At Legal Language, we receive a wide range of requests for legal translation, transcription, and interpreting services. And, as in most tasks, there are different methodologies to produce an end product with trade offs among quality, cost, and time. Our expertise includes knowing which methodology to use to obtain the optimal result
For example, we recently had a client ask us to perform a translation of an audio recording without first performing a transcription in the original language. In this instance there was a problem with that approach.
What was the nature of the problem? Why did this foreign language audio recording require a two-step translation process?
Read on to learn about the different situations that require single-pass vs two-step processes as well as what we recommended to our client.
What Our Client Wanted
The client described above was seeking a transcription of an audio file from Spanish to English. This would require a bilingual individual who would not only listen to the source recordings and transcribe them, but also simultaneously render them into English in a single pass. The linguist would then certify the accuracy of that work product.
In order to determine whether this requested one-step process was right for our client, we needed to determine whether the document produced would be submitted as evidence in order to facilitate litigation or if that document would be used for purely administrative purposes.
Why is this distinction important? Because where the final document will be submitted and how it will be utilized in a legal setting determine which process will best serve the client.
When is a One-Step Process Appropriate?
If a foreign language audio recording will not be part of any legal or juridical proceeding subject to the rules of law and evidence, then an exact translation is not needed. Indeed, in some instances such an approximate transcription will prove not only allowable, but also extremely useful and efficient.
If a source recording is for internal use only or if a client needs to understand the recording(s) to help catalog a large number of recordings, then performing transcription and translation in a single pass is the ideal solution.
In situations where money or time are a factor, a one-step process may also be your best option as it is both cost and time efficient.
When Should a Two-Step Process Be Utilized?
However, in situations where the document in question will be submitted as evidence into a legal proceeding, then the transcript must be verbatim and the final translation will need to be certified. This is where a two-step process is recommended.
What is a verbatim transcription?
Verbatim transcriptions are word-for-word (and sound-for sound). This means they include every word spoken as well as every “uh” and “ah” and any pauses or stammers. Essentially, during verbatim transcription a transcriptionist will type out every sound they hear (including any background noises).
Verbatim transcriptions can prove incredibly important during legal proceedings where the smallest detail can alter a case verdict.
Non-verbatim or approximate translations, by contrast, will leave out filler words and background noises and are best utilized for administrative purposes such as an easy record for future reference or during a meeting.
Why does the translation require certification?
Any trial transcript or translation of foreign language audio recordings to be submitted as evidence to a court or other legal entity will need to be translated and certified.
Why? Certification turns a document into a legal record, which can then be submitted and evaluated by courts and government agencies.
What is Involved in a Two-Step Process?
In the first step, the audio recording is reviewed by a native speaker of the language, and a verbatim transcription is produced. If warranted, this transcription may be reviewed and/or edited by other experts in order to ensure the highest quality possible (especially where recordings are indistinct or dialects are obscure).
The final work product is then certified by the transcriber of record, which produces a document that can be independently verified as an accurate rendering of the original spoken dialogue.
Only after that first step is completed would the second step commence: a translation performed by a qualified linguist from the source language (the original language recorded) to the target language (in this case, English).
For added quality control, we recommend that the translation be edited and proofread. Once these steps are complete, the document can be certified as part of a submission for a legal procedure.
The Benefits of a Two Step Process
By separating these two steps, the work product can be verified in a legal proceeding with a greater degree of accuracy.
If both transcription and translation are performed by a single individual, the chances for error are effectively multiplied, and a dispute may arise. Additionally, the credentials of an expert witness may be more easily questioned, as they are taking on multiple roles/tasks.
What We Recommended for Our Client
Once we determined that the document requested by our client was to be used in an upcoming court hearing, we were able to make the appropriate recommendation for a two-step process. In any situation where the accuracy and validity of a translated document could be attested, you will always want to perform transcription and translation (which includes certification) independently of each other.
How LLS Can Help
If you require audio translation and transcription services, contact us today to learn how we can assist you. We’ll help you determine which process is best suited to your situation and ensure your final document meets the required legal standards.
Call us today at 1-800-788-0450 or simply fill out our free quote form.