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Ten Tips for Court Translators

court translators
For the interpreter or translator venturing into a court for the first time the process can be somewhat daunting. Court hearings have their own nuances and particularities the interpreter may not appreciate if their experience is mainly from the health or business world.

Below are ten simple tips to help an interpreter for their first day in court.

1) Before attending the assignment make sure you have the court name, court room number, case/hearing name and also the defendant’s name as well as the solicitor/barrister’s.

2) If there is what is called a ‘trial bundle’ ask if you are able to review it. This will set out what the trial is about and each side’s (prosecution or defence) arguments.

3) For court interpreting you should always be dressed smartly as you are attending and representing both the translation company as well as the defence/prosecution (depending upon which side you are working for).

4) Be sure you arrive 10 - 15 minutes prior to the start time of the assignment. This ensures you are able to be prompt in case of a delay or change of court number.

5) Before the trial starts take time to speak the person you are interpreting for and to be briefed on the background to the trial. Make sure you ask questions so you are sure of your role in the proceedings.

6) If there is going to be any evidence used in the hearing or particular witnesses examined, ensure you are fully aware of what it is or who they are.

7) When interpreting be sure to speak loudly and clearly for all to hear. Be aware that you are allowed to stop proceedings at any time to ask for clarification or for people to slow down. If you need larger gaps between segment of speeches ask the judge to ensure this takes place. Your role is crucial in proceedings to be sure that you can do the job properly and effectively.

8) When interpreting do not veer from literal translations. In some contexts translating what has been said subjectively may be appropriate but in a legal environment everything must be translated even if it very uncomfortable to do so.

9) Remember you are there to support someone in most cases who may not be able to fully follow what is happening due to the language barrier. Try your best to keep them up to speed with proceedings, explain decisions and most importantly give them the chance to ask questions of their counsel.

10) In cases that are undecided or run on, you may be required to attend the court a following day or possibly at another time. Ensure the translation agency that booked you is made aware of this.