I Tip My Hat To: helping freelance interpreters get paid.

a-tip-pf-the-hat-toI Tip My Hat To…

The Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California (AIJIC) http://aijic.org/


For their dedicated support helping a freelance interpreter collect the pay she earned and was duly owed.

This was posted originally on a private Facebook page for certified interpreters. I was so impressed with the news that I asked for and was granted  permission to reprint it by the poster.

As an AIJIC board member, I thought this was a Small Claims story worth sharing. It all started with a $200 unpaid invoice owed to one of our members by an agency with a very bad reputation.

Early this year, AIJIC sent a demand letter to the owner of the agency on behalf of our colleague with a deadline to pay. The agency owner (whom I’ll call Ms. Deadbeat) ignored the demand letter, after which AIJIC assisted our member with suing in Small Claims.

In her claim, our member demanded the original amount owed plus an additional half day of lost work due to the appearance in court. Since Ms. Deadbeat didn’t appear in court for the trial date, a default judgment was entered in favor of our member. She was awarded $470, which included court and process server costs.

After waiting the mandatory 30 days to see if Ms. Deadbeat would appeal the ruling (she didn’t) the next step was to collect the judgment. California law allows creditors with a court judgment to place a levy on the debtor’s bank account through the Sheriff’s office, which is what we assisted our member with. After months of wait, she finally received a check for the amount she was owed, plus the sheriff’s fee for the bank levy for a total of $516.86.

Although there are no guaranteed results when a person goes to court, it often pays off if you’re willing to persist. Letting delinquent agencies repeatedly burn interpreters with no consequences only encourages them to keep doing it.

It’s important to send a message that we’re professionals and that we expect to be treated as such.

This advocacy of the freelance interpreter by an organization is truly needed today and is to be commended.  They are tackling the decades old disrespect shown by unprofessional members of our market to freelance interpreters who work so hard to perform professionally. I really wish we had such an organization in Texas. Here are just a few services they provide:

AIJIC Mission Statement

The Association of Independent Judicial Interpreters of California (AIJIC) is a nonprofit trade association started by a group of certified court interpreters who saw the need to take action in order to protect the legal interpreting profession in the private sector, which has been steadily deteriorating in recent years.

  • Educate the legal community and agencies about the current laws governing court interpreters, which require certified court interpreters to be used for civil, criminal or juvenile proceedings, including depositions for civil cases.
  • Encourage other interpreters to report use of non-certified interpreters hired for court proceedings and explore a way to take action by lobbying for the enforcement of Sections 68560.5 and 68561 of the Government Code.
  • Educate new interpreters about matters related to the profession.
  • Share information among ourselves about agencies.
  • Representing the interests of independent court interpreters before the Judicial Council of California and in Sacramento in order to have a voice in matters that directly affect our profession
  • Eventually exploring the possibility of establishing a licensing procedure as an essential step towards self-regulation for court interpreters.
  • Helping our members with collection issues.

Join me in commending their work. Contact the AIJIC and tip your hat to them.


Freedom of Speech Versus Speaking Freely in America

first-amendmentIn today’s heated political climate in the U.S., arguments spread faster than mosquitos after a week of rain. I get a kick out of hearing someone tossing a sharply worded opinion, and then diving behind the defensive shield follow up       “ I have the right to Freedom of Speech”.  I had a nagging feeling it wasn’t so all inclusive and since my ancestors fought in that Revolution, I did some research.  Hopefully you, as an American, claim this right knowing it was granted in the first amendment to our constitution in 1789. The driving force was freedom of political dissent. Today in America there cannot be a law that limits your freedom of speech.  Here is the wording of the first amendment- one sentence of 45 words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The author James Madison, meant it to be simple and basic so it would pass the vote. But, I feel, over 227 years later we really need to take responsibility for our words.  And to prove that, look at how lawsuits helped form new terms classifying exercising freedom of speech.

Fighting Words

Words which would likely make the person whom they are addressed commit an act of violence.  Fighting words are a category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment.  Chaplinsky v New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942).


A statement that injures a third party’s reputation. The tort of defamation includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).

If you want to sue someone who you feel has defamed you to win a defamation case, a plaintiff must show four things: 1) a false statement purporting to be fact; 2) publication or communication of that statement to a third person; 3) fault amounting to at least negligence; and 4) damages, or some harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement.

