The Unsung Roles of Court Interpreters

Court interpreters are vital in ensuring that your Limited English Proficiency (LEP) or non-English speaking clients understand the legal proceedings just as if they spoke English fluently themselves. However, interpreting during proceedings is just part of what court interpreters do each day. Here are 4 things you may not realize about the role of court interpreters.  

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1.     Court interpreters are always learning and improving to maintain the appropriate skillset needed to remain at a highly proficient and professional level in the court setting. Just as language is always evolving, so is the law. Interpreters often take courses and seminars to stay up-to-date in their field of expertise in order to ensure they are providing the best legal interpreting services in and out of the courtrooms. Not only do they need to stay up-to-speed with new legal terms and court procedures, they also need to remain current when it comes to language that may be used by clients within the courtroom, including changes to regional dialects and slang.

2.     There are various methods for court interpreting, depending on the scenario. Most court interpreting is done via simultaneous interpreting. The interpreter may wear a set of headphones with a microphone and interpret in real time for the client, who is also wearing a headset. However, not all courts are equipped with these headsets, and/or the setting may call for consecutive interpreting instead. In this latter scenario, the interpreter waits until the speaker has completed a sentence or thought before he or she begins speaking.

3.     Interpreters often work in teams to avoid fatigue. Interpreting for any length of time can come with mental and physical fatigue. Because of this, team interpreting is an industry standard for proceedings that last longer than 2 hours. This helps prevent being overworked, and alternating between two highly qualified interpreters will help the proceedings move more quickly, efficiently, and accurately—a definite benefit for you and your clients.

4.     They are often asked to do sight reading/translation of documents presented during the trial. The interpreter must then read the document in one language, and recite what it says aloud in another language so that all parties understand what it says.

How has your experience been with court interpreters? If you’ve come across anything in your experience that surprised you when working with an interpreter, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know by leaving a comment!