Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Act Out and Alcohol: Accuracy in Debate

This came from a legal case.

Basically, the Legal Aid solicitor got the statements from the main client through an interpreter and the same interpreter was called to work at the court for the same clients.

One of the lines of the main client was ele estava catando latinha nas ruas com a vó para ela vender e comprar álcool.

In English, and at the court, the sentence became he was collecting cans on the street for the grandmother to sell and buy alcohol.

This álcool, used by the client, stands for alcoholic beverage in his culture, but could be understood as being simply alcohol in Australia. Of course, context and things like alcohol levels in the blood would lead us to fully grasp the meaning of the expression.

Notwithstanding, we can easily imagine the end of our race and another race finding our writings in the future. They certainly would think that this alcohol could be the chemical product or the car fuel.

This client also said ele estava pondo a mão na vagina das meninas and, despite the interpreter’s efforts to convey this message, the solicitor wrote he was acting out.

The context was that the boy was watching pornography on his computer and got disciplined by the father in a way that could be considered unlawful.

The solicitor could be pushing it in order to create a connection between the porn and the acts of the father, which were physical punishment beyond acceptable standards because of the son being on the Internet seeing porn.

She could also not have understood or not have accepted the sentence of the father.

In this particular case, such details did not make a difference as to the punishment chosen by the judge, so that these little inaccuracies seemed to be OK.

In Brazil, however, it is a crime changing the statements of a defendant, for instance, not mattering by how much.

Of course, the defendant and their lawyer can organize any story they want to present together in a court, meaning that none of them has to tell the truth: It is to the court to listen or to read both versions and to decide on the degree of truth involved.

We however are told to respect the principle of accuracy when interpreting or translating.

Oh, well, what is accuracy?

Most of the people on earth would take accuracy to mean being literal.

That cannot be true.

Our concern has to be translating one culture into another and then matching the words instead.

Unless we are dealing with purely technical material, say the manual of a device, we would have to always think of the context involved in first place.

We suggest that the governments that offer this comfort to people, this luxury, of having an interpreter to help them communicate, ALSO offer, in a mandatory way, a team of linguists for cases in which the writing may matter more than the speech, say court cases.

This team of linguists should be formed of at least a technical translator and an interpreter in such cases. The technical translator will be there to double check what is actually written and then discuss things with the interpreter.

We must remember that people go to the courts in Australia not with a lawyer, but with a team of lawyers, most of the time.

What is being said is then more than reasonable.

To be accurate, in our humblest opinion, the text should have read alcoholic beverage. Yet, the client did say alcohol.

In this case, we should not only make the work of the interpreter far more unpleasant, with the interpreter asking the client to replace his expression with alcoholic beverage, but also make the work of the solicitor way more unpleasant, with the interpreter being allowed to ask the solicitor if they changed the words into act out, and this letting the client know in detail what is being discussed at the same time, because that would sound better in the court, like it would push the judge to believe that there was a strong connection between the battery and the reported event (catching the boy watching porn in the computer).

We must write about these things because, first of all, decisions of the ethical organ may be based on these details.

We further suggest that the secondary client, as for this case, always worries about asking the interpreter if there are any remaining issues to be discussed in what regards the interpretive session before they disconnect or split. We should probably create a rule for this sort of discussion to take place at the end of each interpretive session, so that there is always time for this sort of problem to be addressed.

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