The Importance of Accurate and Idiomatic In-Person Interpreting in Legal Settings

May 8, 2024 No Comments

According to the Judicial Branch of the United States Government, using competent in-person interpreters during proceedings that involve people who speak languages other than English “is critical to ensure that justice is carried out fairly for defendants and other stakeholders.” Court proceedings are inherently complex, and precise interpretations help legal professionals to represent their clients better. 

Of course, court proceedings are just one arena where interpreters are beneficial in legal settings. Other situations in which in-person interpreting is helpful include depositions, negotiations, interviews, and briefings. 

When providing these services, US Courts specifies that the in-person interpreter should be proficient in English and the other language and should be able to transform the original message into the target language “accurately and idiomatically.” That means without adding or omitting anything, including misleading factors that might alter the intended meaning. 

It’s prudent for anyone playing a role in a legal proceeding—including the attorneys, plaintiff, defendant, witnesses, and jurors—to understand the issues at hand. With in-person translators, the parties involved can adapt quickly to the evolving situation so it can proceed unhindered. 

Whether aiding a criminal investigation, reporting a crime, enforcing the law, or delivering a briefing, the importance of in-person translation services cannot be overstated. Here are some of the most compelling reasons why: 

1. Ensuring Fairness and Justice

The cornerstone of any legal system is the pursuit of fairness and justice for all parties involved. Accurate interpretation ensures that individuals who may not speak the language of the court have equal access to justice. It helps prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations that could potentially impact the outcome of legal proceedings. 

2. Preserving the Integrity of Legal Proceedings

Legal proceedings are complex and often involve intricate details, nuances, and legal jargon. Inaccurate interpretation can distort the intended meaning of statements, evidence, or testimony, jeopardizing the integrity of the entire process. Accurate and idiomatic interpretation helps maintain the integrity and reliability of legal proceedings. 

3. Effective Communication

In legal settings, clear and effective communication is essential for all parties to understand and participate fully. Inaccurate interpretation can lead to confusion, delays, or even misrepresentation of facts. Accurate interpretation facilitates seamless communication between individuals who speak different languages, ensuring that information is conveyed accurately and comprehensively. 

4. Protecting Rights and Due Process

Individuals involved in legal proceedings have fundamental rights, including the right to understand and be understood. Inaccurate interpretation can impede individuals’ ability to exercise their rights effectively, potentially compromising due process. Accurate and idiomatic interpretation safeguards these rights, promoting a fair and transparent legal process. 

5. Building Trust and Confidence

Trust and confidence in the legal system are essential for its effectiveness and legitimacy. When individuals perceive that their language needs are being met through accurate interpretation, they are more likely to trust the fairness and impartiality of the legal process. Conversely, inaccurate interpretation can erode trust and confidence in the legal system. 


What to Ask Before Hiring an In-Person Interpreter for Legal Settings

Before selecting an interpreter for your legal needs, consider the following: 

1. Language Proficiency 

Is the interpreter proficient in both English and the target language? Verify their fluency and understanding of legal terminology in both languages to ensure accurate interpretation. 

2. Experience with Legal Settings

Has the interpreter worked in legal settings before? Experience in legal proceedings equips interpreters with the necessary knowledge of courtroom procedures, legal terminology, and cultural nuances essential for precise interpretation. 

3. Accurate and Idiomatic Translation

Can the interpreter provide translations that are both accurate and idiomatic? It’s crucial that the interpreter conveys the intended meaning faithfully without adding, omitting, or distorting information, ensuring a clear understanding by all parties involved. 

4. Specialization in Interpretation Styles

Does the interpreter specialize in the interpretation style required for your specific legal situation? Whether it’s simultaneous interpretation for courtroom proceedings, consecutive interpretation for depositions, or sight translation for document review, ensure the interpreter is proficient in the relevant style. 

5. Professionalism and Ethical Standards

Does the interpreter demonstrate professionalism and uphold ethical standards? Maintaining impartiality, confidentiality, and respect for all parties involved is essential for effective communication in legal settings. 

By asking these questions and selecting a qualified in-person interpreter, you can enhance the accuracy and efficacy of communication in legal proceedings, ultimately contributing to fair and just outcomes. 


Enhance Legal Outcomes with Geneva Worldwide

For comprehensive in-person interpreter services covering over 200 languages, including American Sign Language (ASL), trust Geneva Worldwide. Contact us online or by calling 1-877-GO GENEVA to discuss your legal communication needs with confidence.