Effective use of Interpreters

Foreign languages in Court and the effective use of Interpreters

The ICCA has produced a suite of training materials focusing 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.

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.

Introductory Film

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 and Interpreters.

A transcript of this video is available here

Tag Questions

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.

A transcript of this film is available here.

Clear Communication

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.

A transcript of this film is availaible here.

Danger Signals

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.

A transcript of this film is available here.