Below is a guest post by Michelle Velez, LAS ’14, Environmental Science and Spanish Major.
As a Spanish Interpreter Intern for the Villanova Law School, I spent this morning observing and assisting in a deposition involving a Spanish-speaking foreman for a demolition project in a building damage case. It was a very unique opportunity to be able to observe and advise a professional translator in her work, as well as to see the deposition process firsthand.
While the city representatives, seasoned defense lawyer and defendants were looking for a quick deposition, difficult translations, tedious details, and law students nervous for their first deposition made for a tense situation.
The translating aspect of the deposition was quite amazing. The translator, a woman from Puerto Rico, had been a certified legal translator for eight years. I was amazed by the speed with which she relayed the questions posed by the students and the answers given by the defendant. I was elated to find that I could follow the conversation word for word (although I most certainly could not have translated as accurately and quickly as she did). I was even called upon for clarification a few times when a word or phrase was misinterpreted or miscommunicated. I made a point to talk with the translator afterwards to commend her and thank her for being patient with my assistance. She thought I was a certified translator and was surprised to discover I was simply a student intern. I’m glad I spoke with her afterwards because I was able to tell her how I admired her work, and she confided in me that she had felt nervous the whole time. Although she admitted to being nervous, she seemed perfectly calm and focused during the arduous deposition.
The foreman’s responses often included Spanglish words as well as names of specific construction tools that were difficult to translate on the spot. The most interesting Spanglish words were “la fensa” for “fence” (instead of “la cerca”) and “el rufo” for “roof” (instead of “el techo”). Technical terms and phrases were also difficult to translate, such as “the party wall,” which referred to the shared wall between two row houses. The defendant also often interjected English words into his sentences, such as “backhoe,” which made it difficult to follow if you did not realize he had switched languages. It was incredible to see translating in action and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to observe and offer some help with a difficult translation.