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Trial Translation: Interpreting for the Courts

Tutorials » Trial Translation: Interpreting for the Courts

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The legal system is often complicated enough to maneuver through—when when a non-English speaker is involved in a lawsuit, the complication increases exponentially. Having an in-person interpreter is the only way to facilitate communication between them and the rest of the court. But the complexities of the legal system mean that there are certain qualification that an interpreter must possess before they are allowed to take on this task.

Communication in the court is substantially more complex than that required in business and everyday life. For example, the parties involved in a court case may need to use specialized or legal terminology, formal or informal registers, jargon, dialect, and slang, and various other types of language nuances.

In the federal court system in America, competent interpreters are critical to ensure that justice is carried out fairly for defendants and others in proceedings where speakers of languages other than English are present. The Court Interpreters Act was passed to address this special need; it sets the guidelines that are required for interpreters in a court of law, and lays out the qualifications necessary to certify people who provide these services in judicial proceedings in the United States.

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According to the regulations created by this act, there are three categories of court interpreters:

  • Certified interpreters
  • Language-skilled interpreters
  • Professionally-qualified interpreter

The abilities, skills, and professional knowledge required of federal court interpreters are very involved, as in addition to the interpreting and translation skills themselves, interpreters must know and be able to convey a number of complex concepts and legal terminology to ensure that court proceeding are fair for all parties.

Because of this, court translators will be required to pass certification exams and pay fees to be considered qualified interpreters in a court of law. And these regulations are just for federal court—individual states, counties, cities, and other jurisdictions may have their own qualifications and fees imposed on interpreters as well. Be sure to read up on all of the regulations on court interpretation before entering into a situation where a legal interpreter need be involved.


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Tutorials » Trial Translation: Interpreting for the Courts