Court interpreters need to be as accurate as possible.
Mistranslations and misinterpretations can create more than just confusion — in a court setting, they can even cause mistrials.
Misinterpreting Indonesian in the Courtroom
An alleged mistake by an interpreter in an Australian courtroom last year caused the court to throw out a case at the expense of thousands of dollars to Australian taxpayers.
According to The Age, the dispute involved several Indonesian words — a suspected Indonesian smuggler was testifying in court. In one example, the words “did you stop anyone moving” were allegedly turned into “did you push anyone.”
A juror who spoke Indonesian brought this to the attention of the judge. After a lengthy debate, the judge declared a mistrial over concerns that the trial and the jury had been tainted by the misunderstanding.
The Importance of Using Professional Interpreters and Translators
The Australian court example illustrates the importance of using professional interpreters and translators in the courtroom. A minor discrepancy in interpretation or translation can lead to serious errors in trials.
When the stakes are high, such as in a criminal trial, interpreting errors are even more egregious. An inaccurate interpretation of one word may subject someone to lifelong incarceration or even the death penalty.
If you are in need of legal or court interpreting services, you must make sure you hire a qualified legal interpreter who can interpret skillfully and accurately.
Qualifications of Linguists in Legal Settings
Although legal interpreting guidelines vary from state to state, many professional and certified linguists have met certain minimum qualifications. Some jurisdictions even have an official code of conduct for court interpreters. These codes reflect not only the skills that interpreters must have, but also how they are expected to act, dress and communicate in court.
Of course, among the most important requirements of an interpreter is the ability to accurately interpret. Specifically, court interpreters must give the most accurate interpretation of any word, including for slang and colloquial language.
Interpreters must also be careful to maintain the same tone, inflections and emotions of each speaker to ensure the message is understood correctly. A good interpreter is always aware of cultural expressions and actions of the speakers.
What’s more, interpreters must remain impartial at all times. This means interpreters should avoid unnecessary conversations with other participants in the courtroom.
Interpreters may be asked to prepare for cases by reviewing materials such as police reports, indictments and interview transcripts.
Because the job of the interpreter is so crucial to the adjudication of the case, interpreters must inform the court if they are tired or are concerned that their interpretation may decline. Any errors should be collected at once and recorded on the court transcript. If an interpreter is unable to understand the speakers or lacks the vocabulary to accurately interpret the conceptual or technical terms, he or she must withdraw from the case.
By using an experienced interpreting agency, however, you can rest easy knowing that your working with an interpreter who has expertise in court and other legal settings.
For professional court interpreting you can trust, contact Legal Language today.