3 Funny Court Interpreter Mistakes

Court interpreters make mistakes too! While court interpreter training programs will help you avoid most awkward situations, you still should be prepared to handle some embarrassing moments.


A Court Interpreter Can Make Mistakes Too

You can prepare with court interpreter training, but even in the serious atmosphere of a courtroom funny interpretation mistakes happen. Whether it’s because the language spoken isn’t clear or because an idiom is used, the correct message does not always come across.

As a legal interpreter, it is your job to recognize when a mistake has been made and correct it as soon as possible. If you don’t, facts of the case can be misunderstood or lost which may result in the wrong verdict.

While court interpreter training will help you avoid these types of situations in most cases, you should still be ready to handle embarrassing mistakes when they do happen.

Below are 3 funny legal interpreting examples where colloquialisms land interpreters in some awkward situations, and how they correct themselves in each one!


3 Awkward Court Interpreter Mistakes

There were dogs in my nose!

Court Interpreter MistakesAn interpreter was attending a court case for Haitian Creole man involved in a lawsuit due to a car accident. The man was on the bench explaining in creole what had happened, and why the crash was not directly his fault due to heavy rain.

However, when the Haitian Creole interpreter relayed the message into English it sounded a little something like this:

“The crash is not my fault, you see, there were dogs in my nose that’s why I hit the car in front of me!”

Those present in the courtroom looked extremely confused, and the interpreter, gaging the reactions of those in attendance, quickly realized his mistake. The defendant had used a saying “Chyen ap bwe nan nen” in Haitian Creole, akin to “raining cats and dogs.” When directly interpreted to English the phrase comes out as “dogs in the nose”, or “dogs drinking in their noses.”

After recognizing the confusion on the faces in the courtroom, the interpreter revisited his last statement and realized where the mistake had been made. He quickly corrected himself, clarifying that the expression referenced the heavy rainfall.


It’s because he has the fly!

Funny Court InterpretingOne day a Greek interpreter was on an assignment representing a client who was involved in a wrongful eviction case. The client was on the bench describing how relations had been tense between her and her landlord, and that he evicted her simply because he didn’t get along with her. At one point, when the prosecutor asked why she thought that the landlord was targeting her, the interpreter relayed the following:

“Well he has the fly!”

The prosecutor, confused, turned to the interpreter for clarification.

Realizing that her client had used a colloquialism translating roughly to “he has a chip on his shoulder” (in English the Greek phrase literally translates to “one who has the fly is fly-ed by it”) the interpreter apologized for the mistake and changed her wording.


He got here on a shrimp sandwich!

Court Interpreter MistakesDivorce cases are never fun, and are hardly the place for a humorous mistake. However, for one interpreter helping a Swedish couple break things off that’s exactly what happened.

Mid meeting with the English speaking lawyers, the wife began yelling at the husband. The interpreter naturally relayed the message for the lawyers, who heard the following:

“He doesn’t deserve any portion of the assets; he slid in on a shrimp sandwich!”

What the interpreter should have said was something along the lines of “he doesn’t deserve any portion of the assets; he did not work to get where he is.” However, the expression in Swedish, “Att glida in på en räkmacka,” literally translates in English to “To slide in on a shrimp sandwich.”

Needless to say the lawyers did their best to hide their laughter while the interpreter quickly corrected herself.


Court Interpreter Training To Help Prepare For Mistakes

Court Interpreter TrainingLet’s face it – mistakes are a part of life for interpreters. However, with a good amount of preparation and practice you will get used to dealing with confusing language or colloquialisms on a regular basis.

Court interpreter training programs will allow you to rehearse real life scenarios in the comfort of a small group. This way, when you make a mistake you will be able to practice correcting yourself in a relaxed environment.

While mistakes are inevitable in the career of any legal interpreter, learning to stay calm when they happen will make the difference between an embarrassing situation that is soon forgotten, and a tarnish on your reputation!

Language Connections offers a 7 week, 45 hour Legal and Court Interpreter training course providing an essential foundation for beginners.

The course covers the following topics:

  • The ethics of interpreting and the standards and procedures for court interpreters
  • Legal terminology in the target language
  • The Massachusetts legal system
  • Basic interpretation skills

This course is beneficial both for students looking to become an interpreter for the courts, and those looking to obtain a legal interpreting certificate through the National Center for State Court’s Consortium for Language Access certification exam.

Mistakes happen, be sure that you’ve prepared as much as you can beforehand so you know how to quickly recognize and fix them when they come up – begin your legal interpreter training today!

If you have any questions about terms and prices regarding our Legal and Court Interpreter Certificate Training Program please contact:

Customer Service:
Phone: (617) 277-1990


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Yana Fisher

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