Law students interpreting pro bono for indigent clients - help and insight needed
Thread poster: xxxTatiana Nero
xxxTatiana Nero  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Russian
+ ...
Sep 27, 2006

Hello colleagues

I am involved in an Amnesty International interpreting project providing pro bono law student interpreting services for indigent clients served by Legal Aid attorneys.

The setting is client interviews, consecutive interpreting.

Many students with knowledge of two languages volunteered to do this work, but the majority of them lack formal training in interpreting.

While the public organization handling this project provides certain materials for the workshop, it welcomed help with instructional materials since the project is so new, and I volunteered to help with jotting down basic "dos" and "don'ts" for interpreting, insights into doing the work properly, based on my own experience.

Clients involved are the elderly, the disabled, battered women etc. As far as I understand, all the work involves civil, not criminal actions. Practically all of the clients have emotional issues that have to be considered by the interpreter in terms of being able to paraphrase in plainer language without losing the core meaning of what is being said.

While I am trying to make some instructional materials incl. resources for students-interpreters based on my own experience, in my language pair (English-Russian), I can provide only basic tips for all language pairs and specific tips for my language pair alone. I am helpless to provide specific practical tips in other language pairs.

I ask the translation community for assistance in both English-Russian language pair (my own experience and tips are not exhaustive of the subject) and especially in other language pairs, as much as possible, to help a bilingual speaker understand the basics of interpreting - duties, obligations, pitfalls, practical tips.

Every material provided will be given proper credit, I will not say all of them are mine, but will specifically show which portions were contributed by who.

This is a worthy project, for people who really need help, it has just started, it is being done entirely pro bono and the amassed materials can help set up a knowledge base that will help this years' volunteers and the volunteers to come.

The project is being conducted in the Capital District of New York state, mainly Albany NY.

Please, contribute as much of your insight as you consider possible and appropriate, it will all be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Tatiana Neroni
simultaneous interpreter
2L (2nd year student)
Albany Law School


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BelkisDV  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Professional Interpreters Sep 27, 2006

Hello,

Since this assignment seems highly important and communication is essential, I don't believe bilingual students or anyone who is not a professional interpreter would be able to do a fair job for any of the parties concerned.

Would it be possible for you to convey that to the proper channels by stressing the importance of this task and recommending they hire professional interpreters instead?

Good luck with your efforts.

Regards,
Belkis


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xxxTatiana Nero  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
better than nothing Sep 27, 2006

Hello Belkis

I am a professional interpreter myself, have the same apprehensions of my own, but there is no point trying to make somebody hire professional interpreters in this particular setting. They do hire professional interpreters, as much as their funding (extremely scarce) allows.

I do not try to undermine our profession by promoting pro bono involvement, but there are situations where professional interpreters are simply not available, while the dire need exists.

In this situation, I will be doing what I can to make it happen since otherwise these clients will have - nothing.

You probably know that there are certain situations when hiring an interpreter is required, same as funding for it, and some situations where it is optional - and therefore, can be easily denied, and is denied. I am talking about these situations. Helping those people will not take any chunk out of professional interpreting market because it is not within it to begin with.

Thanks for your input again!

Tatiana


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linguadois
Local time: 04:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
so laudable but ... Sep 27, 2006

Tatiana,

I am a professional certified Spanish/English interpreter based in Maryland. I agree with Belkis regarding the importance of hiring professional interpreters whenever possible.

As for resources, I will highly recommend the website of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators @ www.najit.org. In particular, the eight position papers available online which contain a wealth of information both for interpreters and for people hiring interpreters.

In my own experience I have seen very good non-professional interpreters and I have seen very bad interpreters. I am worried about the latter. Without the proper training, even a very laudable enterprise such as yours, would be disastrous if the interpreter conveys the wrong information; takes it upon himself/herself to give advice (legal or otherwise); to withhold or add something that the individual with limited English proficiency (LEP) did or did not say.

I would encourage you and your volunteer students to review the NAJIT position papers and also to consult with a local professional interpreter group, perhaps in New York City, as to how to train volunteers.

Best of luck with your proyect.

Linguadois



[Edited at 2006-09-27 21:15]


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Refugio
Local time: 01:44
Spanish to English
+ ...
Legal Aid guidelines Sep 27, 2006

Hi Tatiana,

Legal Aid does a lot of interpreting for indigent clients, at least here in Los Angeles. Is it possible your local one would have some written guidelines they would be willing to share? Is this local for you?

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York
55 Colvin Avenue
Albany, NY 12206
(800) 462-2922
www.lasnny.org


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:44
English to Spanish
+ ...
To lawyers also Sep 28, 2006

Some of the instruction should be directed to the lawyers involved also. They can help immensely by asking simple, step-by-step questions rather than convoluted ones, and by having some sensitivity for the different cultures and the often deficient educational status of the people they are working with.

