Challenges Faced by Court Interpreters

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A man with papers on his desk, thinking about how to deal with his challennges

For the hearing-impaired or non-native local language speakers, court interpreters are the key in ensuring defendants having a fair path through the criminal justice system. It is widely considered as one of the most challenging fields for interpreting service as it leaves no room for error, as it can mean the difference between life and life-in-prison.

Shorten of Interpreter for Indigenous Language

For some multinational states built up jointly by people of different nationalities, defendants speaking indigenous languages are not uncommon scenes. For instance, it may seem normal for the use of the language pair Hokkien and English in some Asian countries. Yet, people who can fluently switch between the two languages in daily life does not simply mean they are capable of handling professional interpreting task as a court interpreter. Having a team of experienced interpreters from different language background, Elite Asia is able to provide professional interpreting service for various language pairs. It is also crucial that the court interpreter can speak the same specific dialect as the defendant.  The number of competent dialect-speaking interpreter is usually, unfortunately, not enough to meet the need.

One may be envious of the attractive remuneration of court interpreters, whereas the need for any specific language is far from predictable. Unstable income caused by inconsistent need is one of the most disturbing concerns, not to mention the requirement to travel or work via virtual interpretation platforms.

Lack of Preparation Materials

Every professional interpreter would normally go over conference materials and prepare themselves ahead of schedule. Getting familiar with the topics to be discussed, the terminology to be used and the background information is vital in enabling interpreters to take on the job with high confidence. Considering the unique nature of trial, court information may be kept confidential before the actual hearing in order to protect the interest of both parties. Improvised questioning by attorneys in courts requiring precise interpreting of each and every word makes the job even more arduous especially when the interpreter is forced to be ill-prepared.

High Working Standard

Interpreters are required to pass several certification examinations to demonstrate their language knowledge and skill before entering the industry, and different countries have their own test system. The passing percentage of these notoriously difficult tests is recorded to be as low as 10%. Besides, not only should the interpreter possess top-notch knowledge of legal terminology and syntax, one should also be familiar with the background of almost every industry, as the nature of cases varies significantly. Apart from the rigid and formal language often used in the court, the ability to interpret local terms, idioms and sarcasm is another demanding requirement. 

Interpreting is difficult, and court interpreting is almost exhausting. From criminal murder trial to civil injury case, the learning process for court interpreters is never-ending as they have to look up special terms from dictionaries and reference books beforehand. The solemn atmosphere inside the courtroom and the pressure facing the media easily give rise to anxiety, and only professional interpreters with sufficient training and in-depth knowledge are able to handle this herculean task.

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