Sunday, July 21, 2013
By Karen Hodgson
In legal situations, a defendant has the right to have equal access to justice. However, individuals who have limited English proficiency - unable to speak or understand English sufficiently – present a common issue in court proceedings today.
To address this challenge, interpreters are required during trials. The presence and participation of court interpreters allows non-English speakers to engage in judicial proceedings. The task is more than simply providing a word for word translation but also ensuring that the defendant fully understands the proceedings.
A common misconception about court interpreters is that they are merely bilingual people who can translate words into a different language. However, they are actually highly trained and highly skilled in legal jargon. They must be meticulous in their interpretation so that the context comes across as intended. These interpreters recognise the fact that one word can change the outcome of a trial. Competent interpreters translate as close to English as possible without losing its accuracy and meaning.
Many court cases are compelling and emotionally-charged. With the sensitivity of the work, the courts require interpreters who are highly skilled and possess not only a deep understanding of the languages in which they specialise, but also certain knowledge of criminal procedures and the justice system. Sometimes cases heavily rely on interpreters’ abilities to interpret and convey precisely. Enormous consequences can be faced when interpreters fail to do their job accurately. There have been documented cases where interpreters provided inaccurate translations, which led to the individuals on trial to misunderstand. In hindsight, the outcome of the trial might have been different.
Moreover, it is vital for the court interpreters to remain impartial and neutral, without allowing their own emotions to cloud their interpretation. Many trials are full of intense language and references to violence, mistreatment, prejudice or abuse which could have a profound impact on a person. The highly skilled interpreter is trained to strictly interpret and trained to keep their emotions, as hard as it may be, in check.
Interpreters for the court are highly trained and are vital to ensure a defendant receives equal access to justice.
Karen Hodgson, CEO of Translationz
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