Better technique on the lawyers' part also makes the interpreter's job easier. Since interpreters are volunteers and many are inexperienced, they definitely need all the help they can get from the lawyers.


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wilhelmina  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:44
English to Dutch
+ ...
would be glad to be of some help Sep 28, 2006

Dear Tatiana,

First of all I want to compliment you on the efforts you are undertaking to provide volunteer interpreters with training that will help them in their dealings with the client population you described. I also had a look at your profile and that added to my appreciation of your involvement with civil rights.
A little about myself: I work as an english-dutch freelance translator. Last December I finished my Master Degree in Counseling. Reflecting on the skills required of an interpreter I thought of the Reflective Listening Skills I was taught and taught others during my internships. You might want to google "reflective listening and counseling"and similar terms to get an idea of what these skills entail. Although it appears simple enough, most people are not skilled in these simple skills. Frankly I believe because most people do not listen that well and tend to concentrate on being heard. I would like to communicate to you how I think these skills might be helpful and offer my time to help. I prefer to discuss this further one-on-one. I tried to figure out whether I could contact you directly and was not able to. Maybe you can contact me directly via this site. If not let me know on this forum and I will post my email address. Wilhelmina


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xxxTatiana Nero  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you for the input! Sep 28, 2006

Dear wilhelmina!

Thank you for your heartfelt response. I've contacted you directly by e-mail, also here is my contact information for everybody who would want to participate and contact me for that matter.

My e-mail is TNeroni@albanylaw.edu, cell phone # is (518) 588-0127, I cannot pick up the phone when I am in class or at work, but I have a voice mail. It is a Verizon phone that also accepts text messages.

The topics that usually come up for interpreting is eviction of the elderly immigrants, denial of disability benefits, possibly helping foreign battered spouses.

--

Legal Aid Office participates in this project and does have their own instructional materials, mainly on client confidentiality, responsibility and reliability of interpreting. With non-professionals providing the interpreting though, responsibility and reliability are not only the issues of moral character, but more of language training and skills. While I cannot provide an extensive language training even in my own language pair within a short period of time, assuming a certain level of knowledge of the target language (which can be ascertained with each student-interpreter), I can at least give practical tips as to what to look for, how to conduct yourself to enhance your performance and what to avoid.

---

I talked to the supervisor of the project (at the Legal Aid Office in Albany), and he confirmed that a formal acknowledgement will be given to each interpreter providing instructional help.

Dear Ruth

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and for the link.
Legal Aid of Northeastern NY is exactly the office handling the project, student interpreters will work under their guidance and supervision.

---

Thank you all for your input, I really appreciate it!


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xxxTatiana Nero  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:44
Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thank you Sep 28, 2006

Thank you, Henry

This is exactly the type of "little bits and pieces" of insight that I am talking about.

You know same as I do that knowing two languages does not automatically make you an interpreter (as many people assume).

There are certain specifics as to how to educate your clients, in this context mostly attorneys, and how to be sensitive culturally to the clients these attorneys represent, in this situation all of them might have emotional problems and/or comprehension problems due to their age, disability and agitated mental state.

Lawyers for these populations (as far as I know) are well-trained in asking step-by-step questions, but I am not sure if all of the lawyers are properly trained as to how to work with an interpreter in the room, how to talk and stop to give the interpreter "digestible" amounts of information. If that does not happen, the interpreter must take it upon him/herself to stop the attorney, otherwise quality of translation will suffer - that is especially true with the beginning interpreters.

Again, I can do this type of instruction, but I will greatly appreciate any specifics pertaining to interpreting into particular languages (Spanish, Corean, Chinese, for example).

Thank you so much for your input!

Tatiana

Henry Hinds wrote:

Some of the instruction should be directed to the lawyers involved also. They can help immensely by asking simple, step-by-step questions rather than convoluted ones, and by having some sensitivity for the different cultures and the often deficient educational status of the people they are working with.

Better technique on the lawyers' part also makes the interpreter's job easier. Since interpreters are volunteers and many are inexperienced, they definitely need all the help they can get from the lawyers.


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Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:44
English to Dutch
+ ...
Have you considered Sep 29, 2006

asking professional interpreters to volunteer their time and skills.

Granted, ours is not a high-paying profession. But we all do have some spare time, and I for one would be happy to contribute, if it fits my schedule.

I realize that you sometimes need people who are more dependable, who can be counted on to be there when it's really necessary and that you cannot always coun t on the goodness and generosity of strangers.

But if enough people volunteer, you should be able to at least cover some of the needs.

Colleagues: just think of all the karma we'd be gathering!


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