Several years ago a local county court requested an Arabic court interpreter from our company for a hearing that involved several parties, one of which was in custody. When the hearing date finally arrived and all the parties were present, the hearing got underway.
The interpreter quickly noticed that the LEPs (Limited English Persons) whom he was interpreting for did not understand him! The interpreter immediately asked to please the court and inform the judge of the situation.
It turned out there was a very good reason the LEPs weren’t understanding the interpreter…they did not speak Arabic!
The county court had assumed that given their country of origin, they must speak Arabic. Our court interpreter, however, knew that people from that country often speak Arabic or French. The interpreter offered the court to check and see if the LEPs understood French, and they did! They were so happy to finally be able to understand what was happening and be understood.
The court was impressed that the interpreter had caught the mistake and could still do the job in a different language than he was brought in for. The hearing was able to continue instead of being postponed.
As a company, we’re thankful to have not just this interpreter, but many interpreters on our roster who are fluent in two or more languages. This isn’t the first time we have seen such a scenario take place. It is a good reminder for the organizations that are hiring interpreters for LEPs to not make assumptions and make certain they know what language(s) the LEPs speak. And it is a good challenge for interpreters to be attentive to the situation and creatively problem solve!