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  • This Round He Lost (In Translation), Part 4

    , | USA | Extra Stupid, Family & Kids, Language & Words

    (People call us to set up appointments at counseling clinics. One of our affiliated clinics’ entire staff speaks English, Arabic, and Chaldean, so we get a lot of Arabic callers seeking appointments who may need an interpreter. I know a little bit of Arabic, but not enough to have an entire phone conversation.)

    Me: “Good afternoon. [Call Center]. How many I help you?”

    Caller: “Hello, I’d like to set up my father with an appointment to see [Doctor at Arabic facility].”

    Me: “Okay. Do you have legal guardianship over your father?”

    Caller: “No, he is his own man.”

    Me: “Well, since he’s an adult you can’t make the appointment for him, due to HIPAA laws.  Is he there with you?”

    Caller: “He’s next to me, but he only speaks Arabic.”

    Me: “Not a problem! We can do one of two things: I can get an interpreter on the phone, or he can give me permission over the phone for you to make the appointment on his behalf.”

    Caller: “Uh… but he doesn’t speak English…”

    Me: “Oh, I understand! You could explain to him in Arabic that I’m going to ask ‘Is it okay if I speak with your son on your behalf?’, and to say “N’am” or “Yes”, if he wants that service. It’s legal, and we do it all the time since some people are more comfortable with us speaking with a family member.”

    Caller: “Okay, I’ll do that. Here’s my father.”

    (I hear the phone shuffle around, and don’t hear any kind of verbal exchange indicating he’s telling his father what’s happening.)

    Me: *in Arabic* “…Hello?”

    Caller’s Father: “Huh?”

    Me: “… Is it okay if I speak with your son on your behalf?”

    Caller’s Father: “HELLO?!”

    Caller: “See, this is stupid because he doesn’t understand English.”

    Me: “… Did you explain to him what I was going to say?”

    Caller: “Ma’am, you misunderstand me! He does not speak English!”

    Me: “I understand that, sir. What I’m saying is, you could interpret this portion of the phone call, and explain to him, in Arabic, what I am about to ask him, and what he should say back if he wants you to make the appointment. I’m not asking him to understand English. If you want, I’d be more than happy to dial our interpreter line for you?”

    Caller: “NO! He wants ME to do it! He gave me permission before the call!”

    Me: “I need to HEAR the granted permission. If you don’t want an interpreter, please explain to him the Arabic translation of what I’m about to ask him in English.”

    (The caller grumbles and again hands the phone over without saying anything to his father. His father keeps yelling ‘No English’ and ‘Hello.’ The caller takes the phone again and starts screaming.)

    Caller: “HE DOES NOT SPEAK ENGLISH! You are completely incompetent! How am I supposed to interpret if he doesn’t speak English!”

    Me: “Here is how interpreting works. You tell him, in ARABIC, what I am going to ask him. So you are explaining that I will say the ENGLISH EQUIVALENT of what you are saying to him IN ARABIC.”

    Caller: “Don’t tell me how my language works!”

    (Suddenly, I hear a door slam and a confused female voice in the background. The caller is yelling with the female voice in Arabic and English, and the female voice suddenly says, ‘hold on, let me speak with her.’ She takes the phone.)

    Caller’s Sister: *calmly* “Hi. I just came home from work, but I believe you were speaking with my brother. I thought I could help. What is it that he’s not understanding?”

    (I explain the scenario exactly as I’ve been explaining it to her brother.)

    Caller’s Sister: “Oh, okay. So I can just tell my father, in Arabic, what it is that you’re about to ask him in English?”

    Me: “Yes.”

    (The caller’s sister speaks with her father.)

    Caller’s Father: “Oh! N’am! Yes! You… speak with… my… DAUGHTER.”

    Caller’s Son: *in background* “What?! That’s bulls***! I know what I’m doing! She’s just an idiot who thinks I can’t speak Arabic!”

    Caller’s Sister: “I think you’ll be hearing from me more often than my brother. He’s spoken English his whole life, but I swear, he’s dumber than a box of rocks when people give him instructions. So sorry about that. Well, now, what else do you need to know, love?”

    Related:
    This Round He Lost (In Translation), Part 3
    This Round He Lost (In Translation), Part 2
    This Round He Lost (In Translation)