The case for Simultaneous Interpreting in the Legal Setting

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The case for Simultaneous Interpreting in the Legal Setting


  • The interpreter in this setting is required not only to provide verbatim translation, but also to adhere to the tone, pauses, hesitations, emotions, and all other elements of discourse. Most interpreters working for the US Federal Courts, use simultaneous interpreting to translate for a defendant, and consecutive translation for all other legal proceedings, including witness testimony and depositions (testimony under oath, outside of the courtroom).

  • Dr. Dueñas Gonzalez (Fundamentals of Court Interpretation) has formulated the concept of LEGAL EQUIVALENCY, the notion that the message should have the same effect on the target language audience as it did on the source language audience. We propose that this is easier done by using simultaneous translation as the technique of choice throughout the entire legal proceeding, therefore rendering a real time accurate translation while permitting all eyes to still focus on the speaker, not the translator.

  • There are multiple barriers to accomplish this:

  • While all Federal Courts in the U.S. provide the necessary equipment to translate for a defendant, they haven’t  been set up to offer simultaneous translation into English.

  • Deficient interpreting skills: many interpreters in practice today lack the skills necessary to use this technique.

  • Cultural barriers.

  • We have been using simultaneous interpreting during depositions, which allows for body language to be appreciated. It is our recommendation that the simultaneous mode of interpreting be used in all possible legal proceedings.

  • Pablo & Diana Donatti

IV Jornadas sobre la Formación y Profesión del Traductor e Intérprete:   Calidad y traducción - Perspectivas académicas y profesionales  

Consecutive Interpreting in the Legal Setting Problems and caveats

  • “When questioning is done through an interpreter, attorneys lose control over witness testimony, not only because the constant switch between languages slows down the interrogation process, but also because interpreters inadvertently alter the pragmatics of questions as tools of manipulation.”

  • Rigney, Azucena C

  • Forensic Linguistics, 1999, 6, 1, 83-108 /Cambridge Scientific Abstracts

The case for Simultaneous Interpreting: A matter of style

  • Real time, more accurate rendition of textual message.

  • Allows the target audience to look at the speaker, not the translator.

  • Enhances free flow of communication between the attorney and the witness.

  • Lets the interpreter adhere to the tone, all pauses, hesitations, emotions and all other elements of discourse with more precision.

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