Unless that person has Absolute Privilege

If a statement is made in certain contexts or in certain venues, the First Amendment may give the speaker an absolute defense to a charge of defamation.  This privilege usually only exists in the government context; for example, sworn testimony in a judicial or legislative hearing is privileged.


Libel is a method of defamation expressed by print, writing, pictures, signs, effigies, or any communication embodied in physical form that is injurious to a person’s reputation, exposes a person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule, or injures a person in his/her business or profession.


A false statement, usually made orally, which defames another person. Unlike libel, damages from slander are not presumed and must be proven by the party suing. See, e.g. TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources, 509 U.S. 443 (1993).

So how about making it clear that you are speaking freely? There is a standard for that too. You are supposed to ask permission.

The history is during Operation Torch (invasion of North Africa in 1942) which took place under US command, British service personnel didn’t know how to address their American counterparts. Being British and polite, they said ‘Permission to speak freely sir.’

The only time I see that happen is working as a court interpreter when the witness, already on the stand,  will ask the Judge for permission to speak freely. Their attorney immediately turns pale with eyes as wide as a deer in headlights. I guess no one told them about Absolute Privilege.

Are you ready for the reputation  you’ll have as a “Free spoken” person?  Defined as  “ Given to speaking freely without reserve, frank and outspoken”, the term was first used in  1625.

That was a full one hundred and sixty four years before there was a right to do so. I wonder how they would define it today.

The Waterfall Witness

Despite all the terminology compiled and studied before a proceeding, the way a witness responds to a question can hold the most surprises for the legal interpreter.  So we have to change our listening and processing mode for each different style of responsiveness. We base our performance on canons of professional responsibility for completeness, not paraphrasing and not omitting what is said. But if we don’t catch every word spoken, we run the risk of failing our oath.

Witnesses respond according to their reaction to the question and to the way the subject matter is emphasized. Sometimes they are intimidated by the process. Sometimes they show anger while facing the representative of those they hold responsible for damages or those who sued them. It is an entirely personal behavior no matter how much preparation they were given by their lawyer.

The easiest back and forth to interpret is the orderly question followed by the short response with no heightened emotion by either party. The other extreme is the witness who either launches into or builds up to a rapid free flow of extensive narrative, without a pause whatsoever. I call this the Waterfall Witness. Waterfall

The interpreter needs to develop three skills to master the rendering of waterfall testimony.
1. Prediction. Observe the witness long enough to catch any emotion beyond complacence. Note the length of the responses to the personal history questions. If they are beyond the scope of the question, you have warning of a pattern there. If the witness dissects the question in the answer, that can erupt in long winded hostility. Grief lends itself to listing memories. Anger becomes confrontation and repetitive phrasing of the stated issues.
2. Pace duplication. As linguists we are listening in order to render. You will have to erase any reaction to the content of the testimony in order to retain it. The best way is to keep pace with the speaker. Duplicate the tempo of the speaker with either your notetaking or your simultaneous interpreting.
3. Keep track of the topic. The waterfall witness will add topics and stray off topic. Your notetaking should highlight the new topic and the key word they use. I have even drawn a hierarchical map with arrows charting the response from topic to topic.

I have found that in a deposition the attorneys rarely interrupt a waterfall witness simply because they want to hear everything this witness may possibly have to say about the issue. If they do it is through an objection. But in trials, attorneys will interrupt via objections and the Judge will interrupt with an instruction. So the interpreter also has to monitor the point when the judge interrupted during the witness’s testimony for the court reporter to hear that clearly. Then the full instruction to the witness has to be interpreted along with their response. Even then, you cannot rest because the objecting attorney may reply with a “Thank you, your honor”.

The interpreting mode can be an issue. Trying to take fully accurate notes of a 300 word missive at the pace of emotional discourse is risky. I expand my note taking to include topic with key words and identify the order in the response. I go through a lot of paper. It is easier to go into simultaneous mode which can be done in a deposition. But  in court it  is hard for the jury, the court reporter and the judge to hear you not to mention the attorney further back in the courtroom. If you are allowed to use simultaneous, I suggest getting permission from the Judge to step forward closer to the court reporter and then speaking louder.

