Imagine for a moment that you’re in a foreign country and, for whatever reason, you need to use one of the local public services, but it turns out that you don’t speak the language! Bearing in mind the number of situations in which this could arise and the boom of the tourism industry, it’s not that hard to imagine, right?

Now that we’ve given you the context, don’t you agree that hiring a linguistic and cultural mediator would be the best move? There are different contexts in which public service interpreting could arise: medical and healthcare, social and educational, or legal and police contexts, for example. We’ve already introduced you to the work of professional hospital interpreters, but today, we want you to put yourself in the shoes of an interpreter in a court or police station

Processing criminal proceedings (minor offences, summary proceedings and shortened procedures) with first statements, inquests and trials are recurrent cases requiring interpreting services when the parties involved cannot communicate in the same language.

As a translation company, we believe in the importance of quality language services, where court interpreting is as professional as possible. To offer a good service as an interpreter, you need to be qualified and have specific training. 

What separates a professional from someone who commands the working languages?

A professional interpreter is more than just a linguistic mediator; they also have to know the culture of those involved. Despite what some people may think, the work of an interpreter doesn’t begin when they step foot in the courtroom: the specific and precise nature of legal language requires documentation prior to offering linguistic assistance. 

The interpreter must know how to solve problems that may arise during the exercise; problems related to the discipline, circumstances and the context which they find themselves in. What’s more, they must know the protocols and how to manage the modes of interpretation specific to public services (consecutive, bilateral, whispered and telephone interpreting, sight translation) and the communicative situations common to this type of interaction. 

In a trial, the work of the interpreter is undertaken in person, serving as a link between the judges, prosecutors or lawyers and the citizen. To enable the subsequent procedure and facilitate communication, the interpreter may have a conversation with the person they are going to interpret beforehand.

This exchange of information may be a great help for both the interpreter and the other person, as they will need information about how legal procedures work in the country in question and the differences they may encounter with their home country. Such communication may result in a better understanding of the case and the work being carried out to a higher standard. 

All professional translators and interpreters know that their duty is to faithfully transmit the message and be as objective as possible. This is one of the reasons why a close friend or family member who speaks both languages must not take on the role of interpreter: they wouldn’t be impartial and it would be uncomfortable. Furthermore, it’s important that the meeting is carried out prudently and that the interpreter doesn’t assume a main role during the activity.

Is a professional interpreter always hired?

Despite the training an interpreter requires and the number of skills needed for the profession, we think that little importance continues to be placed on their professionalism. The lack of familiarity with this profession leads people to think that mastering the two languages is enough, but as we’ve mentioned, this isn’t the case.

There may be very serious risks and consequences of hiring someone who is unqualified to act as an interpreter in a police station or court, and doing so may result in prison sentences or economic sanctions, or even end up affecting people’s lives if the person interpreting is not capable of correctly transmitting the statements and verdicts.

Recently, there have been cases in which poor performance in this field has negatively affected innocent people. For example, a few years ago, an Algerian citizen had to flee her country because her life was in danger due to her sexual orientation. On arriving in Spain and requesting asylum, those who undertook the task of interpreting didn’t follow the interpreters’ code of ethics for cultural reasons. This resulted in the interpreters failing to communicate to the Spanish authorities that the reason behind her applying for asylum was that she was homosexual and, as a result, her application was originally rejected. 

At Tatutrad, a translation company based in Seville, Spain, we prioritise the professionalism and commitment that characterise our profession. That’s why our team of professional translators and interpreters are highly trained and qualified, so that we can offer you a quality professional service. Count on us!

Court adjourned!