Excellence in Advocacy


Foreign languages in Court and the effective use of interpreters

The Inns of Court College of Advocacy, ICCA (formerly the ATC) has produced a suite of training materials focussing on foreign languages in court and the effective use of interpreters. This research project was carried out by in conjunction with Middlesex and Surrey Universities with funding from The Legal Education Foundation (LEF). 

The teaching and learning points produced as part of this project, should assist in familiarising advocates with the technique of examining a witness through the medium of an interpreter. 

In addition, a series of training films have been created to demonstrate good practice and the pitfalls of poor practice when working with interpreters, along with three additional short clips to explain the most common problems encountered by advocates. Please find them below.

Introductory film

Download the transcript for this film here.

The aim of this film is to provide an introduction to the principles and techniques of the communicative challenges for an advocate when working through a language interpreter. The scenario provided in the film follows a Romanian speaker witnessing a crime and the subsequent trial that follows using Barristers, a Judge an Interpreters.

Tag questions

Download the transcript for this film here.

In the foreign language context, tagged questions present a particular problem. Tag questions are a special form of closed questions: They highlight preferred options. Tag questions are useful when it comes to exploring / probing a witness' opinion but they are not needed when known facts are checked. This training film explains how an advocate should manage the use of these types of questions in certain languages when the translation of this type of construction does not work well.

Clear communication

Download the transcript for this film here.

Foreign languages can easily act as a barrier, stopping an advocate from establishing a proper dialogue with the witness. Additional care with the form and structure of questioning is vital when working with an interpreter. This training film explains the methods that can be deployed to deal with this.

Danger signals

Download the transcript for this film here.

Trained interpreters will display a defined set of professional competencies which will build the necessary trust that questions and answers are being properly interpreted.  The following examples highlight a number of “danger signals” suggestive of unprofessional and potentially inaccurate interpretation.

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