May 29, 2018 |
A courtroom interpreter makes communication possible in the courtroom. Thanks to their special skills, courtroom interpreters help all people involved to understand the proceedings, regardless of the language they speak.
As people’s lives depend on the quality of the translation, court interpreters should be highly specialized. They must be proficient in both languages, and understand court and legal jargon, as well.
A courtroom interpreter must translate every word they hear accurately, whenever the judge, lawyers, or witnesses are speaking.
Relying on family members or people who don’t have the right qualifications isn’t acceptable. Such a situation can generate misunderstanding or lead to conflicts that could influence the outcome.
It’s in everyone’s interest to hire a professional courtroom interpreter to make sure all parties involved can understand the proceedings.
People who have difficulty in speaking and understanding English are entitled to a courtroom interpreter in all stages of a proceeding and all types of cases.
Lawyers can make the arrangements easier, but even without a lawyer, witnesses, plaintiffs, and all involved parties can get an interpreter, if the judge recognizes that they have difficulties in communicating due to poor language skills.
Generally, there are two types of interpreters:
In both cases, courtroom interpreters need to demonstrate their language competency by passing tests and getting specific certifications, depending on the court they want to work with.
For example, the State of New York asks interpreters to pass a Written Test of English Language Proficiency and Legal Terminology, followed by a second examination of oral language skills.
For federal courts, interpreters need to get a federal certification after passing written and oral examinations. All courtroom interpreters must also go through a criminal background check.
Courtroom interpreters are often involved in more stages of the legal process when authorities like the police or immigration contact them for help (for situations such as interviews following an arrest). They also interpret during attorney-client meetings and depositions.
Depending on the process, a courtroom interpreter can work anywhere between a couple of hours to several days.
When working with interpreters, breaks are necessary to maintain a high standard of communication. Interpreting for too many hours without proper breaks causes fatigue and lack of concentration, which can generate misunderstanding or errors. That’s why, for lengthy processes, a team of interpreters should be considered.
The courtroom interpreter must listen to what is said and pass on the information from and into the target language, without adding or removing any word that can change the meaning of the speech.
People who need a courtroom interpreter to communicate should be aware of the expert’s role in the process. Courtroom interpreters aren’t allowed to give advice or make any suggestions during depositions or in front of the judge.
Private conversations between the interpreter and the person who doesn’t speak the language should be kept to a minimum, to preserve impartiality.
The oath is a symbol, a way to guarantee that the interpreter will respect the principles of the court and the code of ethics for legal interpreters. The oath for court interpreters varies with the state, but in all cases, it includes the duties and responsibilities that a courtroom interpreter has in the cause of justice.
Here’s an example from Wisconsin:
“I solemnly swear [or affirm] that in all proceedings in the courts of Wisconsin to which I am appointed as an interpreter, I will interpret truly, accurately, completely, and impartially, in accordance with the standards prescribed by law, the code of ethics for court interpreters, and Wisconsin guidelines for court interpreting.”
When the courtroom interpreter says his or her name, the judge can ask if any party knows the interpreter, to ensure a neutral interpreter.
In this niche, experts work with more types of interpreting services:
The role of the courtroom interpreter is crucial. That’s why you need to work with professional teams that can provide you with the best services. When the fate of your future swings in the balance, it’s not the time to cut costs hiring amateurs.