Today I was interpreting for somebody, a doctor, and the message was being relayed to another person, a patient. Let’s call the patient Mary and the doctor James.
James said, today, before you were online, I was saying that we were going to advise you to do regular exercises.
I interpreted, relaying in Portuguese: Today, before you entered the Internet, I was saying that we were going to advise you to do regular exercises (online is not something we say in Portuguese, like not usually).
Mary said: I don’t go online. I have problems with computers.
I relayed in English.
James said, when did I mention computers?
Upon seeking clarification, he explained: Today, before you, interpreter, were online.
Oh, Jesus, so that is ALSO possible: The paying client speaks to both of us, patient and interpreter, using you, and he is referring to me being on the telephone with him when he says that I am online (in Portuguese, we would say on the telephone with you, never online, in this situation).
Is that a mistake?
Yes, according to NAATI’s current beliefs, it is: Interpreters should be the voice box of the person. In this case, we were not really passing the doctor’s idea, and therefore we were committing a mistake.
Was it avoidable?
The answer is: We will see next time.
We are now warned, is it not?
Now we can actually clarify: You mean the interpreter was on the telephone with you, not the patient on the Internet, right?
If it is not avoidable, then it should not be a mistake could be an argument to state it was not the interpreter’s fault, but if the plane crashes because the wall behind the pilot fell over his back and he then fainted, isn’t the crash, which killed 100 people, still his fault?
It is and it isn’t, basically.
Notwithstanding, that takes a lot of our confidence away, I noticed.
I have heard of people who simply hang up at that stage.
It is traditional recommendation in Interpreting that you don’t keep on going with your assignment if you feel that at any time you became incapable of doing your job in the way you should. Regardless of the reason, so say someone came around and told you that your mother died, if you don’t feel that you can proceed and keep quality, then you shouldn’t.
It is still very hard for interpreters to abandon their assignments when they need and for the companies to accept that they did it precisely to preserve the quality of the services provided.
Any onsite interpreter, in principle, can always be replaced with a telephonic interpreter, since those are available 24/7 via one of the many service providers Australia has got.
We should be allowed to simply hang up because sometimes explaining why we are abandoning the assignment is just too costly (we then explain to our liaison/boss, but not to the NES and professional involved, like perhaps we leave a note in the online system, as I have been suggesting we do).
It should be common agreement that this sort of allowance is a necessity.
I have heard of interpreters who asked the professionals they were serving to let them abandon the assignment, and those then said no, insisted to beyond belief, etc.
In the end, those professionals put in a complaint against those interpreters, a complaint in terms of the quality of the services provided.
We should definitely study the possibility of changing things a bit, so that we are more respected and better treated, but also so that we are healthier and happier.