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Legal and court interpreting

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Legal, court, or judicial interpreting, occurs in courts of justice, administrative tribunals, and wherever a legal proceeding is held (i.e. a conference room for a deposition or the locale for taking a sworn statement). Legal interpreting can be the consecutive interpretation of witnesses’ testimony for example, or the simultaneous interpretation of entire proceedings, by electronic means, for one person, or all of the people attending.

The right to a competent interpreter for anyone who does not understand the language of the court (especially for the accused in a criminal trial) is usually considered a fundamental rule of justice. Therefore, this right is often guaranteed in national constitutions, declarations of rights, fundamental laws establishing the justice system or by precedents set by the highest courts.

Depending upon the regulations and standards adhered to per state and venue, court interpreters usually work alone when interpreting consecutively, or as a team, when interpreting simultaneously. In addition to practical mastery of the source and target languages, thorough knowledge of law and legal and court procedures is required of court interpreters. They often are required to have formal authorisation from the State to work in the Courts — and then are called certified court interpreters[1]. In many jurisdictions, the interpretation is considered an essential part of the evidence. Incompetent interpretation, or simply failure to swear in the interpreter, can lead to a mistrial.


  1. ^ Most non-native speakers of English use the term “sworn interpreter” which is calqued from a civil-law position title common throughout the world. However, there is no common law country that uses this term.

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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