In this week's column Teresa Grau, member of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), speaks to our CEO Andy Friedman about the dangers of hiring under-qualified linguists.
He was just repeating the same answer over and over again. Something was wrong in his voice, not a language problem but some physical condition.’ Teresa Grau was interpreting over the phone from the UK in a case before a judge in the USA. The detainee had been stopped by the sheriff, but was not answering whether the car was his or whether he was allowed to drive. He just repeated that he lost his mobile telephone; there was a problem with it.
‘I said “I am going to interrupt here because the magistrate does not understand what you are referring to.”’
Teresa Grau is a freelance interpreter who is on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and serves on their disciplinary panels. She trained as a language teacher in Spain and then took diplomas in public service interpreting in the UK.
‘We need strategies to solve problems when we don’t know an expression, to be able to clarify something in the best possible way without disrupting the communication process. You have to maintain impartiality by telling both parties what you are doing to ensure no miscarriages of justice occur. The interpreter should not make judgements or give advice.’
Teresa described grave consequences of incompetent practice, referring to a case in the 1980s when an interpreter who was not qualified in the relevant language caused a defendant to be convicted for murdering her husband. The lady in question committed suicide after being released from prison on appeal. This case led to the development of the DPSI qualification (Diploma in Public Service Interpreting) as an initial benchmark for qualified public service interpreting in the UK and the creation of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) in the 1990s.
Teresa maintained impartiality in her intervention of this case. Through her role as an interpreter, she may have prevented a miscarriage of justice.
Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN
First appeared in Newsweek, edn. 6 March 2015
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