All told, taking on a waterfall witness is not for the novice interpreter. So practice a lot and go watch one in court. Remember, witnesses have the right to testify in the form that is natural to them. So, it is up to us to raise our skill level to meet this challenge.

The Perils of the Pro-Se Witness

Court interpreters should prepare carefully for the pro se witness. A Pro Se witness is a litigant who chooses to go to trial without an attorney or legal representation. “Pro se” is a Latin term, meaning “on one’s own behalf” and a “litigant” is someone who is either suing someone or is being sued in court.Gorilla

The right to appear pro se in a civil case in federal court is contained in a statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1654. Thus, anyone can appear pro se, and anyone who appears before the Court without an attorney is considered pro se. Interpreters can find out if either party is pro se by looking at the case style or reviewing the court docket online. There won’t be a pro se party in the following cases:
A. When the litigant is a corporations or a partnership.
B. A pro se litigant may not represent a class in a class action.
C. A non-attorney parent may not appear pro se on behalf of a child, except to appeal the denial of the child’s social security benefits.

This post covers both scenarios, the pro se witness needing an interpreter, or if the witness for the opposing counsel needs a full trial interpretation. The interpreter should be prepared for many objections and rulings and interruptions to ongoing testimony. Tempers can flare and there will be a lot of people talking over each other. This interpreting setting is not a smooth question and answer process.

Pro se witnesses often don’t know the correct procedure for testifying in a courtroom or the trial procedures litigants have to follow. I also notice that most pro se witnesses are so focused on having their say that when they are told they have to follow certain steps, they get irritated. There can be disruptions with such normally quick and effortless procedures such as pre-trial motions and agreements and document filings. Just getting to the point when they are put under oath will take longer than you are used to.

The interpreter must be ready for objections and instructions by the judge during pro se testimony. Such litigants usually aren’t familiar with testimony limitations, such as hear say, mentioning insurance and references to evidence not admitted. Another pattern I see is the tendency to testify in the narrative. This is when they tell a story instead of following the standard question-answer format which allows opposing counsel to object to a question before it was answered.

The best advice for interpreters with a pro se litigant is to pack your patience. Be prepared by knowing the potential objections and the definitions which the judge will use to explain them. You will use note taking a lot to cover the talk overs, interruptions, long, rambling responses and compound questions. I recommend that you brief the pro se on the correct process of speaking through an interpreter. But hold fast to the limitation of your scope of work and do not ever provide advice on how to proceed or define terminology.

In my classes I always suggest observing a case with a pro se litigant before you interpret such a case. Justice of the Peace courts often have pro se litigants. Get permission to observe from the bailiff first and then sit back and be prepared to be amazed.

The Document Translation Gold Mine for the Court Interpreter.

A lot of us claim to be translators or interpreters but not both. For many years I too, only claimed to be a court interpreter and I would only accept in person assignments for legal or law enforcement proceedings. Then I discovered the treasures that translating legal documentation provided.
FtBCtyjailScanThe fact is the terminology that stumps us the most is legalese. Not the rantings of an emotional witness but terms like: “The Plaintiff prays” and “Requests for Admissions “and “General Denial”. The most abundant source of this is the continuous stream of legal documents produced in the discovery phase of the civil lawsuit. Most of my colleagues consider the pre deposition, pretrial phase as a lawyer’s only domain so they don’t even investigate what happens before we step in, when the parties face each other. I believe the best preparation is knowing as much as possible about what happened before I step in and what is expected to happen afterwards. So I studied these phases from the attorney’s point of view and I discovered all the words that had ever stymied me. Since then I have never been even delayed in providing an accurate translation of those terms.
I incorporated these assets into a continuing education course I developed on civil discovery for licensed court interpreters and translators in Texas. From the start to when the class finished, comments like “That’s what that means”, or “That’s what they are talking about” echoed around the room.
Whether in court or a deposition, we can be handed such documents, as exhibits, and asked to sight translate them. So, studying samples first is key to seamless sight translation. In depositions, questions may contain phrasings taken directly from these standard forms but the interpreter may not be handed a document to refer to. Recognizing the document title, the interpreter can then know the terms associated with that document and their meanings and usage. Documents such as Plaintiff’s Original Petition, Original Set of Interrogatories and Verification of Employment can show the foundation for the questions and objections we hear and must be familiar with.
Then I made another amazing discovery of my own. I volunteer at the Harris County District Clerk’s Historical Documents room at the civil courthouse. This room houses court records dating back to the 1700s; through the period Texas was a part of Mexico, then a Republic and then after joining the United States as the 28th state of the Union. I index and transcribe evidence and court transcripts, the earliest written in quill pen. Some, originally written in Spanish, were translated over 180 years ago. Our court system has followed the same processes with the same legalese for centuries. I found Plaintiff’s Original Petitions, Charges to the Jury and Summons as old as the Republic of Texas. They contain the exact same phrasings of those used today.
So, try translating legal procedural documents. Study and practice with them. Your interpreting skills will grow and your performance will shine.

