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Wednesday, 10 March 2010


I arrived at OQU at 23 minutes past 9 am. A female staff member opened the security door. I introduced myself and we proceeded to a large room divided into two by customer counters. The same person asked me to seat myself whilst waiting for the customer/s to arrive.

I was not introduced to the interviewer, nor were the names of the clients clarified. I was not told what the interview was going to be about.

I took one of the company’s brochures in Turkish language from the side table and seated myself to read.

The other side of the room where the staff sat was divided again into sections by standard partitioning. I could see that there were about five staff working and I could hear them talking. I continued reading.

At about ten minutes to ten am, a male voice from behind the partition mentioned about a `her` not arriving. The person who opened the door to me and another person, whose name I have later learned from the invoice we are obligated to have signed upon completion of assignments, Mz Inaam Barakat were standing directly in front of the male staff’s table. I heard Ms Inaam Barakat suddenly raise her voice and instruct the staff member to hand some document, which he did. She said, whilst walking towards the far end of their section of the room, “Let me talk to her, I want to talk to her”. They continued talking. A female staff member appeared from behind the partition with a telephone handset in her hands and placed the handset on the counter.

By that time, I had gathered that the matter they were talking about was related to the clients I was assigned to interpret. It is common practice to call the client when they fail to turn up to their appointments. From my experience, at such times the interpreter is briefly told about the customer, their names, and the reason for the telephone call. Interpreter learns the reasons for non-arrival, makes a new appointment and helps clarify the immediate and unexpected situation at hand, thus containing the situation.

Interpreter suggests to call VITS and ask opinion if necessary.

The person who brought out the telephone hand set said “She wants you to talk to her on the phone”, nodding towards Mz Barakat. I said “Oh yes.” She turned around proceeded towards the back of the partition and Mz. Inam Barakat joined her they walked back near the other side of the partition and stood directly opposite me. We were all standing. I said, “This is what usually happens, after about twenty minutes to half of an hour we call the client, we are not really supposed to wait more than that if they are not coming”

It was a simple comment. Perhaps to show my willingness to carry out the obvious, help contact the client as to why they did not turn up.

Following my speech she raised her voice, waved her hands and addressing to the staff member who was standing next to her, said” No you don’t, you stay as long as we want you to stay, we pay for this, this is unprofessional, we pay VITS 71 dollars, we pay 40 dollars for cancellation, no 20 dollars” Mz. Inaam Barakat looked agitated, understandably she was trying to show her concern about the cost of a ruined plan.

This information in relation to cost arrangements was unsolicited. I was not at a privilege to neither obtain nor comment on financial affairs of VITS.

I said something like “Its OK. I was just trying to make a general comment. In some situations like this we call the agency for further instructions, let’s make the phone call to customer”

I seated myself near the one-way telephone handset. The other staff member sat directly opposite me. Mz. Inaam Barakat walked away and came back near the other side of the partition. She stood next to the staff member. Through out the following episode she stood and constantly fidgeted. She again said, “You are unprofessional, this is costing us, we need to communicate with clients”. I sat quietly, shaking my head as the show of understanding. I understood her anxiety. For if, as a professional manager, she thought I was not qualified to do the job, she should have stopped the conversation and ask me to leave.

I sat, waiting to make the phone call. I was still not briefed about the subject matter of the telephone. “I will complain about you, this is unprofessional.”

I said something like “you should contact VITS for that, what would you like me to communicate to the client now please?

She ordered, “You tell them.” I said, “I am sorry this is not a three way communication device, it is not designed for telephone interpreting, and I am not allowed to `tell` I will interpret”

She said, “see this is unprofessional, so we don’t have a three way telephone, you just do as you’re told, just do the job” I did not know what `job` she was referring.

It appeared as though she wished me to somehow solve this problem at hand rather than interpret.

I introduced myself to the female client on the phone. I interpreted” You had an appointment today and you are not here" “

The client expressed her sincere apology and said that her English was not sufficient and she had misunderstood. And she had put the wrong date in her notes when she had spoken with OQU a while ago” I interpreted this. The client waited at the other end of the single line.

Mz Barakat said something to the effect of “it was me who they spoke to and I told them they had and appointment today”

I interpreted this to the client. The client apologized again.

