know, Sandra, I had a baby born April 11 this year. I can add my personal experience: during pregnancy, hormones make for high emotions and exaggerated dreams have you had the one yet where you forget your baby at the store, on the train, etc? If not, it's coming.

Something else that's coming, please take note: you will want to work as usual after the birth, but my experience is that is impossible. You think you are the same person, but you're not - you're still hormonal, distracted, plus the bonus of being sleep deprived. Plus your time will no longer be your own. Have you older children as well?

You may not be working this particular gig again for some time!

All the best, Sandra, hope to work with you again in the future (when our kids are old enough for school or at least daycare)


Nancy


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Marie-Céline GEORG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:24
English to French
+ ...
Hormones going crazy Jul 12, 2006

Hi,
I'm not an interpreter, but like NancyLynn I had a baby not so long ago - although already 3 years ago, time flies!
I agree with her that during pregnancy and in the first couple of months after birth your hormones are playing a crazy game with your body and your mood. Maybe if you weren't pregnant you wouldn't react so strongly to that day. And as you say, it was a long, stressful day.

Maybe you should have offered your colleague's place to that know-it-all "pain in the rear" person

Now relax and don't forget to get some rest before your baby comes!

Marie-Céline


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 10:24
English to Russian
+ ...
I would consult a lawyer Jul 12, 2006

And go all the way if there is a case of personal injury, abasement of human dignity, public scorn etc. American lawyers will definitely find the language for the claim:-) There have been plenty of witnesses.

I know I'd become vicious should it happen to me in a way you described, even if I were to change the trade altogether after that.

BTW, Williamson, could you please collaborate on what exactly "trained interpreters are less likely to fall for" relative to this particular case?


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Sandra Alboum  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:24
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not blaming it on the pregnancy Jul 12, 2006

Hi.

I really would prefer not to blame my reaction on the pregnancy, but if there is no way to get around it, then so be it. I guess you can only use that excuse so many times before it just gets old.

In any case, while I am happy that the person who got corrected by that lady wasn't me, I still worry simply because the client is mine and I was providing the services along with the other interpreter, who I represented to be quite competent-- and is! I had a problem with a prior interpreter who I sent to cover a job (coincidentally, along with the interpreter I was working with last night) for this same client. His work was fine, but his attitude was criticized by my client, and I had to be a real diplomat to get that situation resolved. I just don't want another of those.

It's is getting close to 11am and I have no response to my email to the client. I am sure they were probably there very late last night, perhaps till 1am or later (since we left at 11pm and they still had several items on the agenda -- the next item had 20 people who were speaking their 2 minutes each). I'd imagine they probably are dragging in late today, but I'd still like to know their thoughts.

At least the visit to the dentist went smoothly...


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