Working as a Court Certified Interpreter – How to Survive
Legal interpreting can be either simultaneous or consecutive, depending on the type of proceeding and the amount of people involved. Both of these interpreting modes require their own set of linguistic skills, but they also require an intense amount of focus and accuracy to be completed faithfully. With the fate of a case literally hanging on how all the details are interpreted – both in a legal sense and a linguistic sense – working as a legal interpreter can be challenging to say the least
Many people discuss the challenges of how to become a legal interpreter, such as passing the federal court interpreter certification examination and learning court vocabulary, but what about those challenges that you face after you become a professional interpreter? As mentioned before, some of the major skills you’ll need on the job are an ability to remain completely focused and accurate. Accuracy can be influenced by an interpreter’s ability to remain unbiased and detached emotionally. Perfecting your focus and unbiased attitude can be challenging to even experienced interpreters.
Why a Court Certified Interpreter Needs to Remain Focused
Court interpreting is a high-paced environment – you have to keep up with the judge, lawyers, defendants and witnesses as they testify, plead their case, and interrupt with objections. You also have to make sure you’re catching everything from complicated legal terms to everyday slang, and interpreting them with the correct meaning. As such, any moment where you aren’t focused could mean you miss a great deal of information. Asking the speaker to repeat themselves, or incorrectly interpreting what was said, can lead to wasted time, confusion and even incorrect sentencing. In a famous example, a court interpreter mis-interpreted the Spanish word for violation for a traffic violation as “violación” which means rape – an entirely different and far more serious accusation. To avoid large mistakes like this, you must remain focused the entire time of your interpreting session.
Why A Court Certified Interpreter Needs to Be Unbiased and Emotionally Detached
Being unbiased and detached is perhaps the hardest, but the most important skill of a legal interpreter. As part of the ethics of legal interpreting, you are not allowed in any way to provide your advice or opinions on a case – you are to remain unbiased at all times. Just as it takes a lot of training and studying to become an interpreter, lawyers and judges must go through the same. Therefore, just as they are not qualified to provide interpreting services, you are not qualified to provide legal services. It doesn’t matter if the person on trial asks you, or if the judge asks you – you are there to faithfully interpret what is said and that is all. The same goes regardless of what kind of case it is – you could be interpreting for a serious crime, and disagree with what is being said, but you must never omit words that upset you or let your opinion come through as you interpret.
That being said, we all know how sensitive legal issues are and how emotional they can get. As an interpreter you must also make sure you never get emotionally involved in a case – whether you are happy, sad, angry or otherwise. Doing so could affect your unbiased stance, and the accuracy of your interpreting. It is also unprofessional for interpreters to let their emotions color the words of others –the job after all is to be a neutral conduit for communication.
How Court Certified Interpreters Learn These Skills
Experience is the best way to learn how to remain disciplined over your focus, opinions and emotions in the legal settings. However, until you are able to get that experience, legal interpreter training programs are a good way to learn. Language Connections provides a 7 week training course built around developing the skills necessary to work as an interpreter in legal settings.
In those 7 weeks you will gain a better understanding of how the U.S. legal system works, the legal terminology used, the content you will need to know to pass the legal interpreter certification exam and how to remain focused and unbiased even under pressure. Instructors are all professional legal interpreters, and as such will be able to share real life experience to help you prepare for work as a professional interpreter.
Get the necessary, in person training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for our upcoming Legal Interpreter Training course.
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