23 Oct


Rarely do I have the chance to watch other interpreters in court. Ours can be a profession of solitude. How do I know when I’m doing something wrong or right? The following situation invites comment on how to approach a colleague when perhaps another approach would work better.


Last month a court called me to give testimony and a LEP defendant appeared. The judge took great pains to voir dire the interpreter and asked for her credentials in open court. The interpreter clearly qualified and rattled off her experience. She did not turn to the defendant and interpret what she said. Madame Your Honor gently asked if she would interpret the same for the non-English speaker beside her. I don’t remember how the interpreter responded, but she did not interpret her last rendering before the judge to the defendant. From the bench another remark: “Would you please interpret that for Mrs. XXX?”. The interpreter complied and continued to interpret everything.


Here’s my question. Was the interpreter obligated to interpret when the judge queried her experience and qualifications? Instinctively I interpret the moment the record begins that includes “This is case no. XXX … and present in the courtroom is Interpretress Olga Nazdrova … and now I’ll take the interpreter’s oath.” Overkill or simply fulfill my role? I’d like to know how to approach the interpreter diplomatically. Thanks for your insight.

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