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The Importance of Correct Courtroom Interpreting

Your Words On Trial – The Importance of Correct Courtroom Interpreting

The defendant isn’t the only one on trial in the courtroom – one could argue the language spoken is as well.

 

Courtroom InterpretingIn court, the jury only has the evidence presented by the defense and the prosecuting attorneys, as well as the statements of the defendant(s) and the plaintiff(s), on which to base their decisions. What either party says is entirely up for interpretation by the jury, based on the facts presented. Therefore, if something is misstated, or omitted, it could change the entire intention or meaning of a statement, and thus what the jury decides.

This gets even more complicated when the defendant doesn’t speak English. In this case courtroom interpreting must be provided. Court interpreters relay in English verbatim what the defendant says throughout the trial. It is the interpreter’s English interpretation that gets put on the court record, and is heard by the jury.

Therefore, if the interpreter misinterprets something, and the defense’s attorneys or the judge aren’t bilingual, then nobody will know the difference between the defendant’s statement and the English one on record.

This can have grave consequences in court, if what is stated incriminates the defendant (or doesn’t).

Therefore, the importance of correct courtroom interpreting, and interpreting for all other legal proceedings, cannot be understated.

 

When Does The Risk of a Misinterpretation in the Courtroom Increase?

Court InterpretingMost often you run into a risk of misinterpretation when a non-professional interpreter is used in the courtroom. This can either be due to a lack of interpreters in the court, or the lack of knowledge on why it is important to use a professional interpreter.

Such scenarios could include:

  • Judges using bilingual court clerks to interpret when professional interpreters aren’t present
  • When non-certified, and non-trained, bilingual individuals are used in general
  • When non-interpreters don’t understand the importance of performing a proper interpretation

An example of this last point is highlighted in the following tweet from a professional court interpreter:

Such scenarios could include:

  • Judges using bilingual court clerks to interpret when professional interpreters aren’t present
  • When non-certified, and non-trained, bilingual individuals are used in general
  • When non-interpreters don’t understand the importance of performing a proper interpretation

An example of this last point is highlighted in the following tweet from a professional court interpreter:

Court Interpreter Tweet

(ilegalmente). “A court reporter told me today that court interpreters doing simul only have to get the “gist” of it. I politely explained how wrong he was” 26 Jan 2012, 5:34 p.m. Tweet.

*”simul” is in reference to simultaneous interpretation

A common problem in the field of courtroom interpreting (and interpreting in general) is people not understanding how it works.

If the practice is not understood or taken seriously by legal professionals, the chances for misinterpretation can increase down the line when proper interpreting standards aren’t used.

In reference to the aforementioned tweet: it is essential that an interpreter captures every word, and every meaning of a statement in their interpretation. Otherwise, it can’t be considered a faithful interpretation, and there would be too much room for ethic breaches in the practice.

In court, every word and meaning must be interpreted for the validity of the trial. Only providing the “gist” of what was said by a non-English speaking defendant could mean omitting essential details. This could in turn influence conviction decisions.

Naturally, a professional interpreter will know the standards and ethics of providing courtroom interpreting. Thus this serves as one of many reasons to never use untrained individuals to interpret in court.

 

Do Professional Court Interpreters Get It Right 100% of the Time?

Even when you do use a professional interpreter, mistakes can happen. Professionals will know to correct themselves, providing all members in the courtroom with the corrected interpretation.

However, even corrected mistakes could create problems. Therefore, it is important to make sure you not only have a professional interpreter who knows to make clear corrections, but other procedures in place like breaks when working long sessions (this can also be done by utilizing a team of interpreters).

As an interpreter, you should always build off of your existing experience and language knowledge to help mitigate future mistakes.

 

How Do You Become A Court Interpreter?

Court Interpreter TrainingProfessional court interpreters tend to get an education in interpretation (as well as language) before beginning their work. To work at a state and federal level, you must also pass a written and oral exam.

There are many resources for individuals looking to work in courtroom interpreting, and for those looking to prepare for the exam. These range from university interpreting degrees, to legal interpreter training programs.

For those who are looking to break into the field of court interpreting, and for whom a formal education is not realistic, legal interpreter training programs will teach the vocabulary necessary to work in the courts. They will also cover the proper way to interpret during trials and proceedings.

Language Connections offers a seven week, Legal and Court Interpreter Certificate Training Program that covers legal terminology (in both native and target languages), the ethics of interpreting, and information regarding the Massachusetts legal system.

All of our training courses are taught by experienced court interpreters, and class sizes are small allowing you to get personalized teaching from our instructors.

Don’t let your words be found guilty of misinterpretation – get started on the training you need to become a certified court interpreter today! Register now for one of our upcoming Legal and Court Interpreter Training courses.

See the course schedule here:  Schedule >>>

Contact us for more information:
Phone:(617) 277-1990
Email: support@languageconnections.com