This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Me no speaka de Englishe.

Following on from the furore over veils, Gordon Brown now thinks immigrants "should speak the language of English". I do hope this is not a direct quote, as it suggests that Gordon Brown should possibly learn to speak the English language too.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. There is nothing worse than dealing with foreigners, whether as victims, offenders or witnesses. No, I am not racist, I am time-ist. I hate anything that takes an unreasonable length of time and waiting for interpreters, making appointments with witnesses, then waiting while the interpreter alters the victim's detailed account into his or her own words, writes it out again and then does his or her own statement promising that the translation is accurate, takes an incredible amount of TIME.

Dealing with offenders is slightly better, but where both victim and offender speak the same obscure language and there is only one interpreter from that nation in the south of England, it can cause a problem (you cannot really use the same interpreter for both as they could pass messages/contaminate the account).

We have a couple of excellent interpreters in the Blandmore area, and some less good ones. Here are some real life experiences I have had:

I once found the best Somalian interpreter in the world. We sat and took the statement for about two hours and every three minutes the interpreter read what he had written back to me, simultaneously translating it into English so I could check we were heading the right way. At least, so I thought. When I finally said, "Are you really translating so quickly as you go along?" he said, "No, the statement is in English." I viewed it and sure enough, he had written in English. "But how is the victim going to read it and sign it?" I asked. "I will translate it into Somalian now." "But... shouldn't it be the other way around?" "I always do it this way." Hey ho, as long as I end up with two statements I am happy.

There is a top-notch Urdu interpreter who travels many miles to tend our prisoners. A typical interview with her will go something like:
PC Bloggs: When I turn on the tape you will hear a bleep.
Interpreter: [speaks for three minutes without pause, exchanging nods and confirmations with the prisoner].
PC Bloggs: What were you saying?
Interpreter: I was explaining the tape procedure and legal aspects.
PC Bloggs: But... I do that on the tape, and how do you know what I'm going to say?
Interpreter: It's the same every time.
PC Bloggs: OK, but we'll have to do it on the tape again.
PC Bloggs: Did you hit the other guy?
Interpreter translates.
Suspect speaks for at least a minute.
Interpreter: No.
PC Bloggs: Is that all he said?
Interpreter: Yes.
PC Bloggs: OK... how did the other guy get injured then?
Interpreter translates.
Suspect speaks.
Interpreter speaks.
Suspect speaks.
Interpreter: I don't know.
PC Bloggs: What did you just ask him?
Interpreter: I said I don't believe him.
PC Bloggs: Can you just say what I ask, please?
Interpreter: Fine.
PC Bloggs: And tell me what he says?
Interpreter: You are fussy.
Suspect speaks.
PC Bloggs: Well?
Interpreter: I don't know what he said. We speak different dialects.
PC Bloggs: Then how have you been interpreting for the last hour?
Interpreter: Largely guesswork. I can make out a few words.
PC Bloggs: Interview terminated!
Suspect: Why are we stopping?
PC Bloggs: You speak English?
Suspect: Yes, I am bilingual. They only asked me what my first language was.
PC Bloggs: Please kill me now.

Copyright of PC Bloggs.


Anonymous extraspecialcopper said...

oh dear lord please say that last one is a wind up!!!

10 October, 2006 22:43

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Sadly it is true and I have the tape to prove it!

10 October, 2006 23:13

Anonymous guv said...

Cracking interview and one for the comedy archives.

On the flip side, my frustration is when the suspect has been abusing you for 20 mins in perfectly clear english right up until the rights and entitlements and suddenly does not understand. They should be made to pay the interpreters fees which I am told are fairly handsome although if you do get a good one, hold onto them.

11 October, 2006 00:16

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blogg for a while.. I'm on the medical side of life rather than police...

The whole translation thing is a H-U-G-E drama for us as well.

My best was when treating a Morrocan who only spoke Arabic, (I know minimal Arabic). So this helpful guy translates but only spoke Arabic/French into French. This was then translated into English for me by a Morrocan/French young woman who spoke some conversational English and French!!

