What are the qualities of a court interpreter?
The role of a court interpreter in a court case is hugely important. This is why many professional court interpreters take a test to become recognised as a Court Certified Interpreter. They enable their client to speak and answer the court’s questions but at the same time represent them to the rest of the people present in the court room. The interpreted testimony of a witness tois often a deciding factor in a trial and can consequently dictate its outcome. There are therefore three essential qualities that any court interpreter must have; accuracy, impartiality and experience.
Accuracy: the interpreter must interpret the words of his client as closely as possible, being careful to not omit off-hand comments or parts of the testimony itself. Additionally, the interpreter must convey the tone and register of his client as such features of speech are often used to evaluate the character of the person speaking.
- Impartiality: the role of a court interpreter is not the same as a lawyer and therefore they do not have the right to defend or advise the client in any way. In order to ensure this is the case, everything that is said by both the interpreter and client is noted in a transcript that can be examined later if necessary.
- Experience: court interpreting does not only require high levels of fluency and articulation in both languages but also experience in the legal field and the individual subject matter of each case. With his/her experience, the interpreter can therefore clarify technical vocabulary that may impede the client’s understanding of the matter at hand and also interpret any specialised vocabulary used by their client to the other members of the court.
How does court interpreting /interpretation work?
There are two ways in which a court interpreter may work, either via consecutive interpreting (which is used most commonly) or simultaneous interpreting (which is used in a significantly small amount if cases). Consecutive interpreting involves interpreting a complete thought expressed by the speaker, whereas simultaneous interpreting runs along-side the original speech and is often transmitted to the listeners via headphones. Especially in the case of simultaneous interpreting, the work load is shared by a team of interpreters, owing to the demanding and intense nature of their work. In many high-profile cases, a check interpreter may also be used, to aid and verify the work of the main interpreter.
Different types of court
During their career a court interpreter will work in a number of different courts. The function of each of these courts is different as they deal with cases that involve both civil and criminal law, and are of varying levels of gravity.
The County Court: this can also be called the Small Claims Court and usually deals with civil cases such as breach of contract or personal injury.
The Magistrates Court: this is where the vast majority of criminal cases are heard and resolved.
The Crown Court: cases that are seen as too serious for the Magistrates courts are sent here and are tried in front of a jury.
The High Court of Justice: this is based at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London and is where the most high-profile criminal cases are heard.