7 Jul

Aleé A. Robbins believes in serving the legal community with an eye to better define the interpreter’s role. She published the attached article (see below) in Proteus, a quarterly newsletter about judiciary interpreter and translator issues through NAJIT National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. Listen to her eloquent phrases you can use right now in Court.

“Your Honor, in order to provide accurate interpretation for the record, may the interpreter have a moment to review the indictment?” [and/or case file, preliminary hearing transcript, police reports, pre-sentence report, etc.]

How does this help the interpreter? She can interpret accurately to preserve the record by having information before rendering a single word. Another option is to arrive early and ask to see the case file. You may need to remind Mrs. Prosecutor that you will return the document shortly and will not disclose any information within to anyone.

I used this same phrase in open court when a defense attorney handed me a handwritten letter to be compared with a translation prepared by another. With no warning beforehand. How could I unscramble nearly illegible script in seconds? After a few moments and here are the key words – “May the interpreter …?”, I rendered a sight translation that met the standards required. Do not fear to ask for what you need. We are the language experts and it’s our job to remain neutral and objective.

Aleé clearly recognizes the need for team interpreters. When a prosecutor challenges the interpreter, here’s a useful phrase: “Your Honor, may the interpreter consult briefly with a colleague?” This same situation recently arose during difficult witness testimony. Family members stood in the background clinging to every word said.

I chose XXX verb to convey a message and confusion arose as to the witness’ answer as he clearly didn’t do XXX. The prosecutor questioned the interpreter’s rendering and Your Honor immediately commanded counsel and interpreters to chambers. There my colleague supported my decision (as did the judge) while I sweated bullets to explain in simple terms what happened. No interpreter wants to be left alone to defend herself and court is an adversarial atmosphere.

Please take a moment to read Aleé’s suggestions and add them to your vernacular. OK, vernacular (native or originating in the place of its occurrence or use) is a fancy word for plain speech. Forgive my need to employ formal language on this blog. Just add phrases here that worked for you.

Good words to you.

The Interpreter’s Voice Interpreter’s Voice


Code of Professional Conduct for Court Interpreters and Translators

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