Sight translation is an option for professionals who need the meaning of a written document to be verbally conveyed on extremely short notice.
However, this is not ideal.
Courtrooms demand accurately translated legal documents. Sight translation is no substitute. Lawyers must be prepared ahead of time with certified legal translations.
What Is Sight Translation?
Sight translation is a unique process. It combines interpreting, which focuses on oral communication, and translation, which deals with written communication.
For a sight translation, an on-assignment interpreter reads a document in the source language and speaks the translation out loud. You might think this would be perfect for court rooms — sight translation quickly gives meaning to foreign documents. However, in practice, sight translation should be utilized as a last resort.
When Is Sight Translation Used?
Sight translation can be useful in meetings and conferences where an interpreter is already present. For business meetings, asking an on-site interpreter to clarify the occasional written word or phrase is certainly the quickest option.
In legal settings, speed should not trump accuracy. While sight translation is often used to translate a written witness statement that is in a language different from the one being used in court proceedings, it is far from optimal.
Sight Translation Concerns
Sight translation may be viable in very limited circumstances, but it is far better to be properly prepared with translated documents. Here are a few reasons why:
Lack of Resources
There is a reason that interpreting and translators are different professions: they require different skill sets, and use different resources.
Sight translation strips interpreters of their resources. It may not seem this way, but the interpreter is no longer operating in his or her area of expertise.
Interpreters largely depend on body language and voice intonation to make sure that they are attributing the proper meaning to the source’s words. When practicing sight translation, these characteristics are obviously lacking.
On top of not having their usual cues, interpreters asked to do a sight translation may also have unusual hurdles to deal with. Even the most fluent interpreter could be thrown by a typo that a translator would easily recognize.
Sight translation problems can also arise when dealing with character-based languages such as Japanese or Chinese. For example, an interpreter who would immediately understand a spoken Japanese word may not easily recognize its character. Any language that uses an alphabet different from the translator’s native tongue is likely to cause issues during sight translation.
Sight translation can be a helpful — albeit imperfect — solution when translations are needed immediately. It is certainly a far cry from using a free online translation!
Still, the smarter route is to present the most accurate documents possible. This is best accomplished by having everything translated beforehand.
Courtroom proceedings are always better served with a certified translation instead of a hasty sight translation.
If you require translation services, contact LLS for certified legal translations you can trust.