Handing the Witness Something He can’t Possibly Read

Mayan HirogliphicsA deposition in a contract dispute is going smoothly. A certified court interpreter is interpreting the questions asked by the attorneys and the responses given by the witness. The questioning attorney has a document marked as an exhibit and hands it to the witness, asking him to verify what it is. The witness looks puzzled. The contract, all 15 pages, is in English. The witness states that he cannot read English and he is unable to read the exhibit. The witness’s attorney sits silent and unaccommodating.  The solution to this potential confusion and delay is sitting right there at the table.

Professional court interpreters are able to read out loud documents that are written in English into the witness’s language. This is called sight translation and it is included in our scope of practice. We are trained to know and understand legal terms, specialized industrial, commercial and discovery material terminology and the correct translations for such terminology in the written form, just as we are trained in the spoken form. We read the document out loud at a smooth uninterrupted pace. Sight translation is part of the licensed court interpreter’s job. But we can’t offer to assist one side or the other during the questioning process, whether a trial or deposition; it is up to the attorneys to know to ask us to perform this function.

While on the record, state that you are requesting that the interpreter sight translate, to the witness, the marked document, specifying the passage or section. For example state “The third paragraph on page three. Or, “The second sentence of the first paragraph starting with “In the event of “and ending with “notify your supervisor”. This allows the section or document sight translated to be correctly indicated in the record.

When the section has been sight translated, the interpreter should state in English for the record, “The specified section has been sight translated to the witness.” The attorney can then ask the witness if they understood what was read to them or simply follow up with the question.

Most short passages from legal or standard commercial documents are easily sight translated. In a courtroom setting provide the interpreter with a copy of the document to be sight translated long enough before they take the stand so they can quickly review it for needed term translation.

If the text is specialized terminology, do yourself and the interpreter a favor and advise them of the subject matter prior to the deposition. At examinations under oath, when you introduce the document to be marked, show it to the interpreter to review in case they need to look up terminology.

I have sight translated Subpoena Duces Tecums, Requests for Production, notices, contracts, agreements, applications for employment, accident reports, warning labels, safety manuals, ship’s log books, product use instructions, prescription labels, letters, bank statements, ingredient lists for natural remedies and deposition transcripts. With the exception of poetry, any document that the rules allow to be handed to the witness being questioned can be accurately sight translated. This is just another way the language barrier is removed allowing due process to continue unrestrained.

The Unique Ability to Focus

distractalbqScanInterpreters are obligated to listen and render a verbatim of what we hear. This is a uniquely challenging occupational task, because it is unnatural for humans to ignore what we see people do and suppress reactions to what we hear people say. Even at the subconscious level humans react to this stimuli.

I saw a CBS Sunday Morning segment on autism and it mentioned a study on attention at The Mc Govern Institute for brain research at MIT http://mcgovern.mit.edu/ . Brain scans showed standard neuro stimulation when we faced a person and they faced us or looked away. Whether a witness is looking at me or not is the least of my concerns in a legal proceeding.  I am even ignoring the discerning stares of the Judge, the jury and the attorneys.  But it was news to me.  that, beyond my control, my brain is reacting to the physical behavior of others.  I realized we interpreters are highly adept at controlling our conscious reactions and we stifle subconscious reactions. We don’t act on them. If we do, we will lose focus.

