When a person who is not fluent in English finds themselves in need of legal court services, the hiring of a certified and properly qualified court interpreter is crucial. The following is a brief overview over the importance and responsibilities of court interpreters.
What does a court interpreter do?
A court interpreter may work with witnesses, defendants, legal persons or families. They work within the court system to provide language interpretation for people who are not fluent in English.
The interpreter can be either permanently employed by the court or a freelance interpreter who is hired per job. When hiring a court interpreter it is important to always make sure that they have the appropriate qualifications to interpret in legal cases.
The job of a court interpreter is not limited to the court room – court interpreters may as well work in meetings or other appointments regarding ongoing legal proceedings. Tasks may also include sight translation, which means silently reading a document (e.g. a court document) and relaying the information in the target language.
Qualifications of court interpreters
Court interpretation is done orally and can be done either consecutively or simultaneously. Consecutive interpreting occurs, when the interpreter starts interpreting after one party is done speaking. This requires the interpreter to take notes to ensure that no information is lost. In simultaneous interpreting the interpreter starts interpreting while the party is still making their point. Simultaneous interpreting is rather rare for a court setting, but can nevertheless occur in some situations.
A court interpreter must be fluent in both languages and is usually qualified in more than two languages. They must be able to translate not only the words spoken, but also connotations, the tonality of the speaker(s) and possibly ambiguous meanings. This requires the interpreter to have a deep understanding of both the culture of the source and target language. Court interpreters are also required to have an extensive vocabulary and a deep knowledge of the court and justice system they are serving. It is also necessary for them to have an extensive knowledge of the vocabulary connected to the justice and court system. This makes court interpreters highly specialized experts in their field.
Usually a court interpreter holds a DPSI (Diploma in Public Service Interpreting) or a similar certification to be able to work in a court environment.
Responsibilities of court interpreters
Court interpreters must not add or delete anything from what has been said to ensure a complete and truthful relay of information. It is important to keep in mind that an incomplete interpretation could have serious consequences for the parties involved in the case. The interpreter also isn’t allowed to give advice or make any suggestions. Their job is to merely interpret the full information and connotation of what has been said.
The interpreter must remain detached from the content of the conversations to be able to keep the original tone and context. It is extremely important for the interpreter to remain unbiased. This is why contact with any parties involved in the case should be strictly kept professional and private conversations must be kept to a minimum to avoid the risk of bias.
With court cases being a matter of high confidentiality, it is a key factor that court interpreters are appropriately trained in the correct way to approach and handle various different court interpreting assignments.