The Linguist

The Linguist 56,6 – December 2017/January 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 20 of 35 DECEMBER 2017/JANUARY 2018 The Linguist 21 FEATURES mobile phone in order to distract her from our discussion. Fortunately, the child (but not the partner) was taken off to the playroom. Audibility in the hearing room can also be problematic for the interpreter if the patient and/or their family members provide running commentaries during the oral evidence of the professionals. The interpreter may have to make frequent requests to the judge to keep a tight rein on the proceedings. For their part, interpreters have to manage the patient, as some perceive the interpreter to be their friend – especially when they are socially isolated, recently arrived in the UK, and/or from the same country and culture. At a recent hearing, a patient hugged and kissed me when her section was discharged, but failed to thank her lawyer who had advocated very eloquently on her behalf. In another case, the patient wanted to meet me socially after the hearing so that we could talk about Brittany. Impact of legal aid cuts When an interpreter is booked by a patient's lawyer, they will interpret at all pre-hearing ward visits, during any breaks before and after the hearing, and during post-hearing interactions. The lawyer may also require the interpreter to monitor the Tribunals Service interpreter's performance during the hearing. However, things aren't so clear when the lawyer hasn't booked their own interpreter (which is increasingly common due to recent cuts in legal aid). In this situation, the only interpreter present is the one booked by the Tribunals Service. Their role is to interpret at the hearing itself, but in the absence of another interpreter, the 'hearing interpreter' may well be asked to interpret at the pre-hearing ward visits of the lawyer and panel psychiatrists as well. In addition to causing fatigue, this scenario is not ideal for professional conduct reasons, because the interpreter has a potential conflict of interest. For instance, I was recently asked by the panel psychiatrist to tell him what had transpired in the ward visit of the patient's lawyer. I declined on the basis that this was confidential information. The declining use of solicitors' 'own' interpreters in civil and criminal court hearings (in addition to tribunal hearings such as the MHRT) is causing mayhem, with interpreters being ordered by judges to interpret for all parties, across all pre-hearing, hearing and post-hearing sessions. This can result in words and phrases being transferred by the interpreter from one party to another. It can cause the parties to be distrustful of the interpreter, who is now the sole repository of all of their information. It is naïve to believe that interpreters are mere mouthpieces, who simply bridge communication gaps for their clients; how we bridge them is coloured by what we've heard and seen. Use of unqualified interpreters A lack of solicitor-booked interpreters was highlighted in a recent MHRT, where the patient seemed to be confused by what the professionals were saying about her. It transpired that the day of the hearing was the first time she had access to an interpreter; until then she had been relying on a French- speaking cleaner on the ward to interpret her conversations with ward staff and others. A social worker told the panel that they couldn't always get an interpreter to the hospital when needed due to budget cuts and tortuous agency booking systems, with agencies sometimes supplying unqualified individuals purporting to be interpreters. It was common, therefore, to use family members (if one was present on the ward) or telephone SECURE SETTING A number of people can attend Mental Health Review Tribunals, including family members, which can create difficulties for the interpreter interpreting services (if they could get the patient to the phone) in order to write their reports. One of the psychiatrists stated that he hadn't needed an interpreter for his sessions with the patient as he "spoke French" – unfortunately it was of the "learnt a bit of French at school" variety. Not only do interpreters need to be aware of our codes of conduct in MHRTs, but we also need situation-specific terminology at our fingertips. Over the years, I have compiled glossaries with sections on MHA terminology, such as 'Section', 'Responsible Clinician' and 'voluntary or informal patient' (which are similar to their English versions); terminology relating to mental illnesses, e.g 'dissociative identity disorder' (trouble de la personnalité or trouble dissociative); general terminology relating to mental health issues, such as 'care in the community' (soins dans la collectivité or soins dans la commaunauté; 'care' being such a difficult concept to translate into French); and organisational terminology used by bodies such as Mind, who can 'signpost' (signalétique) the patient on to 'talking therapies' (dialogues psychothérapeutiques). As mental illness often goes hand in hand with physical ill health, we also need general medical terminology, such as 'deafness' (surdité). Interpreting at MHRTs isn't for the faint- hearted, the unqualified or the inexperienced; it is intellectually demanding and emotionally challenging work, which may assist patients to access their liberty – or not.

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