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An interpreter who works in a courtroom enables communication to take place. Courtroom interpreters have accumulated special skills that assist people who are involved in court proceedings but don’t speak the courtroom language. A court interpreter must be highly proficient in at least two languages, as well as having a thorough understanding of legal and court jargon. Court interpreters need to be able to translate accurately every word they can hear. This includes words spoken by judges, lawyers and witnesses and anyone else who is taking part in the court procedure.

Typically, there are two kinds of court interpreters. One is a staff courtroom interpreter who has a permanent position as a courtroom interpreter. The 2nd are Per Diem courtroom interpreters who are independent contractors and work for clients in many courtrooms, on a per-diem basis. Both kinds of courtroom interpreters have to be able to demonstrate language competency in their two languages as well as pass tests and be awarded a certification as a courtroom interpreter.

Daily duties of a courtroom interpreter

From the moment the court session begins the interpreter starts the job of interpreting. They are expected to interpret precisely what is spoken in real time. They translate sign language or speech from one language into another in real-time. They may take notes so that they can accurately recall what has been said. They also are required to convey the appropriate tone and speaking style of the speaker. They must quickly change from one language into another with both ease and accuracy. The courtroom interpreter is required to listen carefully to what is being said and to convey the information from and then into the targeted language, without adding or taking away any word that could affect the meaning of the words.

All court interpreters require breaks as working for too many hours without taking the proper breaks may cause fatigue and a failure to concentrate, which can cause errors and misunderstandings when interpreting is taking place. One of the greatest challenges of interpreting is remaining impartial throughout the process.

A courtroom interpreter isn’t allowed to give any advice or make suggestions throughout depositions or when a judge is present. Any private conversations that could occur between interpreters and the individuals who don’t speak the court’s language need to be minimised so that impartiality is preserved.

Before an interpreter begins his or her job for the day they have to take an oath which gives the assurance that the interpreter is prepared to respect court principles and the legal interpreters’ code of ethics.

Qualities of a court interpreter

A court interpreter needs to have knowledge of all types of legal terminology while also complying with professional standards and etiquette. This includes suitable clothing, professional behaviour before and following assignments, being polite at all times, respecting confidentiality, being professional and always being unbiased and neutral.

Protocols for a court interpreter

An interpreter engaged by a court is bound at all times to behave according to standards laid out in the Code of Ethics of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT). AUSIT is the organisation representing national association of translating and interpreting practitioners. The Principles of the Code of Ethics are related to the following:

  • professional development and professional solidarity;
  • professional conduct;
  • impartiality;
  • employment;
  • confidentiality;
  • competence;
  • accuracy.

There are interpreter services available for the deaf, speech and hearing impaired clients AUSLAN interpreters are available to connect and provide services for clients who are deaf or speech impaired who are required to attend court events.

If you are finding it hard to communicate or understand English in court and need an interpreter to help you to understand the words spoken at court, you must arrange for an interpreter that can help you and your witnesses to understand what is happening in court. It is essential to have to present an accredited interpreter who is qualified to offer interpreter services for any hearings where cross examination is likely to take place.