How Do You Say `But She Wanted It` In Amharic?
March 21, 2008, 05:37 PM
Print Friendly and PDF
After several years as a litigator in New York City, I thought I`d encountered every obscure language that plaintiffs spoke — and demanded translations of to press their lawsuits.

One was an African language called either "Konobo" or "Kron Konobo" (phoenetic, Google doesn`t bring up anything for "Kron Konobo")[ Note: That`s Krahn Konobo, one of the indigenous languages of Liberia.] that sent my client scurrying to the U.N. to find a translator. Amazingly, we found one, although the plaintiff`s daughter complained halfway through a deposition that the translator spoke the eastern version, while her mother spoke a western version. I was later told that this language had no written version. Oy vey, as they say.

Here`s one I missed. An Alexandria, Va. judge recently denied a rape defendant`s motion for a re-translation of his entire court transcript (something taxpayers would foot the bill for) on grounds that the first court-appointed translator of Amharic screwed it up. Amharic? Turns out, it`s a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia.

All of which might make for a nice little geo-linguistics lesson, if we can get past the fact that there`s an Ethiopian running around who shouldn`t be here to begin with, either as an (alleged) rapist or confounder of a legal system that has enough trouble operating under one language.

Funny, I can`t get past that.