I interpreted this. Mz Barakat said, “Tell them, this is costing us money, every time they don’t turn up it costs us 70 dollars to get an interpreter, tell them how much. They are supposed to let us know if they are not going to come to their appointments”. Mz Barakat reproached the clients.

I interpreted this information to client. I saw that the simple telephone communication was turning complicated and suggested that it may be better to arrange telephone interpreting.

The other staff member who was sitting opposite me placed a single sheet of document on the table and said, “Can you clarify their names and address please? “

Mz Inaam Barakat was completely oblivious to the difficulties of interpreting on a single line, I had a hand set in my left hand, a pen in my right hand, my notebook ready and I was given a document to read at the same time. I confirmed the client names and address. Wrote down on the document. The client was asked if she could make it on. (Some day I do not remember). The client said she cannot make it on that day and another date was arranged. We confirmed the new date twice or three times. A new date had been set. The client had set out their reasons for not turning up. I had interpreted. I placed the document in front of the other staff member who had quietly been sitting opposite me and asked “Is there anything else you would like to say?" The client was waiting at the other end of the line”. She said `no` lifted her head towards Mz Barakat, who stood in an intimidating manner and apparent show of authority whilst we were seated. They looked at each other for a while.

“Ask them if they have translations of their documents yet “Mz Barakat said

I interpreted this. Client replied that she was not informed about translations.

“See, we have to communicate, ask them if they have any of the documents listed there” she pointed to the document on the table. I interpreted. The client was very apologetic. Suddenly I heard a male voice on the telephone. It was the husband.

He said he had his degree document and a Lawyers ID card. No other documents.

Mz Barakat said, “They have to be translated first, well send them a form with which they get their translations free.” I interpreted this. I was asked by Mz Barakat to repeat the sentence and confirm again. I interpreted this. The client sounded to have understood. Mz Barakat said, “Tell him, do they understand why they have to have their documents translated.” I interpreted this. The client replied that he did and that this was necessary regulation.

The other staff member then took the piece of paper from the table and left the scene. Because the clients were not informed prior, the translations were not complete and therefore there was no point in making another appointment until the translations were done. The appointment was cancelled.

Mz Barakat again said “ask them, do they understand why, what sort of documents do they have” I interpreted this. The client repeated his answer. Mz Barakat thought of something to say and, addressing me, said,” You look at my eyes when I am talking, you see this is unprofessional, I’m trying to communicate here”

I said something to the effect of “It is easier for me to concentrate this way, besides we cannot see the client either, the equipment is not sufficient”

She raised her voice, waved her right index finger at me and said ´ this is unprofessional, don’t play with words, just do as you are told”

After about 15 minutes of incomprehensible and irrational behavior of Mz. Barakat, I felt that no matter what I did, Mz. Barakat was not going to calm down.

I replied “Lady, you can’t be the judge of my professionalism, please make your complaints to VITS, I’m trying to assist here, let me do my job”

She shouted, the client was at the other end of the line and could hear.

“That’s it, Stop this conversation now, and tell the client I will call through a telephone interpreter”. (Here I would like to draw your attention to Mz Barakat`s letter to you. There she suggests that “. I asked him to terminate- tell the client I will contact her through the …” At that point, it was not the wife on the other end of the line but it was the husband.)

I interpreted this and assured the customer that a telephone interpreting session would be arranged by OQU.

I hung up.

Mz Barakat demanded, “What’s your name? I’m going to complain about you”

I said “Mz. I will present you with an invoice, all the details are there”

I filled the attendance slip.

Mz. Barakat signed the attendance slip. She asked me what time I started. I said “9.25”; she looked at her watch, put the time in and asked which copy she should keep. I replied “Blue”. She handed the other copies of the attendance sheet, verifying completion of the assignment.

In an attempt to soften the agitated atmosphere, I asked if they often used interpreters.

Mz Barakat raised her voice and said, “I don’t want to discuss with you anymore, that’s it”.

I thanked and left.

I categorically dismiss her claim that the client was not given all the information. The client was given the information as presented by Mz Barakat. Mz Barakat should have informed the client before they made an appointment for that day. In any case, even if the clients had turned up, they had not had their documents translated yet, were not informed of that requirement and therefore the purpose of the appointment was vague. To the best of my ability and memory permitting, above is the details of the incident as it happened.

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