A mere conduit?

Under the E-Commerce Regulations, an ISP can escape liability for content because it is a mere conduit.

Conduit in the figurative sense: the OED says

4. fig. The channel or medium by which anything (e.g. knowledge, influence, wealth, etc.) is conveyed;

But currently in the USA, there is an argument as to whether an interpreter or translator is a mere conduit.

I suppose that’s how some customers see us.

When the police use an interpreter in an interrogation and do not record the defendant’s words but only the translation of them into English, can the interpreter be challenged legally? Lawrence Solan writes in his Balkinization blog:

An interesting question concerning forensic linguistics is making its way through the appellate courts: When the police use an interpreter during an interview (or interrogation) of a suspect who later becomes a defendant in a prosecution, and the defendant’s words in her original language are not recorded, does the defendant have a constitutional right to confront the interpreter? As a cost-saving measure, more and more law enforcement agencies, and some courts, have been retaining services that interpret the interview over the telephone. One of them, Language Line Solutions. http://www.languageline.com/, has found itself in the middle of this constitutional question.

courts should be more realistic in their understanding of what interpreters and translators can do. First, courts should stop relying on the “conduit” theory of translation. Compare two reputable translations of any work of literature. They will be similar in some ways, different in others. To the extent that word choice matters in the context of a criminal prosecution, nuanced differences may affect a case’s outcome. Second, interpreters make errors. The legal system should recognize this. Third, courts should not accept as accurate representations that the entire professional staff of a private firm retained by the government is dispassionate and of high professional character. Surely the defendant need not accept such representations.

Solan recommends that at least the original statements should be recorded as potential evidence.

Volkswagen CEO speaks English

It seems that Matthias Müller was speaking in acoustically confusing surroundings at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit:

Frankly spoken, it was a technical problem. We made a default, we had a … not the right interpretation of the American law. And we had some targets for our technical engineers, and they solved this problem and reached targets with some software solutions which haven’t been compatible to the American law. That is the thing. And the other question you mentioned — it was an ethical problem? I cannot understand why you say that.

(I have the impression that the word ‘default’ is popular with Germans speaking bad English). Colleagues wonder why he was not accompanied by an interpreter. The interview can be heard here. Müller was allowed a ‘do-over’ later:

Mueller: I have to apologize for yesterday evening because the situation was a little bit difficult for me to handle in front of all these colleagues of yours and everybody shouting. OK. Thank you very much for coming again and giving me the opportunity to say some words.

NPR: When we talked yesterday, the key line seemed to be that this was a technical error. Which sounds to us in English, like, “Oops.” When it wasn’t an oops. It was more than a technical error. It seemed to be intentional.

Mueller: Yeah, the situation is, first of all we fully accept the violation. There is no doubt about it. Second, we have to apologize on behalf of Volkswagen for that situation we have created in front of customers, in front of dealers and, of course, to the authorities. …

I don’t quite understand what Müller means by ‘I cannot understand whether you say that'(corrected in this second transcript to ‘why you say that’).

Details of the lawsuit against Volkswagen here.

LATER NOTE: Richard Schneider reports that Müller intends always to use an interpreter in future appearances in the USA. He apparently understood ‘ethical’ as ‘technical’ in the above story.

German juror in hot water

Miklas Scholz, professor of civil engineering at Salford University, caused a trial in which he was a juror to collapse because he researched the defendant on the internet. He claims that when the judge told the jurors they would be ‘in hot water’ if they did this, he did not understand what was meant.

The Independent writes (with mugshot):

“I just did not understand what the phrase ‘in hot water’ meant in this context. It just seems meaningless,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“I have written many journals so I am used to writing in proper English and proper sentences and wouldn’t use words and phrases like being ‘in hot water’ to describe being in trouble because it is not correct.

“They don’t mean anything, definitely not in the context of looking on the internet.

“You would say someone is ‘in trouble’ and the judge should have said that.”

Translating barristers’ language

The Secret Barrister tries to help a work experience student understand criminal court proceedings at Translating barrister-speak: A beginner’s guide.

For example, ‘My client has had the benefit of robust advice’ translates as ‘I have told the stupid dildo REPEATEDLY how utterly rubber ducked he is’.

Legal cheek decodes what a supervisor says to a supervisee.

For example, the supervisor says ‘I hear what you say’, the supervisee understands ‘He accepts my point of view’, but the supervisor means ‘I entirely disagree and do not want to discuss it further’.

This does ring very true.

Is there a spelling mistake on Ian Paisley’s gravestone?

Is there a spelling mistake on Ian Paisley’s gravestone? ask The Irish News. Honorable is really the American spelling. I wonder if this will be followed up?

