in many of my posts I like to write about our large-scale projects for VIP clients, rich companies, world leaders and barons and dukes who have crossed my path from time to time…
But every now and then, a particularly engaging story crops up, a story about an ordinary individual who gets trapped in the wheels of bureaucracy.
One of my clients, Aviva Galai, attorney and mediator at the Lev Natarevich & Co. Law Office, has such a story to tell.
Aviva’s office, which specializes in insurance and court litigation, handles cases of immigrants from Russia.
Most of them, especially the older generation, don’t speak Hebrew well and often have to cope by themselves with the complicated government bureaucracy.
Aviva’s client, a woman in her 50s, was given an 80% disability rating by the Israel National Insurance Institute, which made her eligible for financial benefits, including a mobility allowance and a loan toward the cost of a car. In her case, since she herself could not drive, she was assigned a designated driver– her partner.
To prevent abuse of this benefit, the National Security Institute would visit her house every 3 years to make sure that she was still living with the same partner and that he wasn’t driving the car for his own personal use.
Over the years, these home visits went smoothly and no problems arose with the allowance.
However, on the last visit, in 2015, the inspector questioned the woman in Hebrew, while she was home alone without anyone to translate for her, leading to a total misunderstanding of her situation.
The inspector understood from her that she was no longer in a relationship with her partner, which meant that she was no longer entitled to mobility aid, and, therefore, he canceled the benefit. His assessment of the situation was, of course, mistaken, and the woman turned to Aviva for legal assistance.
“The client came to my office and explained in Russian exactly what took place during the official’s visit,” said Aviva. “Apparently, the inspector noticed that the woman and her partner no longer sleep in the same bed, but didn’t understand that it was due to the pain she suffered at night. He was still taking care of her and sharing his life with her, but that night he wanted to give her some space, so he slept in another room. My client was very upset as she couldn’t understand or communicate satisfactorily, and now the financial aid she depends on so much had been taken from her.”
At this point Ms. Galai took the case to the labor court in an effort to win back her client’s allowance. She also turned to Lichi Translations in order to assign the most suitable interpreter available.
“There are several requirements that a court interpreter must fulfill. He or she must be able to concentrate very well. Emotions are high and everyone speaks quickly, and the interpreter needs to listen to important messages that are being spoken at the same time. My client, for example, speaks very quickly and so did the rest of the courtroom attendees.”
In the court room, every word has a tremendous impact. “Some words can actually have a double meaning, and this is why Lichi Translations must ensure we get the right person for the job,” says Aviva. “In Russian, the word ‘friend’ can also be translated as ‘lover’. In this particular case, this was a vital point. We had to prove that my client and her life partner were still sharing their lives. If the interpreter didn’t succeed in clarifying that in court, the case might well be lost.”
An interpreter was appointed by Lichi Translations to appear in court and, at the judge’s request, explained the differences between the various terms for ‘friend’ in Russian. Following the interpreter’s explanation, the judge accepted the claim of the applicant, so that the client won the case and received her social benefits once again.
I’m delighted that we at Lichi Translations had the opportunity to help an ordinary individual who needed help with the language, even if it wasn’t a million-dollar project.
This case proves once again what I’ve been telling my clients for years – an incorrect translation can cost you a lot of money and cause a lot of damage!
Interaction between two people speaking different languages and/or two companies from different countries always involves a culture gap and differences in mentality. That’s why it’s critical for messages to be conveyed accurately and appropriately.