Foreign languages in Court and the effective use of interpreters
The Inns of Court College of Advocacy, ICCA (formerly the ATC) has launched a suite of training materials which focusses on foreign languages in court and the effective use of interpreters. This research project has been carried out by the ICCA's Research and Development Committee in conjunction with Middlesex and Surrey Universities and funded by The Legal Education Foundation (LEF).
A series of training films have been created to demonstrate good practice and the pitfalls of poor practice when working with interpreters, along with three additional short clips to explain the most common problems encountered by advocates. Please find them below.
The aim of this film is to provide an introduction to the principles and techniques of the communicative challenges for an advocate when working through a language interpreter. The scenario provided in the film follows a Romanian speaker witnessing a crime and the subsequent trial that follows using Barristers, a Judge an Interpreters.
In the foreign language context, tagged questions present a particular problem. Tag questions are a special form of closed questions: They highlight preferred options. They are useful when it comes to exploring / probing a witness' opinion but they are not needed when known facts are checked. This training film explains how an advocate should manage the use of these types of questions.
Foreign languages can easily act as a barrier, stopping an advocate from establishing a proper dialogue with the witness. Additional care with the form and structure of questioning is vital when working with an interpreter. This training film explains the methods that can be deployed to deal with this.
Trained interpreters will display a defined set of professional competencies which will build the necessary trust that questions and answers are being properly interpreted. The following examples highlight a number of “danger signals” suggestive of unprofessional and potentially inaccurate interpretation.
The teaching and learning points provided should assist in familiarising advocates with the technique of examining a witness through the medium of an interpreter. Please follow this link for the accompanying teaching and learning notes.