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American Annals of the Deaf

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Interpreting in Legal Settings

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a c c u r a c y

While it is difficult at the textual-discursive level to separate accuracy and completeness, the former is most easily applied with reference to smaller elements of discourse, as in lexical and terminological accuracy. Whereas questions of institutional terminology should hardly prove intractable, interpreters can never have ready-made solutions for all and any lexical contingencies arising within the interaction. But this confronts us head-on with the fraught translation-theoretical issue of fidelity (or meaning equivalence, sense consistency, etc.) that will not be expatiated on in this particular context. Rather, we will present an example of a much less subtle or debatable lexical deviation, indicating the potential for semantic distortions of the asylum seeker’s statements that may end up in the written record.

In the sequence preceding the excerpt below, ADJ has just asked APP about his father’s political activity and now tries to find out more about APP’s own involvement.

example 7: T6H2 (67:35–68:05)
1    ADJ   Und jetzt er selbst?
                And now he himself?
2    INT   Mhm. And you personally? Did you have anything to do with his political activity?
3    APP   Yeah, I was supporting, you know.
4    ADJ   (→REC) Ich war ein Unterstützer.
                               I was a supporter.
                (→APP) Können Sie mir darüber etwas erzählen?
                               Can you tell me something about that?
5    APP                                                      Because everybody is free when the election was coming, you can support
                somebody when you like, you know, any person you like.
6    INT   Mhm. Es kann jeder die Partei wählen, die er will, wenn es gerade Wahlen gibt.
                Mhm. Everyone can vote for the party he likes when there are elections.
7    REC (→REC) Bitte?
8    INT   Wenn es Wahlen gibt, kann jeder die Partei wählen, die er will.
                When there are elections, everyone can vote for the party he likes.

Example 7 contains a number of phenomena worth noting, such as one of the rare instances of an indirectly addressed question by ADJ (1); ADJ’s direct formulation of the German rendition for the record, assuming the role of interpreter; and REC’s request for repetition, addressed to INT rather than ADJ. We will, however, limit our comments to the lexical deviation in turn 6, where INT renders APP’s statement about someone’s right to “support” (a person) (5) as the right to “vote for” (a party). It is this rendering that ends up in the record, having even been repeated by INT upon REC’s request. Depending on APP’s age and the other facts of the case, the shift from “supporting” to “voting” might well engender contradictions that could undermine APP’s credibility.

c o m p l e t e n e s s

As in the case of semantic inaccuracy, an interpreter’s incomplete rendering can be detrimental to the asylum seeker’s case. The following example illustrates this for an abridged translation of ADJ’s questioning.

example 8: T5H1 (57:32–58:21)
1    ADJ   Sie haben °° °° °° °° °° weder °° °° vor dem Bundesasylamt noch heute in der bisherigen Verhandlung davon
                gesprochen, dass man Sie mehrmals aufgefordert hat, diesen Trank zu sich zu nehmen, und Sie haben auch
                nicht angegeben bis dato, dass Sie irgendwann einmal davon getrunken haben. °° °° Wie erklären Sie mir
                diesen Widerspruch?
                Neither at the Federal Asylum Office nor in today’s hearing up to now have you mentioned that you were
                asked several times to drink that potion, and so far you also have not indicated that you ever did drink from it.
                How do you explain this contradiction to me?
2    INT   Neither in your previous statement before the Federal Asylum Office nor today you said that you were asked to
                drink this potion several times, and you a- neither did you say that you drunk from it once.

Critically, in this credibility-testing stage of the hearing, ADJ confronts APP with an alleged contradiction and asks him explicitly to try and resolve it (“How do you explain this contradiction to me?”). While INT renders the references that allegedly contradict APP’s most recent statement, she does not translate the concluding prompt for APP to explain the discrepancy. APP is merely reminded that he did not say previously what he has said now, and is thus not alerted to the threat to his credibility, nor to the need to counter it with an explanation. Similar kinds of omissions occur elsewhere in the corpus and deserve to be examined further for their impact on the course and outcome of the proceedings.

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