I got myself a really funky language manual thing for converting between languages and English in medical emergencies, which would have really helped if it wasn't by my desk keeping my iPod company.... *eyes roll*

Fantastic Blog.. we have very similar sense of humour.


11 October, 2006 00:29

Blogger Calabar Gal said...

Good Lord!! Well, thank God the suspect admitted he spoke English in the end!! Could have had the whole system for a sucker!!

11 October, 2006 01:38

Anonymous Canadian Copper said...

That is sadly familiar to me as well. Paramedics have a handy English test to see if somebody is using the "Me no speaka de Englishe" card to their benefit; The usually senior medic will announce; "Too bad he cannot tell us what is wrong, I suppose we will just have to insert a large catheter into his penis to be on the safe side. Are we still out of lubricant?"

I usually find that the words "tow truck" or "three thousand dollar fine" can sometimes provoke an instaneous recollection of English at the roadside too.

11 October, 2006 04:20

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL @ Canadian Copper... So that happens over there as well.. *looks innocent and fails*...

Always good to talk needles and tell someone "No the big one with the orange end.."

I know a paramedic who dealt with a faker who was pretending to be u/c and went as far as having the large Endotracheal Tube down the throat for 5 mins before pulling it out and running off screaming obscenities (Apparently chased by a couple of male constables asking for her number.....)

11 October, 2006 10:12

Anonymous Joe Public said...

One of those moments in life where you've just gotta say D'oh!

11 October, 2006 10:25

Blogger staghounds said...

Fortunately the only foreign language we deal with much is Spanish. And we have a terrible problem with the local black thugs, usually juveniles, robbing our new residents from south of the Rio Grande. It's a good plan- they have money because they WORK, and they have all sorts of difficulties as witnesses. About half the time they don't even appear to testify, unlike the natives.

Unfortunately, I know just enough Spanish to catch interpreters "misinterpreting" about once every 5 minutes.

Most recently, witness in a robbery case said, "I ran away because I thought they were about to kill me."

Interpreter said, "I left".

Me- "Please interpret exactly what he said."

Interpreter- "I did, he said he left."

So now I either have to make the interpreter look bad, or make it look like I am coaching the witness. Sheesh.

11 October, 2006 12:21

Blogger ExtraSpecialCopper said...

Any chance of uploading that tape then PC Bloggs ;)

11 October, 2006 15:14

Blogger PC South West said...

I once saw one of those irritating cops programmes on TV where 3 guys who had been arrested were speaking in Arabic, but refused to speak English.
They continued to speak to one another about the crime they had committed and their guilt among other things.
What they were blissfully unaware of was one of the officers was fluent in the same language.
How unfortunate for them.

As for being time-ist it takes ages to even book a prisoner into custody via language line.

11 October, 2006 17:59

Blogger Calabar Gal said...

@PC South West: I saw that programme too.

11 October, 2006 23:12

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was an episode of Shops, Cops and Robbers when they filmed alongside the Soho Team...

12 October, 2006 00:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...



12 October, 2006 21:59

Blogger PC South West said...

That was it, and they had been trying to steal in Oxford Street if my memory serves me correctly.
Be good if we were all multilingual.

14 October, 2006 20:04

Blogger Stacey said...

I am a paramedic, a couple of months ago I had a patient (a migrant worker) who was involved in a fight and the cops wanted him checked at the hospital. Before I got into the ambulance one of the officers pulled me aside and said "He claims that he dosnt speak english but I am pretty sure he does."
I got in the ambulance and started asking the guy questions and he kept saying "No speaka english" I asked him a couple more questions and he kept shaking his head and saying "Noooo speeaaaaaakkkkaaa english" So I pull out the biggest needle I could find and I turned to my partner and said "I really wish he could understand english. I feel really bad about that I am going to have to do this without explaining the procedure first."
In perfect english... With no accent.

16 October, 2006 00:55

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03 April, 2009 18:42


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