You can witness proof of interpreters excelling at this process of focus, when an untrained bilingual disputes the interpretation provided by a professional interpreter.  The challenger will emphasize and spend time expressing their dissent.  They display excitement over their detection. They look at the others around them soliciting support for their opinion, avoiding eye contact with the interpreter. They emphasize their bilingualism. Their tone is challenging and self-justifying. The last thing they do is to repeat the words they are challenging. But since that isn’t their priority or focus, more times than not, their recall is faulty and they admit not being able to repeat the words verbatim.

Meanwhile, the interpreter’s demeanor is the opposite.  The interpreter is subdued because he or she is sorting through their metal hard drive of what we heard spoken and what we interpreted.  Even during this interruption, that is our focus.

Our sole center of attention is on the words spoken.  We have no personal agenda. Legal interpreters have no vested interest in the outcome of the case. We have no bias. Our task is all consuming and difficult enough as is. The message is a ticker tape of words running across our minds.

Shutting out external stimulation is a real skill.  What caught your eye in the photo from the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico?  The gas balloon looming in the horizon or the teeny tiny lizard we found on the launch field?  

What we do is a process of hearing without feeling any emotional reaction to what is being said. We focus on the words, tone and register that we hear so intently, that we perform machine like. Some of us call it being in the zone. And it does become more automatic the longer you perform and develop the skill.

But at least our brains still sense all the stimuli even though we don’t react to it.

Good to know.

The Inevitable for Freelancers. Assignments can be canceled or postponed.

CourtDomeCertain types of cases have defendants that are encouraged to stop the litigation or discovery process and come to a financial agreement or a punishment agreement.  In civil law this is called to settle, In Criminal law this is called to take a plea.  Procedures that are scheduled in advance will be canceled when a plea is entered or when the two parties agree to a settlement.

So you should consider the potential cancellation of a deposition or hearing or trial in civil court and a hearing or trial in criminal cases.  Part of being professional is being prepared to protect yourself financially from such losses.  At the same time, being a good professional means knowing how to not antagonize a client by penalizing them for performing in the best interests of their client.  So, know that these types of assignments can be cancelled at any time by the attorney, the court or the agency.  And learn what your market standard is for a minimum charge for a cancellation during a certain time frame.

Assignments can be postponed.

       In civil court, a trial can be postponed if the Judge decides to order the parties to go to mediation.  Interpreters may not be necessary during mediation.  The parties may come to an agreement and settle as a result of mediation so you will lose the assignment altogether.  Or they may not settle and the trial would be rescheduled.

         It is important to hold on to your client and not make over burdensome demands but preserve your financial integrity.  You have to know the possible change of direction the legal process can take that can turn a postponement into income producing assignment or a loss.  You should have a postponement policy in place that you ask the client to agree to, in writing, when you first accept the assignment or enter into a contract with your client.  It is considered unprofessional to notify the client of a change in terms or fees after you accept an assignment.  But much like what the parties experience in the outcome of a mediation, you are going to have to accept less of your goal fee and the client is going to have to pay more than they hoped they would.  This is a situation when you should blend familiarity of your market standards with flexibility in your terms.

Three Sheets To The Wind. The Challenge of Idiomatic Expressions

The culprit, views en route - Copy


In the state required court interpreter orientation courses that I teach, rarely have my students seen the inside of a courtroom; much less do they know how to interpret according to regulations.  I interpret on a daily basis and I continue to study the craft in order to keep my skills at the highest level possible.  But it is also important to me to make what I teach is valuable to the students.  As an instructor, it is good to be reminded of what you didn’t know how to do when you first started.  And I really enjoy hearing those questions that you yourself asked a long time ago.  Interpreting experiences serve as great examples to use when explaining the answer especially when there is no set standard.

One of the students in a recent orientation class asked about how to interpret the idiomatic expression “Three sheets to the wind.”  Since, I consider it risky to interpret idiomatic expressions, I started to give him my short answer, “You don’t.”  Then I remembered how it felt to have rules piled on me without reference and reasons.  I have decided to avoid interpreting idiomatic expressions   based on my oath as well as the integrity of due process, in spite of hearing interpreters debating, almost proselytizing translations of idiomatic expressions.

Several years ago I took a class on interpreting idiomatic expressions for Spanish and English given by some veteran interpreters.  They defined expressions in English and then offered an equivalent idiomatic expression in Spanish as acceptable translations.  Very quickly Spanish speakers from Central America disputed the expressions presented which were spoken in a South American country.  The class dissolved into a volley of numerous variations declared emphatically with national fanfare between those trainers and the students.  I left knowing none of those translations would hold up in court and wishing I could get that hour back.