Further examples are given for Jimmy Savile, Elvis Presley and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

More weight to the argument one should die without a memorial.

It seems Cervantes had the same problem.

In fact it seems common. Although spelling mistakes on tombstones are often referred to as typos, there is no Tippex (is that a Germanism?) to remove them. Here’s how to deal with them.

The courts and language, and Harry Potter

The Trademark and Copyright Law Blog has – or had a few weeks ago – a post on all the court cases relating to Harry Potter – Harry Potter Lawsuits and Where to Find Them, for example:

Smith v. Rowling. In 2010, Elijah Smith brought a pro se claim against Rowling in the Eastern District of California. The allegation was simple: “I’m the author who write Harry Potter. . .” As to the relief sought, Mr. Smith stated:

Mrs. J.K. Rowling will make a great teacher . . . I’ll be gladly to help Mrs. J.K. Rowling after she pay me $18 billion.

Mr. Smith’s complaint was dismissed shortly after it was brought, and his request to proceed in forma pauperis was denied. Mr. Smith, who at the time the complaint was filed resided in a California state prison, has brought similar claims against Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dog and Sam Cooke.

(via Law and Magic Blog)

And Mark Liberman at Language Log links to an article on a court being invited to consider corpus linguistics in deciding the meaning of a term (to discharge a weapon), although perhaps the right judge did not win the argument: “Linguists have a name for this kind of analysis” . The linked article is by Gordon Smith in the Conglomerate: Corpus Linguistics in the Courts (Again).

Wherein hereinafter, hereinbefore and therethroughout are considered

I can’t pass by Trebots’ brief entry on The sad decline of hereinbefore. I have to say I have little use for hereinbefore, but quite a lot for hereinafter. I will counter his with another
Google chart which makes me wonder why aforementioned should be on the rise.

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange calls these pronominal adverbs and links to a list in wiktionary. I have not heard of therethroughout but remember the confusion caused to students when they mistook wherefor for wherefore.

On the same subject, it seems that not everyone regards whereby and wobei as false friends.

I used to use an exercise with students where they had to enter the right form of, for instance, hereof, thereof and whereof. They found it surprisingly difficult – surprising to me because German does exactly the same thing.

There’s some good stuff on this and many other aspects of legal English in Rupert Haigh’s book Legal English. There is a website for the book where there are some exercises, although I could not understand the structure of the one on these words. The website is for the fourth edition of the book, whereas I only have the third edition.

Welcome to the online resource bank to support the fourth edition of Rupert Haigh’s Legal English.

If you are a student you will find a bank of activities and exercises corresponding to the chapters in the book designed to give you additional practice opportunities in using Legal English in a range of scenarios. These will range from simple gap-fill exercises, to multiple choice questions, to written activities, to comprehension exercises based on video simulations of real-life legal situations. An automatic grading facility will help you assess your own progress and identify areas for improvement. You can also email your results to your class tutor if required.

In the video section, you can find four instructional videos, based on the book and recorded by the author, to illustrate concepts discussed in the book.

If you are a lecturer you will find a bank of customisable activities which can be used with small groups in seminars or tutorials to help practice their use of oral Legal English.

Matching exercises
Question 3
The extract below is from an Indian deed of partition. It contains various old-fashioned terms beginning with here-, there-, or where- (e.g. hereof, whereof, thereof, hereby, hereinafter etc), which are still commonly found in documents relating to land purchases. For each numbered gap in the extract, select the correct word from the choices below.

Lord Chancellor’s advice on language

From The Independent: Michael Gove instructing his civil servants on grammar

Mr Gove, who studied English at Oxford University’s Lady Margaret Hall, is notorious for his obsession with correct language. While secretary of state for education, he changed the curriculum so that schoolchildren studied more classical literature. “It’s slightly patronising,” said a Whitehall source. “It does feel like the sort of thing someone would do when they have too much time on their hands.”

It appears there are a lot of style guides for civil servants, most probably not available online, and for a minister to request this kind of thing is not unusual. Apparently William Hague requested all correspondence to be written in the Ariel font, except correspondence to himself, which was to be in Georgia. However (to start a sentence in a way he bans), The Independent is keeping an eye on Michael Gove. He was unpopular with teachers but does have more brain cells than the last Lord Chancellor. But how will he use them?

On the subject of civil servants’ language, here is a PDF on Mandarin English

You will recall that
No you won’t.
You will wish to be aware
No you won’t, it’s bad news I’m afraid.
You may wish to consider [doing this]
Do this or else!
You Should Be Aware
Even worse news – not my fault, honest.