Female interpreter

Imagine you are involved in an accident in a foreign country and summoned to court.  You are being asked about your whereabouts, actions, or involvement but you cannot understand the questions and therefore are unable to honestly explain what happened and advocate for yourself.

Basically, everyone has a right to due process of law and equal treatment. However, people speaking a minority language in a foreign country face difficulty when they require legal services. No matter what situation, if a foreigner ends up in court, language barriers and cultural differences can lead to a variety of challenges. Without an interpreter, there is a risk that the case may be dealt with incorrectly, that parties may not cooperate, or even result in a wrong passing of judgement. That’s why the support of professional court interpreters is indispensable.

This issue is of such great importance that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) preserves the rights of those who speak minority languages in order to ensure them a fair hearing.  If one or both of the parties in a lawsuit are unable to speak for themselves, the court can appoint a professional interpreter. By definition, court interpreters help non-English individuals who are unable to speak the majority language of the country  to communicate in a judicial environment. The interpreter has to deal with cases correctly and fairly. The cost for court interpreters is usually paid at public expense. However, we must bear in mind that the financial consequences are increased if the entire legal process has to be repeated because an interpreter was not used the first time.

For legal interpretation sessions it is essential to have an interpreter with the necessary qualifications. Too often family members or children have to step in as ad-hoc interpreters in acute situations. However, only a certified interpreter can assure the quality and correctness of dealing with judicial cases. In line with this, being a court interpreter demands competence and has special requirements.

Here are some specialised skills which court interpreters must possess:

  • Full proficiency in a foreign language is crucial. The interpreter has to be capable of providing consecutive as well as simultaneous interpretation in a court situation on demand. Therefore, fluency of speaking, knowledge of common speech and promptness are vital in interpreting.
  • Cultural understanding of foreign traditions and behaviours in order to understand facial expressions and gestures becomes a part of court interpretation. There might be habits that influence the case due to the cultural background of the parties which would otherwise be disregarded. Being able to understand the correct meaning of a phrase, expression or gesture is critical.
  • In-depth understanding of the legal system of the country as well as the international legal system is clearly important. Court interpreters have to be up to date on formal rules and standards for specific situations. Likewise, interpreters have to be trained in legal terminology as different types of legal procedures require various vocabulary skills and understanding of professional jargon.
  • Courses in legal interpreting support court interpreters to improve their skills during workshops off the job, but also in practice directly on the job. Courses in legal procedures, language, and interpersonal communication strengthen their knowledge. Additionally, training guarantees that the interpreter is able to deal with different interpretation settings, i.e. legal consultations, examinations or sworn statements.

With Skiwo, you can find the interpreter that you need for your situation. We provide access to a pool of interpreters with different areas of expertise as well as various skill levels and qualifications. You can easily register for free on Skiwo and search for an interpreter that is customised for your needs.

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