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  • Yelena McCafferty

Drama with an interpreter

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

The first episode of BBC’s new drama Love, Lies and Records, has highlighted the importance of using a professional interpreter at register offices if there is a language barrier in communication. The scene, which can be watched on the iplayer from 14:32 to 18:00 hours features a couple applying for a licence to get married, and have an interpreter with them. The interpreter introduces herself as “I am here to interpret and explain everything”. Indeed, when an opportunity comes for her to interpret, she does it from the third person singular (“she says”) and to a simple “yes” uttered by the bride-to-be, adds a few sentences of her own. The senior registrar makes an immediate polite request: “thank you for that, if you could just interpret exactly what she says to me and what I say back to her without adding anything”. The applicants clearly raise suspicion of the registrars of a possible fake marriage being prepped here as several people appear to answer for the young Slovenian girl who looks underwhelmed and even a little nervous sitting next to her Iranian boy-friend.

Typically, the scene set off a reaction on Twitter, with one interpreter tweeting: “An interpreter gets featured on a new BBC drama. Yay! She’s shady and lacks basic ethics and professionalism. Boo!” (Megan‏ @transterpreting)

Quite, but I do believe the portrayal is designed to show just that: lack of professionalism by someone purporting to be an interpreter. Even viewers with a very remote idea of what an interpreter’s job involves should have grasped the underlying message here: the interpreter is exceeding her remit and gets reminded by the official what her job is about.

A little disappointing perhaps is the fact that the registrar didn’t check the interpreter’s credentials and, if these were lacking, she could have insisted on using an independent professional, but this story line is developing so it may well come up in the following episodes of the TV drama. We’ll wait and see.

An interpreter's role is to relay messages and intervene only in extreme circumstances.

Scene at the Register Office, with Katarina Cas in the role of Dominica, the interpreter.

[Tip: If you wish to book an accredited Russian interpreter, call us on 0207 0436940 or email]


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