The Importance Of Competency In Court InterpretingIt may be similar to legal translation in the sense that it involves the conversion of one language into another, but then interpretation deals with spoken, not written, material. The real-time nature of the job, therefore, makes it physically and mentally more difficult to do than translation.
People employed in the court interpreting profession are burdened with a huge social responsibility. They deal with legal cases that may range from small crimes (like simple theft) to really grave ones, like murder. The "clients" may either be the accused or defendant who is often an ordinary person who (considering the circumstance) might find it hard to express themselves clearly or articulately.
Competency is of absolute importance in the court interpreting service because, essentially, a person's life is on the line. In any other interpretation job, such as in a meeting or international conference, there is not much weight on the fact that a conference participant must be clearly understood. Compare that with that of a court setting, in which a defendant must be interpreted clearly and properly, lest he or she ends up at an unfair disadvantage brought about by incompetent court interpreting. Imagine an innocent person ending up in jail because the judge or jury misunderstood his or her case, due partly to a botched court interpreting performance.
As if these things are not enough, the work of court interpreting professionals is not limited within the court house”they are actually involved in all stages of the legal process. There is a real sense of responsibility on their shoulders”they are not only concerned about linguistic matters, but also ensuring that justice is served. Sometimes, court interpreters are immediately needed right after an arrest”and as you know, arrests do not happen at regular hours. These things do not take place within a nice nine-to-five schedule.
Court interpreters may be required at any hour of the day or night, and when they are called, they have to be already mentally alert and articulate and ready to perform their job. This would be fine during the day, but consider being dragged from your sleep at 3 AM to drive to the police station, just because some non-English-speaking person was caught trying to break into a bank and you just have to interpret for him during the initial police interview.
Moreover, people who are engaged in court interpreting are required to stay neutral or impartial”you must leave all your prejudgment or emotion at the door. The interpreter's work is clearly meant to merely help in helping all parties at a court even to arrive at a better understanding of the case, and the interpreter must not allow his or her own personal feelings get in the way.
That is why interpreters who have been accustomed to working in a conference setting may find the demands of court interpreting a shock to their senses. But for some interpreters, the "shock" may actually be delightful”being right where the action takes place can be more rewarding than slogging through hours of seemingly endless political debate at a conference.
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