There is nothing an interpreter hates more than an objection to the interpretation.
What should you, as an attorney, do to get the most out of your deposition while at the same time, not risk offending the translator?
Why would the interpreter feel offended? Well, the interpreter has very limited tools to defend his or her choice of words. There is no record of the foreign language original phrase as mentioned by a witness (unless it has been videotaped) and the interpreter may have heard something different. Many times the attorney asking the question has misspoken and does not know it. Interpreters may have actually translated the speaker's mistake and hence, there is no error in the translation. Also, idiomatic expressions can be interpreted in so many ways that lend themselves to different emotions and effects on the listener. Either way, the short-term memory of anyone involved will not be able to recall every single word, detail, and context, lending itself to the fruitless argument.
Real mistakes occur when there are very long phrases spoken and the interpreter was not able to memorize everything exactly. Or the interpreter may not have found the correct term to express the meaning exactly in the target language.
Emotions run high when the phrase affects your case and you may want to correct the issue then and there.
In order to avoid a head-to-head with the interpreter, I suggest the following technique (learned from comparing many different styles of objecting during hundreds of depositions).
The best method of objecting I have seen, though your particular circumstances may call for a different approach, has been the following:
Option 1: If it is your depo, meaning you are asking the questions, simply say something like this: “I think there was something lost in the translation, please let me see if I understood correctly…” and ask the question again. You can add any clarification as part of your question.
By then the interpreter will have heard the answer twice and will now have the benefit of a brief explanatory question on your part. Plus, the record is clear in that you did not agree entirely with the original translation.
If you are not the one asking the questions:
Option 2 (recommended): If you want to make a speaking objection and you have a good relationship with opposing counsel, you may suggest to opposing counsel: “I object to the interpretation, counsel, can you re-ask that question please? I believe there was one portion (of the answer or question) that did not come across very well” (you may be more specific if you want).
Option 3: You can simply say “I object to the interpretation, I can clarify later during cross” and clarify anything you need to clarify during cross, NOT AT THAT MOMENT, most likely the issue will be clarified in subsequent questions anyway and you have stated your objection for the record.
Why is this important? Because at this point the interpreter already forgot the question and answer exactly as it was given, hence we do not remember what was said any longer, and arguing about it is futile, since the interpreter will likely be unsure of what the error was if any at all.
Using any of these methods you are avoiding an argument with the interpreter and providing an opportunity for the issue to be resolved.
Jose Vega is NOT an attorney and nothing on this website is to be considered legal advice.