Getting the Best out of Legal Interpreters

by neilpayne on January 30, 2014

  • SumoMe

In today’s multicultural and multilingual world, the legal interpreter has become more and more important for those working in the legal sector. Legal interpreters work with lawyers to help them in their communications with clients as well as represent parties in court and tribunals.

Working with interpreters, to make sure that they get the best out of their expertise is something all lawyers should know.

  1. Make sure that you employ an experienced legal interpreter, it may cost you a little extra but the end benefit is definitely worth it.
  2. It’s important that when working with a legal interpreter that you set ground rules. Planning is an important part of ensuring effective communication. Such ground rules can include deciding where an interpreter should sit, how parties will be introduced, when they should translate and how they should approach sensitive subjects.
  3. Also discuss with them how long they can interpret for you before requiring a break.
  4. If the matter you will be discussing is a complex legal matter or something of a sensitive nature, then it’s advisable to give your  interpreter time to prepare for the task ahead. Simply allowing them access to useful background material such as case notes, press clippings and witness statements will help them understand the topic.
  5. If you’re going to be using specialist legal terms then again it’s an idea to give your legal interpreter the chance to learn about these terms. No interpreter likes to walk into such a setting “blind”, i.e. not knowing who they are interpreting for and why.
  6. Don’t speak too fast and make sure you speak as clearly as possible, this will help the interpreter accurately translate what you’re saying. How fast you talk and how clearly also applies of course to your interpreter.
  7. If those being translated to can’t understand what the interpreter is saying then you have a big problem. Don’t be afraid to tell the interpreter you’re not happy with the job they’re doing. Don’t think that by doing this you will be upsetting your interpreter, in fact any interpreter worth their salt will appreciate this.
  8. Try not to include jokes because interpreters find it difficult to deal with this. This also applies to idioms, sayings and phrases that may not translate well into another language. Using them just makes their job harder.
  9. It’s always advisable to use the second person when addressing your client and look at them directly.  For example, you should say “please confirm your name and address,” rather than “ask him to tell me his name and address.”
  10. It is important as a lawyer to ensure the interpreter does the job you need them to do; and this can only be done by working closely with them, communicating your goals and agreeing boundaries.
Neil Payne is the Founder of Kwintessential - an agency specialising in language services for business. 45% of their work is for the legal sector.

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