5 Best Practices for Court Interpreting
Consecutive interpreting best serves the question and answer mode of giving testimony. That’s why the court often employs short form consecutive interpreting with witnesses on the stand. This emphasizes the verbatim rendition required on the record, or transcript, of court proceedings. Here are 5 best practices for court interpreting:
Defense attorneys and prosecutors pose questions during direct and cross-examination. Pausing at the appropriate intervals allows the interpreter to accurately and completely render the words into the target language.
Lengthy testimony requires a team of interpreters to preserve the integrity of interpreting. Constantly changing vocabulary, registers, and regional accents quickly exhaust interpreters. Mental exhaustion may set in as early as 15 minutes. Team interpreting prevents brain fatigue. Professional court interpreters insist on a team. Team members follow the flow of speech and stay ready to provide words and terminology.
Interrupt the speaker when necessary. The interpreter may use a hand gesture, a nod of the head, or eye contact to request that the speaker pause. However, the interpreter may never have any conversations with the defendants or attorneys. Any formal interruption or request for repetition or clarification requires the express permission of the judge.
3. Correct mistakes
As soon as the interpreter realizes a mistake in interpreting, he or she should take steps to amend the record. Team members can also catch mistakes to improve the accuracy of the transcript record.
To fix a mistake on the record, the interpreter first requests to approach the judge, saying, “Your honor, the interpreters made a mistake, and the mistake should be corrected on the record.” The judge will announce that the interpreter needs to make a correction on the record. The sooner the interpreter corrects the mistake, without breaking the rhythm of court proceedings, the better.
4. Take notes
Court interpreting requires focused concentration, simultaneous listening and note taking, and excellent short-term memory. Interpreters must take notes to assist short-term memory. Write down the addresses, dates, foreign currency and other mathematical conversions, measurements, names, and numbers.
5. Master emotions
Interpreters must master their emotions and properly reflect others. They should not attempt to copy or imitate the gestures, facial expressions, or emotions of witnesses. Complete accuracy is impossible. Professionalism requires that interpreters use their voices, not their hands, to convey meaning. The interpreter may give a similar feeling by going one level below the speaker’s tone.
The high-stress role of interpreting at courts and jails requires professionalism and mastery of emotions. Public defenders or attorneys also bring court interpreters to go to jail to interview clients. High profile cases bring international press who understand all languages spoken in the court. The reactions of the people receiving the interpreting indicate the performance quality of the interpreter.
Following these 5 best practices of court interpreting allows court interpreters to maintain impartiality and professionalism. Ultimately, this allows anyone to exercise the pursuit of justice no matter whether they speak English, Spanish, Chinese, or any other language.
Capital Linguists is a translation company that offers translation services for court interpreting, legal interpreting, and legal document translation.