Legal interpreters have an obligation to maintain the exact statement rendered.  Attorneys and judges are speaking according to their own regulations and their task to represent their client.  Witnesses have the right to be heard in their own words.  Nobody else has the right to change those words.

There are three points of criteria that I apply to idiomatic expressions.  Each one of these has to be filtered through being held to our oath.

1.    Can you be absolutely certain that you know the meaning of the expression?  Probably not.  Idiomatic expressions are based on subjective experiences and therefore are subjective.  Anyone who consumes alcohol can say that there was a time when they felt like they were “three sheets to the wind” but the fact is they all would not have each been equally inebriated.  So this example is particularly quantitative and you run the risk of altering the measurement intended by the speaker.

2.    How can you prove that your translation of the expression is totally and completely correct?  If there is published proof of your translation, don’t get too comfortable, because there is probably published proof of a different translation.  The term Idiomatic Expression is defined as sayings that have a meaning different from the meaning of the words in the expression.

3.    Will a possible misinterpretation of an idiomatic expression alter the testimony?  The answer to that question is always yes.  Any misinterpretation alters testimony.

So far, in my experience, few translations of idiomatic expressions survive that criterion.  It doesn’t matter if the idiomatic expression is used in the question or the response; I believe it is too risky if you attempt to translate an idiomatic expression.  You can still comply with court interpreter procedural standards and not disrupt the proceedings when encountering the need to avoid translating an idiomatic expression.  I will explain this in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile, please note that this is an issue for judicial interpreters and translators.  

Encountering both High and Low Registers

UpsidedownScanThe interpreter should be able to anticipate register, but people can surprise you. I have interpreted arbitrations with foreign government officers as witnesses and the register remained high throughout. Then there are disgruntled defendants in a deposition who speak in a low register especially when arguing with the opposing counsel. When transcribing a 9-1-1 call, the register can reflect the emotional state of the speaker.


But there are times when the register changes, even during the official spoken ritual of a Judge or lawyer. It is good to see this effort to reach across the divide allowing full participation in the judicial proceeding.


The best example of bridging the gap between high and low register I have seen is when a child witness is being put under oath by a judge to swear under oath to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth The judge needs to verify that the child knows how to make a promise and if they know the difference between a lie and the truth. The judge breaks down the high register of the oath and piece by piece and institutes the child’s definition of a lie and then their definition of the truth. Finally the child is asked if they promise to tell the truth.  Further gaps in register are filled in by establishing and accepting the word choices used by the child. Often during the examination of the child, unique words and terms used by the child are defined by the child as what they call what the Judge is asking about. Then the Judge will use the same terms the child expresses for those same things or concepts. The child’s terms and definitions are verified and placed on the record in the process.

This merging of registers is not the job of the court interpreter. We simply follow the register as presented.  The Judge or attorney has the option and right to do this. But we interpreters have the responsibility to recognize different registers and interpret accurately and completely while maintaining that register.

Once you consider the speaker and setting youkan then be aware of the potential switch in register. Then you can smoothly interpret in the same register.  Attorneys, Judges, law enforcement professionals and interrogators/interviewers are trained to alter their register to facilitate comprehension.

Many times I have seen in a Q&A format when a formal register was used in the questions and the respondent really couldn’t understand the questions. I have also seen expert or technical witnesses respond in a formal register and had to be asked over and over to clarify their answer. It is also very common for a witness, who I am interpreting for at court, to seem to be caught off guard when they hear the formal register of the proceedings spoken by the Judge and attorneys. One result is they lose concentration and their testimony is diminished. They are already a bit nervous and they are used to conversing with their attorneys in an informal almost casual register. Litigators can resolve this by preparing the witness for the court room experience and explaining that they can expect to hear formal language during the proceedings. The interpreter cannot do this on their own.

Unfortunately if the questioner is not paying attention to the register abyss that has developed, they have the tendency to blame the interpreter for the miscommunication. Consider the source first. If there is a problem in the original wording, a good interpretation transfers that problem just like a telephone. And we, professional  interpreters, enjoy providing a good connection.