Languages open doors

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“Translators needed: Pakistani/Hindu to Spanish”, read the ad on a notice board in town. I pick up the phone to call the number, if nothing else but to explain to these dudes that Pakistani is not a language; Pakistani’s speak Urdu. Hindu is not a language, it is a religion – the language is Hindi. Hindi and Urdu are spoken similarly, but the script is completely different. I speak Urdu/Hindi but cannot read Urdu. (Now I must have said something very unclearly because on my way out of the interview, I was still given a Urdu-Spanish dictionary)

Anyway. All excited about visiting an interpretor office (yes the movie The Interpretor was flashing infront of my eyes), I went for an interview to be a translator. Thinking I’d be writing or translating for business/tourism purposes, I was a little set aback when I was told that I would be the official translator in a criminal court of law.


“You need to understand the laws of the Spanish court, and be able to communicate them to the detainee,” they said. “You will narrate the story of the detainee to the court and be the mouthpiece of the court to the detainee.”

What? After only 4 months in Spain, am I competent to do this?

” Si si si si!, hablas muy bien” – No problem at all , it’s easy. Right.

“Here is a book (in Spanish) you need to know in and out. It explains your job and your rights. There are 300 legal Spanish words you need to know in Pakistani (HINDI!!por favor)
and since you seem to have good English, I’m putting you down for English detainees too.”

My confidence and pride was escalating like a rocket in this room. I could see myself being important, doing something that made a difference (no shit, what I translate could make a difference on whether this dude goes to prision or not), without me, the courtroom practically cannot function. I was exhilarated.

After a 3 hour interview/briefing, all set to hear my working hours and pay – everything seemed to go the wrong way. “We pay Euro 12 an hour. Does not count travel time.”

Thats it? Surely interpretors get paid more. Anyway, money not being the prime reason for me excepting this job – I wasn’t going to contest that. It’s about 50% more than the average pay of an Espanol my age, so that’s pretty good.

“You have to be on call 24 hours”


“You might have to go to court, to the police station, to the scene of an accident, to the hospital, to the detention centre. There is no fixed time. We pay Euro 15 any time after 10pm”.

Ok.. So if I’m out salsa dancing and you call, I need to be there?


How inconvenient! and what if I can’t come? “Say you can’t, but the more you say you can’t the less we will call you.”

Ok. So I have school 1-7pm, I dance 3 nights a week. I see myself saying no alot. But then what’s the point? And, if I am out dancing and they call, and I say no, am I going to be able to enjoy the rest of the night thinking that I have taken up a job that I probably am never going to show up at ?

Anyway, I was told I have till Monday to think about it. Being in two minds, I was happy to hear that. My mind was saying: try it for a bit, and if it’s a pain in the ass, forget about it – how many times do you get such an opportunity? And I saw myself beginning to nurture my competency in a language and translating, felt good. But it was also saying, do you really want to spend your last month in Spain doing this? Do you really want to get phone calls at any hour asking you to drop everything to go help the Spanish courts? Will your conscious allow you to say ‘no’ when you have to choose dinner/dancing/movie over helping bring justice?

4 days to think…lets see.

Was in class the next day when my phone rang 3 times and I received 2 messages. Panic messages from the lady wondering if I could go to court tonight for a job.

What? I don’t even know how to say “Rights” in Hindi yet! My heart was racing.

After a coffee and a long conversation with my dad, I called back and refused the job.
Perhaps another time, if I return to Spain, I might dare to take it up, it would certainly be a fabulous experience. For the moment I’m just happy and relieved that I’m blogging it. Who knows what other doors language learning will open.

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