Court Interpreting, A Legal Right

in Court

Nowadays, one can communicate with someone halfway across the world with a touch of a button. It is commonly said that globalization is making the world smaller and smaller as technology connects people and countries together. But no matter how technology progresses, the reality remains that we live in a world shared by six trillion people in over 193 countries, separated by miles of mountain ranges and oceans.

Translation and interpreting comes into the picture with trillions of people speaking different languages. It is a common misconception that both terms carry the same meaning, but translation and interpreting share similarities and distinct differences.

To translate is to render written text from a source language to a target language, while interpreting is to convey meaning from one spoken language to another. Both require that the professional say exactly what was said, without losing the meaning and the linguistic variations the culture presents.

Court interpreting defined

There are many types of cases where translators and interpreters are needed. The areas of politics, business, e-commerce, education, the medical field, and the legal field are increasingly in need of the said services.

In legal cases, court interpreting ensures that a person with limited English capacity can avail of his or her rights to self-expression in civil and criminal cases.

An interpreter must be a excellent linguist, a fast thinker, and display proficiency in a native language and a foreign language. The work of a court interpreter is also known as language mediating from one language to another without losing meaning especially when cultural expressions, phrasing, and tone are involved. It is not the court interpreter’s role to edit what he has heard. Albeit it is his responsibility to relay exactly what has been said including speaking manners, volume of speaking, and even grammatical errors.

Below are two popular styles of court interpreting.

  • Simultaneous interpretation occurs when the interpreter translates at the same time as the speaker.
  • When the speaker pauses after every few sentences to allow the interpreter to relay the meaning, this is called consecutive interpretation.

The role of the court interpreter is not limited in his time in court. He may be called at any time during each stage of the legal process. The interpreter will also be present at the police station should the arrested accused be questioned.

One can see how important the role of a court interpreter is. The judicial system sees the interpreter as an officer of the court. Before each hearing, the interpreter takes an oath to interpret in the most accurate form he can so that justice may prevail.

Court proceedings when an interpreter is involved

Court interpreting is decided by the judge on a case per case basis. The judge is also responsible for finding an interpreter and will usually refer to a directory of a certified court interpreters who have passed certification from state agencies.

It is the judge’s role to advise a non-English speaker to communicate directly to the interpreter. The judge also informs the jury that court interpreting will be involved during the hearing.

As the interpreter will also have to relay conversations between lawyers, the judge takes control by keeping the English as simple as possible, without the use of coined phrases that may be difficult to translate into a foreign language. Confusing questions will also be discouraged so that the non-English speaking accused will be given the best chance possible to listen and understand the trial.

Court interpreting protects the rights of a non-English person. And in a cross-cultural world such as ours, court interpreting is becoming more and more common-place.

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Charlene Lacandazo has 87 articles online and 2 fans

Charlene Lacandazo works for Rosetta Translation, a leading global translation agency. Rosetta Translation specialises in providing court interpreting services worldwide.

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Court Interpreting, A Legal Right

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Court Interpreting, A Legal Right

This article was published on 2012/03/10