Interpreting in courts of law, tribunals and other formal legal processes is a field that requires a great deal of skill and expertise by an individual who can interpret using the correct techniques and understanding of legal terminology and procedures. The right to have a competent interpreter for anyone who does not understand the language of the court is usually considered the norm.

The first regulations of the quality of interpretation started in the late 70s in the US and Australia and in the 80s in Canada. In the United Kingdom, the police and the courts are encouraged to employ interpreters listed on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) or other similar registers, but the law does not require them to do so. It has not been until recently that court interpreting has gained the attention it deserves. Some European schools of interpreting have court interpreting courses as part of the curriculum but don’t offer degrees or specialization in judiciary interpreting.

A court interpreter provides language interpretation for those who are not fluent in the language of the country where the judicial process is taking place. They may work with witnesses or defendants in such cases. It is their job to orally translate everything that is said preserving the same tone and connotation as the original language and they are not able to add or delete anything from the conversation. They can work in the simultaneous or consecutive mode. What sets court interpreting apart from conference interpreting is court interpreters:

  • don’t work from comfort of an isolation booth.
  • usually work alone, for long hours, with no rest or recovery time.
  • are involved at every stage of the legal process.

With increasing regulation and restriction of entry into the profession, practitioners’ status and working conditions have gradually improved. It is imperative that court interpreters have a thorough knowledge of legal terms and court procedures. If you would like to join this field of work you should become bilingual (if you are not already), get postsecondary education in a relevant field, obtain specialized training and earn a certification to stand out and improve your chances of being hired.