Who’s Calling?

If there is any chance that somebody in the residence that you are going to visit speaks a language that you do not understand, it is prudent to have an interpreter along to assist. This may not seem necessary if the client speaks your language, but in times of stress and crisis, persons often resort to their language of origin. As well, the client who seems helpful and cooperative could pass instructions to another party in a language you don’t understand that may compromise your safety without you being aware of it. I recall an incident involving a pair of workers who attended at a residence to apprehend an Asian child from the child’s grandmother’s residence. When the workers arrived, the grandmother presented as cooperative and friendly. She excused herself to conduct a telephone conversation in a foreign language. She did this within sight and hearing of the workers, but as they did not speak the grandmother’s language they did not realize that what she was really doing was phoning the child’s father, a gang member, advising him to intervene. Just as the workers were getting into their car with the child several car loads of gang members armed with baseball bats pulled up. The workers were boxed in and the gang members smashed out the windows of their car. Fortunately the workers had a cellular phone and called 911. As luck would have it, they were only a few blocks from the police station and there were police units available there.  Police arrived quickly and arrested these parties just as they were climbing in the windows of the worker’s car. Fortunately these workers escaped without injury, but they were traumatized for weeks afterwards. 

If these workers had thought to take an interpreter with them in the first place, they may have escaped without incident. I recall another incident in which a client was overheard by a court interpreter. The client was threatening to “wait outside and do something to that worker.” The worker was able to notify the court sheriffs to deal with this situation.

Charles Ennis

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