Accuracy at the heart of legal interpretation

Cultures Connection was called upon to organize interpretation services for the opening sessions of the Roma Lawyers Association that brought together different work groups of the institution to deal with the protection of the interests of the Roma community and the promotion of Roma lawyers around the world.

The Roma Lawyers Association (RLA) held the ‘First Conference of the Roma Lawyers Association’ on the 3rd and 4th of September. On these days, actions were drawn up to defend the rights of the Roma community in the world, with Cultures Connection offering its conference interpretation services to the organisation.

In front of some 30 lawyers and law students who were present at the Havana Room at the NH Ventas Hotel, members of the institution and of humanitarian organisations shared their personal and professional experiences to begin the task of tackling the injustices that the Roma community suffer.

The presentations were educational and centred around many diverse topics of debate such as hidden discrimination in daily life and malpractice of banks or landlords to Roma tenants during the mortgage crisis in Spain, all whilst maintaining a significant level of legal content and terminology. The list of speakers included internationally renowned figures such as Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia, the founder of the Spanish Romany Union and the first elected member to European and Spanish parliaments from the Roma community; Dmitiri Holtzman, Director of Education Justice Campaigns at the U.S center for Popular Democracy; and Amanda Rinquist, co-director of the Equal Education Law Center of South Africa.

In addition, members of the association – founded in August 2015 for the defence of the interest of the Roma community and the promotion of Roma lawyers – offered a progress update on the work done in different countries where the main aims were the exchange of ideas, the training of professionals in key issues, and the designation of common strategic priorities for the coming years.

The audience responded to all the presentations attentively, and enthusiastically posed questions that generated interesting debate with the speakers. “These sessions were very useful as they enabled the sharing of many practices and situations, resolved or not, that were otherwise unknown for many of the participants”, said Daniel, one of the interpreters that took part in the event.

A flexible interpretation in response to unforeseen events

Cultures Connection offered a service of interpretation and hired two interpreters from English to Spanish and Spanish to English, that took turns every half an hour. The sessions were unique in that at the beginning they worked in whispered interpretation but, following the suggestion of the professionals of the agency, they used an infoport system in order to continue with a simultaneous interpretation after the first two hours of the first day.

The infoport system consists of a case that contains a microphone to address the audience and headphones for the listeners. Cables are not required, as it is an infrared system. This technology is more suitable for small meetings because it is more practical and cost-effective than investing in booths and sound technicians. At the same time, it avoids misunderstandings that the overlapping of voices without any additional sound equipment can cause.  

There were 4 Spanish-speakers that required interpretation services throughout the event. “The infoport system allowed the gathering to flow more smoothly, without as many interruptions”, explained Daniel, who graduated from the Autonomous University of Madrid with a degree in Translation and Interpretation and has 11 years of professional experience in matters of foreign policy, infrastructure and economy.

Juan, his interpreting partner, explained that “at one point, whispered interpretation turned into a quiet conversatio,n so we suggested the possibility of changing it. It would have been very difficult to maintain the quality of the interpretation for two days in this way.”

One of the greatest challenges that Daniel faced was the terminology that the presenters and speakers used. “It was important to be very accurate as there were a lot of specific terms in the legal language that had to be well explained, for example the difference between “attorney” and “lawyer”. In order to do this, he prepared documentation reviewing the association, the speakers and the agenda items, so as to better familiarize himself with the organisations present and their work.

Juan, who graduated from the Complutense University of Madrid with a degree in Translation and Interpretation and who also has 11 years of professional experience, already had a background in this field, so he reviewed his glossaries of information to refresh certain concepts and terms.

In his opinion, the opportunity to interpret Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia, an internationally-renowned speaker, was a particular incentive. “He used a rich variety of words as he emotionally recounted his experiences defending the rights of the Romany community. Of course, with preparation and creativity, the ideas and sense can be conveyed, but to find the right words in another language is a challenge.”

Translation into English: William Steel

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This article has been written by Gonzalo Olaberría

Before starting as a Digital Content Manager at Cultures Connection, he worked in Argentina as a journalist for national newspapers and magazines, and as a consultant in political and corporate communication.